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Q. Can I Take Off Work for ‘Kasha Varnishka’? A. Yes, But Not During Pesach

By Daniel Treiman

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The New York Times Ethicist columnist fields a fun Jewish-related question this week.

Walter Henry of Downey, Calif., writes to him:

Years ago in Seattle I worked for an insurance company with just one Jewish employee, a good friend. He invented Jewish holidays, taking days off several times a year. As the only other employee at all familiar with Judaism, I could have finked on him or kept silent and been disloyal to my employer. I kept silent. Was that the right choice?

The Ethicist deems Henry’s choice “acceptable”:

Your coming forward was permitted but not required; you had no obligation to police the vacation requests of your co-workers (or to steer your friend to the path of righteousness). Of course, had you been asked directly if Kasha Varnishka was an authentic Jewish festival, you would have had to reply: yes, it commemorates the glorious victory of the Maccabees over a recalcitrant side dish.

And, of course, The Ethicist expresses his disapproval for the dishonesty of Henry’s co-worker. Well, sort of, anyhow:

This is not to justify your friend’s actions. He lied to his boss and burdened his co-workers, who presumably filled in for him while he was out cavorting.

So says my head … but my heart says mazel tov! This imaginative scheme imposed a tax on ignorance, penalizing an employer for lacking even a cursory grasp of a world religion’s holidays. Such a plan could encourage all of us in our diverse, immigrant nation to learn more about our neighbors, or reward them with extra vacation time if we cling to our provincialism. Diwali — real or imaginary?

No doubt, many an employer reading this week’s Ethicist will make haste to a local library to find out whether Shemini Atzeret is the real deal.

Hat tip: JTA’s Ami Eden



Comments
Ruth Tue. Apr 15, 2008

It's refreshing to see a writer for that most secular of publications, the TIMES, be so forthright about his own Jewishness. Although it's interesting note that, according to Wikipedia, Cohen "has not been inside a synagogue for thirty years." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Randy_Cohen

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