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UN Holds First Yom Kippur 'Tashlich' Ceremony


JERUSALEM, Israel -- For the first time ever, a traditional Yom Kippur Tashlich ceremony took place at the United Nations Monday.

Tashlich, which means "to cast," is an ancient Jewish ritual in which participants throw breadcrumbs into a body of water symbolically tossing away their sins. The ceremony usually takes place on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, but for the United Nations’s first-ever participation, the day before Yom Kippur worked just as well.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon joined outgoing Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor and ambassadors and staffers from more than 10 countries Monday evening at the U.N. Rose Garden overlooking the East River.

Proser said it's significant that the opening session of the U.N. General Assembly and Judaism's High Holy Days take place at the same time this year.

"The Jewish New Year coinciding with a new year at the U.N. is a chance for this institution to leave behind last year's conflicts, cast off the wrongdoings of the past, and start the 70th session of the General Assembly with a clean slate," he said.

Senior Rabbi Arthur Schneier from Manhattan's Park East Synagogue officiated at the ceremony.

The Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations and the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, which co-hosted the ceremony, have been instrumental in seeking U.N. recognition of Yom Kippur on its roster of official holidays.

Last year's recognition by the General Assembly of Yom Kippur as Judaism's holiest day was considered a first step toward its recognition as an official U.N. holiday.

The United Nations recognizes 10 official holidays, including Christmas, Good Friday, and Islam's Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha. It also recognizes Buddhist holidays and the Persian New Year, but official recognition has not been extended to any Jewish holiday to date.

Prosor, who served as director general of the foreign ministry and ambassador to England, will be returning to Israel after four challenging years at the United Nations. He is admired by many for his straightforward diplomacy in the face of increasing anti-Israel rhetoric.

Yom Kippur begins Tuesday evening at 6 p.m., when Israel literally shuts down countrywide, with only emergency vehicles permitted on the roads.

Most Jews will observe a 25-hour complete fast, joining neighbors in community synagogues until 7 p.m. Wednesday, when they'll break the fast with family and friends. They will wish one another Gmar hatima tova, "may you be inscribed (in the Book of Life) for good."

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