Should I take Yom Kippur as a floating holiday at work when I'm an atheist?
September 25, 2012 10:11 AM   Subscribe

I have the option of taking Yom Kippur off as a floating holiday. (The other option at my company for a floating holiday is Good Friday.) I'm an atheist. Is it disrespectful to take this day off when I'm not Jewish?

So my company has the run-of-the-mill US holidays off yearly, but we also have the option to take either Good Friday or Yom Kippur off as a floating holiday. I started at this job in the early summer, so I missed the option to take Good Friday this year. If I want to get a bonus day off, it would have to be tomorrow, Yom Kippur. It seems like most of the employees at my (small) company took Good Friday as their holiday earlier this year, and only the few observant Jewish employees are taking tomorrow off. I'm a non-Jewish atheist (and my coworkers know this), but my husband IS a (non-observant) Jew. Last week, I left work a little early one day to make it to Rosh Hashanah dinner with family. However, I feel a little jerky being the only non-Jew taking tomorrow off, and am worried that it might come off as offensive. On the other hand, I could really use that floating holiday just to have a few weekday hours to get a few long-overdue errands done. Am I overthinking this, and should I just take the day off?
posted by emily37 to Society & Culture (38 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do it. You're overthinking it. I'm Jewish and I wouldn't be offended.
Yes, I'm speaking on everyone's behalf right now.
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 10:13 AM on September 25, 2012 [13 favorites]

Yes, you are overthinking this. Just take it off and enjoy yourself.
posted by Vaike at 10:14 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It's a floating holiday and you're offered only two places to take it, both explicitly religious times with no secular holiday tradition? Yeah, take that without guilt. For one thing, your husband is a fine excuse. For another, it's deeply absurd and unfair to give employees who follow specific religious traditions more holiday time.

Speaking as a not-very-observant Jew, I encourage you to take it off cheerfully.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:15 AM on September 25, 2012 [34 favorites]

Take the day, says the Jew. And eat for me.
posted by atomicstone at 10:15 AM on September 25, 2012

I'm Jewish and I wouldn't be offended either.
posted by amro at 10:15 AM on September 25, 2012

Anyone who begrudges anyone a random day off isn't someone worth your time.

Yom Kippur aside, would you feel this way if the floating holiday was for any day of your choosing?
posted by zizzle at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Take the day off. (Likewise non-observant Jewish, totally not offended, and in fact if I were to be offended it would be on your behalf.)
posted by restless_nomad at 10:16 AM on September 25, 2012

Yes, take it off. You've got the option of taking a day on Good Friday or Yom Kippur. These are the two choices your employer gives you. Your religion (or lack thereof) is immaterial in this matter. Many of the people who took Good Friday off are likely non-religious as well, but they took it because it's the more common holiday and the rest of their friends/family are more likely to have the day off than they would on Yom Kippur.
posted by asnider at 10:18 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think you're overthinking it.

If I was your co-worker, I'd be offended that you'd think I'd be offended that you weren't taking an earned day off because you thought i was too sensitive to deal with you being off.
posted by inturnaround at 10:18 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

I (non-religious Jew) don't see how it could be offensive. I doubt anyone would think that.

I think maybe this is more about that American working thing where if you take any days off that you don't NEED, some people will look down on you?

On preview 6 Jews, 1 opinion - whoa! ;-)
posted by DestinationUnknown at 10:19 AM on September 25, 2012 [13 favorites]

I'll make it 7. I'll be working tomorrow, which is really, really, ugh. But you know, ox in the mire and all of that.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:22 AM on September 25, 2012

This non-Jew is going to channel a Jewish friend of hers; whenever I've been confronted with a gift or money or some other boon that someone is offering me that I'm not sure whether I deserve it, for one reason or another, he always tells me, "go ahead and take the gelt." I believe his advice would be the same when it comes to time off.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:22 AM on September 25, 2012 [3 favorites]

Another atheist here, take the day off without qualm.
posted by goo at 10:23 AM on September 25, 2012

Take the day off. If anyone gets small-minded at you, tell them your husband is Jewish and you celebrate as a family, and watch them die of embarrassment.
posted by jacalata at 10:23 AM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

One of the things about Judaism is that, unlike many other religions, non-Jews don't have to follow Jewish law. If there's a practicing Jew up high in the ranks of your company who is responsible for whether or not the business is open, it is their responsibility to close the business. It's on their head. You (technically) have a choice between two days off, the reasons for both are wholly inapplicable to you. You can't take one, so take the other.

