The Timing of the Student Staff Breakfast Wasn’t Religiously Inclusive

Digital illustration by Phoenix Zhang. 

GDS’ Student Staff Breakfast is an annual tradition where classes are delayed and community members can engage with each other and enjoy delicious breakfast food. This year, the event was held during the religious holidays of Passover and Ramadan, meaning that many students weren’t able to eat or fully enjoy the tradition due to dietary restrictions.

During Ramadan, Muslims observing the holiday must fast without food or water from sunrise to sunset for thirty days. When observing Passover, Jews don’t eat food made with leavened grain due to additional kosher restrictions. Given that a significant number of community members observe Passover or fast for Ramadan, the timing of the Student Staff Breakfast was religiously insensitive. 

“I thought the timing wasn’t very inclusive,” junior Amelia Oscherwitz said. “It was frustrating to see an email with all the different breakfast options knowing that I wouldn’t be able to eat them this week.” Oscherwitz, who keeps kosher for Passover, did not attend the breakfast because of the limited food options. Despite there being a matzah table, Oscherwitz believed that she wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the breakfast in its entirety. Some of the other food options included pancakes, waffles and bagels, all of which are made with leavened grain. 

For Muslim students like sophomore Shiraz Benyoucef, the timing of the Student Staff Breakfast made it impossible to participate in the event. Unlike Passover, for which there were food options for people observing the holiday, there were obviously no accommodations for students who were fasting. “Awareness from the administration that Ramadan was happening during the breakfast would have made me feel a lot more included,” Benyoucef said.

When hosting events like the Student Staff Breakfast, the administration should take into consideration the dietary restrictions of students who may be celebrating religious holidays. If GDS wants to live up to its mission of being “devoted to continuously building an inclusive community,” everyone should be able to participate in school activities and traditions, no matter their religious background. The administration could have easily pushed the breakfast back a few weeks to respect the dietary restrictions of many Jewish and Muslim students. 

“I wish the school would look at a time that was better for everyone,” Benyoucef said.

As a person who fasts during Ramadan, the timing of the event made me feel like an outsider in the community. I could not participate in a tradition that everyone should be able to take part in. The event is a unique element of the GDS experience and it is unfortunate that I had to miss out simply because of when it took place. This is the first time while attending GDS that I have felt excluded—it is unlike the ideals of the school in which everyone is supposed to be valued. 

I remember last year’s Student Staff Breakfast, which wasn’t during Ramadan or Passover, as a wonderful time connecting with others and enjoying the many food options. However, my memories of this year’s event were those of sitting in the library while others got to eat downstairs. 

Annabel Hilzenrath ’24 contributed reporting to this story.