• cantorkaygreenwald

Happy Yom Kippur!?

Updated: Oct 8, 2019

Many years ago, a non-Jewish friend wished me a, “Happy Yom Kippur!” I knew that she meant well, and I was trying very hard not to chuckle as I thanked her for her good wishes. I gently explained a bit about the meaning of the day, seemingly without causing her any embarrassment (I truly hope that I did not). She thanked me for giving her a clearer understanding, and I thanked her for listening. Then, we picked up our kids from school and headed off to the rest of our day.

I have thought about that “Happy Yom Kippur” greeting many times over the years. And you know what I have decided? There is a lot about Yom Kippur that should make us very happy:

First, we have a calendared opportunity to think about how we have lived our lives over the past year. We contemplate who we are, how far we have come, and how we would like to go forward. How many of us would take that time if it weren’t set down on our calendars?

Second, we have the opportunity to genuinely ask for forgiveness from those we have wronged. This is very difficult to do, but it is also a wonderful way to repair broken relationships and to remind those we love of just how much we love them. What could be better than that?

Third, we can ask God for forgiveness for our failings writ large: our response to injustices in our larger communities, in our country and in the world.

Finally, we can promise to do better – to make a real, positive change in the coming year – and not to make the same mistakes again. We can forgive ourselves for our failings, and begin the year with a clean slate, as it were. We truly have the opportunity to begin anew.

That’s a pretty happy thought, right? We don’t have to let old mistakes hang over our head. We don’t have to carry them with us anymore. We can start fresh. Happy Yom Kippur indeed!

So – all of that plastic that you used over the course of your lifetime thus far? It’s done, behind you, over. We can suffer some guilt over it, if we need to, but guilt is only useful if it gets us to change our behavior for the better. Can we do better? Yom Kippur teaches us that we can.

Let’s begin with the lowly plastic bag. Plastic bags are ubiquitous. We might bring our groceries home in plastic bags. We put our produce selections into plastic bags. We pack our lunches with plastic bags. We store our food in plastic bags.

We don’t need to do any of this. It turns out that there are some great alternatives to plastic bags.

I use reusable bags for my produce – like these:

What about lettuce and greens like that? I find that bags like these work great for leafy greens:

Alternatively, you can wash your lettuce when you get home, and put the leaves into some kind of container for storage. When I have time, I find this to be a very good option. (I will have more on food storage options next month – just in time for Thanksgiving.)

You can find many different varieties of reusable bags online. You can also find some at many of your local markets. Here are some of the types of reusable shopping bags that I use. (I particularly like the ones that are easily washable!)

Instead of buying rice, or trail mix, or granola, for example, in a box that has a plastic bag in it, try buying in bulk. For these kinds of purchases, I like to use muslin bags like the ones below. They weigh a little more, but they usually have a label that says how much they weigh. At some stores, like Whole Foods, they will weigh your purchase and then subtract the weight of the muslin bag. Unfortunately, there are markets that will not do that for you. You need to check up front.

You can also bring your own containers for the bulk aisle, as well as for the deli counter, the butcher counter, the fish counter, etc. Some markets will weigh these for you and mark them with their weight. Then, when you go through the checkout line, the checker subtracts the container weight from the total weight of your item, so you only pay for the food you are buying. Whole Foods will do this – but many markets may not. Once again, you will need to check on this before you shop.

Speaking of stores that don’t have a way for you to use your own containers, here is a “copy and paste” note that you can send to the headquarters of those stores. If enough of us send this message, we can make a difference:

Dear (Name of Store) Management,

You may be aware that plastic can last for generations, and that it is becoming more and more difficult to find recyclers for much of our plastic waste. Because I care about the world that I am leaving our children, I am working hard to reduce my plastic footprint. Some markets will let me bring my own containers, which can be weighed before I shop. Unfortunately, your market does not facilitate bringing my own containers in this way.

I am writing to you to urge you to change your store policies so that I, and people who care like I do, can bring our own containers when we shop at (Name of Store).

I know that you also care about the world that we are leaving our children. I thank you in advance for your attention to this very important matter.


(It probably goes without saying, but add your name here.)

Here are some links that may be helpful to you as you prepare your letter:

For Safeway, Vons, Albertsons, Jewel-Osco, Acme, Shaws, Pavilions, Randall’s, Tom Thumb and Carr’s (yes, they are all owned by the same company):

For Ralphs and Krogers:

For Publix:

For Schnucks:

I have found that European owned grocery chains like Giant, Stop&Shop and Martins (owned in the Netherlands) or Food Lion and Hannaford (Belgian owned) are usually happy for you to bring your own containers. Nonetheless, you will need to check with your individual market, which is usually a quick phone call.

Wishing you a meaningful fast and a joyous Sukkot!


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