My Yom Kippur 2011 / Chami Zemach

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One year ago, before Yom Kippur, the most sacred day for the Jewish people, we were running through our intensive Israeli Family campaign around the world.

On those days one year ago we were in London and had some nice activities.

Few days before Yom Kippur we were invited to a ceremony in the temple of the Reformed Jewish community of western London, a very old and respectful community where our contact person – Ido – an Israeli born Jewish guy is one of the community’s leaders.

Our rented apartment happened to be in Catford, a lovely Greater-London neighborhood that we liked very much but is located quite far away from the temple’s neighborhood, very much near the Marble Arch, quite in the center of London.

We are not religious people in Israeli terms (which are much different then Jewish terms elsewhere) but the thought of taking a train on Yom Kippur has never crossed my mind. Thinking about this option was very strange for me, as in Israel – I can compare driving in Yom Kippur – to walking naked in the middle of the street. It is not something normal people will ever do.

I grew up in a secular house (in Israeli terms…) that respected and kept the Shabbat traditions and the lovely rituals of the Jewish holidays. When I became eight I was fascinated by the big sacrifice of not eating for 24 hours during Yom Kippur. I told my Mom that I would like to follow this ritual and she did not resist the idea. Since that day I kept this Jewish tradition of fasting on Yom Kippur until I was eighteen. When I turned eighteen I had the time and opportunities to rethink a lot of issues as I went into the army and left my home. One of the issues that I changed was keeping the ritual of fasting on Yom Kippur. I found out that I don’t need it any more.

Although, I have my limits and last year I could not accept Ido’s invitation and I said: No thank you”.

But then as Oksana and I were talking about the coming Yom Kippur we understood that it is important for us – when we are not in Israel – to be surrounded by the right atmosphere when this important day comes.

On Erev Yom Kippur (the morning before Yom Kippur enters on the evening) we located through the internet the nearest synagogue to our rented apartment and decided we will go there when Yom Kippur begins. It was only about 10 minutes walk. We even tried to let them know we are coming and left a message for the Rabbi on phone.

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(The United Synagogue: http://www.catfordsynagogue.org.uk/MinisterTOTW.html?id=1 with Rabbi Amit, an Israeli Rabbi).

On Erev Yom kippur we walked to the United Synagogue. It took us about 15 minutes to pass the security until we could go inside just after the Rabbi was asked out to give the last permit that will allow us to get inside and join the crowd.

This was one of the most important Yom Kippur(s) for me ever. On the next day – Yom Kippur – I stayed there almost for the whole day. I found out that to be surrounded by Jewish people on this important day was very important for me. I must say that two days earlier I did not see it coming… until it happened.

I also had a great opportunity to understand more of Jewish life in Diaspora, an important issue that I try to learn and learn and understand more and more about on the past year.

This upcoming Yom Kippur I will be at home with my family and some friends that will come for a visit. I will probably go to the local synagogue for a few minutes and I will probably not fast any more, but I believe this Yom Kippur will be different for me as I understand much more this year about the Jewish world I leave at and surrounded by.

So, as my new English friends are saying: I would like to wish you all that you will be inscribed in the book of life and as we say it in Hebrew: Gmar Chatima Tova.

Chami Zemach

The Israeli Family Project

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