Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Why should Jewish teens take SATs on Sunday?

As I just sent in my son Dan's application for Sunday SAT tests, it reminded me of a posting I did a year ago.  It never stops being relevant:

There is a little tip that I want to share with our teens: take your SATs and SAT2s on Sunday, rather than the traditional Saturday date. It is almost certain to increase your score, and, BTW, you’ll be doing something very important for the Jewish people as well.

When I bring this up to teens, they often respond that it would be hypocritical for them to do so if they do not otherwise observe the Shabbat in a traditional manner. Here is my response:

· First of all, I rarely use the term “hypocritical.” I prefer “inconsistent.” I would much prefer to set the bar high and never quite reach it than to say that Jewish observance must be an “all or nothing” proposition. It thrills me to know that so many of our kids (of all ages) bring matzah to school for lunch on Passover, for example, even if they are not completely observant in other ways. This public expression of Jewish pride is extremely beneficial precisely because it is so public. It says to the world – to both your non-Jewish and especially to your Jewish friends – that our customs teach important moral lessons and that you love being a Jew. We all make compromises. It was easy for my family when my kids were at day school. Now they are at Westhill, and we have to make tough decisions, but in each case we try as a family to maintain some integrity in our inconsistency. Recently, I walked down to the street to see Dan’s play on a Friday night, with tickets paid for in advance. We’re pre-paying prom expenses in a similar manner. In short, it is perfectly OK to observe Shabbat by taking SATs on Sunday, even if your general practice is to be less than fully observant. It’s more than that – it’s exemplary.

· It feels good to take these tests in a room with a dozen people, all of whom have chosen to express Jewish pride just as you have. The alternative is to take them in a room filled with many more people, who share nothing but nervousness. You enter the exam in a positive frame of mind. It’s like coming home to take the test…. Think about it: would you rather take a huge exam in your own kitchen, chomping on your mom’s warm toll house cookies, or at a packed McDonalds?

· Having that one extra day to study, a quiet Saturday, can be a real asset. Just ask Ethan, who has now taken these tests on Sunday several times, following a relaxing but study-centered Shabbat.

· It is much easier to do than you might think. When you sign up for the tests online, the application allows for Sunday testing options. We are lucky to have a testing site right here in Stamford, at Bi Cultural. Seeing Lillian Wasserman proctoring there, as she has for years, brought an additional smile to Ethan when he went a few weeks ago. Once you have done this once, the process becomes even easier for future test dates.

Oh yes. For the first one, you will need a note from your rabbi. HELLO! HERE I AM! RIGHT OVER HERE! Needless to say, I would be delighted to help.

One of the byproducts of my having to sign off on these is that I have the first hand knowledge of how few of our teens are taking advantage of this easy opportunity to say to the world, “I’m Jewish and Proud!” It’s quite possible that many have not been aware of how easy it is. For that, I accept complete responsibility.

But now, you know.

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