New York’s East River was a little more polluted than usual Monday night, after United Nations envoys and other dignitaries dumped a year’s worth of trespasses and regrets out of their pockets and into Turtle Bay.
Among dignitaries taking part in the Jewish sin-cleansing rite of Tashlich were UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and envoys to the world body from the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, Ukraine, Brazil and elsewhere, including Israel.
The service, dating back to medieval Germany, is traditionally held next to a flowing body of water on or shortly after the Jewish Day of Atonement or Yom Kippur, and involves the symbolic casting off of sins, which usually take the form of bread, to be gobbled up by fish and other fauna.
This was the first time the UN held a Tashlich ceremony, giving the world body its first clean slate after decades of inaction in the face of wars, famines and human rights violations.
“As we mark 70 years since the founding of the UN, this is an opportunity to reflect on the objectives of this institution and to let the voices of reason and of tolerance to reclaim the public space, so that the UN can reestablish its rightful role as a bastion of freedom and as a temple of peace,” outgoing Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor said at the event, according to a statement sent out by his office.
Jerusalem has been a frequent critic of the UN, which it says unfairly targets and obsesses over Israeli actions while ignoring other ills around the world.
The service came months after the UN recognized Yom Kippur, which begins Tuesday evening, as the holiest day on the Jewish calendar, following an Israeli campaign.
Manhattan Rabbi Arthur Schneier led the event and welcomed Ban, whose appearance at the service was unscheduled.
“Just like the fish eyes are always open, stay alert and keep your eyes open. Not only deal with crises facing humanity but help prevent those crises,” he told Ban, according to Haaretz.
“The fact that we are gathering here at the UN shows the respect that the United Nations has for all faiths, their holidays and for their stress on human dignity,” he added. “Day of Atonement means to be at one –- at one with God and one with man.”