TIFF 2013 conflicts with Jewish high holy days

Oct 23, 2012 | News

By Erin Eaton

The Toronto International Film Festival has officially announced its 2013 dates, creating a severe calendar clash for the Jewish community.

The festival is scheduled Sept. 5-15, overlapping with the Jewish high holy days.

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (Sept. 4 – Sept. 6 in 2013), and Yom Kippur, the holiest day on the Jewish calendar (Sept. 13-14 in 2013), are aligned with the film festival’s coveted premiere and final screening days.

Cameron Bailey, the film festival’s artistic director, addressed the conflict in Monday’s announcement, attributing the poor timetable to other international festivals’ busy schedules.

“As always, we launch on the Thursday after Labour Day,” Bailey said in a statement. “This year, that means our dates unfortunately overlap with both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. With our position fixed in a crowded calendar of festivals regulated by the International Federation of Film Producers Associations, it’s not possible to shift the dates.”

Patricia Starr, a well known Jewish activist and author in Toronto, posted a blog on the subject, saying the scheduling conflict is disrespectful toward the Jewish community involved and interested in the festival.

“As a Jewish person, I was really, really bothered. I thought, how can they do this? How can [they] cause this thing to happen without any attempt to fix it or adjust it in respect for us?” Starr told Humber News.

“It was that strong reaction that prompted the blog. How can we not respond as a community, rise up and say no?”

Starr said the festival is putting a large group of Jewish filmmakers and TIFF employees in a difficult position — forced to chose between their religion and livelihood. “If you’re Jewish and do go, you’d be thinking the entire time ‘oh my goodness, what if somebody sees me here?’”

“And what about the people who work for TIFF? They’re not going to lose their jobs, or not show up. It’s unfair to expect that,” she said.

This isn’t the first year TIFF has experienced a scheduling conflict. The 2010 festival also ran into the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur holidays.