Selectmen Object to Town Meeting on Jewish Holiday
Nelson Almeida says as a Catholic he would not want a meeting scheduled on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday. State Rep. Steven Howitt, who is Jewish, says he does not have a problem with a meeting on Passover, although he will probably not attend.
A special Seekonk Town Meeting will take place March 25, but not with the blessing of two selectmen because that date is the first night of the Jewish holiday Passover. Three selectmen signed off on the meeting date Friday, so it received enough support to be scheduled.
Among the items on the Town Meeting warrant are funding for security improvements at the school district and the Banna Fire Station project. The meeting was scheduled to take place this past Monday, but it was canceled due to a notification error .
Selectmen tentatively agreed Wednesday to Town Administrator Pam Nolan's recommendation to reschedule the meeting for March 25. Almeida mentioned the date was the first night of Passover, but neither he nor any other selectmen objected at the time to holding the meeting on that date.
Selectmen were asked to sign the warrant Friday. Almeida wrote in an email to the media that he would not do it.
"I will not sign the warrant for special Town Meeting for the reason it lands on the first night of Jewish Passover," Almeida wrote. "Being Catholic, I would be upset if it landed on Ash Wednesday or Good Friday."
Parker told Patch he did not sign the warrant for the same reason. Board of Selectmen Chair Francis Cavaco said late Friday that Town Meeting would take place on the scheduled date because three of the five selectmen approved it. When asked about Almeida's comment, he said he would email a response later in the day. Patch did not receive an email from him.
Seekonk State Rep. Steven Howitt, who is Jewish, told Patch he did not object to the meeting date, although he probably would not be in attendance.
"It's not a major Jewish holiday," Howitt said. "Life goes on. A lot of different things are open on different holidays."
He added he would object if Town Meeting were scheduled for Rosh Hashana or Yom Kippur, the holiest days on the Hebrew Calendar. But he did not think that would ever happen.
"Many non-Jews are aware of those holidays and that they are so important," Howitt said.
Passover lasts seven to eight days, depending on the person's tradition. The first and second nights are the most important because they are when a religious dinner and ceremony called a Seder take place. The holiday celebrates the Biblical story of the Moses-led ancient Israelites who are freed from slavery in Egypt.
Patch was unable to find reliable information on the Jewish population of Seekonk, but it is not large. There are no synagogues or known Jewish organizations in the town.