Blog: What is Yom Kippur and how is it observed?

Written by President of the Jewish Society, Ruby Kwartz

"Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is the holiest day in the Jewish calendar. It is the final opportunity for Jewish people to atone and strive to do better in the coming months.

This year, Yom Kippur starts once the sun goes down on Sunday 24 September and ends 25 hours later. As the Jewish lunar calendar does not line up with the English calendar, the day of Yom Kippur changes each year, however it's always 10 days after Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year. The 10 days in between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are known as the 10 days of repentance, where people attempt to make amends with anyone whom they may have hurt or offended over the past year.   

During Yom Kippur, Jewish people do not consume any water or food, unless it is medically required. We engage in this day of fasting as a way of taking our minds off material and physical pleasures, and focusing only on our spiritual connection with God. This restraint also extends to other material satisfactions, meaning that we do not use makeup or perfumes, wear leather shoes or wash more than is necessary for hygiene. The vast majority of the day is spent in the synagogue, praying for forgiveness and spending time with the community. Judaism usually requires prayer three times a day, however on Yom Kippur we have five distinct prayers which are unique to the solemn nature of the day. On campus, the Jewish student community will come together for a large meal before the fast begins, and attend prayers led by our Chaplain

Whilst having to fast for an entire day can be challenging, Yom Kippur is the best opportunity to reflect on how we have behaved to others over the past year and promise to both ourselves and to God that we will improve in the next year."

If you are observing Yom Kippur on Monday 25 September and think you will miss part of your induction or studies then please contact your School for more information. 


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