Daylight Savings Bill Brought to an Abrupt Halt Through Efforts of Agudath Israel

Daylight Savings Bill Brought to an Abrupt Halt Through Efforts of Agudath Israel

The effort in the 117th Congress to permanently extend “daylight savings time” (DST) came to an end, as the House of Representatives refused to act on the measure due, in large part, to the efforts of Agudath Israel of America.

Agudath Israel played a leading role in sharing the unique and disruptive challenges permanent DST would present to the frum, thereby stunting its progress on Capitol Hill as reported by BoroPark24 here.

Agudath Israel’s advocacy on the issue was consistent with a 1971 teshuva to then-Agudath Israel President Rabbi Moshe Sherer, z’l, penned by the Horav Hagaon R’ Moshe Feinstein, zt’l, who addressed the issue during an earlier legislative attempt to make DST permanent. Pointing out the difficulties regarding proper davening facing those who go to work, Rabbi Feinstein wrote that it is clear that we must fight against such a bill with every means of advocacy – and that it constitutes a “gezeirah mamash al hatefila lirai Hashem Yisborach.”

“We heard from numerous rabbonim around the country about how this change would completely disrupt daily davening schedules, putting minyanim and tefilah b’tzibbur in jeopardy,” according to Rabbi Cohen, Agudath Israel’s Vice President for Government Affairs and Washington Director. “They were stunned by our research, which indicated that in some cities with Orthodox populations, for varying amounts of time, sunrise could be after 8:00 AM, in other cities after 9:00 AM -- times that were incompatible with shul and work schedules.” 

Agudath Israel was also contacted by many Orthodox Jewish employees, who would be forced to forgo delayed tefilla b’tzibbur and, because of later times even for private davening, were still not certain that they could arrive at their workplaces on time. The prospect of asking their employers to arrive late or allowing them to interrupt their mid-morning work with davening was one they feared would create a tense and tenuous employment relationship. Observance and accommodation of Shabbos and Yom Tov have become familiar in the workplace; time off for davening – perhaps over weeks- is unknown. 

As a representative of the spectrum of yeshivas and Jewish day schools, Agudath Israel’s other primary concern centered around children walking, carpooling, or taking the bus to school in the pre-sunrise darkness and the increased risk of accidents and injuries that could result. Indeed, during the Arab oil embargo in early 1970s, when a two-year-long DST was attempted, the experiment was cut short to less than a year due to the public outcry over numerous reported incidents of children being killed, injured and assaulted as they traveled to school in the pitch-black streets.

The alternative would be for these Jewish schools – which often include morning davening – to begin the school day at a much later hour, a detrimental change decried by many yeshiva principals and educators, as well as parents.

Ultimately, the multi-pronged effort by Agudath Israel, and opposition by others, were successful in slowing down and eventually ending further action in the House. 

Rabbi Cohen expressed relief at the House’s decision not to take up the bill. “We hope the issue has been put to rest,” he said, “but we will continue to monitor the legislative docket and, if necessary, let our voice be heard, as there is much at stake here in regard to Orthodox Jewish life.”

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