Michelle Rojas-Tal

A Re-declaration for Yom Kippur

Author's daughter at the Western Wall. (courtesy)
Author's daughter at the Western Wall. (courtesy)

Kol Nidre is often referred to as a prayer.

I myself had always assumed that it was the prayer sung during the beginning of Yom Kippur services.

But Kol Nidre is something far more powerful than  a prayer.

It is a declaration.

The most emotional of declarations to mark the holiest day of the Jewish calendar.

Exactly when Kol Nidre was written remains a mystery. But there is general agreement that it is likely to have been during a period of extreme persecution, when Jews were being forced to convert.

What we know of the history of Kol Nidre is fascinating, important and of course, filled with its share of controversy, including its rejection in the 19th century by some Jewish leaders.

The decree serves as the  Jewish reconciliation with G-d.

We repeat the words each year, a reminder to ourselves of our covenant with G-d. We are not free of wrongdoing yet we are committed to living a life that embodies Jewish values.

It is a declaration.

And this year, there is an additional declaration I urge us to make.

It is a re-declaration.

A re-declaration of our Zionism.

As President Isaac Herzog urged in Basel last month at the celebration of the 125th anniversary of the First Zionist Congress, a reclaiming of Zionism is an absolute necessity.

And what more fitting moment than the eve of Yom Kippur?

A moment of reconciliation with a period that has not been easy.

Rising antisemitism and the seeming legitimation of anti-Zionist sentiment, from the halls of academia to the algorithms that determine what we see on our screens, has caused many in our community to shy away from proud, and public, proclamations of their Zionism.

Being a Zionist does not mean subscribing to a single set of ideologies or supporting or not supporting the current Israeli government. Nor does it impact how we feel about domestic issues in individual Jewish communities across the globe.

And yet, declarations by others of what Zionism is or is not has forced us to consistently be on the defensive when it comes to our identity and our expression of Jewish nationalism.

About the Author
Michelle Rojas-Tal is a global speaker, trailblazer and advocate on Zionism, Jewish identity, and Israel engagement. Amongst her current projects, Michelle serves as the Zionist Scholar-in-Residence at Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America.
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