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Why On Earth Are The Tonys Scheduled for Shavuot ?

An open letter to the Tony Awards people, who apparently forgot to check the calendar carefully

Gabriela Geselowitz
June 09, 2016
Tony Award Nominees on top of the Empire State Building in New York City, June 7, 2016. Facebook
Tony Award Nominees on top of the Empire State Building in New York City, June 7, 2016. Facebook

Dear Tony Awards,

Last year, you scheduled the 70th annual show for June 5, 2016. I remember because I immediately looked it up to see if it conflicted with a Jewish holiday. I was relieved to find that it was one week before Shavuot, one of the most important holidays of the year (it’s Biblical, rather than rabbinic; technically a High Holy Day).

But then you hurt me worse than when you gave Best Musical to Kinky Boots over Matilda: You moved the date.

In November, you announced that because Radio City Music Hall had booked the Rockettes for June, you would have to move to the Beacon Theatre instead, and that the best time to do that would be one week later, on June 12. June 12 as in the second night of yontif, during which observant Jews may abstain from using electricity, spending money, using vehicles, and, say, WATCHING THE TONY AWARDS.

Did not one of you examine the calendar?

According to Pew, 13% of American Jews abstain from using money on Shabbat, so assuming other Sabbath/holiday observances are roughly equal, that’s maybe half a million people will miss watching your television program. Some Jews only observe one night of yontif anyway, such as Israelis and Reform Jews, so we’re admittedly talking about a very, very small number. Though observant Jews might not share my theater fanaticism, and even though there’s not many of us, I’d bet we’re more likely to want to watch.

I don’t care. You’re the gosh-darned Tony Awards. You exist to honor theater in New York, which is historically one of the most Jewish industries in the country.

Listen, not everything happens on a Jewish schedule; I’ve missed enough movies, plays, and steampunk parties to know. But now you’ve upset my annual Tonys party—we place bets on who will take home the awards, don weird costumes, and sometimes wear false mustaches—because I can’t turn on a TV and I can’t go to a bar that’s showing the awards and buy a drink.

You are trying to make me miss Hamilton sweeping pretty much everything.

You are trying to make me miss which Arthur Miller work will take Best Play Revival (the odds are 40%).


You make me feel like Tevye: “On the one hand, the Tonys are my Christmas, absolutely sacred to my cultural year. On the other, Shavuot is literally sacred to me, because I’m an observant Jew.”

Tevye wouldn’t be able to enjoy the Tonys this year. But so help me despite your machinations (and you ignoring my angry tweets) I am going to make it work by attending a scaled-down party where someone else is working the TV. I’ll feel a bit uncomfortable. Thanks for that.

But you’ll get yours. You’re scheduled against Game of Thrones. You need all the help you can get.


Gabriela Geselowitz

Gabriela Geselowitz is a writer and the former editor of