Shalom Life | October 04, 2014

Yom Kippur Not Yet An Official U.N. Holiday, But Hopefully Next Year

“It is about time Jewish employees at the U.N. won’t be obligated to work on Yom Kippur,” says Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor. “Such discrimination at the U.N. must end”

By: Sean Savage and Alina Dain Sharon

Published: October 3rd, 2014 in News » World

Yom Kippur Not Yet An Official U.N. Holiday, But Hopefully Next Year

Photo Caption: Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor, says it is "about time Jewish employees at the U.N won’t be obligated to work on Yom Kippur."

Photo Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider.

The holiest day on the Jewish calendar isn’t among the 10 holiest days on the United Nations calendar. But Israel and many other countries hope that changes by the time next year’s Day of Atonement arrives.

In July, amid Israel’s summer war with Hamas and global anti-Israel protests, U.N. ambassadors from 32 countries wrote a letter to a U.N. General Assembly committee that urged the recognition of Yom Kippur (Oct. 3-4 this year) as an official U.N. holiday. The U.N. currently marks 10 holidays, including the Christian holidays Christmas and Good Friday as well as the Muslim holidays Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, but there is no Jewish holiday on that list.

The messages of Yom Kippur—that “every person’s deeds are weighed on the heavenly scales of justice and the blessings of the coming year are determined by the good deeds performed in the service of others”—are “universal” and as such deserve to be marked by the U.N., the letter said.

The letter came in support of an Israeli initiative on the issue that was launched in May. Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Ron Prosor had sent his own a letter asking the 192 other U.N. envoys to join Israel’s campaign for the holiday’s recognition.

“It is about time Jewish employees at the U.N. won’t be obligated to work on Yom Kippur,” Prosor wrote. “Such discrimination at the U.N. must end,” he added.

Currently, the Israeli Permanent Mission to the U.N. is working within the U.N.’s vast bureaucracy to get Yom Kippur recognized.

“The issue of Yom Kippur is of a cultural/religious nature,” Yotam Goren, a diplomat who works for Israel’s U.N. mission, told JNS.org. “It can be an issue that bridges divisions and speaks to the universal values we all hold closely, including reconciliation, forgiveness, and tolerance. The hope is that these values will prevail and be heralded by all member states in the upcoming negotiations.”

Goren represents Israel on the U.N. Fifth Committee, which is the world body’s administrative and budgetary committee that decides on issues such as holidays. The committee begins deliberating on the Yom Kippur issue this month, with a possible decision coming by December. The matter will be voted on by all 193 U.N. member states.

A number of major Jewish organizations and leaders are also advocating for Yom Kippur’s recognition at the U.N.

“Including Yom Kippur on the calendar would speak to that issue of inclusiveness of the Jewish people,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin, who co-wrote a New York Times op-ed on the issue in August, told JNS.org.

“It would speak to the entire worldwide Jewish community and send a very important message that we hope will resonate to the rest of the world,” he said.

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