Theater and club owners can apply for federal relief — on Shabbat


(JTA) — A $16 billion federal relief fund for the entertainment industry opens Saturday, when observant Jews will have to wait until sundown to apply.

Jews in the live-events industry who don’t use electronics or engage in work on Shabbat said it puts them at a disadvantage for the first-come, first-served COVID-19 relief grants.

They and others criticized the weekend scheduling of the application process, which was put off two weeks ago due to a technical malfunction, The New York Times reported.

“I’m in shock,” Dani Zoldan, the owner of the Stand Up NY comedy club, told The Times. “There are many Sabbath observers in the performing arts industry. How did they not think through this decision before making this announcement?”

Asked about the problem created for Shabbat-observant Jews by opening the application on Saturday, a spokesperson for the Small Business Administration said the timing was meant to get relief to venue owners as quickly as possible.

“Waiting one more day could have forced another to shutter and stakeholders have expressed the urgent need for these funds,” the spokesperson wrote in an email.

As of 1 p.m. Friday, the website of the Small Business Administration said the grant application portal will open at 12:30 p.m. Eastern time Saturday.

Zoldan said he would wait until the end of Shabbat to submit his application.

“It’s been a mess on so many levels,” he said. “I feel like they’re torturing us.”

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