INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Yom Kippur begins on Tuesday at sundown. It’s known as the day of atonement and is the holiest day of the year for people of the Jewish faith.
However, Jewish leaders are also on high alert during the high holidays.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, there were a record amount of antisemitic acts in 2021. Now, the Jewish Federation of Indianapolis says it’s important for everyone to show support while people of the Jewish faith are focused on celebrating in person, despite the pandemic and acts of antisemitism.
“It is a whole bunch of holidays that come back to back to back — within 3 weeks of each other. We have Rosh Hashanah, we have Yom Kippur. We have Sukkot, which is a week-long celebration of nature and the outdoors. And so it is a very busy time for us,” Rabbi Hal Schevitz said.
Schevitz is a rabbi at Beth-EL Zedeck in Indianapolis, where services are underway for the high holy days.
While busy, Schevitz says the community is eager to be back in person celebrating. Last week was Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year. On Tuesday night, Yom Kippur begins and lasts through sundown on Wednesday.
“Yom Kippur is the day of atonement. It is a day of introspection. A day of gathering together as a community, so we can look inward,” Schevitz said. “Looking inward and atoning for our mistakes and ways we can move forward to be better people in the year.”
It’s a day of fasting and services. This year, more people say they are going to synagogue in person.
“We are getting calls at the federation, where can I go to synagogue?” Margo Fox, with the Jewish Federation of Indianapolis, said.
Fox says many people will fast for 25 hours, so it is expected that some people of the Jewish faith will miss school or work on Wednesday.
“They are celebrating in a bunch of ways. Particularly Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are very much focused on being in the synagogue and being in the community,” Fox said.
A community, sadly, that is on high alert through the holidays.
“How to keep your organization welcoming, yet safe. That is a huge balance, especially this year with people going back in person and the rise of antisemitism,” Fox said.
According to the Anti-Defamation League, antisemitism is on the rise in the United States, reaching historically high levels last year. In 2021, 2,717 antisemitic acts of assault, harassment, and vandalism were recorded in the U.S. That’s a 34% increase from the year before and the highest level since the ADL started tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
“We talk a lot about ‘see something – say something.’ We have put a huge focus on security and our federation has been driving that. In 2020, we started the ‘Safe Indy Initiative’ to secure all of our initiatives and organizations in town,” Fox said.
Schevitz encourages all people to help. He said to be open, ask questions and simply get to know Jewish people during this special time.
“Reach out — and I think the best way we can fight antisemitism is to create greater communities and to create understanding and to get to know each other. Because you don’t hate what you know,” Schevitz said.