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Jewish Students Petitioning Baruch For Different Commencement Time Due To Sabbath Conflict

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Some Jewish students are complaining that a local college has scheduled commencement for late afternoon on a Friday, saying if that time doesn't change that they won't be able to attend their own graduation.

"It made me kind of depressed when I found out about it. I was really upset that they scheduled it at 5," Renee Shemesh, a Baruch College graduate, told CBS2's Tony Aiello.

Shemesh says she's worried she'll have to miss her own commencement.

Like last year, the college will hold its ceremony at Barclays Center, the only space available to hold the crowd of 15,000 attendees.

In 2015, it was at 10 a.m. on a Wednesday. But this year, the college chose 5 p.m. on a Friday. The decision is raising questions considering 11 percent of the student body is Jewish, with many of them keeping Sabbath at sundown.

"We wouldn't be able to attend!" Shamesh said of the impact on her and her family.

Baruch President Mitchel Wallerstein said the college took Jewish concerns into account.

"By checking the calendar, sundown on May 27 will be at 8:19 p.m.," Wallerstein said.

In a letter he explained that the college "would have to start the ceremony promptly at 5 p.m. and end no later than 7 p.m. This will leave the audience a full hour and 20 minutes to get home before sundown."

Assemblyman Dov Hikind said that timetable is too rushed for observant Jews, who need time to prepare for Sabbath celebrations.

"They don't have to look at their watch every two seconds saying, 'Do I still have time to stay here? Do I have to get out and rush?' Traffic and everything else that's involved," Hikind told CBS2 in a phone interview.

Shamesh started an online petition, signed by more than 1,100 people so far, asking for the commencement to begin earlier for the sake of those who keep Sabbath.

CBS2 repeatedly reached out to the college for comment, but never heard back.

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