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Jewish Letter Carrier Angry That He Must Work on Rosh Hashana

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

A longtime mail carrier said Thursday that he is being forced to work on Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, despite his offer to take the day off without pay or to pay a substitute himself.

Jeff Schreiber, a mail carrier in Costa Mesa for 19 years, said he followed policy by requesting Saturday off 10 days in advance, but the request was denied.

“I’ve offered everything I can possibly think of and they just won’t bend,” said Schreiber, 44, of Mission Viejo. “In the past, I had always been able to work it out because it was either my regular day off or I was able to switch with someone. This year I had no choice but to fill out a request form. I figured that after 19 years of good service, they would be human.”

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Schreiber, a member of a conservative synagogue in Mission Viejo, said he usually spends the day in prayer with his family and congregation. He said he also has been denied the day off for Yom Kippur, which falls on Sept. 23.

Postal officials said Thursday that Schreiber’s case is “just a bad situation.” A staff shortage has left them with no choice but to deny his request, said Richard Maher, spokesman for the U.S. Postal Service’s Santa Ana district.

At the Costa Mesa post office, Maher said, there are 41 delivery routes and 51 mail carriers. Four are on vacation, two recently quit, three are on maternity leave and one is on limited duty due to injury. The remainder work five days, but mail is delivered six days a week, so not all employees are on duty each day.

“We really do try and accommodate employees as much as possible,” Maher said. “For holidays that aren’t one of our 10 recognized holidays, employees can apply for personal days of leave. Personal leave is granted on a seniority basis and depends on the staffing of the post office.”

The post office’s 10 official holidays are New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Day, Presidents Day, Memorial Day, the Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Labor Day, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Joyce Greenspan, regional director of the Anti-Defamation League of Orange County and Long Beach, said she is outraged by the situation and has appealed personally to Joe Diaz, postmaster for Costa Mesa. Diaz could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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“The public needs to know that the post office is unwilling to accommodate this man on the two holiest days of the year for Jewish people,” Greenspan said. “It’s really frustrating. This man is not asking for freebies or a day at the beach. He is asking for the chance to pray.”

Greenspan said Jews should not have to fight for the same consideration in the workplace that Christians who celebrate Christmas get.

“This is the United States, and we should try and work together,” she said. “There are many people of varied backgrounds and beliefs.”

Maher explained that postal policy gives employees who have requested an entire week off priority over those who asked for a single day off. To ensure that Schreiber got Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur off, Maher said, he could have requested those weeks off.

Late Thursday, after speaking with Diaz, Maher said an effort will be made to allow Schreiber to leave work early on the days he has requested.

But Schreiber was still angry.

“There is just no human factor at the post office,” he said. “It’s all just a bunch of numbers and things.”

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