Communicating Discrimination – Indiscriminate Feelings

Today I was reminded again that I live in a secular country, and not one that will necessarily appreciate nor accommodate my religious values.

Living in New York City and being a practicing orthodox Jew in the twenty-first century, it almost seems expected that everyone understands the restrictions of the Sabbath, and one will not be put at a disadvantage for not working on the holidays career and school-wise. However, upon perusing Columbia University’s Masters in Strategic Communications program, I found that they require 15 mandatory Saturday sessions throughout their 16-month program. This prevents any orthodox Jewish students, and Seventh Day Adventists for that matter, to complete a masters in that program. Being that the program resides in the center of United States Jewry, I find this prevention quite disconcerting.

Now I understand that most Orthodox Jewish students are far from interested in attaining a masters in any sort of communications. Very few dare to enter the field for fear of it not being conducive to living an orthodox lifestyle. However, for those of us who do choose to take that chance, I would expect that we be given as equal an opportunity as anyone else. I have never heard of a program that would eliminate a certain sector of the population, however small it may be, due to religious obligations. I also question the legality of it according to U.S. law as I find it to be discrimination.

Upon calling Columbia’s School of Continuing Education and asking them if there was a way to attend the school and keep the Sabbath, they answered, “I don’t know that there is a way around all this” and were “actually presented with the same inquiry the other day.” Which makes me wonder what other orthodox Jew is daring to break the mold and pursue a degree like me. But it also made me wonder how large a group of eligible candidates are being prevented from attending Columbia’s graduate program just because they cannot attend these 15 Saturday sessions for religious reasons.

I am not saying that I had a great chance of getting into Columbia. I am also not claiming that this is the one reason I will be unable to attend. I’m just saying that fairness and equal opportunity are a basic right being neglected by this prestigious ivy.



About the Author
Melanie Goldberg is a current student at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law. She also serves as the research assistant for Versa: The Israeli Supreme Court English Language Repository, and founded a chapter of The Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights on her campus. Most recently, she was one of the recipients of The Jewish Week's "36 under 36" award.