Wondering What to Say to Someone Observing Yom Kippur? Here are the Appropriate Greetings

Yom Kippur, which translates to the "Day of Atonement," is the holiest day of the year in Judaism. It is the last of 10 days of repentance starting with Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), and is typically marked with worship, reflection, and abstention, including 25 hours of fasting.

Those who observe Yom Kippur traditionally abstain from comforts (like wearing leather shoes or jewelry), wear white (to symbolize a clean slate and fresh start), and spend the day in Yom Kippur prayer. The only festive meal is the one to break the fast after sundown.

How to greet someone on Yom Kippur

The traditional Yom Kippur greeting does not correspond to a typical "happy holiday" message, like one that you might share on other more joyous occasions. Because of the solemnity of the observance, appropriate Jewish greetings on Yom Kippur are more about meaningfulness and reflection. So, while it's not standard to wish someone a "happy Yom Kippur," it is certainly appropriate to wish them a meaningful one.

When is Yom Kippur this year?

The holiday doesn’t fall on the same day each year, because the Jewish calendar is luni-solar. (Its months are based on lunar months, and its years are based on solar years.) According to the Jewish calendar, the current year is 5783. Rosh Hashanah marks the start of 5784. On the Gregorian calendar, this year, Yom Kippur begins at sundown on Sunday, September 24, and ends at nightfall on Monday, September 25, 2023.

As Yom Kippur approaches, you might be wondering what to say to someone who observes the Jewish High Holiday. Ahead, read about appropriate Yom Kippur greetings to share with friends and loved ones, in English as well as in Hebrew and Yiddush.

yom kippur service at temple beth shalom in needham, mass
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Traditional Yom Kippur greetings

Jews who observe Yom Kippur ask G-d to forgive them for any sins committed in the last year and seal them in the "Book of Life" for another year. Therefore, Jews wish each other G'mar chatimah tovah — which translates to "A good final sealing" in English — before and on Yom Kippur. More simply, G'mar tov in Hebrew translates to "a good seal" in English. This abbreviated version is often used as well.

Because Yom Kippur is a fasting holiday, it is common for Jews to wish each other an "easy fast." In Hebrew, you would say Tzom kal (צוֹם קַל).

Common Yom Kippur greetings in English

You can say or send any of these Yom Kippur wishes in English:

  • "Wishing you a meaningful Yom Kippur."

  • "Have an easy fast and a meaningful Yom Kippur."

  • "May you have an easy fast."

sinai temple in the westwood district of los angeles, california is the oldest and largest conservative jewish congregation in the greater los angeles area
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Other Yom Kippur greetings in Hebrew and Yiddish

Gut Yontif is a traditional Yiddish greeting, which means "Good Yom Tov." In Hebrew, the term Yom Tov (יום טוב) refers to the Jewish holy days — so this is a traditional wish for a good holiday.

For the entire season, it’s appropriate to nod to the new year ahead. The most common greeting on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is Shanah Tovah in Hebrew, which translates to "good year" in English.

Sometimes, the Shanah Tovah greeting is made more effusive by adding umetukah ("and sweet") to the end. The greeting Shanah tovah umetukah translates to wishing someone a "good and sweet year."

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