An Orthodox Jew Says El Centro College Threatened to Boot Him from Nursing School for Missing Class on Rosh Hashanah [Updated]

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Hillel Rodin
Updated at 4:56 p.m.: Dallas County Community College District sends word that, following a hearing in federal court this afternoon, they have agreed to allow Rodin to observer all the holidays.

"Rodin has agreed to make up those clinical requirements on appropriate dates in January 2014," DCCCD says in a statement. "Both parties agreed on the resolution to Mr. Rodin's complaint prior to the scheduled 2 p.m. hearing in Federal District Court with Judge Sam Lindsey."

Original post: Tomorrow, Hillel Rodin is scheduled to begin his second semester in the nursing program at Dallas' El Centro Community College. He is also scheduled to observe Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year and one of the holiest days in Judaism. Therein lies his problem.

Rodin is an Orthodox Jew. His religious beliefs prevent him from working, driving, writing, touching money or using electricity on the sabbath and certain holy days, including this one. That means he'll miss a mandatory orientation on Thursday, as well as four additional days of clinical observation and coursework at Medical City. As a result, El Centro is threatening to kick him out of school, according to a federal lawsuit filed on Tuesday.

Rodin says he's tried to work with the school, offering to make up his missed days or sit in on identical classes scheduled for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of each week. Instead, according to the suit, El Centro nursing dean Joan Becker advised that he seek a dispensation from his rabbi allowing him to attend class on the holy days in question.

Later, by way of a compromise, she presented him with a contract (see document below) that, rather than excusing him from class, proposed to work around the prohibitions of Jewish law. On Rosh Hashanah, for example, he would arrive on time at 9 a.m., presumably on foot, and complete the required tour "without using electric doors or elevators." He would submit as much required paperwork as possible before the start of the holiday at sundown on Wednesday evening, but the contract notes that he might be required to fill out additional paperwork on-site.

The prescriptions for the other days were similar, with the main concession being that Rodin would be allowed to write observations and diagnoses at the end of his holiday. It grants him one absence, on September 26. If he missed or showed up 15 minutes late for any of the classes, he would fail the class, the contract states.

This, according to the lawsuit, violates Rodin's rights under Texas' Religious Freedom Protection Act, which requires government agencies to accommodate anyone whose actions are "substantially motivated by sincere religious belief." Rodin attached an affidavit from his rabbi at Congregation Ohev Shalom, who also happens to be his father, attesting to the sincerity of his faith.

Furthermore, Rodin argues, the refusal to offer religious accommodation, and the "contempt" with which this was done, amounts to an unconstitutional establishment of religion, since time off for Christian holy days like Christmas, Easter and Good Friday are baked into the school's calendar.

Rodin's demands are modest. He's asking the court merely to declare that El Centro is wrong, force them to excuse him for the Jewish holidays, and award court costs and attorneys' fees.

We've reached out to the Dallas County Community College District for comment. We'll update when we hear back.

Update at 11:27 a.m.: The district passed along the following response:

DCCCD has received notice of the lawsuit filed by nursing student Hillel Rodin who is enrolled at El Centro College and who alleges that the nursing program has violated his religious rights. A hearing is scheduled today at 2 p.m. in federal court; the plaintiff has requested a temporary restraining order. The district will have legal counsel at the hearing; we are waiting for the judge's ruling before we can respond. If the suit moves forward, a second hearing concerning a permanent injunction would occur; the district would be given time to investigate and, if needed, take appropriate measures.

Because we have just received the document, we cannot provide any details or information until we have some direction from the court.



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68 comments
nhmduyen88
nhmduyen88

I had the same problem. She threatened  me to drop out of the program. I didn't do what she told me and I had a hell summer waiting to the first day of school to make sure I can continue school.


anuchild
anuchild

Way to go Hillel!!!   We have to defend our rights!!!  Proud of you!!!

kduble
kduble

Rosh Hashanah is not one of the holiest days in Judaism. Yom Kippur and Passover are major holidays. The weekly sabbath is more important than Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is comparable to Channukah, Purim or Sukkoth. It's a minor holiday.

I'm not siding with the school. The school was wrong not to accommodate a religious observance. I'm merely setting the record straight on the holiday.

Rosh Hashanah is a time for families to gather and celebrate the New Year. It's a joyful occasion. But on the Jewish calendar, it is not a major holiday.

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

I have looked into this some more ... there is the concept of Pikuach nefesh, which basically states that the preservation of a human life overrides virtually any other religious stricture.


Since the people are in the hospital are ill and require nursing in order to get better, that is preserve human life, then it would follow that working on the Sabbath, or riding an elevator to get to a patient would  be serving a greater good and there for the nursing student would not be violating his religious values.


By going to nursing school, the student is dedicating his life to the preservation of human life and therefore taking classes on the Sabbath is not necessarily against the religious strictures.

