When they work in Turtle Bay
The United Nations headquarters.(Wikipedia)
It was brought to our attention that United Nations employees in New York, that most Jewish of cities where the international organization is headquartered, will have the second day of Rosh Hashanah (Friday) off, but not the first (Thursday). Why? Because Friday happens also to be Eid ul-Fitr, the Islamic celebration of the end of the holy month of Ramadan, which is one of the ten official holidays for U.N. employees in New York. I looked into the matter a little bit further—driven, to be perfectly honest, in part by the U.N.’s less-than-stellar record on Jewish issues in recent years. But turns out this is kosher.
U.N. spokesperson Farhan Haq explained to me that, in each country, U.N. employees get ten paid holidays, with the ten days left up to the host countries (so in Russia, for example, they get Eastern Orthodox Christmas, or January 7, off). In New York, though, holidays have been decided by the votes of all member countries—in other words, of the General Assembly—and the ten holidays they have come up with are: New Year’s Day (January 1), President’s Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Adha (which commemorates Abraham’s refusal to sacrifice Ishmael—yes, to them it’s Ishmael, not Isaac), Thanksgiving, and Christmas (Western). No Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur, though—and this in New York, where even the schools (though not the city) have the day off!
Honestly, though, while the small number of explicitly Jewish nations (one) in the General Assembly has at various times led to some pretty nasty things, this clear is not driven by animosity. Anyway, Jewish employees will get one day of Rosh Hashanah off to spend in observance, and, like most other Jews, can take the other one off themselves. Muslim employees (like Haq, as he noted to me) get Eid to observe. And Christian employees? They just get the day off. But we’re used to them catching the breaks.