New York, September 25th, 2023 – As the General Debate of the 78th Session of the High-Level Week of UN General Assembly continues into its second week, the proceedings will pause today on Monday, 25th September for one full day in honour of Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement), the holiest day in the Jewish calendar which began at sunset on Sunday evening.
In a joint statement on Monday the two Co-Founders of Forum for Cultural Diplomacy (FCD), Gregory Lafitte and Tomas Sandell said, “The overriding theme in the speeches made at this year’s UN General Debate has been the acknowledgment of the fact that the international system is broken. The Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur provides a unique opportunity for a reset. Through self-reflection, sincere repentance and by asking for forgiveness, not only individuals but also nations can begin the year on a clean slate.”
Yom Kippur was recognized as an official UN holiday only in 2016 after ECI had presented the idea to the Israeli government in 2013 and then worked together with the Israeli Permanent Representation to the UN for over two years to ask member states to support the proposal.
In past years FCD has co-hosted Tashlich ceremonies at the UN Rose Garden in New York together with the Israeli Permanent Mission where the sins of the past year, symbolized by breadcrumbs, have been tossed into the East River by UN diplomats. The Jewish ritual, which is based on the Book of Micah, has featured both current Secretary-General António Guterres and former Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
In this year’s private meetings on the sidelines of the UNGA the FCD team has met with government leaders and senior diplomats to present them with the launch issue of the Old New Jewish Review which is the official journal of the UN Group of Friends of the Jewish Culture. The aim of the group, which has brought together member states from all continents, is to explore the many contributions of the Jewish culture to humanity and to celebrate the universal values and principles which are expressed in the Jewish High Holidays, such as Yom Kippur, and which have later been incorporated as universal values in the UN charter.
ECI travelled to the UNGA High-Level week for the first time in 2011 and has since attended most of the annual sessions except for the years of the pandemic when meetings were severely restricted. As of 2014 the work at the UN goes under the name of Forum for Cultural Diplomacy. The FCD team will return to Europe on Tuesday, one day after Yom Kippur.