Members of Spokane’s Temple Beth Shalom are protesting Friday’s symphony concert because it conflicts with Yom Kippur the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.
“We just plain screwed up,” said Jonathan Martin, executive director of the symphony. “There’s no other way to say it, and it’s not going to happen again.”
Rabbi Jacob Izakson urged temple members who are symphony subscribers to tear their tickets in half and mail them back to the symphony office.
He asked that Jews not give the tickets away to non-Jewish friends.
“Only with empty seats in the Opera House … can the Spokane Jewish community show the Spokane Symphony leadership that they must be sensitive to our needs,” he wrote in the temple’s October newsletter.
It’s the second time in the past six or seven years a concert has been scheduled on Yom Kippur. The rabbi said he called the first time to voice his objections and was assured it never would happen again.
“That’s why I was so aghast,” Izakson said.
He said members of his congregation began complaining about the concert shortly after season tickets were issued several weeks ago.
Yom Kippur - the Day of Atonement - comes at the end of a 10-day period of reflection that begins with Rosh Hashana, the Jewish new year.
“Take midnight Mass of Christmas and the sunrise service at Easter, combine them and multiply by 10,” Izakson said. “That’s how significant Yom Kippur is to Jews.”
Observant Jews fast for 24 hours beginning Friday evening in order to focus on the task of standing before God and pleading their case for the upcoming spiritual year. They attend solemn services on Friday evening and again on Saturday.
“We consider who will live and who will die, who will be satisfied and who will not be satisfied, who will be well and who will be sick,” the rabbi said. “It doesn’t get any more important than that.”
The Oct. 10, 1997, concert date was originally reserved in 1991. Martin confirmed the concert date shortly after arriving at his job in January 1995.
At both points the conflict should have been noted, he said. Yom Kippur is marked on most calendars at Oct. 11. What some calendars don’t note and many non-Jews forget is that Jewish holidays and Sabbaths run from sundown to sundown, meaning Yom Kippur actually begins Friday night.
“I’m not going to use that as an excuse,” Martin said. “Because there is no excuse.”
Martin said someone pointed out the conflict to him in early September, when it was too late to do anything short of canceling the concert. After discussing the matter with Izakson, he sent a letter of apology to the temple.
Martin wasn’t aware that any tickets had been returned. He vowed to provide a refund to anyone mailing back tickets.
He has checked the symphony’s calendar through 2006 to ensure a similar debacle does not occur.
“I hope that we can maybe take this as an opportunity to build something new,” Martin said.
At his last job with the Atlanta Symphony, the Jewish community and the arts community worked together for several events, he said. Izakson and Martin will meet later this month to discuss similar possibilities.
There are dozens of season ticket holders and symphony patrons at Temple Beth Shalom. Vernice Cohen, a temple member, recently concluded a six-year term on the symphony’s board.
“I think it was an honest mistake,” Cohen said. “It’s unfortunate that it happened, but I’m hopeful and persuaded that it won’t happen again.”
Martin said a few people have expressed reservations about having the regular concert series on Friday nights - a regular worship time for Jews.
“That alone prevents some Jews from attending and so we are looking at that,” he said. However, because the concerts are one-shot affairs rather than multiple-night events, it would be impossible to please everyone.
“The ticket sales have been strongest on Friday nights,” Cohen said, “so I assume they’ll stick with that.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo
MEMO: FROM FOR THE RECORD (Thursday, October 9, 1997): Story reprinted: Due to production problems, some newspapers circulated Wednesday failed to carry the entire text of this front-page local news story. It was reprinted on Thursday, October 9, 1997 on page B5. Story appears here, in complete text.