My Letter to Boston Fashion Week (Summary: "Really? You Scheduled it on Rosh Hashanah?!")

Monday, September 26, 2011

Last week, I received an invitation to attend Fall... In Love With Fashion, billed as "a fun and chic night of fashion at Northshore Mall complete with runway fashion shows, hors d'oeuvres, cocktails & much more!" Sounds fun, right? I thought so, too, & was planning to attend - until I realized that the event falls on September 29th, which is Rosh Hashanah, one of the holiest of Jewish holidays.

When I looked further into Boston Fashion Week, with which the event is affiliated, I learned that BFW takes place Sept. 28-30 - the duration of the holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Nice, I know. Would you attend an event on Christmas? No. Nor will I attend an event on Rosh Hashanah, no matter how freaking cool it may be.

Steaming, I shot off an email to the Northshore Mall outreach person who'd originally invited me to the blogger event. Recognizing that it's not her fault Boston Fashion Week is so poorly & insultingly scheduled, I also sent it to the general mailbox of BFW & a few key media folks I thought might like to know about my rage. I thought you might want to know, too, because you guys seem to appreciate my rants. Here you go.
Dear Ms. Brodskaya,

While I thank you very much for your invitation to attend these exciting events at Boston Fashion Week, I will regretfully be unable to attend any of them - because, as an observant Reform Jew, I will be celebrating Rosh Hashanah, which falls this year from September 28th through 30th.

I can't express strongly enough my disappointment that the organizers of Boston Fashion Week felt it acceptable to schedule this high-profile, supposedly all-inclusive event during the Jewish tradition's holiest of holidays. It is inconceivable that any major city would schedule its fashion week to occur on the Christian holidays of Christmas or Easter; scheduling such an event during Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur is akin to such a grievous error.

As you may recall, London Fashion Week & New York Fashion Week have in recent years been scheduled to conflict with the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur - the other biggest holiday of our faith. As both of these (entirely avoidable & egregiously insulting) scheduling disasters made headlines worldwide, I would expect the organizers of Boston Fashion Week to be more sensitive and attuned to the religious calendar and more committed to avoiding similar conflicts. Given the high population of Jewish residents of the Boston area (if you're curious, can give you a feel for just how Jewish the city is!), I would expect Boston Fashion Week organizers to do their best not to alienate this community from the biggest fashion event the city has to offer.

As I'm sure you are aware, Jewish designers contribute heavily to the success and flourishing of the fashion industry. Jewish designers include, for starters, the likes of Max Azria, Kenneth Cole, Marc Jacobs, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein, Michael Kors, Ralph Lauren, Stella McCartney, Isaac Mizrahi and Zac Posen - to name just a few of the most recognizable. Countless Jewish runway models, including Israeli superstar Bar Refaeli, also walk the runway with pride. Asking designers, models and fashion fans to choose between their dedication to fashion culture and their commitment to their faith is insulting, unacceptable and, frankly, surprising.

In the future, I not only hope but expect the people behind the planning of Boston Fashion Week to be more sensitive, inclusive and sensible in their organizing of this otherwise wonderful event. I am disappointed to be unable to participate this year - but I'm even more disappointed that this scheduling conflict was a completely avoidable one that your organizers simply opted to ignore.

Thank you for your time and attention.

Kate B____

CC: Boston Fashion Week, Nicole Kanner (All Heat PR), Rich Barlow (Boston Globe), Gal Beckerman (The Forward), Susan Jacobs (The Jewish Journal), M. Steven Maas (The Jewish Advocate)

Note: Just received a response from the Executive Director of Boston Fashion Week, both via email & in the comments section of this post. Very much appreciated.
Dear Ms. B____,

Thank you for your email. 

Please accept my personal apology for any offense our scheduling decisions have caused this year.

We schedule according to the fashion calendar (traditionally the final week of September), as to do otherwise would conflict with fashion weeks in other cities, an act that would undermine the purpose of holding it in the first place. And although we always take major holidays of all faiths into consideration, we are not always in a position to avoid scheduling Boston Fashion Week at a time when there are no important holidays on the calendar.

I would also like to point out that Boston Fashion Week takes place this year between September 23rd-30th. The final three of eight days are the conflict, so even an observant Jew may partake of Boston Fashion Week and still keep with the traditions of their faith all in the same week. 

You'll be glad to know that I've just checked the dates that Rosh Hashanah falls on for the next five years and fortunately Boston Fashion Week will be able to keep to its established time table without creating any issues for observant Jews who also happen to enjoy fashion events.

All the best,
Jay Calderin
Founder and Executive Director

Photos: 1, 2

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