New York, October 6th, 2022 – As of 2016, not only the Jewish world, but all of the United Nations is pausing on the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Regarded as the holiest day in the Jewish calendar it often coincides with the high-level week of the UN General Assembly in New York. This has many times led to logistical challenges and problems both for the Israeli representatives and local Jewish staff in New York which have been unable to attend important UN meetings.
But thanks to a 2014 initiative of the European Coalition for Israel, through the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy (FCD), and the hard work together with the Israeli Permanent Mission to the UN in New York over the course of two Permanent Representatives, Ambassador Ron Prosor (2011-2015) and Ambassador Danny Danon (2015-2020), Yom Kippur was finally recognized as a UN holiday by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in December 2015 and came into effect as of 2016.
This recognition means that no important meetings are to be held on this day in order not to discriminate against Jewish delegates and staff.
“This is a small but important step in reforming the UN and making it a better place for the Jewish people”, FCD Co-founders Tomas Sandell and Grégory Lafitte said in a statement in 2015.
In a letter to the Secretary-General António Guterres, dated October 5, they note that this is the 7th year of observance at the United Nations.
They conclude that “Yom Kippur carries a universal message for the international community, enshrined in the Book of Jonah, namely that, even though the rule of law, truth and justice have to remain central, compassion must prevail.”
If you want to know more about Yom Kippur, please watch this video where ECI’s Communications Officer Rebeka Goba interviews Prof. Ephraim Meir on the meaning of the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.