A nonprofit is calling out a congressman’s office for scheduling a military event in his southern California district on one of the holiest days on the Jewish calendar.
In a letter to Rep. Juan Vargas (Calif-D), the Military Religious Freedom Foundation demanded the lawmaker reschedule an upcoming “Service Academy Night” on Sept. 26, the first day of the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah.
“A Service Academy Night held on Rosh Hashanah excludes your many Jewish constituents, is insensitive to their religious faith, and goes against the Democratic platform of inclusion and diversity,” Michael Weinstein, the group’s founder and president, said in the note.
“It also hinders the Department of Defense’s goal of developing a diverse officer corps that reflects the public it services.”
Weinstein, a retired Air Force judge advocate, asked for the event to be moved to a date that does not conflict with a Jewish holy day or that of any other faith. When he spoke with the congressman’s staff, they suggested prospective applicants to the academies would still be able to watch a streaming or recording of the event if they could not attend in person, Weinstein told Military Times.
Service academy information nights are typically put together for high school students and their families to learn more about the nomination process for joining one of the military academies, something Weinstein affirmed was important, especially in light of the Army’s recent recruitment issues.
According to the letter, the congressman’s district includes multiple synagogues and over 100,000 Jews of various demographic backgrounds.
“It is a disservice to your constituents,” Weinstein said. “Obviously, you wouldn’t schedule such an event on Easter or Christmas or any other day of religious significance to Christians.”
Vargas, who was first elected to Congress in 2012, has previously made comments in support of the Jewish community.
“We must call out bias, bigotry, and prejudice in all forms, especially from our leaders,” he said in a 2019 statement regarding anti-Semitism.
The letter concluded with the consideration that the incident may have merely been a scheduling oversight, but that it still “shows an egregious lack of common respect and decency.”
The congressman’s office did not immediately respond for comment.
Jonathan is a staff writer and editor of the Early Bird Brief newsletter for Military Times. Follow him on Twitter @lehrfeld_media