Also, as a secular Jew who will be spending tomorrow at the movies with his lapsed Catholic significant other, I can feel guilty for you, if you'd like.
posted by griphus at 10:25 AM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

If anyone gets small-minded at you, point out that you'd be happy to take a floating day on the day of your choice, but you only got two pick from the two.
posted by Lyn Never at 10:26 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

As an atheist born Jewish you have my blessing. or a-blessing. I don't know. You'll be fine.
posted by French Fry at 10:26 AM on September 25, 2012

For the record, I'm a lapsed Catholic who wouldn't object to you using the floating day for Good Friday, either. So if you change your mind about next year you're also covered.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:28 AM on September 25, 2012

Response by poster: Thank you everyone! I will take tomorrow off guilt-free :)
posted by emily37 at 10:29 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

(I mean, I know you're not going to USE IT-use it. Do whatever you want, I think everyone's cool.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:30 AM on September 25, 2012

Take the day off, it's part of your compensation. If someone actually gives you grief, pick from any of the perfectly reasonable responses suggested above.

It was a slightly different scenario but I once worked for company where the ownership, most of the management, and more than half of the employees overall were orthodox Jews. They just gave the whole company Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur off across the board. It made sense from a logistics/productivity standpoint, and there was absolutely no sense of "begrudgement."

(On preview: enjoy your day off!)
posted by usonian at 10:34 AM on September 25, 2012

A Jew will not begrudge a non-Jew a day of rest, regardless of when that day might be.

(And I'm glad someone already made the "I'll feel guilty in your stead!" joke.)
posted by Mizu at 10:39 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Laziest jew on earth checking in to suggest that you eat a bacon sammich for me tomorrow, on your perfectly allowable and normal and inoffensive day off.
posted by elizardbits at 10:40 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

On preview 6 Jews, 1 opinion

One for the record books (says yet another non-offended non-observant Jew).
posted by scratch at 10:41 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

As an added bit of perspective -- most of the mitzvot are not, like, super-special-secret things that only Jews get to do. The idea is that these are things that ideally everyone would be doing, but as the chosen people, the Jews are held to a higher standard and really REQUIRED to do this stuff, whereas for goyim there's no such requirement.

But so nobody is going to mind if you eat kosher food, or rest on the Sabbath, or read and study the Torah, or do-no-work-on-Yom-Kippur, or whatever.

Most non-Orthodox congregations would even be fine with you attending Yom Kippur services if you wanted, assuming you asked first and covered your head and dressed respectfully and generally behaved yourself. (And for all I know, some Orthodox congregations would be down with it too; I'm less familiar with the norms and customs there.) You don't count as part of the minyan (the number of Jews required to be present in order to hold certain services) and you won't ever get called up to read from the Torah, but your mere presence wouldn't be awful or offensive or spiritually-problematic or anything like that.

So in general, with Jewish customs or mitzvot, the worst you've gotta worry about is that someone will accuse you of cultural appropriation. (F'rinstance, putting a mezuzzah on your door or wearing a yarmulke outside of Jewish services would be a little weird, since those are not just religious commandments but cultural symbols, and people would wonder why you were trying to misrepresent yourself as Jewish.) But taking a day off? Totally not cultural appropriation.
posted by nebulawindphone at 10:45 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

The only scenario I can imagine where you ought to consider not taking Yom Kippur off is if your taking that day off means there's an observant Jew who cannot take that day off. Even then it's a debate, I think.
posted by mullacc at 10:46 AM on September 25, 2012 [2 favorites]

Unless you have a cooler atheist holiday that you want to put up a stink about AND really want to fight that fight up the chain of command... take the day and go worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster or something.

