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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

After SF Weekly Asks Why Supes Use Jewish Holiday as Excuse to Take Off Day Even Rabbis are Working, Board Looks Into Holding Meeting After All

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2009 at 7:30 AM

click to enlarge If you're taking a 'Jewish holiday' off and this guy is working -- something may be amiss
  • If you're taking a 'Jewish holiday' off and this guy is working -- something may be amiss

Rabbi Shlomo Zarchi is confused. One day after fasting for 24 hours and leading services for Yom Kippur, the most holy day on the Jewish calendar, he's going to be back at work on Sept. 29. And yet, citing that very same Jewish holiday, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors plans to nix its Sept. 29 meeting.

That elected officials -- 10 of 11 of whom are not Jewish -- would be taking a "Jewish holiday" on a day when every rabbi in the city will be heading into the office struck Zarchi as weird. He even offered up a biblical precedent as to why this is weird. 

"Moses is like the first supervisor -- he was the guy dealing with all the people's complaints," says the rabbi at Congregation Chevra Thilim, which claims to be the city's oldest Orthodox congregation. "The bible says Moses sat down and adjudicated the problems of his people the morning after the first Yom Kippur. So we know Moses went to work the day after Yom Kippur. And if all the rabbis are going to work the day after Yom Kippur..." Zarchi let his voice trail off, his point made.

When SF Weekly asked members of the Board why they would take the day after a major Jewish holiday off, they, too, were mystified. Bevan Dufty, the sole Jewish supervisor, was perplexed, noted he hadn't asked for this, and stated that the supes should meet. Dufty phoned the office of Supervisor David Chiu, and now the board president is looking into holding a meeting on Sept. 29 after all.

As to how this situation ever came about, like the calendar placements of the Jewish holidays -- it's a bit complicated.  

Back on Nov. 18 of 2008, the supes voted, 10-0, to hold no meeting on Sept. 29 of this year (and on other dates). The board president at that time was former Supervisor Aaron Peskin -- the son of a Hebrew school teacher, by the way.

Peskin told SF Weekly that, during his time as board president, he'd nixed meetings on Jewish High Holy Days or on the eve of High Holy Days, but never the day after as is currently the case. As to how this happened, Peskin could only conjecture that "somebody's calendar must have been messed up."

Clerk of the Board Angela Calvillo, however, said that "no mistake was made" during the scheduling; the Board often does not meet the day after a federal holiday. On the other hand, Yom Kippur is not a federal holiday, and the number of people connected with the Board who will be marking "The Day of Atonement" is rather small. Also considering -- as we've noted already -- that every rabbi in town will be heading to work on Tuesday, the Board is apparently re-thinking its position. Calvillo said she anticipates steps will indeed be taken to hold a Sept. 29 meeting.

If so, that'd please Rabbi Yosef Langer. When told that the Supes planned to take a "Jewish holiday" off when he'd be working, he laughed. Then he told a story.

"Sometimes God gives without anything in return, but often you have to do something for it," said the spiritual leader of Chabad of S.F. "Tilling the soil is the way to produce fruits in abundance. Till the soil and you get a good crop. You don't want to waste time."

In other words: Get to work! 

Photo of Rabbi Yosef Langer   |   Chabad of S.F.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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