Yom Kippur on Fire Island

beach1I grew up religious. But my relationship with Jewish Orthodoxy has varied throughout my life.

I was living in New York. I decided that I don’t want to remember Yom Kippur. If I don’t remember the date, I don’t need to worry about how I want to relate to it. I don’t need to decide if I want to fast or not. I don’t need to decide if I want to go to a synagogue, if I want to pray, if I want to be sad, if I want to be serious, if I want to spend the day laughing or crying…

If I don’t know that it is Yom Kippur, if I don’t even know the date, I can avoid all the questions that make this day complicated for me.

Living in New York, however, it is impossible to ‘forget’ that it is Yom Kippur. With so many Jews living there, you breathe Yom Kippur with the air. Not only Jews will remind you of this day, non-Jews will remind you as well…

So I decided to run away.

I was a member of a hiking club named AMC and they had a cabin in Fire Island with 24 beds, where anybody could go and stay. So I decided to go and spend Yom Kippur at this cabin. It was midweek and I felt quite sure that I would be the only person there.

It turned out, to my surprise and disappointment, that two Jewish women also came there. They came for a quiet Yom Kippur and went to a synagogue nearby.

I spent a pleasant day reading, walking on the beach, thinking, contemplating, looking at the sea, enjoying the quiet… and occasionally talking.

And it was only afterwards that I realized that even as I was trying to run away from Yom Kippur, I ended up spending a wonderful Yom Kippur by myself, thinking and doing some serious introspection.

And isn’t that a major part of what Yom Kippur is supposed to be?

About the Author
David Wolf writes about his experience of being a second-time husband and father. He has a daughter from his first marriage, and, with his second wife, has accrued three daughters, two sons-in-law, one grandchild and twin 8-year-old sons. He is a social worker in a mental health department and in private practice in Raanana.
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