Is it a religious imperative or a matter of convenience? Though Jewish Democratic activists are claiming victory in the rescheduling of the party’s county conventions from the morning of the first evening of Passover, we believe that it’s a hollow victory.
An online petition drafted by these activists garnered more than 800 signatures and flooded the phone lines of the party’s office, resulting in Democratic Party chair Dwight Pelz’s announcement that the conventions would be moved to as-yet-undetermined dates and times. But the campaign and subsequent capitulation by Democratic leaders should make Jews of all political persuasion stop and think about the ramifications of this accommodation.
The statement on the Move the Convention Web site created to protest the convention date read, in part: “On Passover, Jewish families all across our state gather for a traditional seder dinner. Like Thanksgiving and Christmas Eve, it is a time of family togetherness, and it is a time when many Jews are out of town or are hosting visitors. The Party doesn’t hold meetings, much less county conventions, during the weeks before Christmas, the week of Thanksgiving, nor on Easter weekend, and it should not hold these important county meetings on the morning of the day Passover begins.”
The meeting was scheduled for Saturday, April 19 at 9 a.m. Passover doesn’t begin until sundown that evening.
If the issue were of the conventions being held on the Sabbath, which was cited in 2006 by state party chairman Dwight Pelz as a reason not to schedule events on Saturdays in general, then we could understand a call by local Jewish Democrats to move events that happen on any Shabbat to Saturday evening, after Shabbat ends, or a weeknight. If, however, the issue is solely about Passover, then changing the event is more about convenience — not religious imperative. This is because the convention will end before the holiday of Passover actually begins. Opposing a convention on the day of the eve of Passover would be like opposing any event that occurs on a Friday (before sundown).
We should note that activists have been working for years to move party events from Saturdays to allow any Jewish Democrats to observe Shabbat, and we would have supported the petition had it been based on that premise.
The date of the convention was unfortunate, especially in light of the 2004 convention, when activists at the King County event forced anti-Israel language onto the party’s platform. But to protest an inconvenience in which place settings would trump political action is not an infringement on religious observance, and past experience has shown that such protestations have resulted in embarrassment and unintended consequences.