Yom Kippur

What is Yom Kippur?

Yom Kippur is one of the holiest days in the Jewish calendar. Observance of Yom Kippur traditionally includes fasting; abstaining from leather, lotion, and other physical comforts; and spending the day focused on prayer and atonement. On Yom Kippur, our relationship with the outside world changes. Instead of thinking about what we consume, we focus on self-reflection and prayer. It is an ideal time to learn and reflect on our relationships with food and the environment.

When is Yom Kippur?

In 2023 it will be from sundown on Sunday, September 24 through sundown on Monday, September 25.

In 2024 it will be from sundown on Friday, October 11 through sundown on Saturday, October 12.

Activities & Rituals

Consider Hunger.  Climate change is inextricably tied to global hunger. Take time to think about and discuss the hidden impacts of your personal buying decisions. Our Judaism and Food Waste source sheet touches on this topic (look for the term “externalities”) and others.

Talk about “Bike Day.” In Israel, Yom Kippur is also called “Yom Ha’Ofanaim,” or Bicycle Day. Few Israelis drive on Yom Kippur, leaving the roads open to thousands of bicycles. Because of the lack of cars on the road, air quality has been shown to improve in Israel over the 25 hours. Use this piece published by the Times of Israel to start a conversation about the environmental impact of bikes and cars.

Learn about Jonah. On Yom Kippur, we read the book of Jonah, a powerful story with many lessons about how humans relate to the environment. Use these resources from American Jewish World Service to learn more about Jonah.


Food & Recipes

Unlike almost every other Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur is not centered around a meal. We still cook and prepare for Se’udah Mafseket (the meal before fasting) and a post- Yom Kippur break-fast. Check out these tips from Green Prophet on planning healthy before- and break-fast meals.

Before your fast:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Wean yourself off of caffeine
  • Avoid salty foods
  • Eat complex carbohydrates (such as brown rice, quinoa)
  • Avoid heavy meats (If you would like to eat meat, stick to poultry)

After your fast:

  • Start off by eating fruit in order to get your blood sugar back in action
  • Continue eating with a mixture of protein and complex carbohydrates
  • Prepare your food for break-fast ahead of time.

Read through this article from the Forward for more tips for an easy fast.

Sustainability Tips

  • Use this time of fasting to re-think your relationship to food. How can you make your diet more sustainable and humane? Use Food for Thought to learn more about the Jewish food movement.
  • Using lotions is also traditionally forbidden on Yom Kippur. Use this opportunity to learn more about the harmful chemicals included in many lotions and beauty products, and consider replacing old products with healthier, all-natural alternatives.
  • Are you hosting or attending a break-fast? Use the tips in Hazon’s Green Kiddush Guide to plan a sustainable break-fast meal.

Dig In

Yom Kippur Basics

My Jewish Learning – Yom Kippur 101

Articles Relating to Yom Kippur
Tips for an Easy Fast

Marching and Fasting for Genetically Modified Food