Thursday, August 04, 2005

Daylight Savings extension not good for minyan

US Jews pray time change won't harm morning worship

It's 6:45 a.m. and the carpeted study room of the Kemp Mill Synagogue in suburban Washington is already abuzz with the clicking of tefillin and the murmur of worship.

Twenty men and women stand as the prayer leader recites the opening blessings of Shacharit, the morning prayer, leading the Silver Spring, Md., congregation in the thrice-daily ritual that is an integral part of the lives of observant Jews.

By March 2007, the 40-minute commute that many of the Kemp Mill supplicants take to get to their jobs in Washington may present them with a Hobson's choice: morning services or getting to work on time.

On July 21, Congress approved an amendment to the Energy Policy Act that will extend daylight-savings time by four weeks starting in spring 2007 – three in March and one in November.

Jewish groups aren't smiling.

On July 19, the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism urged members of Congress to oppose the provision.

"The proposed change in daylight-savings time from April through October to March through November would result in a later sunrise that will produce an undue hardship on religious Jews," wrote the USCJ's public policy director, Mark Waldman. "Our prayers that cannot occur until after sunrise last about 30-40 minutes. The later sunrise will place a hardship on observant Jews that are required to recite their morning prayers and then must commute to the workplace by 9:00 a.m." Waldman also cited child-safety concerns in opposing the measure.

"The extension of daylight-savings time will force children to walk to school in pitch black streets during the time of year when inclement weather is more likely," he wrote. "The last time daylight-savings time was extended, in the early 1970s, there were numerous reports of children being injured in the streets as they walked to school in the dark. It is not unreasonable to think that this will happen again." The following day, the Orthodox Union's Institute for Public Affairs called on its members to oppose the proposal.

"Pushing sunrise back to 8:00 a.m. or later would make it impossible for those in certain parts of the United States to pray Shacharit (morning prayers) before work," the O.U. said.

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