Added academic pressure

February 17, 2023

Overlooking Jewish practice is present in more than just school events. Teachers often assign homework with the assumption that students have a two-day weekend to complete it. With Shabbat, Mina has only Sunday. She has a rigorous schedule of senior classes, taking IB Spanish, IB Psychology, IB English, and AP statistics, and the work in those classes piles up quickly over the weekend. “I only have one day over the weekend to complete everything,” she shares. “ So I need to be extremely efficient, which is stressful.” 

Mina makes challah, a special bread of the Jewish people, after school every Friday for Shabbat. Rosh Hashana, is the one time a year where challah is braided to be round, symbolizing the never-ending cycle of the years and seasons (the roundness of life). Pictured above is the challah Mina and her mom made for Rosh Hashana.
(Photo curtesy of Minaleah Koffron)

On top of the reduced weekend time for homework, Mina also misses several days of school per year to observe Jewish holy days. Depending on the day, it is intended to be a time of renewal, freedom, forgiveness, or joy, but while each day symbolizes something different, what happens afterward is always the same.  “Every holy day of mine is followed by immense stress,” she confesses. “My mental health plummets at the start of every school year due to the difficulty of keeping up despite my absences.” 

Mina carries the weight of the added stress not just because she has high standards for herself, but because she understands the greater cultural and religious implications of her education. Jewish people worldwide have overcome immense obstacles throughout history to be seen as equals in the professional realm. This, among other factors, has led to a great emphasis on education within the faith. 

“I would not really be doing my family and my ancestors justice, as silly as it sounds, if I decided to take easy classes just because being a minority student can be a bit hard,” Mina reflects.  “And in the grand scheme of things, I am really privileged to be a Jew in the place and time that I am.” 

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