Riverhead will now hold its water forum on Sept. 22 at...

Riverhead will now hold its water forum on Sept. 22 at 6 p.m., according to Town Hall officials. Credit: Randee Daddona

Riverhead officials changed the date on an upcoming forum on local water issues after Riverhead's Anti-Bias Task Force asked the town not to hold public meetings on the same day as Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the Jewish faith.

The water forum, originally scheduled for Wednesday will now be held a week later on Sept. 22 at 6 p.m. at Town Hall, according to Town Hall officials. The forum will focus on water quality issues facing more than 60 Calverton and Manorville households due to perfluorinated compounds which Suffolk County Health Department officials last year found in several private drinking wells tested near the former Grumman naval weapons plant.

Cindy Clifford, co-chair of the anti-bias task force, told Newsday in an interview on Friday that the task force received a complaint from a Jewish resident earlier this month that the date of the forum would coincide with Yom Kippur, which begins at sundown Wednesday and ends sundown Thursday.

"We felt it was within the mission of the anti-bias task force that we are looking for mutual respect, appreciation and understanding across our entire community," Clifford said. "While there were people of the Jewish faith that were very offended by this, we felt that this was something that should be addressed and we were glad to see the change was made."

At the Riverhead Town Board’s Sept. 8 meeting, Town Councilwoman Catherine Kent read a statement on behalf of the task force asking the board to consider changing the date in observance of the holiday.

"Yom Kippur is the day of Atonement, a day devoted to prayer and fasting, and every bit as significant and meaningful in the Jewish faith as Easter is in the Christian religion. As such, it deserves the same respect and consideration," Kent said.

Town Councilman Ken Rothwell told Newsday on Friday the town didn’t initially realize the forum date coincided with the Jewish holiday until they were notified.

"Inadvertently, we neglected to realize the holiday, so when it was brought to our attention, we got different staff members together and we want to make sure we recognize the holiday," Rothwell said.

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