Petition To Make Jewish Day of Atonement Yom Kippur A US National Holiday

Being Jewish in America - must we hide our holidays?

By Joel Leyden
Israel News Agency

New York, New York --- September 16, 2012 ... Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, the most holy day in the Jewish religion is not recognized as a national holiday in the US. It is a day set aside around the world for all Jews to “afflict the soul,” to atone for the sins of the past year. But yet, the sacred holiday of Yom Kippur has not been accommodated with the respect that it deserves in the US.

We are hoping that an online petition located at will reach thousands through the Internet, using social media channels such as Facebook and Twitter to request of Congress to make Yom Kippur a national holiday.

Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; no work can be performed on that day. It is well-known that you are supposed to refrain from eating and drinking (even water) on Yom Kippur. It is a complete, 25-hour fast beginning before sunset on the evening before Yom Kippur and ending after nightfall on the day of Yom Kippur. The Jewish Talmud also specifies additional restrictions that are less well-known: washing and bathing, anointing one's body (with cosmetics, deodorants, etc.), wearing leather shoes (Orthodox Jews routinely wear canvas sneakers under their dress clothes on Yom Kippur), and engaging in sexual relations are all prohibited on Yom Kippur.

In Israel, the small, vibrant democratic nation comes to a stand still. A complete freeze where cars, buses, trains and planes do not move. The only sounds are those of people praying and the children who take to the street on their bicycles. All is closed except for the Beit Knessets (Temples), the Israel Defense Forces and the police.

Most of the holiday, whether in Jerusalem, New York or LA is spent in the synagogue, in prayer. In Orthodox synagogues, services begin early in the morning (8 or 9 AM) and continue until about 3 PM. People then usually go home for an afternoon nap and return around 5 or 6 PM for the afternoon and evening services, which continue until nightfall. The services end at nightfall, with the blowing of the tekiah gedolah, a long blast on the shofar.

Yet, this holiest of holy days is not honored in the US while other religious holidays such as Christmas are. The Christmas Day holiday includes decorations, emphasis on family togetherness, and gift giving. Christmas was designated a federal holiday by Congress and President Ulysses S. Grant in 1870. Yet, Jesus, who is celebrated in Christmas was a Jew who observed Yom Kippur.

Other US national holidays are January 1, 2012 - New Year's Day, January 16, 2012 - Martin Luther King Day, February 20, 2012 - Presidents Day (also known as Washington's Birthday, May 28, 2012 - Memorial Day, July 4, 2012 - Independence Day, September 3, 2012 Labor Day, October 8, 2012 - Columbus Day, November 11, 2012 - Veterans' Day, November 22, 2012 - Thanksgiving Day,
and December 25, 2012 - Christmas Day.

Yet one of the oldest and holiest holidays known to man is not honored - Yom Kippur.


It appears that there has never been a formal request made to Congress for Yom Kippur.
Perhaps those who wanted to sponsor Yom Kippur as a US National Holiday never thought that it would be approved by a Congress which is primarily made up of Christians, Protestants, Baptists and Catholics. But if one looks at the record of who actually supports the Jewish state of Israel - the Christians are among Israel's greatest allies.

Imagine a Christian or Protestant being in a Muslim country on Christmas Day? They would feel alone, isolated. No Christmas carols, no Christmas trees, no decorations of Baby Jesus - nothing. This is the isolation that most Jews feel on Yom Kippur in the US.

Many Jews are expected to be at work. Whether being an attorney, judge, electrician, salesman, teacher or baseball player. The US calendar which respects Christmas from Maine to Washington, and in several states Easter and Good Friday, totally ignores Yom Kippur.

The Israel News Agency is requesting that all Jewish organizations in the United States support an effort to make Yom Kippur a national holiday. It starts with the co-sponsoring of a petition which will be sent to every Jewish member of Congress to support and pass.

These members include: Senate - Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Al Franken (D-MN), Herb Kohl (D-WI), Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Carl Levin (D-MI), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

In the House - Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Eric Cantor (R-VA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Stephen Cohen (D-TN), Susan Davis (D-CA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Bob Filner (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), Jane Harman (D-CA), Steve Israel (D-NY), Sander Levin (D-MI), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Jared Polis (D-CO), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Allyson Schwartz (D-PA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), Henry Waxman (D-CA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY) and John Yarmuth (D-KY).

Yom Kippur is the most important holiday of the Jewish year. As such, it should have the respect and recognition of and by the American people as a holiday observed and celebrated no less than Christmas and or Easter.

Please sign this petition and make Yom Kippur a US national holiday.

Also join our Facebook page for the latest information in this campaign.

Yom Kippur is considered one of the High Holidays. But yet in the US, it is not a holiday at all.
Let's make it one!

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Joel Leyden, journalist, media consultant, social media and SEO pioneer
working with both the Israel Defense Forces and the US Army in Haiti.

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