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[Editor's Note: See NYS Bar Examiners' Press Release Below for Scheduling Details]

Tisha B’Av No Bar for Bar Exam

Steve Lipman
Jewish Week
January 23, 2004

Some Jewish students who observe the Tisha b’Av fast, which commemorates the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem and other tragedies that have happened on the ninth day of Av, will have one less worry on their minds this year.

The New York State Board of Law Examiners has rescheduled a part of the bar exam that was to be held Tuesday, July 27, when Tisha b’Av occurs this summer.

“They were very cooperative,” says Isabel Balson, associate registrar at Yeshiva University’s Cardozo Law School, who arranged the accommodation with the bar association.

Several religiously observant students at Cardozo informed the administration about the scheduling problem last fall; though Jewish law does not bar someone from writing on Tisha b’Av, as on the Shabbat and major holidays, taking a multi-hour test on a fast day would be taxing.

“It’s not in the spirit of the day,” Balson says.

Balson conducted “numerous conversations” in recent months with bar association officials. “We are very sensitive to the needs of our students. The deans take this very seriously.”

The bar association agreed to shift the New York State part of the bar exam from Tisha b’Av to Thursday, July 29. The “multi-state” part of the bar exam will remain on Wednesday, July 28.

That was part one of Balson’s job.

Then she contacted the New Jersey Bar Association, whose bar exam was to be administered that Thursday, creating a conflict for students who wish to take both states’ bar exams.

The New Jersey organization in turn agreed to offer its test to affected students on Friday, July 30. “There would be no issue with Sabbath,” she said — the New Jersey test will end hours before sundown.

Some 50 to 75 Cardozo students will be affected by Cardozo’s efforts, Balson says; In total, “at least a few hundred” law students will be able to take the New York and New Jersey bar exams.

The New York State Bar Association went “above and beyond” what was required to accommodate the Jewish students, she says. “They didn’t have to, but they did.”


 

On October 20, 2003 the NYS Board of Law Examiners issued the following notice:

The Board of Law Examiners announced today that it will modify the schedule for the July 2004 bar examination for those candidates who require such an accommodation due to the conflict with the Jewish holiday of Tisha B’Av.

Because one component of the New York State bar examination, the Multistate Bar Examination, is administered nationally on the last Wednesday of July, the Rules of the Board of Law Examiners require that the New York examination be administered on the last Tuesday and Wednesday of July. In 2004, the examination is scheduled for July 27-28. Tisha B’Av, a holiday of mourning on the Jewish Calendar, falls on Tuesday, July 27, 2004. Tisha B’Av is a fast day for observant Jews during which they totally refrain from all food and drink. The Board was requested to move the July 2004 bar examination, in order to accommodate this religious observance.

The Board has now determined that candidates who require an accommodation will be permitted to take the Tuesday portion of the bar examination, consisting of the New York portion of the examination and the Multistate Performance Test, on Thursday, July 29 rather than on Tuesday, July 27. All candidates will take the Multistate Bar Examination on Wednesday, July 28.

Before determining what, if any, accommodation could be made for those candidates who would observe this fast day and also take the New York bar examination, the Board attempted to determine the approximate number of candidates who would be affected. In a press release on August 6, 2003, the Board announced a special e-mail address, tishabav @ nybarexam.org, and requested candidates who would require an accommodation to contact us via that address. The August 6 press release was also sent to every approved law school in the country and to interested groups for posting. The Board received approximately 200 responses. The Board expects to administer the New York bar examination to more than 10,000 candidates in July 2004.

The feasible accommodations are limited by a number of factors, including security, test site availability, and the fact that two of the components of the New York bar examination are national examinations, administered across the country simultaneously to thousands of applicants. The Multistate Performance Test cannot be administered before Tuesday, July 27. The Multistate Bar Examination can be administered only on Wednesday, July 28.

Another factor limiting the available modifications in the schedule of the New York bar examination is the fact that thousands of New York bar candidates take concurrent bar examinations in New Jersey, Connecticut or Massachusetts. Those states administer their bar examinations on the last Wednesday and Thursday of July, which accommodates their candidates who wish also to take the New York bar examination. The bar examination in those states will be administered on July 28-29, 2004.

Candidates will be required to apply for the accommodation in the examination schedule during the regular application period for the examination, which is between March 29 and April 28, 2004. Prior response to the Board’s special e-mail address does not constitute application for this accommodation.

Further details regarding the requirements for applying and the examination site will be announced when they are available.

Questions may be directed to the e-mail address above, or in writing to: New York State Board of Law Examiners, 1 Executive Centre Drive, Suite 202, Albany, NY 12203.