A local rabbi has started a petition to reschedule future dates for Olympia’s Arts Walk in order to avoid conflicts with Jewish holy days.
Arts Walk takes place twice a year in downtown Olympia on the first weekend in October and the fourth weekend in April.
This year’s spring Arts Walk kicks off Friday, which is the first day of Passover. This annual eight-day holiday celebrates the liberation of Israelites from slavery in Egypt, according to the Book of Exodus.
In 2014, the fall Arts Walk coincided with Yom Kippur, the holiest day in Judaism, which involves fasting and intense prayer.
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Rabbi Seth Goldstein of Temple Beth Hatfiloh in Olympia has launched the petition on change.org to raise awareness about these Jewish holidays and reschedule up to three future Arts Walk events. As of noon Friday, the petition had garnered 73 signatures.
Apparently, Goldstein’s petition is keeping an eye on the next generation.
Jewish holidays are determined by a lunar-based calendar, rather than the commonly used Gregorian calendar. With this in mind, Goldstein has determined that Arts Walk will next fall on Yom Kippur in 2041 and will coincide with Passover in 2043. Arts Walk also is scheduled at the same time as Rosh Hashanah — known as the Jewish New Year — in 2027.
When it comes to religious observances, many in the local Jewish community choose to honor their faith instead of participating in one of Olympia’s most popular events, Goldstein said.
“I’m not angry about it. I just put something out there that sort of raises people’s awareness that this is an issue we think about in the Jewish community,” he said. “It’s an ongoing process of recognizing the diversity in our community and making sure everyone is included.”
Arts Walk organizer Stephanie Johnson apologized about the conflict with this year’s Passover and the three future holidays. However, she said a consistent schedule is important for such a large event because so many people and downtown businesses are involved.
She recalled the chaos when the event was moved about 10 years ago from the third weekend to the fourth weekend in April after the Olympia School District changed its spring break.
“We realized at that point that Arts Walk was a huge animal to move,” Johnson said. “Moving the date would fix one problem but would open up a host of others.”
According to a 2013 study by the American Jewish Population Project, the state’s Jewish population is estimated at about 41,000 adults by religion, with fewer than 1,300 in Thurston County, or about 0.5 percent of the county population.
Check it out
The 52nd Arts Walk runs 5-10 p.m. Friday and noon to 8 p.m. Saturday in downtown Olympia. The free event includes visual and performing arts on the streets and at 122 downtown businesses.