Jews reflect on sins, God during Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is the holiest day for Jews and involves 25 hours of abstaining from food, water and electricity among other things.

Cati Vanden Breul

Jews worldwide will spend today fasting and praying for forgiveness in observance of Yom Kippur, the holiest day in the faith.

“Yom Kippur is all about reflecting on your sins committed in the previous year and being a better person in the New Year,” said Dan Goodman, Israel programming and issues chairman at Hillel, the Jewish student center.

Jews typically spend the day at the synagogue, praying and asking forgiveness for their sins. Because the holiday is a time for reflection, many Jewish students choose not to attend class, said Lauren Palay, president of Hillel.

In addition to 25 hours of fasting – from an hour before sundown Sunday evening until sundown today – Jews observing Yom Kippur should not work or use electricity until sundown, Goodman said. They are also prohibited from bathing, wearing leather, make up and jewelry and having sex.

“By abstaining from many of the amenities of modern life – food, water, electricity – it allows the mental focus needed for soulful reflection on atoning for sins between God and oneself,” he said.

Palay said students typically can clear absences with their teachers or get an extension on homework, but it varies.

She said she was able to get the deadline for two papers extended because of the holiday.

“It worked out pretty well for me,” Palay said.

Her brother, architecture senior Brian Palay, said that although his professor was OK with him missing class, he will still have to e-mail an assignment.

“It is definitely different having work to do for college. As much as I would like to observe all of the traditions, I still have to do all my schoolwork,” Brian Palay said. “Class doesn’t take a break because there is a holiday.”

Goodman said he has never had any problems with professors not recognizing the holiday as reason for a legitimate absence.

Psychology junior Rachel Zaidman said she was able to move an exam from Monday to Thursday and will also take the day off from women’s rowing practice.

“My coach was kind of skeptical about giving me the day off but she came around after I prodded,” Zaidman said.

She said Yom Kippur is especially symbolic for her this year because she recently transferred to the University from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“I’m starting out here with a new school, new friends and new people. It’s just another start to the new year,” she said.

At sundown, Jews break the fast with a celebratory meal with friends and family.

Hillel will have services during the day and have a breaking-the-fast event tonight at Manhatten Loft on Washington Avenue Southeast.