The issue of extending Daylight Savings Time (DST) has come up over the years on both the federal and state levels and Agudath Israel of America has joined other segments of society in generally opposing these efforts.
Our concerns revolved around two areas. First, as a representative of Orthodox Jewish schools, we shared the views of those in the school community who were concerned about children walking, carpooling or taking the bus to school in the pre-sunrise darkness and the increased risk of accidents and injuries that resulted. Indeed, during the Arab oil embargo in early 1970s, when a year-long DST was attempted (but was quickly ended due to public outcry), there were numerous reported incidents of children being injured and assaulted as they traveled to school in the pitch-black streets. Whatever benefit that might accrue due to extended DST pales in comparison to the cost in safety of our children.
The second concern related to an unintended consequence the change in DST would have on a fundamental aspect of Jewish religious life – morning prayers. Under Jewish law, morning prayers, and the rituals associated with them, are regulated in time-specific ways and must be performed no earlier those certain specified times. Synagogue schedules accommodate those times. With a change in DST, and the later sunrise, the times for prayers and their accompanying rituals will be disrupted –which, in turn, will put into jeopardy their proper fulfillment, discourage synagogue attendance, and result in late arrival for work.
The U.S. Senate today passed legislation that would make DST year-round and thus implicate these and other concerns. The bill will now move to the House, where the various issues on both sides will be debated. Along with others, Agudath Israel intends to continue to express its concerns to the representatives in that chamber and make clear the negative consequences the change will have on the safety of our children and on our Jewish religious practice.