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OPINION: Class Before Tefillah Raises Concerns from the Student Body


Among the many policy changes instituted this year, such as stricter lateness and phone usage policies, a new policy has scheduled an academic class before Tefillah on Thursdays. I never truly appreciated the quintessential Jewish and Heschel practice of beginning each day with Tefillah until it changed.

Many students have voiced concerns, all of which further my confusion and uncertainty regarding this schedule alteration.

“I hate it. It’s not halachic,” says sophomore Eden Litt. “Period 1 before Tefillah disrupts my schedule, offsets the very long day, and frustrates me.”

Sophomore Zeke Abramson-Burdman agrees, saying, “It’s a pain.” He now starts each Thursday in the basement, before running up seven flights of stairs to the 6th floor for the Orthodox minyan.

This popular opinion prompts me to wonder: what is this intended to accomplish? Many students now start their day with difficult classes, for which they need to pay close attention and take meticulous notes. Doing such tasks early in the morning is strenuous, and now, being late for school (which is occasionally unavoidable) can result in missing important material and needing to make up work.

I miss the opportunity to clear my mind before class. Each day, when academic classes begin, I am consumed with typical thoughts about assignments and to-do lists. So, when Tefillah comes after our first class, I struggle to give my prayer the calm, open-minded focus it deserves.

I understand that perhaps this was meant to correct the lateness issue, but aren’t the policy changes enough? It’s too early to know exactly what impact this will have, but I suspect that many students will continue to share my questions and concerns.

This story was originally published in Heschel Helios on October 10, 2023.

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