Jewish Religious Observance

This guidance aims to raise staff awareness around Judaism and to deliver guidance for supporting staff and students practicing the Jewish faith at the university. It provides practical information on the significance of Jewish festivals and holy days, what they involve and what arrangements we have in place on our campus. It also includes contact details of relevant staff and additional resources for more information, advice and guidance.

It is important to remember not all Jewish people practice the same level of religious observance so each of their requests should be dealt with on a case by case basis, as what is suitable for one individual may not be suitable for another.

The Equality & Inclusion Unit has also developed an Equality and Inclusion Calendar.

Contents of this page


Purpose and significance

For a fully observant Jewish person, Halacha (Jewish law) provides a central model for how to lead an affirmed spiritual life. This means that it is not possible for an observant Jewish person to waive, for example, observance of the Shabbat (Sabbath). However, in most cases reasonable adjustments will mean that there is no conflict between observing Jewish laws and festivals, and fully contributing as a student or member of the workforce.

Key points

  • One of the most common workplace or study place adjustments for Jewish employees and students concerns working on the Shabbat (Sabbath) and during festivals. The Jewish Shabbat is the Jewish day of rest. It starts Friday afternoon, about one hour before dusk and lasts for approximately 25 hours, until after dark the following day. As daylight hours vary, the beginning and end times of the Sabbath also vary throughout the year. Jewish law requires Jewish people to refrain from various actions of ‘work’ on the Shabbat. In the winter months, this could affect teaching staff or students with classes or exams on Friday afternoons, as well as on Saturdays. For someone working a Monday-Friday standard working week, Shabbat observance may require leaving work early on a Friday afternoon (this varies throughout the year). For employees needing to complete a set number of hours in a week, this can easily be made up by working earlier or later on other days of the week to compensate.
  • Please be mindful that as the Shabbat requires a minimum time for preparation, many students and staff might need to leave one to two hours before dusk on Friday afternoon. Similar restrictions exist for major festivals (see Major Festivals), when various activities are prohibited including but not limited to writing, drawing, the use of electrical devices, the use of telephones, the use of public transport, driving, and any commercial transactions.
  • Jewish festivals can be easily accommodated. Festivals may be taken as annual or unpaid leave (this should be in accordance with the University’s annual leave policy) and consequently should cause little disruption as they are taken in short bursts rather than in long blocks.
  • Some observant Jewish people may have specific requirements regarding their dress. Some Jewish men cover their heads with a yarmulke, kappel or kippa (‘skullcap’). Some observant Jewish women will wish to dress modestly, which may include not wearing trousers, short skirts or short sleeves. Some married Jewish women will also cover their hair, with a scarf, hat or wig
  • Observant Jewish people pray three times a day, in the morning, in the afternoon and in the evening. This can take place in a variety of locations including the workplace. As a manager, designating a room for prayer or a quiet space is good practice. Please see more information about the Prayer and Contemplation Spaces available on campus.
  • Jewish people also fast on certain days throughout the year. Managers are advised to demonstrate empathy, sensitivity and understanding in support of those who are fasting.
  • Jewish people who observe the dietary laws are required to eat only Kosher food and consequently may refuse foods labelled ‘vegetarian’ or ‘vegan’. Good practice is to always ask staff and students about their dietary requirements when food is being provided.
  • Jewish students and staff will take personal responsibility for managing their religious observances. Since there are varying levels of religious observance, an individual’s requirements should be discussed with them on a personal basis.

What provision is the University making?

The University has many Jewish students and staff. We are very keen to provide a safe and inclusive environment, facilities and arrangements to ensure that they are able to practice their faith alongside their studying, working and living on campus. The arrangements we have in place are:

Students, staff and visitors may also find the following organisations of interest for  further information :

