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High Holidays Text Study on Criminal Justice

During the High Holy Day season, when the Gates of Repentance are open, we reflect on ideas of sin and repentance, punishment and forgiveness, justice and mercy. At this time, let us also consider our criminal justice system and ask challenging questions: Are those who stand before the courts of justice treated equally? How are those individuals who are incarcerated within our penal system treated? How can we best assist those who have paid their debt and successfully reentered into our community? Does our criminal justice system allow for people to obtain forgiveness from society for crimes they committed if they serve their sentences? Let us pose such questions during this season in which we seek forgiveness, mercy and compassion for our own misdeeds. 

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is a day of deep self-reflection, as Jews worldwide fast and attempt to get closer to God. Our tradition teaches us that on Rosh HaShanah, every person is judged based on their actions in the past year, and on Yom Kippur, that judgment is sealed for the next year. This means that during the High Holy Days, Jews confess to their sins, try to make amends with each other, and seek repentance for times when they have “missed the mark.”