Kelsey Rae Ó Ceallacháin
Kelsey Rae Ó Ceallacháin

Many people seem to have missed that he is ALREADY employed by a hospital which has agreed to hire him as an RN if he completes the program through El Centro, ergo they presumably do not have any issue with his needing certain holy holidays off. Reading comprehension, people. Health care scheduling is actually pretty flexible most of the time. As a nurse, I found parts of nursing school to be incredibly pedantic bordering on ridiculous, and many professors and administrators bent on a power trip. I feel like this is one of those things. They were able to accommodate him in the end, so to me that says they just didn't WANT to in the first place.

Tipster1908
Tipster1908

Of all the careers that make sense for an Orthodox Jew, nursing is probably one of the best. I know plenty of people in the field who have incredibly specific time constraints. I know parents who can only work a certain shift due to non-traditional childcare situations along with people who just want to work a few days a week for no "good" reason at all. No one in the field has ever indicated that their employers cared in the slightest as long as the needs were consistent and easy to schedule around. Other than having to take into account that sunset is a little earlier in the winter, an Orthodox Jew would be incredibly easy for a hospital to schedule. 

I worked on Wall Street in a career that demanded upwards of 120 hours a week (or more, on occasion) and they still managed to accommodate Orthodox Jews who couldn't work from Friday night to Saturday night, and did so without so much as a gripe. Get over yourselves people. Just because you don't give a shit about religion doesn't mean that someone else should be forced to.

MBrentD
MBrentD

I'm in the healthcare field and work in various religous hospital systems across the US. Many -Catholic, Jewish, etc.- make accommodations for their beliefs. I work with Christians who are exempt from working on Sundays. I work with 7th Day Adventists who are excused from working on Saturdays. So the argument that "healthcare doesn't take a day off" is way off base. 

I have also spent 15 years at the DCCCD as faculty and admin. The DCCCD has always been accommodating and sensitive to religious belief; however, a faculty member can't make the decisions Hillel Rodin was requesting. It's a dean level decision. Dean Becker clearly failed her responsibilities in this case. 

Bob Hodges
Bob Hodges

1. Sounds like it's already a done deal in Federal Court and he's won his case as he should have. He wasn't seeking to have every Saturday off "until sundown" like some have said in their criticisms. Only certain high Holy Days. I'm sure if he'd made the same request about a certain eastern religion's holidays in the current political climate, he'd have been accommodated in an instant. 2. Dear D.O., You're a journalistic discipline. At least have SOMEONE pre-screen for grammar. Should be.... "El Centro College IS trying to boot a student......" not "are".

Mis Serenity
Mis Serenity

gave birth the week of finals my S1 semester. My son will be 2 in December. I was taking final exams 2 days after getting out of the hospital with a c section. RNs have to be there every day!

Willie
Willie

He is no mentsh. Health care is a unique profession, so he really should find another field if religious observance is that important to him. The policy is intended to weed out those who don't belong in the field.  Scheduling is enough of a nightmare, but when you have selfish kvetchers like this guy, it makes scheduling all the more difficult and breeds discontent because his needs will get prioritized over those of his colleagues.  Anyway, it takes a real putz to pull the lawsuit card.  

Montemalone
Montemalone topcommenter

I blame the Inquisition

MattL11
MattL11

Head wounds don't stop bleeding because it's Easter Sunday. 

It's possible I'm cynical, however, as I have previously had to work on Thanksgiving, the holiest day of the year for me. 

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

 קאָנפליקט פאַבריקאַנט

So there.

Myrna.Minkoff-Katz
Myrna.Minkoff-Katz topcommenter

Orthodox.  Reminds me of the Mennonites.  It's 2013, people.  Time to reform.   

Sharon_Moreanus
Sharon_Moreanus topcommenter

Is he the first Jew at IC or the first one to sue because he didn't get his way?

Jaibird13
Jaibird13

I hate to come off like a jerk, but isn't allowing him to turn in paperwork late, holding up the tour so that he can take the stairs, etc, accommodating his religious beliefs? Granted, they should also let someone else fill in any on-site paperwork so that he doesn't violate Rash Hashanah. 

It seems like they are making it possible for him to complete the activities (that are expected of everyone) within the parameters of his religion. If he is so unwilling to do what he can (again, within the parameters), that he would rather file suit than get to school, then this is really a sign of things to come, and both he and the school are better off without each other.

Steven Bellairs
Steven Bellairs

El Centro is gonna get hammered in court. But this guy better find a fairy tale friendly employer when he gets his degree. New employees in the health field get the crappy shifts; Weekends! Is he just planning to be above working saturdays or will the heart patient have to wait til sundown for Hillel to touch the electric powered crash cart? Dude, it's america. Worship however you want to. But leave that shit at the door when you come to work.

xcameramonkey
xcameramonkey

I'm pretty much the poster child for "Socially Liberal", but dude; if your imaginary friend in the sky is already causing problems with your education you better find a more fairy tale friendly career.

Wendy Jacquelyn Finch
Wendy Jacquelyn Finch

As a layperson I can understand but as an RN you have to have a strict program for students - if you didn't you'd have lives at risk. While I was in school - 20 yrs ago, I had a fellow student give birth and not miss a class - she would have been failed.