Major Jewish festivals 2022-23

2022

  • Purim: 16-17 March 2022. This is a 2 day festival, beginning on the evening of 16 March and ending on the eventing of 17 March.  Travel and work are permitted, however some may refrain from work during this period.
  • Pesach (Passover): 15-23 April 2022. This is an 8 day festival, beginning on the evening on 15 April and ending on the evening of 23 April. During days 1 and 2 and days 7 and 8 travel and work are prohibited. During days 3 to 6 travel and work is permitted.
  • Shavuot (Pentecost): 4-6 June 2022. This is a 2 day festival, beginning on the evening of 4 June and ending on the evening of 6 June. Travel and work (including writing) are prohibited during Shavuot, however some may refrain from work only on the first day.
  • Rosh Hashanah (New Year):  25-27 September 2022. This is a 2 day festival, beginning on the evening of 25 Sep and ending on the evening of 27 Sep. Travel and work (including writing) are prohibited during Yom Kippur, however some may refrain from work only on the first day.
  • Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement): 4-5 October 2022. One festival day. Yom Kippur is a 1 day festival, beginning on the evening of 4 Sep and ending on the evening of 5 Sep. Travel and work (including writing) are prohibited during Yom Kippur. A 25 hour fast is observed my many Jews on this day.
  • Sukkot (Tabernacles): 9-16 October 2022. Sukkot is a 7 day festival, beginning on the evening of 9 October and ending on the evening of 16 October. Travel and work are prohibited on day 1 and 2 of Sukkot
  • Hanukkah:18-25 December 2022. This is an 8 day celebration when travel and work are permitted.

2023

  • Purim: 6-7 March 2023. This is a 2 day festival, beginning on the evening of 6 March and ending on the eventing of 7 March.  Travel and work are permitted, however some may refrain from work during this period.
  • Pesach (Passover): 5-13 April 2023. This is an 8 day festival, beginning on the evening on 5 April and ending on the evening of 13 April. During days 1 and 2 and days 7 and 8 travel and work are prohibited. During days 3 to 6 travel and work is permitted.
  • Shavuot (Pentecost): 25-27 May 2022. This is a 2 day festival, beginning on the evening of 25 May and ending on the evening of 27 May. Travel and work (including writing) are prohibited during Shavuot, however some may refrain from work only on the first day.
  • Rosh Hashanah (New Year):  15-17 September 2022. This is a 2 day festival, beginning on the evening of 15 Sep and ending on the evening of 17 Sep. Travel and work (including writing) are prohibited during Yom Kippur, however some may refrain from work only on the first day.
  • Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement): 24-25 September 2022. One festival day. Yom Kippur is a 1 day festival, beginning on the evening of 24 Sep and ending on the evening of 25 Sep. Travel and work (including writing) are prohibited during Yom Kippur. A 25 hour fast is observed my many Jews on this day.
  • Sukkot (Tabernacles): 29 September-6 October 2022. Sukkot is a 7 day festival, beginning on the evening of 29 September and ending on the evening of 6 October. Travel and work are prohibited on day 1 and 2 of Sukkot.
  • Hanukkah:8-15 December 2022. This is an 8 day celebration when travel and work are permitted.

Guidance for line managers working with Jewish staff

Staff will manage their own Jewish observances. Practices may vary between individuals due to health, travel and other personal circumstances. Individual staff members may make different types of leave requests, for example, to work half-days and/or shorter working weeks to enable them to observe the Shabbat or other religious festivals. Others may request more flexible working arrangements. Requests should be managed in line with all existing University HR policies.

Managers are advised to demonstrate empathy, sensitivity and understanding to balance supporting our staff to manage their religious commitments alongside ensuring we meet all our business needs. Managers may otherwise wish to consider meeting times over these periods which enables the contribution of most staff.

The dates of the major festivals will be useful when planning activities like staff development, away days and in drawing up work schedules/timetables. Managers will be able to anticipate significant dates that staff may want to take as leave. It is the responsibility of line managers to find out from staff, what their religious practices are so the University can begin to assess how well any particular needs they might have are being met.

Guidance for staff working with Jewish students

Students will manage their own Jewish observances. As a member of staff when setting dates (for exams, core assessments, field trips, arranging placements, time-tabling key lectures, arranging interviews, seminars and other programme activities) in general, please be mindful that scheduling any of these activities on Friday afternoon/evenings and weekends may conflict with Jewish students’ observances. In such a case, every effort should be made to provide alternatives upon request.

Consulting with students who study in your department will be important to establish the extent of their religious observance. This can form the basis of major festival dates to avoid, as far as it is possible, when developing programme timetables. It would also be an opportunity to find out whether students have other religious or cultural needs and how well these are currently being met within the faculty.

Students can request alternative exam arrangements and the Exams team will make every effort to meet preferences for exam dates/times that fall outside of Jewish festivals.

The University has further guidance on responding to requests for flexibility from staff and students on the grounds of religion.