Sacrilege and Sacredness on Yom Kippur

Resource Kit by
Jessica Kirzane

Module Content



Yom Kippur, also known as the Day of Atonement, is considered by many to be the holiest day of the year in Judaism. It is a day of prayer and repentance, of inner searching and self-denial. Traditionally, it is observed with a 25-hour period of abstention from eating, drinking, and other physical pleasures, allowing the practitioner to concentrate on the holiness of the day, and on the process of soul-searching.

The texts in this resource kit represent this sacred moment in the Jewish calendar provocatively, asking questions about the nature of holiness, of righteousness, of religiosity, and of God. Playfully, honestly, and earnestly, they draw attention to the multiple ways people interpret religious rituals, the power that can be found in defying norms, and the ways that people's cultural, political, and individual identities lead them to religious conformity and nonconformity. They call attention to the relationship between sacrilege and sacredness in modern Jewish life and culture.

Cover image: Maurycy Gottlieb, "Jews Praying in the Synagogue on Yom Kippur" (1878).