Eid mubarak! That was the appropriate greeting for Muslims yesterday, Sunday, August 11, 2019, as they celebrated Eid al-Adha, one of the most important holidays of the year.
Because it was Sunday, most people in the U.S. would have no trouble avoiding schedule conflicts with Eid al-Adha this year. The secular calendar that most people use in the U.S. is based on the Gregorian calendar, created under the direction of Pope Gregory. Because of its Christian origins, it assumes that Sunday is not a work day.
But Muslims follow a lunar calendar, which means their holidays are NOT on the same date every secular year. Jews follow a lunisolar calendar: ditto. Other religions and cultures also follow their own calendars, so you won’t know the date of their holy days and holidays the way that, for example, everyone in the U.S. knows December 25 is Christmas.
Even if you have a printed or online calendar that mentions all the dates, how do you know whether that day is something that is merely marked (like Ash Wednesday for certain Christians), or taken off from work completely (like Easter)?
The Best Thing to Do is Ask
When you’re scheduling a meeting with a group of people, the best thing you can possibly do is ask ahead of time.
Of course, if you ask and someone says, “I can’t make it that day because of a religious holy day,” you have to be prepared to say, “Okay, let’s look for another date.” If you ask and then you say you’re holding the meeting anyway. think of the message you’ll be sending!
You can look up a calendar of holidays ahead of time and familiarize yourself with other people’s religious observances and cultures–but that is no substitute for asking the people you’re actually working with!
A Jewish Holy Day Calendar for 2019-2020
Here’s a guide to scheduling around the Jewish holy days that I thought you might find useful. I didn’t write it, only edited it slightly and updated it each year, but I vouch for its accuracy.
Category I. MOST JEWS PARTICIPATE.
Please do not schedule meetings around these dates.
ROSH HASHANAH (Jewish New Year) begins at sunset Sunday, September 29, 2019 and continues through Tuesday, October 1.
YOM KIPPUR (Day of Repentance) begins at sunset on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 and continues through Wednesday, October 9. While Yom Kippur is a fasting day, meals are prepared in advance for the breaking of the fast at the end of 27 hours.
Typically, even some of the least religiously observant members of the
Jewish community do not work on Yom Kippur or Rosh Hashanah. Please keep in mind that even though the holy day may begin at sunset, these are
home ritual centered holy days, so a great deal of advance preparation is
required. In other words, please don’t schedule a meeting for the afternoon
preceding the holiday because I will be cooking!
PASSOVER (Celebration of Freedom from Slavery in Egypt) begins at sunset
on Wednesday, April 8, 2020; continues through nightfall on Thursday, April 16. THE FIRST TWO DAYS (through Sunday evening, April 10, 2020) require refraining from work. LOTS of cooking and preparation before this holy day.
Category II. Many observant Jews refrain from work.
I count myself as observant.
SUKKOT (Festival of Booths, or Tabernacles) begins at sunset Sunday, October 13, 2019 and lasts through Sunday, October 20. THE FIRST TWO DAYS (through Tuesday, October 15, 2019) traditionally require abstaining from work.
SHMINI ATZERET (Eighth Day Assembly, ending Sukkot) begins at sunset on Sunday, October 20, 2019 and lasts through Monday, October 21.
SIMCHAT TORAH (Rejoicing with the Torah) begins at sunset on Monday, October 21, 2019 and lasts through Tuesday, October 22.
The LAST TWO DAYS of PASSOVER begin at sunset Tuesday, April 14, 2020 and last through Thursday, April 16.
SHAVUOT (Festival of Weeks, or Pentecost to our Christian friends) begins at sunset on Thursday, May 28, 2020; continues through Saturday, May 30.
TISHA B’AV (fast day marking the destruction of the ancient Temple in Jerusalem) begins at sunset on Wednesday night, July 29, 2020 and continues through Sunday, July 30.
Category III. Observance doesn’t require refraining from work.
HANUKKAH (Festival of Lights) begins at sunset on Sunday, December 22, 2019 and continues through nightfall Monday, December 30. Every night, candles on the Hanukkiah (eight-armed candelabra, sometimes called “menorah”) are lit.
PURIM – Begins at sunset on Monday, March 9, 2020; continues through Tuesday, March 10.
And a few other seasonal and historical holy days that I won’t mention, because enough already! If you want to know more about the meaning of these holidays, you might consult www.jewfaq.org or the book Seasons of Our Joy, by Arthur Waskow.
[Dennis] A final note which I thought worth adding from my own experience: Even if someone (who might be Jewish) tells you “It’s no big deal” to schedule meetings and conferences on these days, doesn’t mean that that’s true for all Jews. People maintain different levels of observance, and a more secular Jew may work on a day when I would not.
When in doubt, please ask! I can’t speak for other Jewish consultants, staff, board members, and interns, but I know I always prefer to be asked.