A Jewish organization in DC is planning an 'intentional Yom Kippur lunch,” creating a Twitter storm

A Young Jewish Professional organization in the US has planned a luncheon to create an "alternative" plan for Yom Kippur. Naturally, Jewish Twitter fired back.

 Gather DC Alternative Yom Kippur Advertisement (photo credit: Gather DC)
Gather DC Alternative Yom Kippur Advertisement
(photo credit: Gather DC)

A young Jewish organization is organizing an “intentional Yom Kippur lunch meetup,” on what is considered the holiest day in the Jewish calendar and a fast day according to Jewish law and tradition.  

Gather DC, a Jewish organization intended to connect between Jews in their 20s and 30s in the DC area has publicized hosting three events during Yom Kippur, called “Alternative Yom Kippur events.” One of these events caused quite a stir on social media. Titled, “Intentional YK Lunch Meetup,” the event is interested in attracting those young Jews who aren’t fasting. 

“We know that there are many who do not fast on Yom Kippur for important personal, health, and religious reasons,” Gather DC wrote on their website. “This is something that should be celebrated because Jewish tradition acknowledges that fasting is just one of several valid ways to observe the holiday,” it was explained.

“This year, we’re experimenting with organizing a lunch meetup for those who would find it meaningful to gather with other people who also do not fast and even engage in a Jewish ritual to honor the act of intentional eating on this special day.” 

According to the site, “GatherDC will pick a central meeting point on the SW Waterfront following our Alt YK (alternative Yom Kippur) morning experience, where you’ll have time to meet others and Rabbi Ilana [Zietman] for schmoozing and intention-setting before embarking on a self-led lunch excursion on the beautiful waterfront.”

Rabbi Ilana Zietman is a pluralistic rabbi who received her rabbinic ordination from Hebrew College

 The Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi houses a church, synagogue and mosque in a former warehouse. (credit: NANO SARALISHVILI) The Peace Cathedral in Tbilisi houses a church, synagogue and mosque in a former warehouse. (credit: NANO SARALISHVILI)

The morning service of Gather DC has become well known and publicized in recent years. “This is an exploratory and interactive Yom Kippur experience,” the invitation states and explains that “it’s not a prayer service and it’s not in a synagogue, although the space we’ll create together will be special.”

What leads a Jewish organization to create an "alternative" holiday?

Gather DC specified that “there is no fasting required to be considered a good Jew, no Hebrew required to 100% participate, and you don’t have to believe in God to be moved or inspired, although it’s cool if you do, too.” \

So what does this service entail? “Small group discussions over Jewish texts, outside-the-box writing activities for personal introspection, live Jewish and secular folk music, and thematic storytelling by Rabbi Ilana and some of your talented peers. We’ll also be collecting charitable donations as a way to give back to our local DMV community.”

The event was shared on social media and it created a storm on “Jewish Twitter.”

Joel Griffith, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, stirred discussion when he shared the event page and tweeted “In a shocking mockery of Jewish practice, Gather DC is promoting a meal for Jewish young adults during Yom Kippur, a day of fasting, to ‘honor the act of intentional eating on this special day.’”

He asked, “What does Hebrew Union College (HUC) say about participation in this by one of their most noteworthy graduates?” Mentioning Zietman. HUC is affiliated with the Reform movement, whereas Zietman is an alum of Hebrew College, a pluralistic, trans-denominational college with a rabbinic ordination program.

Rabbi Josh Yuter, a social media influencer who is Orthodox, tweeted: “Today I learned that not fasting on Yom Kippur for religious reasons is to be celebrated because ‘Jewish tradition acknowledges that fasting is just one of several valid ways to observe the holiday.’ In other words, literal and figurative ‘cafeteria Judaism.’” 

“These are fake rabbis and [a] fake Jewish organization who practice fake Judaism for mostly fake Jews (I am pretty sure most of them are not Jewish according to the Jewish law),” Israeli political activist Binyamin Lachkar tweeted in response.

Carly Pildis, a director at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) actually supported Gather DC for their services. “I was saddened to wake up and find fellow Jews attacking and denigrating Gather DC. This Jewish org[anization] is an invaluable resource serving the local Jewish community for many years.

"It’s sad to see hard-working Jewish professionals attacked, especially right before Rosh Hashanah,” she added.