Colanders unite!
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:47 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

For the future, suggest that to HR that they offer a third option: taking one's birthday as the floating holiday. If you are observant and need one of the other days off, people can take it and the rest of the company has the option of a personally meaningful, nonreligious holiday.
posted by metahawk at 10:48 AM on September 25, 2012 [7 favorites]

You lucky mensch. ;)

Yeah, I really like the idea about suggesting that everyne take their birthday off.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 11:16 AM on September 25, 2012

atheist non-observant Jew here. Take the day off.

My observant family members would say the same thing. Also--I am going to spend tomorrow evening with my family even though I did not fast and am not really Jewish, cause you know, family. Also, bagels. So your husband is a perfectly acceptable excuse should you want one.
posted by inertia at 11:24 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

I think because your husband is Jewish, and it sounds like you have observed Rosh Hashanah with him, that makes it okay, but otherwise I wouldn't do it.

I personally as a non-observant Jew realized that I did not feel right taking off Yom Kippur, even though my boss explicitly offered and said she did not care whether I spent the day in observance or not. In general I try not to take off religious holidays that others in my office are actively observing, because it doesn't feel right to me either, but I don't know if that principle would hold up to close scrutiny, and I certainly wouldn't hold anyone else to it. So there's a dissenting data point for you.
posted by mlle valentine at 11:27 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

Although I don't take Yom Kippur off for precisely the reasons that mlle valentine says (I'm not going to synagogue, why take the vacation day?), under the circumstances you describe, I'd say go for it.
posted by thomas j wise at 11:45 AM on September 25, 2012

Thank you everyone! I will take tomorrow off guilt-free :)

Oh you can still feel guilty, plenty of us still have to drag ourselves in to work tomorrow!

Not Jewish, could use a day off. There's no alternate side parking in NYC though, I have that at least.
posted by The Prawn Reproach at 11:47 AM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

The fact that you feel guilty about it implies that you're part Jewish, so take the day off and use it to atone for the sin of taking the day off.
posted by jasper411 at 12:12 PM on September 25, 2012 [1 favorite]

In broad strokes, I agree with thomas j wise's interpretation of mlle valentine's logic. You're entitled to a floating holiday and this is your only option to take it. If, for some bizarre reason, someone asks about how you observed Yom Kippur, surely they should accept the "This is was my only option for the floating holiday" explanation.

I suspect everyone who doesn't need to save their holiday for Yom Kippur picks Good Friday because, well, it's a Friday. Good Friday also tends to fall away from other holidays, whereas Yom Kippur falls fairly close to Labor Day (and Columbus Day, should you get that off).

I am not Jewish. My birthday is tomorrow, though, which is totally irrelevant aside from the fact it falls near Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur so sometimes something gets cancelled on my birthday.
posted by hoyland at 12:58 PM on September 25, 2012

I am neither Jewish nor Christian. I would feel completely at ease taking one of the two off -- and I'd probably take Good Friday, simply because it would create a long weekend -- despite not being religious.

I understand mlle valentine's logic of feeling like it's inappropriate to take off a religious holiday when others are actually taking it off. But really, your employer shouldn't be sticking the floating holidays to religious occasions.

There is no principle that religious people get to take more days off than non-religious people simply due to religious holidays, and if Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are the only opportunities to take a floating day off, don't needlessly guilt yourself into not taking a day off.

(If your employer just had two "floating holidays" throughout the year, it would be different insofar that I would feel a little bit strange taking one of the two as my floating holiday, but that's not the case here since you've got no other options.)
posted by andrewesque at 1:09 PM on September 25, 2012

Feel free to atone for any bad behavior during the last year. Otherwise, you're simply using a holiday your employer has provided to all staff.
posted by theora55 at 6:27 PM on September 25, 2012

Take the day already.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 9:45 PM on September 25, 2012

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