Tempe will go ahead with its monthly issues forum, Let's Talk Tempe, on Tuesday even though it falls on the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana.
On Wednesday, the regular attendees of the 90-minute forum, held the fourth Tuesday of each month at the Pyle Adult Center, received a card in the mail pointing out that "it was brought to our attention that the September 30 meeting date ... falls during the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah."
Mayor Hugh Hallman and members of the City Council host the meetings 7 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
Tuesday's session will feature Superintendent Art Tate of the Tempe Elementary School District and Steve Adolph of Tempe Union High School District, discussing education issues in Tempe.
The postcard to the attendees said the city "strives to be sensitive and respectful of all religions and their traditions while maintaining our responsibilities and communication to all Tempe residents."
On Thursday, Hallman said, "We had a resident who was concerned she couldn't attend." Hallman called Rabbi Andrew Straus of Temple Emanuel of Tempe for advice, and they concluded the forum should go ahead because it will be videotaped for Tempe Cable Channel 11 and the goal of the session is to get information about the schools out to the public in the month of October.
The postcard sent to people who regularly show up encouraged those unable to attend to submit their questions by phone or e-mail in advance of the event.
Mel Kessler, a member of Temple Emanuel who regularly attends the forums, said he found the city's statement "satisfactory."
"I think there are a lot of other people in the Jewish community that would say, being it was noted, they probably should have canceled it," Kessler said.
Yet public school classes are never canceled during Jewish holidays, as they are in New York City, for example, he said, because Arizona's Jewish population is much smaller.
"It is a difficult thing to balance," Kessler said. "The fact that they did recognize it, and it was acknowledged, I think is a very positive thing for me."
Although Temple Emanuel, for example, won't have its traditional first day of Rosh Hashana services until 10:30 a.m. Tuesday - well after the Let's Talk Tempe session is over - Jews are instructed, by Torah, not to engage in work or activities on its holidays, as well as the Sabbath and Friday nights through nightfall on Saturdays.
Attending the forum would not be permitted, Kessler said.
"The fact is that you are not supposed to engage in those kinds of activities on the holiday," he said.
Straus praised the mayor for calling him about the conflict. He said because the forum will be broadcast, his members will be able to see it "multiple times."
He said an important factor is the city is encouraging people to send questions in advance.
"The city is taking what could have been a bad situation and is turning it into something positive," the rabbi said.
Herb Fibel, a Jew and regular attendee, plans to be at the forum Tuesday. He called the postcard "tasteful" and a "sensitive response," adding that "unfortunately many calendars do not show that holiday."
The mayor said so much planning goes into the forum and its taping that it is rare to move it from the fourth Tuesday of each month. He said Tempe, like other Valley cities, continues business as usual on Rosh Hashana and other Jewish holidays.
"Let's Talk Tempe," he said, "is a city function that continues just like every other city function."