WWYD – School

A friend of mine has her kids in a Jewish day school. One of her children has had some issues with a particular class, and after discussions with that teacher, it was decided that every Friday after school is over, the teacher would call to give a progress report. The teacher is not Jewish.

Apparently, the teacher called her last Friday evening, 45 minutes after candle-lighting, to leave a message about the child’s progress that week. My friend is incensed. How could this teacher call her on Shabbat even if it was just to leave a message? Don’t they explain the laws of Shabbat to the secular teachers? She hated the fact that her telephone rang on Shabbat, and many people worry that its bad news when the phone rings on Shabbat. The message indicator was blinking all of Shabbat and made her nervous.

She wants to call the principal and make a to-do. I told her it isn’t really worth it. It’s possible that the teacher was aware, but temporarily forgot. If anything, she should speak to the teacher involved, and gently let him/her know that in future s/he should please call before Shabbat starts. My friend wants heads to roll.

What would you do? What would you advise her to do?

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  1. Vicki says:

    I would say definitely do not make a big deal about it. Secular people, even Jews, often don’t know the rules of Shabbat (heck, I’ve broken Shabbat at a religious friend’s home without even knowing it) and it’s not nearly as important to them not to violate them (or even know that it’s a big deal not to pick up the phone.) Did your friend make it clear to the teacher not to call her after a certain time? If not, she should cool down a bit. And, why not turn off the phone on Shabbat if it worries her so much?

  2. Tom says:

    Clearly the teacher’s mistake should be brought to her attention…albeit kindly and gently…

  3. batya from NJ says:

    there is nothing to be gained by “making heads roll” except for a huge chillul hashem. clearly the teacher forgot about the laws of shabbat (or perhaps was not even informed that using the telephone is prohibited on shabbat).

    i agree with the other posters that your friend should NOT make a big deal about it but she should in a kind & gentle way request that the teacher refrain from calling on friday evening after sundown in the future.

  4. Rebecca says:

    I would address it nicely with the teacher. If she goes in with both barrels flaming, the one who will suffer is her child, most likely. People do not like to be put on the spot and I think people in general are not forthright, but take out their anger elsewhere, displaced but anger anyway. U might also suggest to your friend that the whole world does not understand. When we moved to the midwest, someone told me to make sure and write a note that my children would not be in school for Rosh Hashannah or Yom Kippur. I asked so innocently: Y do I need a note? Aren’t the schools closed… No, I think there was maybe one or two other Jewish children in the school at the time. So, life does not always understand the ways others live.

  5. another thing is if it was 45 minutes after candle lighting, depending on when she lights her candles, it was probably still twilight. The teacher might be aware of friday night prohibitions, but not aware that shabbas starts before it is completely dark outside. Sounds like an innocent mistake to me.

  6. IMA2FOUR7 says:

    There are so many wrongs to be righted in this secular/Jewish day school conundrum!
    I understand the anger!

    It has been said: the best way to catch flies
    (I AM IN NO WAY COMPARING THIS TEACHER TO A FLY) is with sugar not vinegar. After all, this (unknowing or forgetful or perhaps not thinking at the moment) teacher it seems is on the mom’s side by calling her to update her on her child’s progress, no?
    I think she should talk to the teacher and gently and calmly remind her of her lack of consideration of the Friday phone call timing.

    Not to toot my own horn, but I refer you to my own recent indignation on the part of another Jewish day school’s lack of consideration cited in my last blog post IMA2FOUR7@blogspot daht com.

  7. Mark says:

    Shabbat is a Jewish obligation, not a non-Jewish one. That means that a Jew arranges their own life such that they can observe shabbat the way they want to. Yes, it would be nice if the non-Jewish teachers would understand the laws (which are not trivial given that the time changes every week and are not obvious based on light/darkness, etc), but the obligation is on YOU, the Jew.

    So, if phone calls worry you, and you will never pick up the phone on shabbat, then simply turn the phone ringer off before shabbat just as you turn your refrigerator light off, and setup the rest of your lighting as necessary for shabbat. If there is a case in which you would consider picking up the phone on shabbat, then you need caller ID so you can glance at it before picking it up to determine whether it is some politician or charity auto-calling you or if it is your mother-in-law calling , God forbid, with bad news. Or get an answering machine and let it pick up all calls, then listen as they begin to be recorded to determine if it is an emergency or not before deciding whether to pick up the phone.

    And, it is best to lighten up, the teacher likely called, let it ring 4 times until the answering machine picked up and that’s it. “Heads rolling” is WAY too excessive. The nicest way to handle it is to calmly explain why you were not able to answer, and to provide a list of shabbat starting times through the end of the school year. The teacher may be very appreciative, because of learning more about it, and because there may also be calls made to other observant households on Fridays.

  8. ilanadavita says:

    It is a pity this particular teacher does not know the rules of Shabbat since she teaches in a Jewish school. However the mother is also lucky to have found someone who is ready to phone her once a week to give a progress report.
    She should contact the teacher and let her know how she feels concerning the Shabbat laws and emphasize the worry rather than the anger. She might also consider telling the teacher that she appreciates the weekly feedback and suggest moving it to Thursday or Monday so that the issue never comes up again.

