Associate Dean of Diversity search postponed to avoid Yom Kippur


The annual Shabbat 150 Dinner that took place during Shabbat on October 4, 2019. Photo by Robert Killman.

Alex Appel, Editor in Chief

Justin Cohen ’20 was personally invited by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to help select the new Associate Dean of Diversity and Inclusion (ADDI). Cohen is the Co-President of Chabad and Vice President of Hillel, two Jewish organizations on campus. Cohen was invited to the lunch meetings and presentations, the latter of which are open to the entire campus, because of his leadership roles on campus, according to the invitation. It was his involvement in these organizations and his religion in general, that prevented him from attending two of those meetings and several of the afternoon presentations.

Two of the five meetings and presentations took place on the holiest days in the Jewish religious calendar: Rosh Hashanah, the new year which happened on October 2; and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement which took place yesterday, on October 9. During the latter holiday, religious adults who are physically capable fast the entire day. These are two of the five High Holidays in the Jewish faith.

In addition to these two days, one of the presentations took place on Friday, October 4 at 4 p.m., just a few hours before the start of Shabbat, the day of rest in Judaism.

Cohen contacted Hathaway to inform her that two of the meetings were on High Holidays. In her response, Hathaway said that “[she] realized that is a holy day” and wished him “a spirit filled day of reflection.”

“I was initially surprised and disappointed by the placing of interviews for the ADDI on the Jewish High Holidays. It was even more shocking that it was not just an oversight,” Cohen said.

He was not the only person to reach out to Hathaway — in an email she sent out apologizing for scheduling the meeting on this date, she stated that Professor Stephen Schwartz, Director of Hillel Bonnie Cramer and Co-President of Chabad Abigail Soroka also spoke with her about these dates.

“When I teach about diversity and inclusion the one item I emphasize is that when you’ve made a mistake around these issues you apologize and have some discussion to reconcile,” Hathaway wrote.

In that email, Hathaway stated that the meeting planned for Yom Kippur will be rescheduled.

“In my opinion, this issue should never have arisen in the first place, I commend the efforts taken by the administration to rectify it. Dr. Hathaway’s apology along with moving one of the interviews to a different date was appreciated and I look forward to working with the Diversity Office on programming and awareness in the future,” Cohen said.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion is not the first to plan an event on the High Holidays. In accomodating for a speaker, President David Harris and members of the Wold family to attend, the Religious Studies Department scheduled a talk about Conflict and Religion during the start of evening services for Yom Kippur yesterday. Last year, Greek Life Recruitment events happened during the night of Yom Kippur.

The College has been without a Coordinator of Interfaith since the retirement of Viki Brooks, who also served as the campus’s Protestant Minister in 2018. The school will hire someone to fill this position in Winter Term. In the meantime, a list of religious events was sent out to staff at the start of the year as a reference.

The former ADDI Jason Benitez left Union College this summer to work as the Vice President of Talent and Inclusion at the Capital Region Chamber.