You could say Burlington Electric Department excels in public relations — or maybe it answers to a higher power. Either way, the utility did the right thing this week when it delayed some scheduled repairs that would have inconvenienced scores of its Jewish customers observing this week’s Passover holiday.
On Monday, Sue Schein, a conservative Jew living in the Five Sisters neighborhood, received a flyer on her doorstep from BED notifying her that electricity would be shut off temporarily on Tuesday and/or Wednesday. That outage was scheduled for the same time Schein and other Jews throughout the city are preparing their traditional Passover meal. According to custom, Jews aren’t supposed to cook once the holiday itself begins. As Schein described it, “This was the equivalent of telling a Christian family that on Christmas they’d be off the grid.”
The outage’s timing would have been especially inconvenient, Schein explains, as observant Jews spend many hours, if not days, ritually cleaning and preparing their kitchens for the Passover meal preparation, a process known as “kashering.” As a result, it’s unlikely they would have been able to find another koshered kitchen in which to cook those meals.
Schein immediately alerted BED’s communications coordinator, Mary Sullivan, to the problem; within hours, Sullivan called back to say that BED would pass over the repairs until Friday, when the critical cooking period is over.
“She did not make the connection until I told her, but then she immediately got it,” Schein says about Sullivan. “She was very quick to understand.”