  9. Duvii says:

    Your friend needs to deal with whatever other issues are interfering with their good judgment.

  10. Your friend has her priorities messed up. Does she want a teacher who cares about her child and works with her to help her progress, or does she want a (non-Jewish) expert in Jewish law? I can imagine this teacher at her next school, explaining why she quit. “I got chewed out by the principal for calling the student’s house after sunset one Friday.”

  11. Kristie says:

    As a non Jew, if I made a mistake like that, I would hope that the person I called or whatever, would talk to me about it. Its very possible she knew and it slipped her mind. If she was talked to, and didn’t seem to care what she did, then it might be time to talk to the principal

  12. batya from NJ says:

    me again,
    i am sure many non-observant Jews would inadvertantly make the same error that this non-Jewish teacher had made & both would have been done completely by mistake. “to err is human, to forgive divine”. i really think your friend should be thankful to have such a considerate & devoted teacher & not be looking to make a big deal out of nothing. as mark said above, Jews need to follow the laws of Shabbat & not non-Jewish secular studies teachers who happen to be employed in Jewish institutions. & as ilanadavita suggested perhaps your friend should change the conference call to another day of the week. it is unreasonable to expect this non-Jewish secular studies teacher to have to remember the intricacies of Jewish law. really now!!

  13. Dov says:

    In my experience, there are few things that are effectively resolved by making a ‘to do’ as the first response…

  14. wondering says:

    Your friend seriously needs to chill. She “wants heads to roll” over an innocent mistake? I agree with Abandoning Eden- the teacher probably didn’t even realize that it was Shabbat because it wasn’t completely dark yet. And even if it HAD been dark by then- gee whiz, this person isn’t Jewish. The whole Shabbat thing isn’t on his radar. She ought to be thankful that a teacher was willing to call her on his own time instead of getting so angry over an innocent mistake.

    I hope you can talk some sense into your friend- blowing up at the teacher over this issue sounds like a terrible chilul hashem to me.

  15. swiss says:

    Long live the voice mail: with a voice mail, the teacher can call, leave the message, and the parents can check it out whenever it suits them. I have my voicemail on “loudspeaker” so that I can listen in during the recording, and I do not have to worry about the news it brings.

    I cannot understand your friend’s intolerance towards a teacher who does not practice the same religion as herself.

    Some time ago, I met intolerance when I said I would not pick up the phone on shabbes, but the voice mail solved these concerns.

    I think that your friend does not need to be more royalist than the king.

  16. Ari says:

    Secular studies teachers needn’t be experts in Jewish law and should not be asked to consult a luach listing sundown times. If the parent wants to bring it to the teacher’s attention, she should certainly not chastise anyone; rather, she should express gratitude for the phone update, but explain that she would have been able to make it a two-way conversation if it were before sundown Friday or after sundown Saturday.

  17. Keith Brooks says:

    This is why you have caller ID and leave your answering machine on loud enough to hear it but not loud enough to wake everyone.
    I get business calls on weekends but my partners take care of it, yet I still have messages.
    Relax, all is well, if the phone rings on shabbat it probably isn’t for you anyway from anyone you care about. Else they would keep calling until you answer.

  18. HaSafran says:

    Would your friend have been any less worried if the teacher didn’t call at all?

  19. Jess says:

    I would not make a big deal out of it at all. I think, as expressed by most of the previous commenters, she should gently tell the teacher, if she says anything at all, not to call the house after a certain hour on Fridays. I am sure the teacher was not trying to be disrespectful. She probably wasn’t aware when the exact candle lighting time was. She was doing her job – and doing it well if she was willing to take the time to talk to the parents after school hours. According to teachers and school administrators I know, the worst thing about being in education is usually the parents, not the students. By making this an issue, the one who will suffer most is the child.

  20. Mike S says:

    Since the teacher presumably made an innocent error, rather than a deliberate attempt to disrupt the family’s Shabbat, the right thing to do would be to mention the matter politely to the teacher. After all, they had agreed to the call Friday afternoon, and there is no reason to expect the teacher to know exactly when candle lighting time is, is there?

    Treating an innocent mistake as though it were a deliberate provocation is not a moral way to behave and not respectful of the Divine image in everyone. It also rarely produces the desired result; the teacher is making an extra effort to keep the parents informed. If he or she will be yelled at over it, why would the teacher continue?

    If this has been a continuing problem at the school for a while, one might mention to the administration, politely and without accusing any teachers, that it would be helpful to let the secular teachers know when Shabbat starts and what the rules are.

    If your friend really can’t deal with the phone ringing on Shabbat, she should either unplug it Friday before lighting candles, or get the sort of answering machine that let’s you here what is being recorded. What does she do if it is a poll, or a charitable solicitation or a wrong number?

  21. Mike S says:

    Ugh. Hear.

  22. Lion of Zion says:

    “My friend wants heads to roll.”

    i hope you are exaggerating. if she really wants the teacher disciplined for this, then she has some other issues that need to be resolved.

    interesting juxatopistion between this post and the what is frum post.

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