About Carnival and other, e.g. Jewish holidays

It is not a Public holiday, but a factual one: carnival. It’s hard to imagine a nationwide common state exam on this date. Why then on a high Jewish holiday? How Jewish carnivalists become part of the answer.

One has to apply the idea of the prayer wheel to describe the ongoing efforts of the Central Council of Jews in Germany to provide state authorities and university organisations with recurring information about Jewish holidays. It should be a matter of course that the few high holidays of the few religions in question should be adequately taken into account when scheduling examination dates. At the local and regional level this is usually successful, but at the federal level a surprising ignorance, disguised as modern simplicity, sometimes occurs.

Dancing ban or writing ban

Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, criticizes that for the year 2019/20 both nationwide common examination dates for the second medical state exam fall on Jewish holidays, including the highest, Yom Kippur (Day of Reconciliation) and in the following semester on the Passover festivities. Jewish examinees who comply with the writing ban in force at that time will lose an entire academic year if they switch to the following date in autumn 2020. However, it would not be certain that this date would not fall on a Jewish holiday again…

Two intuitive reactions describe the as unfortunate as incomprehensible permanent problem:

  • In times of electronically supported and completely transparent scheduling, it cannot be difficult to find two (!) dates per year without religious collisions
  • The opponents argue that there are “so many holidays of different religions” that one cannot “take all of them into consideration”.

The dancing ban, which regionally affects all citizens on high Catholic holidays, illustrates the degree of consideration that is apparently taken for granted.

Developing Understanding of Relevant Norms of the Religions

In the current case, Schuster explains that it does not have to be about all holidays of all religions, but about the few norms relevant for examination dates – here the ban on working and hence writing. D&I experts know that even if many religious groups are generously included, this specific consideration is still a manageable complexity – because the concrete restriction is as rare as the dancing ban, for example. The above mentioned concerns show, however, how little understanding of religious rules – beyond Christian norms – seem to be present.

Ironically, an example from 1938 shows how things can be different even under adverse conditions. In the film documentary “Shalom Alaaf”, David Alster-Yardeni reports how he and another student were helped by the school principal to take the Abitur examination by moving it earlier: Instead of Friday and Saturday (Shabbat), the entire class wrote on Thursday and Friday of the week in question – in contrast to the central arrangement from Berlin.

More visibility, even during carnival

Time-consuming reorganisation such as in 1938 or 2019 is not necessary if the relevant conditions are taken into account from the outset. This in turn is easy if prudent procedures are learned and practiced. A significantly higher visibility of diversity – in this case of Jewish life – contributes to a perceived normality that makes any discussion obsolete in favour of a self-evident integration.

It is in this context that the carnival association “Kölsche Kipa Köpp”, which was already founded in 2017, is only now making headlines. It goes back to a predecessor association from 1922 and shows once more that Jews, who were first mentioned in Cologne in 321, were active in all areas of society up until the Nazi era. It is in keeping with this tradition that the new Jewish carnival society is made up of liberal, orthodox and secular Jews, some of whom are also active in traditional or homosexual carnival societies.

The above-mentioned film documentary “Schalom Alaaf” shows that the Cologne Carnival in the 1930s took extensive anti-Semitic positions and actions.

Comprehensive solutions are the best for all involved

Discussions about which groups should be considered in which contexts are as exhausting as they are full of opportunities from a diversity perspective. It is easy to show time and again how beneficial a well thought-out solution is for all parties involved. In countless everyday areas, the approach, now called Universal Design, shows how niche solutions can be scaled: Lowered curbstones are not only important for wheelchairs, but also for pushchairs, trolleys, roller cases, bicycles, sweepers, skateboards and probably much more. With the same basic idea in mind, discussions about common social denominators could quickly lead to great results. To this end, it would be particularly helpful to see and name the benefits for all from the outset.

Further links

About blind Spots in Germany

Recent Data about religious trends in Europe

Jewish Carnival in the German Media: http://www.juedische-allgemeine.de/unsere-woche/die-koelsche-kippa-koepp/

Short version of the film documentation “Shalom Alaaf: Memories of Cologne Jews”.