In Montgomery County, officials cancelled a Harvest Festival that draws 4,000 on the first Saturday in October each year after some members of the Jewish community protested because October 4 is Yom Kippur. Now the larger community of festival participants, including agriculture-related groups and various vendors, are upset. I’ve heard similar concerns this year about Yom Kippur conflicts related to the baseball playoffs, high school and college football games and private corporate events.
We appreciate it when others respect our holy days. We’re comfortable when we can honor Jewish observance without disrupting our regular routines. In return, we too offer respect and consideration to our friends and neighbors for their holidays.
For our Jewish lives, however, I wonder if such convenience misses the point. One goal of celebrating Shabbat and the Festivals is to change our focus. On our most sacred days we seek to be and to celebrate inside the embrace of the Jewish people, represented by our families, friends, and community members with whom we join to share these occasions.
Though accommodation by others is considerate and helpful, we experience the deeper meanings of our holy days because we have to plan and prepare. Devoted to all that engages us most of the time, withdrawing from society on days like Yom Kippur and Sukkot restores our spirits and strengthens our perspectives. We then return to everyone and everything else renewed and inspired.
I suspect this is a counter-cultural ideal. It is so hard to turn off and get away today. We live in a world of different priorities. Even so, it’s worth considering as we each struggle to balance our schedules, obligations, and interests. Besides, we shouldn’t expect others to change their plans for our holidays.
We do expect schools, employers, and teams not to penalize us for our absences. Nevertheless, our pride in being Jewish and our desire to celebrate our holidays are not reasons for anyone else to adjust their habits. They are our reasons to gather and rejoice.