Australia alarms Jewish community by scheduling election on Yom Kippur

( Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced that the Australian national election will be held Sept. 14, a date that falls on Yom Kippur, stirring a major debate among politicians on whether the choice of the date is insensitive to Australia’s Jewish community.

Click photo to download. Caption: Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Credit: Kate Lundy via Wikimedia Commons.“As a matter of personal conscience I will be unable to participate on Election Day. It is my practice, with my wife, Amanda, to observe Yom Kippur,” Australian Jewish parliament member Michael Danby of the Labor party said in a statement, according to the Jerusalem Post.

About 107,000-120,000 Jews live in Australia and constitute about 0.5 percent of the population. There are a few federal electorates in the country with a large number of eligible Jewish voters, meaning the timing of the election on Yom Kippur could have a significant impact on the result.

Australia traditionally holds elections on Saturday, which already makes it impossible for observant Jews to participate, though they are allowed to submit their votes by mail. Given the decision to hold the election on Yom Kippur, which is observed by a larger portion of the Jewish community than Shabbat, Jewish Liberal party parliament member Josh Frydenberg tweeted that the decision “disenfranchises many Jewish Australians.” 

Posted on January 31, 2013 .