Congress quiet on Jewish New Year





Taking off on Rosh Hashana and, a week later, the Jewish day of atonement, Yom Kippur, is a fairly recent practice.
The first Jews weren't elected to the House and Senate until the 1840s, and through most of the 19th century, Congress only met from December through the spring. Because lawmakers could not easily return home in those days, they often met on Christmas Day, according to Senate historian Donald Ritchie.

Even after the schedule changed in the 1930s, Congress generally worked from January through the middle of the year, not conflicting with the Jewish holidays.

Congress started meeting year-round in the 1960s after jet transportation enabled West Coast members to return home more easily. Shortly thereafter, fixed recesses, scheduled around religious and national holidays, became more routine. Ritchie said that in his three decades of work in Congress, leaders have often threatened to require members to work on Christmas or other major holidays during crunch times, but it hasn't happened.

According to the Office of the House Historian, the last time the House met on Rosh Hashana, to take care of some minor chores, was in 1997.


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