ChangingF8
ChangingF8

I almost hate to say this, but maybe they are doing him a favor. When I worked in the Medical Field, I had to work holidays and weekends for a long time. I think it will be difficult for him to find work at a hospital, anyway, that will allow a new Nurse not to have to work weekends or Jewish Holidays. The hospital never closes, after all, and anyone new usually gets the bottom of the ladder schedule.

Callmecrazy
Callmecrazy

This young man is an observant Orthodox Jew. All is he asking for is a small concession and compromise from his school. I believe his rights are protected under the 14th Amendment and a little thing called The Bill of Rights. And by the way why start bashing Christians about this issue? After all, Christians and Jews alike are all God's people. Shouldn't we be supporting each other anyway? Shame on El Centro! BTW- saving a human life, if you are a nurse, trumps Christian as well as Jewish laws. So no worries there!

Callmecrazy
Callmecrazy

This young man is an observant Orthodox Jew. All is he asking for is a small concession and compromise from his school. I believe his rights are protected under the 14th Amendment and a little thing called The Bill of Rights. And by the way why start bashing Christians about this issue? After all, Christians and Jews alike are all God's people. Shouldn't we be supporting each other anyway? Shame on El Centro! BTW- saving a human life, if you are a nurse, trumps Christian as well as Jewish laws. So no worries there!

vferoe79
vferoe79

I know where he's coming from, I was kicked out because I would not 'practice' TB testing on a hot dog ( because that was the closest thing next to skin) and I would not eat what other students brought because I did not know how it was prepared in their home when we had to 'practice; feeding each other so we would know what a patient was going through when they were feed.  There is no such thing as freedom of Religion and the respect of Religion in any society anymore.  It's one day that is willing to be made up.  If it is a teacher that is Jewish I guarantee you they would not be there, there would be a substitute or class would be canceled.  I back him 110% on the suit and wish him the best.  Shalom

Brad Schweig
Brad Schweig

Didnt think this actually ever happened especially by the administraton.

marhoads
marhoads

@kduble sorry...but that would be the definition of the secular new year.  Rosh Ha Shanna is one of the holiest days where we are going to ask G-d for forgiveness.  It is the day that we introspect and take stock of the things we have done in the past year and try to do better.  Yom Kippur is when we are judged.  So it is way important!

jbdestiny
jbdestiny

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul This would be applicable if he were already certified, or close to it. As a beginning student, he would not be allowed to tend to any patients only to observe. So the "save-a-life" exemption wouldn't apply here.

jbdestiny
jbdestiny

@Tipster1908 Right! In addition, Orthodox Jews are available, often eager, to work on the Christian holy days, Sundays, Christmas, Easter, etc., to give their coworkers time with their families as well. It's "You scratch my back, I scratch yours." 

Additionally, I've seen some people who dismiss religious holidays with "Do it on your own time," get all bent out of shape at not being allowed MLK Day, Independence Day, Labor Day and/or Black Friday off, even ranting how that violates their constitutional rights!

marhoads
marhoads

@Mis Serenity but not while they are in school.

deborah.smith1970
deborah.smith1970

@Callmecrazy 

Missing 50% of the clinical for the semester is not a small concession or compromise. And finding a way to make it up, that is not done for other students make an exception. The Board of Nursing requires that students have a minimum number of clinical hours each semester..so the schools must ensure that each student meets this standard, regardless of religion

ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul
ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul topcommenter

@vferoe79  

Chicken is also a good analog to human skin, though it is more expensive than hot dogs.


Although there is some dispute among the various adherents of the Jewish faith as to whether or not they are kosher, there are Hebrew National brand hot dogs.


As far as being fed by each other, you could have brought your own food and asked to be fed that.

observist
observist topcommenter

@vferoe79   I find it funny that as a medical student you could not even touch a hot dog because of some 2000-year-old notion of cleanliness, yet you'd be willing to work in hospitals which are the modern epicenters of infectious diseases.  MRSA?  No problem!  Just don't make me touch a hot dog!

Personally, I don't think this has to do with prejudice against Judaism as much as an unwillingness to accommodate irrational "special needs" demanded by the adherents of any religion, be they Christan Scientists, Amish, Orthodox Jews, or burka-encapsulated Muslims.

observist
observist topcommenter

@Montemalone @vferoe79 They had to choose between the Jews and the Hindus, and being mathmatically literate, the chose the Hindus.

vferoe79
vferoe79

@ThePosterFormerlyKnownasPaul @vferoe79 

We were not allowed to eat our own food because we were suppose to experience what the typical nursing home resident had to by not having a choice.  As far as the hot dog, I do not eat or touch pork or any food that is deemed determinable to my beliefs and once I graduated I was free to choose where I wanted to work such as a Jewish based hospital.  If chicken was and option I could have dealt with it but you were even called out if you did not "pray" with the rest of the class before a test.  You were Christian or you were not right.   I am not in Dallas but in another state and this is wrong no matter where you are at.  and just so you know Hebrew National is not sold here or anywhere close, I checked and the skin is completely different and not to the schools liken.

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