Jewish holidays begin and end at sundown. Thus the holiest day of the calendar, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, began yesterday evening and ends at sundown today. There are two synagogues within a couple of blocks of us and we decided we would try to attend the opening prayer service, Kol Nidre, at the one in the Place des Vosges, which I seemed to recall was Ashkenazi, i.e. the Eastern European branch of Judaism, as opposed to Sephardic, i.e. the descendants of Spanish Jews, many of whom are from North Africa and the Middle East.
We were ushered to seats on the third floor of the building as all the ones in the main sanctuary had been already alloted, and waited for sundown, which is determined by the ability to see the first star in the evening sky. I was struck as I sat there, looking out the open windows to the other stone and brick buildings of the Place des Vosges, with the thought that all over the world, varying only with the traverse of the sun through the sky, Jews were doing the same thing, and had been doing it for millennia.
Place des Vosges by objetsparis.
The leader of the service opened it with a talk that said essentially the same thing. He realized, he said, that many if not most of those present were not regular attendants at religious services, that it had been generations since many of them had done so, but that something brought them back on this day to connect with their ancestors and with the remainder of their people. Celebrating this holiday in a place where a generation ago these same people would have been, and in some cases had been, the subjects of an unbelievable horror felt like a privilege and an honor.