Sao Paulo declares Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah official holidays

(JTA) –The  Brazilian city of Sao Paulo – which has more than 11 million people — declared Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Ramadan as official holidays. 

Jewish and Muslim municipal workers may take two days off during the Jewish High Holidays and Ramadan, respectively. The city has approximately 147,000 employees.

The inclusion of these dates to the municipal list of holidays will be the first time that the municipality recognizes a non-Christian holiday in that manner, according to a statement by the municipality.

The rule was approved by Mayor Gilberto Kassab, whose father was born in Lebanon. Gilberto Kassab belongs to Brazil’s Social Democratic Party.

Floriano Pesaro, a Jewish member of the city council, praised the decision. “It has been very difficult to perform one’s tasks on Yom Kippur, when Jews are actually forbidden to work in any way or fashion,” he reportedly said.

Pesaro said he had lobbied for recognition of Yom Kippur last year.

Some 110,000 Jews live in Brazil, and more than half of them in Sao Paolo, according to estimates by the city’s Jewish community. 

In 2009, Brazilian Jewish teenagers protested what they called their “exclusion” from a national exam for high school graduates set to take place on Shabbat. A Brazilian court said that providing Jews with an alternative date would “undermine equality.”

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