A letter to the town from the Anti-Defamation League, responding to a Hull resident’s concerns about the rescheduling of town meeting for a Saturday, which is the Jewish Sabbath, has evoked strong reactions from some town officials.
According to Board of Selectmen Chairwoman Jennifer Constable, the complaints made by the Hull resident who contacted the ADL centered around the Jewish Sabbath being a “day of rest,” which Constable said could technically preclude some Hull residents who are Jewish from driving or conducting business on the rescheduled date and time of May 1 at 1 p.m. due to their religious practices.
“The town is in the middle of a pandemic,” she said. “Typically, we would not hold town meeting on a Saturday. Hull has a long history of being respectful in considering religious holidays when we schedule meetings and events, but these are unusual circumstances.
“The annual town meeting has to happen – the town budget needs to be passed, and we’re not able to hold town meeting in an enclosed space this year [in the usual Hull High School auditorium],” Constable continued. “We put great effort into finding a new date to conduct town business in a timely manner and in the most amicable way possible.”
Town meeting was originally set for the usual Monday evening in April but was rescheduled due to coronavirus considerations and the need to hold the event outdoors.
Town Counsel James Lampke noted that the reason stated in the ADL letter for the date change was related to the availability of the custodial staff, a claim that he called “not only totally false and ridiculous, but illogical to think that the town would schedule an event on a day when a segment of the community observes a holiday because of custodial services issues. … That had nothing to do with it.”
Constable called the custodial services reference in the letter “unfair and unfounded.”
Lampke reported to the board that, during a conversation with an assistant ADL regional director, he asked why the ADL had not called the town to inquire about the facts before writing the letter. “They said that was what they were told and that they were sorry if they had incorrect information. There was no explanation of why they didn’t call us first except that the quickest way to address the issue was by letter,” Lampke said. “I explained the reason for the change in date and was told that hadn’t been explained to them” by the resident who had complained.
Lampke asked the ADL representative whom he had talked with to send the town a letter of correction. “I expressed the town’s and my personal displeasure with the way this was handled, which was totally unfair, and they apologized.”
He went on to confirm that the town went to great lengths in rescheduling the meeting, including avoiding a Sunday morning rain date when some residents would want to attend church services. “We went out of our way to come up with a solution that was the least disruptive to the greatest number of people,” Lampke said.
The ADL letter prompted Selectman John Reilly to write a letter of his own to Lampke, which Reilly read into the board’s record at Wednesday’s board meeting.
It read in part that Reilly was “shocked that the resident [who contacted the ADL] chose to link our town to terms such as ‘anti-Semitism’ and ‘bigotry,’ because Hull has always been welcoming and a haven for all nationalities and lifestyles . . . regardless of economic status.”
Lampke commended the ADL for being a “leading civil rights organization that has done amazing work over the years,” calling the letter sent to the town “ill-conceived and a poor reflection on the great work they have done.”