Jews complain concert to be held on Sabbath

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Many were looking forward to a concert by the New York Philharmonic scheduled for Friday evening at Cunningham Park, but some Orthodox Jews were upset that the event would be performed on the Jewish Sabbath, observed from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.

Correspondence between City Councilman Sheldon Leffler (D-Hollis) and city Parks Commissioner Henry Stern to reschedule the concert at another time besides the Sabbath have come to naught, with Parks saying it notified the Philharmonic of the conflict and the Philharmonic saying the message got lost during a transition in management at the company.

The Philharmonic has promised, however, to revise the schedule next season. Religious Jews cannot travel on the Sabbath.

Felicia Putter, a Leffler chief of staff, said the councilman spoke with Stern on June 6.

“The commissioner felt bad that there weren’t arrangements made but informed the councilman that [the Philharmonic] does the scheduling, not Parks,” Putter said.

She said Stern said his department would make sure that Philharmonic officials “are made more aware of the dates” in the future.

Putter said Stern promised to circulate a copy of Leffler’s most recent letter on the issue to the rest of the Philharmonic.

Jane Rudolph, a Parks Department spokeswoman, confirmed that “Parks did not schedule the event. We advised them [the Philharmonic] not to schedule then, and we told them why.”

“I think we would like to see it change in the future and I think the commissioner feels the same way,” Rudolph said.

“This issue has come to our attention over the course of the past little while,” said Eric Latzky, a New York Philharmonic spokesman.

He said the Philharmonic has been in a “transition in the last couple of years” with a new general manager and a new executive director. He said the company was not aware of any scheduling conflict.

“I can tell you that at the Philharmonic we don’t wish to exclude any population, and I can tell you that we plan to change the schedule next year,” he said.

Rabbi Joseph Simcus of the Hollis Hills Jewish Center said he would like to think that “some greater thought would have been given, so that some of the community who are music lovers could have enjoyed it.”

“These people enjoy good music and they feel a little bit hurt that their sensibilities are neglected, and I would like to know, what is the reasoning behind the decision [to schedule on Friday].”

Simcus said he was not aware of Leffler’s efforts but appreciated them nonetheless.

“I don’t understand why responsible people in government did not take the appropriate steps to enable all members to have equal access,” he said. “I know there are a substantial amount of Jewish observers in the community.”

“If a mistake was done once, I can understand it,” he added. “If a mistake is made twice, I have some serious reservations about the particular people making that mistake.”

Reach contributing writer Daniel Arimborgo by e-mail at or call 229-0300, Ext. 141.

Posted 7:15 pm, October 10, 2011
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