Academy urged to consult rabbi for event planning

September 24, 1993|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,Staff Writer

Rep. Benjamin I. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, wants the Naval Academy to work with its Jewish chaplain to ensure that homecoming and other major events do not conflict with Jewish holy days.

Homecoming, the school's biggest alumni fall event, begins today. So does Yom Kippur, one of the holiest and most somber Jewish holidays. The conflict has sparked complaints among Jewish alumni, who said the Naval Academy and its alumni association should have consulted a calendar and planned better. Homecomings are scheduled about five years in advance.

"They have a Jewish chaplain. They should talk to him in the planning," Mr. Cardin said Wednesday, discussing a letter he sent last week. "I don't think it's too difficult to avoid the High Holidays."

Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, is one of the highest of Jewish holy days. It is observed through fasting and prayers.

Naval Academy and alumni association spokesmen have said the scheduling conflict was an oversight, that they did not realize they had a conflict until it was too late to reschedule the weekend.

They said scheduling procedures were changed last year to include a chaplain on the review committee, but could not promise there would never be a similar conflict. Religious services that midshipmen and alumni may attend will be conducted at the academy.

Rabbi Robert Feinberg, the academy's Jewish chaplain, has given the alumni association a Jewish lunar calendar that goes through the year 2005.

In August, Mr. Cardin had sent a letter, signed by 27 other Jewish House members, criticizing the academy for holding homecoming the same weekend as Yom Kippur.

In response, Rear Admiral Thomas C. Lynch, academy superintendent, called the conflict "regrettable." He noted that the school makes "every effort to consider the religious needs of our midshipmen and alumni in making long-range plans such as homecoming."

Among considerations in scheduling homecoming are home football games -- there has to be one that weekend -- and Annapolis boat shows -- there can't be one. The alumni association had apologized for holding homecoming in 1986 on the High Holidays and said at that time it would try not to do so again.

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