Local Jews call for changes to Norway’s national calendar law, demanding flexibility for non-Christian employees.
By World Israel News Staff
The Jewish community of Norway is pressing for national recognition of Jewish holidays, citing the lack of guaranteed vacation days for observant Jews, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported on Monday.
Under Norwegian law, all employees are guaranteed 12 days off per year, though most of those days are tied to Christian holidays.
Non-Christian religious holidays are not included in the national calendar system, even though other faiths, including Judaism and Islam, are recognized by Norwegian law.
To compensate, the law also offers non-Christian workers two extra days of paid leave per year.
But Jewish leaders say the current law leaves many observant Jewish employees without legal protection, allowing employers to compel them to work during their religious holidays.
Ervin Kohn, the former chief of the Jewish Community of Oslo and a trustee on the community’s board, told the JTA that the Jewish community will turn to the Norwegian Supreme Court to strike down the national calendar law, arguing that it violates constitutional rights to freedom of religion.
“The law means that observant Norwegian Jews are expected to choose whether to violate their religion on Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah or Passover,” Kohn said.
Kohn called for the granting of six to seven additional protected days off, while keeping the current 12 holidays enshrined by the national calendar.
“It is important that we as a society have common public holidays,” Kohn wrote in an opinion piece published on the Utrop website.
Kohn suggested the Jewish Community of Oslo may work with representatives of other religions impacted by the current law when it files the Supreme Court petition.
Calling the matter an issue of “international human rights” and religious freedom, Kohn cited Article 16 of the Norwegian Constitution, which reads “All inhabitants of the realm shall have the right to free exercise of their religion,” and “All religious and belief communities should be supported on equal terms.”
“If a Jewish teacher at the Oslo School takes off two days to celebrate Rosh Hashana, her employer can deny her time off to Yom Kippur ten days later,” Kohn wrote. “Denying a Jewish employee time off on Yom Kippur is the same as forcing her to break Jewish holiday rules. In my eyes, this is obviously a violation of religious freedom.”