Last night at sunset marked the start of Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. It's one of the holiest holidays for Jews. This year, it happens to coincide with New York fashion week, the most important time of year for anyone who works in the fashion industry. And where the "schmatta" trade was once run by Jews, it's less and less the case today. Of course, some of the industry's most prominent and powerful figures--Diane von Furstenberg, Donna Karan, Ralph Lauren--are Jews. Still, the show must go on. And with all the squabbling that went on over the spring 2014 calendar this year, perhaps it was unavoidable.
But it puts many of us (myself included) in a tight spot. It's the busiest time of the year. How can we take time off? How can we not? I'm obviously working, though I'll be skipping the Phillip Lim for Target party to dip some apples in honey. But for many of my peers, observing this most holy day just wasn't an option. The New York Post reports that only a handful of designers (Dannijo, Yigal Azrouel) rescheduled their shows around the holiday. One prominent industry insider confided to me of the scheduling, "Yeah, it's a little insensitive." Ruthie Friedlander, senior digital manager at a prominent luxury brand and daughter of three (yes, it makes sense) rabbis, sounds off:
I grew up the daughter of three rabbis--my mother, father, and step-father--and I think it was a shock to all three of them that both of their daughters ended up working in luxury. My sister, Sara, works in the art world, and I work as the senior digital manager at an American luxury brand.
Next to my career (and my winning personality, of course), I’d say my biggest defining characteristic is my Judaism. (Cue the 'Rabbi’s Daughter' trucker hat). I feel lucky to have been raised by three prominent rabbis, each famous in their own right for distinct reason. My mother lived with the Dali Lama and helped get the Muslim Community Center up and running post 9/11. My stepfather wrote one of the pre-eminent Jewish texts of our time (the Jewish Catalog). My father has been the Rabbi at his congregation for 30+ years, where he has built a community of leaders and world changers.
Within five minutes of meeting me, I'll start talking about my job. I live and breathe what I do. I feel passionate about technology and fashion and how much growth there has been and how much more there is to be done. I love the brand I work for, and feel so inspired by the people I get to work with.
I hate getting sick and am awful at taking vacations. I legitimately miss my coworkers when I’m out. I guess that’s what the kids called FOMO.
So what’s the real problem with fashion week falling on Rosh Hashanah?
Well, it runs deep.
First and foremost, it takes us out of the game when we’re needed most. Thankfully, I have bosses who support me and would never question my need to leave for religious reasons. With that said, I’m sure there are many whose bosses aren’t as understanding. As a religious Jew, if I took the days that I was “supposed to” take off, I would need to be out from sundown Wednesday through sundown Saturday.
Secondly, it makes me feel left out. It takes me out of the community. And isn’t this all about community? My co-workers may lament how lucky I am that I get to stand for two hours in shul wearing itchy stockings (Wolfords) instead of helping with model casting and seating charts until the wee hours of the morning, but what they don’t understand, is that I really do want to be with them... sweaty, overworked, and stressed.
Third: Some people can literally lose money from not being able to be active those days. If you’re a blogger and can’t post for three days, that’s money lost. That’s real money lost on some of the most highly trafficked days on your site. And there’s no way to get that back.
So what’s a fashion girl to do? In a world where fighting Anna isn’t an option, we’re left with having to decide for ourselves what’s negotiable and what’s not.
My family is Reconstructionist--I’ll save you the boring explication and let you Google it--but basically it allows me to figure out what I feel is comfortable for me. I’ll be coming into work after synagogue on Friday, which for a lot of my religious counterparts is shocking. I would be lying if I said I was entirely comfortable with it, but my personal feeling is that I live in two communities and I need to meet the needs of both.