Lawmaker Wants NYC Agencies to Consult Religious Calendar

chaim deutsch
Chaim M. Deutsch
48th City Council District (D)

A Brooklyn councilman wants to create an online portal system designed to ensure that New York City consults with a calendar listing all religious holidays before scheduling exams, trainings, and public sessions on those days.

Chaim Deutsch, a Democrat from Midwood, said that the portal would serve to verify that suggested dates do not coincide with so-called “blackout days.”

The move was prompted by a series of recent incidents, including an Economic Development Corporation training session that was originally scheduled for two dates, both of which fell on Jewish holidays in September. The training was mandatory for non-profit organizations, several of which have representatives that observe religious holidays.

Deutsch, who chairs the council’s Jewish Caucus, said that new days were offered to accommodate them after he intervened. But he is now preparing legislation to prevent these situations from arising in the first place.

“Religious people in New York City should not be forced to play defense and jump through hoops to participate in the municipal system,” Deutsch said.

He noted another recent occurrence, where a Citywide Administrative Services notice was posted for a civil service exam that is scheduled for Rosh Hashanah.

New York City public schools were first closed for Rosh Hashanah in 1960, according to a press release by Deutsch. Five years later, the schools chancellor began adjusting schedules to avert interference with the religious needs of observant students and personnel. Schools began closing on two Muslim holidays in 2015.

“Officials always boast about the great diversity of New York City,” Deutsch said. “But we need to allow for that diversity to flourish, instead of disenfranchising many of those communities that make our city great. These accommodations and the diversity we are so proud of must go hand-in-hand.”

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