Some Opt Out, Others Work Around ONA-Jewish Holiday Conflict

For Greg Linch, this year’s Online News Association conference brought him home — and no, he is not a Chicagoan.

The ONA board member is living full time in Lima, Peru, and working on various projects while on leave for about a year from his job as local data project editor at The Washington Post.

And although he is Jewish, it hadn’t initially dawned on Linch that the conference fell on Rosh Hashanah.

But, as it turns out, everything worked out in his favor. His grandmother lives in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, and on Wednesday night, he met up with her to celebrate the start of High Holiday.

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Greg Linch with his grandmother, Carol.

Because Rosh Hashanah is decided by the lunar calendar and falls on a different day each year, planning around it can sometimes be quite a challenge. Linch said that neither he nor the rest of the ONA planning committee realized this year’s conference would create such a conflict.

“It wasn’t long after we first publicized the 2014 dates — I’d say about March,” Jane McDonnell, ONA executive director, said in an email. “It was a big oversight on our part that I can only blame on trying to align too many other journalism conference calendars.”

On ONA14’s website, under the frequently asked questions tab, the Rosh Hashanah conflict is addressed.

“We apologize for this oversight — we attempted to avoid overlap with other journalism conferences and unfortunately didn’t cross-check the calendar for major holidays,” the website reads.

To accommodate those who wanted to attend the conference but still observe the holiday, ONA offered a partial registration option. This allowed for attendees to sign up for one- or two-day passes at $225 or $350 respectively if they had a conflict because of the holiday. Five attendees signed up via the partial registration option, said Irving Washington, ONA director of operations.

“We do not normally sell day passes but felt it was important to accommodate our attendees observing the holiday,” Washington said.

Things didn’t work out so well for all ONA attendees who were looking to celebrate Rosh Hashanah.

Laura Bleill said she did not attend ONA14 because of the holiday.

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Bleill, assistant director of external affairs for the University of Illinois Research Park, said Thursday was for family, although she admitted she will be taking a few quick peeks at the #ONA14 Twitter hashtag.
Mashable Managing Editor Jonathan Ellis also felt strongly about the conflict.

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“Believe me,” McDonnell said, “it won’t happen again.”