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Ban Ki-moon Casts Away His Sins In New York’s East River

The U.N. Secretary General performed the High Holiday ritual of Tashlich on Monday

Hannah Vaitsblit
September 22, 2015

Did you forget to do Tashlich this year? Well, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon certainly didn’t. (And don’t worry, you still have until the end of Sukkot to get it together).

Tashlich, the annual cleansing ritual signifying the casting of sins into a flowing body of water, made its first official appearance at the U.N. on Monday, set against the backdrop of the organization’s International Day of Peace. Rabbi Arthur Schneier, a Holocaust survivor and the spiritual head at New York’s Park East Synagogue led the ceremony. U.N. Ambassadors from several countries, including the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Ukraine, Brazil, Norway, Palau, Ireland, Argentina, France, Micronesia, Tanzania, and Sierra Leone, as well as scores of community leaders, joined Ban Ki-moon at the U.N. Rose Garden, on the edge of New York’s East River. Ron Prosor, Israel’s departing Ambassador to the U.N., prefaced the ceremony:

“According to the Jewish tradition, this time of year is a time of reflection, an opportunity to consider the challenges of the past and to lay out goals and aspirations for the future. As we mark 70 years since the founding of the U.N., this is an opportunity to reflect on the objectives of this institution and to let the voices of reason and of tolerance reclaim the public space, so that the U.N. can reestablish its rightful role as a bastion of freedom and as a temple of peace.”

The event, strategically scheduled one week prior to the 70th General Assembly, was coordinated by Israel’s U.N. Mission and the Forum for Cultural Diplomacy, and marked the culmination of an Israeli campaign urging the UN to recognize Yom Kippur as an official U.N. holiday, alongside 0ther major religious holidays including Christmas and Eid al-Adha. Haaretz reported that Ban Ki-moon’s presence at the ceremony was not scheduled, bringing greater attention to the event.

Word’s still out on which particular sins Ban Ki-moon was tossing into the East River.

Hannah Vaitsblit is an intern at Tablet.