The U.S. Senate recently passed legislation to make daylight saving time permanent across the country starting in 2023, raising concerns among Orthodox advocacy groups – and rabbis in Pittsburgh.
The measure, known as the Sun Protection Act, was unanimously approved by vote in the Senate. The law still needs to be passed by the House of Representatives before it will be presented to President Joe Biden for signature.
The National Orthodox Union, in a letter seen by Jewish media, warned that the law “will affect the ability of members of our community to participate in congregational prayers and get to their places of work on time.”
Get The Jewish Chronicle Weekly Edition by email and never miss our top stories Sign up for free
Rabbi Yisroel Altein, co-director of Chabad of Squirrel Hill, agreed.
“The real concern is moving services and of course waking up when it’s dark outside,” Altein said. “That’s the debate.”
The Orthodox community interprets Jewish law as requiring daily morning prayers to take place after sunrise. If daylight saving time were permanently implemented across the US, both sunrises and sunsets would come later, meaning some winter sunrises could occur after 9 a.m. — after the workday begins for many people.
Altein emphasized that there is a concern that goes beyond morning services; He noted that Jewish law also dictates that the earliest tallitot and tefillin can be donned between dawn and sunrise.
“If they observe daylight saving time in winter, it will be too late,” he said.
Rabbi Daniel Wasserman, spiritual leader of the Share Torah orthodox congregation, echoed Altein’s concerns.
“The problem is very simple,” Wasserman said. “There are many elements of family life that are determined by sunrise and sunset.
“If they introduce full-time daylight savings time, a significant portion of the year would be extremely difficult in the mornings,” he said.
Rabbi Avrohom Gordimer, a member of the National Rabbinical Council of America, told the Forward that another concern is that even if practicing Jews choose to pray alone in their workplaces, they could face penalties or it could make their ability more difficult to carry out their work .
Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and one of the authors of the Sunshine Protection Act, claimed that permanent DST will help prevent pedestrian accidents, reduce crime, and decrease seasonal depression and childhood obesity.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., a New Jersey Democrat who chairs the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees such DST policies, told reporters it could be weeks or even months before the House of Representatives submits the Senate bill for approval.
For Wasserman, that sounds pretty good.
“I want 12 months of the year with standard time,” he said. “I can’t stand daylight saving time.” PJC
Justin Vellucci is a freelance writer based in Pittsburgh.