(By Jacob Kamaras/JNS.org) In a scheduling conflict of Abrahamic proportions, a Houston-based think tank is hosting George Mitchell—former U.S. senator from Maine and the Obama administration’s former envoy for Middle East peace—on both Jewish and Muslim holy days.
“The Negotiator: Senator George Mitchell’s Adventures in Law and Politics” will be held from 7-8 p.m. at the World Affairs Council of Houston on Sept. 23, overlapping with the final hour of Yom Kippur and the start of Eid al-Adha, Islam’s “Feast of Sacrifice.” Indeed, while Mitchell is in conversation with Alan Crain at the event, much of Houston Jewry will be in synagogue for the Ne’ila prayer—which marks of the closing of the gates of repentance and the climax of the holiest date on the Jewish calendar.
The stated mission of the World Affairs Council is “to promote America’s understanding of the world—the people, politics, economies, and cultures—and to enable our citizens to participate more effectively in the global community.” Yet one concerned Jewish Houstonian wrote to Mitchell, “We are said to be the most culturally diverse city in the nation and certainly have resettled per capita the most refugees of any city. For years the local World Affairs Council was a collaborating partner in ensuring these relationships were created and sustained. I can assure you the previous CEO would have never allowed such an event to happen on this Holy Day for both the Jewish and Muslim community.”
The current CEO of the Council, Farah Killidar, told JNS.org in an email that the organization “was aware of Yom Kippur commencing on the eve of September 22nd [when the Mitchell event was scheduled], but due to the senator’s schedule, the interviewer’s schedule, and the availability of a venue for the program, September 23rd was the only date possible.”
The schedule conflict “is a concern to the Council,” but while “balancing the interests of the Houston community as a whole and providing opportunities for as many people as possible to attend our programs, we also have to ensure to capture the opportunity to have the best speakers possible,” said Killidar.
“For anyone who may be disappointed, we offer our apologies,” she added.
Mitchell did not immediately return a request for comment.