When the Jewish calendar and the fashion calendar conflict: My letter to Boston Fashion Week

Logo for Boston Fashion Week, 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 & insulting scheduled, I also sent it to the general mailbox of BFW & a few key media folks. You can read the full text of the letter on my personal blog, but here’s an excerpt.

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, JewishBoston.com 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.

… 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.

Early this morning, I received a response from Jay Calderin, founder and executive director of Boston Fashion Week, who reached out to be both via email & in the comments section of my blog. His email read:

Dear Ms. Bigam,

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

Even though I’m still disappointed that the events I wanted to attend conflict with Rosh Hashanah – and that Boston Fashion Week overlaps with the holiday at all – I appreciate Mr. Calderin’s quick, professional and kind response. I’m always pleased to see companies and organizations doing customer service the right way, even when they can’t actually solve the problem.

That said, a few commenters on my blog asked me where I draw the line for religious holidays and major events. As one reader point out, rarely are events scheduled around the holidays of, say, Ramadan or Diwali, which would accommodate Hindu and Muslim participants, respectively. My friend Julie of Sugar Scientist (a fellow Jewess) wrote, “Where do you think the line should be drawn? What religions should be consulted before picking dates? Based on the number of residents in that particular city? The U.S. population of that religion as a whole? A polling of individuals who would be interested in participating?”

I wish I had the answers, but I’m just not sure. What do you think? Is there a way to accommodate all religious practices, or are we bound to leave people out occasionally? Is it OK to schedule events like this on holidays like Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, Ramadan… or Christmas?

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I completely agree that big events like Boston Fashion Week should take care to work around non-Christian religious holidays. But it's even more frustrating to deal with universities and classes. I did my undergrad at Brandeis, which has a large Jewish population and works off the Jewish calendar, but now I'm in grad school at "regular" university that does not. This spring I had class on Passover and I will have class this week on Rosh Hashanah. I'm sure I could get a pass because of the holiday, but then that would put me a week behind the rest of my class. Then again, is it possible for a secular university to schedule around every religion? Probs not.

How to cite this page

Bigam, Kate. "When the Jewish calendar and the fashion calendar conflict: My letter to Boston Fashion Week." 28 September 2011. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on September 24, 2023) <https://jwa.org/blog/letter-to-boston-fashion-week>.

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