B’nai B’rith International has issued the following statement:
B’nai B’rith International welcomes the confirmation of Yom Kippur as a recognized holiday at the United Nations headquarters. Yesterday, member states decided on the ways in which Yom Kippur would be practically observed by the world body in New York.
In 2014, B’nai B’rith wrote an op-ed for The New York Times, urging the U.N. to include the holiday among those it officially recognizes. After many years during which no acknowledgment was afforded to the holiest day on the Jewish calendar—even in the city with the largest Jewish population in the Diaspora—staff at U.N. headquarters in New York can now choose Yom Kippur from among six holidays on which they can stay home from work.
This is in addition to nine fixed holidays on the U.N.’s official calendar. While the U.N. building will remain open on Yom Kippur, major intergovernmental meetings—including those of the high-level General Debate, which world leaders attend at the start of the new General Assembly session every September—will not be held on Yom Kippur.
This is a modest, common-sense step toward fairness for personnel at the United Nations and respect for Judaism as a major world religion. It should be emulated at the U.N.’s offices across the world, and built upon across an international system in which politics often supplant mutual respect and equality.
We strongly commend the diplomats of the United States, Israel and many other nations who made possible the progress seen yesterday.