Phillips Academy Observes Yom Kippur for Sixth Year; Jewish Students Welcomed at Synagogues

Phillips Academy gave the entire student body a Thursday free of classes in honor of the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. Phillips Academy discontinued school and activities on Yom Kippur six years ago. Yom Kippur is a complete Sabbath; therefore observing Jews cannot do any work that day. Jewish Chaplain Neil Kominsky said, “It is immensely helpful to Jewish students at Andover. Before the school made the decision to forgo classes, it was a very difficult decision for students, especially new students, to let go of their academic obligations for a day in honor of their religious ones.” He continued, “It is a time when you interrupt daily life to really focus on your spiritual life.” About 80 current Andover students are Jewish, representing 10 to 11 percent of the student body. Most Jewish students spent the day in Synagogue for prayers and services. Most of the Jewish population consider Yom Kippur the most important holiday of the Jewish Year. Yom Kippur takes place on the tenth day of Tishrei, the seventh month of the Jewish year. This year it fell on Thursday, October 13. “Traditionally, Yom Kippur is the single most important, solemn occasion in the Jewish calendar. It is the day of reflection and atonement and an occasion for examining your beliefs,” said Rabbi Kominsky. Yom Kippur means “Day of Atonement” in Hebrew. It is the final chance for Jews to atone for sins they committed in the previous year, before God records these acts in his “book.” If the sinner does not demonstrate repentance by the end of Yom Kippur, God’s judgment is sealed. Yom Kippur, however, is only a day to atone for sins between an individual and God, such as slandering, breaking rules, or misconduct. Sins against another person must be atoned for before Yom Kippur. In these cases, the sinner has to seek reconciliation directly with the offended person. Yom Kippur includes a 25-hour fast beginning at sunset the night before and continuing until after nightfall. Jews are not supposed to eat or drink anything, including water. Other lesser-known requirements of the holiday include special bathing and anointing rituals, as well as the wearing of specified clothing. To insure safety, Rabbis agree that pregnant women and children under nine years old may forego these practices. Others with health concerns may engage in the holiday but are also permitted to break their fast. Other important Jewish Holidays include Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, which occurs on the first and second days of Tishrei. Like the American New Year, Rosh Hashanah is a time to reflect on the past year and make resolutions for the upcoming year. Like Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah is a day of fasting and Sabbath. Another well-known Jewish holiday is the Pesach, or Passover. Passover celebrates the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt after generations of slavery. The Jewish people spread lamb’s blood over their doors so that God would “pass over” them. Following the plague of death, they could escape. The most famous Jewish holiday of all is Chanukah, or Hanukkah, the “festival of lights.” It commemorates the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days when it only should have lasted one. This is why eight candles are lit on the Menorah, one added on each day of this holiday.