Letter to the Editor: The Next Big Idea Might Tackle Ignorance

Los Alamos

It should be brought to the attention of the entire Los Alamos community that the 2013 Next Big Idea is scheduled on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement and most important day of the Jewish calendar.

We understand that the event organizers have been aware of this conflict since January but decided to maintain the regularly scheduled plan for the 2nd Saturday in September. That decision is something that many members of the Jewish community in Los Alamos take to heart.

We realize not all people are aware of when Jewish holidays take place and since they are based on a lunar calendar they shift in relation to the Julian calendar (Julio-Claudian Roman dating system) and yet we live in an unusually highly educated community and Jewish calendars are widely available and accessible online.

The issue is not about the larger community having to alter all plans to accommodate one particular group. The event planners would not dream of holding the next big idea on Christmas or Easter (Christian holidays that can been understood in the same order of magnitude of Yom Kippur) and would go out of their way to avoid such events if these Christian holidays fell on a 2nd Saturday or whenever a regularly scheduled event would be planned.

While this may be an issue that began out of ignorance – something that could be met with education and open minds when the realization was made that the date was Yom Kippur back in January when something could have been done about it (such as moving the event by merely one week) – but the conscious choice to not make any adjustments and remain rigid to an annual schedule to the point of excluding the Jewish community turned what may have been an innocent act into an act of deliberate bias.

Throughout history there have been bystanders to acts of ignorance and bias who witness these things but do not act up or speak out. A small and vibrant Jewish community exists in Los Alamos and has since the Manhattan Project, and yet perhaps too small in that such a conflict could even occur as it would be utterly unthinkable in so many other places. The scheduling of The Next Big Idea on Yom Kippur is an act of exclusion of the Jewish community one that is incredibly disturbing particularly in such a small community that purports to be welcoming and open to the discovery of new ideas.

The big idea that remains is a question. Is this how ignorance breeds discrimination?


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