Earlier this month the Senate unanimously approved a bill that would make daylight saving time permanent across the United States next year. Jews are being urged to fight the measure.
I have too many damn clocks in my apartment, and twice a year I have to adjust them. After dealing on Sunday with the last of six that require manual adjustment— while reciting the “spring forward, fall back” mantra—I learned that a bill that would do away with the need for these changes is being opposed by US Jewish leaders.
Touting the benefits of the Sunshine Protection Act, Senator Ed Markey of Massachusetts, the original cosponsor of the legislation is quoted by The Guardian as saying:
No more switching clocks, more daylight hours to spend outside after school and after work, and more smiles—that is what we get with permanent daylight saving time.
Markey, above, was joined on the chamber floor by senators from both parties as they made the case for how making daylight saving time permanent would have positive effects on public health and the economy and even cut energy consumption.
Said Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida:
Changing the clock twice a year is outdated and unnecessary.
And Senator Patty Murray of Washington, added:
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Americans want more sunshine and less depression—people in this country, all the way from Seattle to Miami, want the Sunshine Protection Act.
Not quite. Jewish communities see the bill as a threat to morning prayers, according to Religion News Service.
RNS reported that American Jews were “blindsided” by the U.S. Senate’s lightning-fast passage of the bill, which will make it nearly impossible for Jews to pray communally in the morning and still get to work or school on time during the winter months.
According to Jewish law, morning prayers must take place after the sun rises. Daylight saving time, which currently begins on the second Sunday in March and ends on the first Sunday in November, extends darkness on late-winter mornings.
Said Rabbi Abba Cohen, above, vice president for government affairs for Agudath Israel of America:
It will affect our religious life, our professional life and our family life. If congregational and personal prayers begin after 8 in the morning, how will people get to work at 9 a.m. or earlier?
Agudath Israel warned in a statement that that the measure poses a danger to children who will have to go to school in the dark, and that a second concern is:
Related to an unintended consequence the change in DST would have on a fundamental aspect of Jewish religious life—morning prayers. Under Jewish law, morning prayers, and the rituals associated with them, are regulated in time-specific ways and must be performed no earlier those certain specified times.
Synagogue schedules accommodate those times. With a change in DST, and the later sunrise, the times for prayers and their accompanying rituals will be disrupted —which, in turn, will put into jeopardy their proper fulfillment, discourage synagogue attendance, and result in late arrival for work.
RNS points out that in Judaism, the morning prayer service, called Shacharit because it starts after dawn typically lasts 30 to 40 minutes when recited communally. Reading from the Torah and saying certain prayers, including the kaddish, or mourner’s prayer, must take place in a group with a quorum of 10, known as a minyan.
Leaders of the Jewish community say that lawmakers didn’t inform them that the issue was on the Senate’s agenda, or that it would be fast-tracked through a procedure called unanimous consent.
Other stakeholders, from farmers to schoolteachers, also expressed surprise at the bill’s quick passage.
In a statement about the bill, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.—the measure’s lead sponsor— said permanent daylight saving time would reduce car accidents, robberies and seasonal depression and promote physical fitness.
Since the bill’s passage, synagogues have begun circulating petitions, and some Jewish organizations have begun lobbying lawmakers against its implementation.
In a document sent Monday (March 21), Agudath Israel noted that under DST, sunrise in Detroit would occur after 8 a.m. for 131 days of the year, and after 9 a.m. on 23 days. In Cincinnati sunrise would begin after 8 a.m. 135 days of the year.
Such a late start would make it “extremely difficult” for religiously observant Jews who work outside their homes to pray in the morning, Cohen said.
Morning prayers happen every morning, and it’s not something employers are familiar with. Coming to work late every morning is a much bigger ask.
As it is, many employers allow observant Jews to leave early for Shabbat, which can begin as early as 4 p.m. in some states.
Cohen admitted that getting the bill derailed will be and uphill battle but believes it’s “possible that the House won’t pass it.”