By Naomi Grant and Julia Rosier
The University of Maryland has moved its First Look Fair again after pushback from Jewish students for scheduling it on Yom Kippur.
The fair — a campuswide kickoff for extracurricular activities — was originally scheduled for this week, but the university announced Monday that it would be postponed due to forecasted thunderstorms.
The new dates, though — Sept. 19 and 20 — caused more problems. Yom Kippur, which is considered the holiest day in the Jewish calendar, is Sept. 19 this year.
Two days after the initial postponement announcement, university officials announced that the fair would be held on Sept. 20 only to avoid the conflict.
For the holiday, Jews often partake in a 25-hour fast, and some do not use technology or write, which would prevent Jewish students from signing up for clubs and activities during the fair. Junior psychology major Carli Fine said she was “heartbroken” at the original decision.
“I expected them to do better,” Fine said. “I expected them to be considerate of the needs of the student population.”
After the Student Organization Resource Center moved the fair, averting the conflict with the holiday, Fine said her mind was eased.
“My initial reaction to the change being announced was just relief,” she said. “I was really glad because they listened and changed it and they acknowledged their mistake.”
Instead of taking place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, as it typically does, the fair will last from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Thursday only.
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This year it will host about 600 student organizations, 100 departments, 30 nonprofits, 15 sponsors and seven merchants, Stamp Student Union Associate Director Donna Lim said.
“In having conversations with various community members and hearing other feedback, we’ve now moved to this latest model of having a one-day extended fair,” she said.
Dirk Holzman, a senior electrical engineering and vocal performance major, said that changing the fair to one day was the “right decision.”
“The extended hours should help to ensure that students can attend regardless of their schedule, while letting Jewish organizations represent themselves for the entire duration of the fair,” Holzman said.
About 19 percent of undergraduate students at this university are Jewish, according to Hillel International.
Rabbi Miriam Liebman, a senior Jewish educator at this university’s Hillel, said moving the fair to avoid Yom Kippur was “very much the right decision.”
“We have so many students on our campus and so many students involved in our Hillel who will now be able to attend the fair all day and sign up for activities,” she said.
Sophomore criminal justice and criminology major Eleanna Weissman said that although she doesn’t think this was done intentionally, she would be happy if there were more efforts in the future to avoid these kinds of problems.
“It definitely helps us feel more welcome if the school goes out of their way to avoid any conflicts,” she said.