Photo by Betti Kobak '22
The holiest Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur, means “day of atonement.” Observers of the holiday strive for purification by the practice of forgiveness and by repentance for one’s own wrongdoings. It takes place on the tenth day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Hebrew calendar — and, this year, it was celebrated on Sept. 16. Although Yom Kippur is one of the more reflective and less upbeat holidays, each family observes their own unique festivities. However, with the presence of COVID, some traditions were put on hold.
Break fast is a popular practice for observers who chose to fast from sundown the prior night to sundown the next day. Traditionally, multiple families gather to “break the fast” with a large dinner of bagels and often sweet treats. However, with the interference and persistence of COVID-19, Yom Kippur is more difficult to celebrate with larger groups.
“This year, my family is having break fast with only two of our close family friends,” Olivia Kasabian ’23 said. “Although we are all vaccinated, we want to be cautious while still being able to commemorate Yom Kippur.”
Although it is not required, it is customary for those who have been bar mitzvahed to fast and/or attend synagogue services. However, with capacity restrictions in synagogues, attending services looks slightly different than in previous years.
“I went to services in the morning and the community was way smaller than normal due to COVID,” Aviva Ross ’25 said. “More than half of our synagogue’s congregation was online watching. On top of that, everyone was separated and was mandated to wear masks.”
Many of those who attended services noticed that their temple accommodated guests based on potential COVID concerns.
“On Wednesday night I went to temple with my family, and then also went Thursday morning,” Ryder Levine ’25 said. “My [Yom Kippur] plans didn’t change because of COVID as my temple was able to hold services outside. I was able to meet up with my family [for break fast] outside also.”
As each family honors Yom Kippur differently, not everyone who celebrates was able to carry out their usual Yom Kippur traditions. Despite the inability to congregate with loved ones, many kept their spirits high.
“I didn’t fast because I couldn’t break fast with my extended family,” Alana Zitomer ’23 said. “I hope next year will be different so I can celebrate the holiday with my family.”