BaccalaureateNot completely interfaith

Being an observant Jew in the middle of Iowa has never been easy. Throughout our years as Ames citizens, my family has had to learn to juggle our religious ideals with the realities of living in a Christian, mid-western society. And for the most part, we’ve made it all right. Lucky for us, Ames is a community that has always not only accepted, but embraced diversity in all its forms. Then comes the end of high school, when the members of the graduating class come together for Baccalaureate, an interfaith service in honor of the seniors and their families and friends. It is supposed to be inclusive of all people of all faiths. With this in mind, I could not help but feel deeply disappointed when I discovered that Baccalaureate, meant to be inclusive of all faiths, was scheduled for the Jewish holiday of Shavuot. Shavuot, which takes place this year on May 23 and 24, commemorates when Moses received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai. It is one of three times during the year when, in the times of the temple, all Jews would make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. I do not need to explain the irony of an interfaith service being scheduled on a major Jewish holiday. The funny thing is, I was unaware of this conflict until mid-March when one of my Christian teachers said she saw the holiday in the school calendar. This is not the first time I have had to make a compromise between my religious and secular lives; I’ve been doing it since I started going to school. Over the years, I’ve realized that it is possible to maintain my Jewishness in a Jewish-less community, and I do not expect Ames High to accommodate all of my personal needs. However, the mistake in scheduling Baccalaureate is not a problem because of its consequences in my life. Rather, it is a problem because it displays a careless disregard for groups of people who fall outside the general Christian norm. If my Catholic teacher simply had to flip open a calendar to discover the conflict, it becomes hard to convince myself that this situation could not have been avoided. Baccalaureate has always been an important element of graduation for many students and their families. I do support a service that brings people together to honor graduating seniors, especially one that is meant to include a variety of religious backgrounds. But an interfaith event requires that all faiths be given respect and consideration, no matter how small of a minority.