By Anastazja Kolodziej
This year’s First Look Fair is set to be a one-day, 8-hour event Thursday, Sept. 20, following backlash from the Jewish community about previous date changes.
The First Look Fair, an event which gives students the opportunity to learn about clubs and organizations on campus, had initially been scheduled for Sept. 12 and 13. However, due to inclement weather, organizers announced Sept. 10 that the fair would be postponed to Wednesday and Thursday.
This year, Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year for the Jewish people, is Wednesday. Many Jews observe Yom Kippur by attending services, fasting, and not using technology. As a result, some Jewish students would not be available to browse through the fair, and certain Jewish organizations within Hillel would not be able to table Wednesday.
An additional problem with the date change arose because the announcement came out on Rosh Hashanah, another Jewish holiday, which many Jewish chaplains and people in leadership positions were also respecting by refraining from using technology.
“I was the person who told the Hillel director, and I heard it secondhand because I also was not using my phone or anything,” said Ben Rosenbaum, a gabbai for Ometz, the conservative egalitarian Jewish community on campus. As gabbai, the sophomore history and secondary education major coordinates who leads weekly Shabbat service. “I was more frustrated that they changed the date on a day that no one could do anything about it and no one could be consulted about it.”
Stamp Student Union, the organizer of First Look Fair, publicized the date change on the First Look Fair webpage and Facebook page. A university student responded to the Facebook post expressing dismay about the date change due to the University’s high Jewish population. Approximately 19% of undergrads at Maryland are Jewish, according to Hillel International.
“We had a decision to make, and we know the situation is not ideal,” Stamp’s Facebook page replied to the comment. “We respect the religious holidays of all of our students and regret that rescheduling First Look Fair impacts Yom Kippur observations on September 19th. We hope that still having the First Look Fair span two days (rather than just one) allows for the greatest number of students to come and participate.”
Two days later, Stamp moved the First Look Fair to be an 8-hour long event Thursday only in order to accommodate as many students and community members as possible, according to the First Look Fair webpage.
“We could see by the extended forecast that there would still be inclement weather… in the early part of the week and also knew that the end of the week brings Family Weekend activities,” said Stamp Assistant Director Donna Lim, explaining why the First Look Fair was not rescheduled for two other days of the week but rather for one.
While the new date for the First Look Fair solves the issue of scheduling the fair on Yom Kippur, some students are still unsatisfied with the date change.
“I think it was a bad decision to put it all on one day because I know several people who can’t go to it at all,” Rosenbaum said.
The First Look Fair will include nearly 600 student organizations, 100 departments, 30 non-profits, 7 merchants and 20 sponsors, according to Dr. Lim.
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sara Karlovitch, Bloc Editor.
Anastazja Kolodziej is a sophomore journalism and classics major and can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.