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Move to make daylight saving time permanent stalls in Congress, easing worries of Orthodox Jews

The Sunshine Protection Act would result in later sunrises and sunsets, and make morning prayers difficult for many observant Jews

To the relief of many American Orthodox Jews, a bill to make Daylight Saving Time permanent has stalled in the House.

A similar bill passed the Senate unanimously in March. If the House also approves the measure, and it is signed by President Joe Biden, the country will turn its clocks forward in the spring and then not turn them back next fall —  meaning later sunrises and sunsets.

That’s problematic for many Orthodox Jews, who pray at morning minyans that in many places, without daylight saving, could begin in winter after 9 a.m.

In May, the Orthodox Union circulated a letter to congressional leaders, stating that permanent Daylight Saving Time would “interfere with the ability of members of our community to engage in congregational prayers and get to their places of work on time.”

Since then, the OU has continued to advocate against the bill. Nathan Diament, executive director for the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, said the group had reached out to House leaders who had been “receptive.” He said that it’s not only the Orthodox who are troubled by the bill, which in the Senate was called the Sunshine Protection Act, but those in healthcare and advocates for children’s safety, who didn’t want them walking and riding to school in darkness.

All those concerns seem to have been heard, Diament said: “This legislation, as you know, has been kicking around for many, many years, but never really went anywhere.”

The House bill, identical to the Senate’s, has not left its committee.

In a speech following the Senate’s Sunshine Protection Act vote, Sen. Marco Rubio, its lead sponsor, did not mention the concerns of religious communities. He referred to research showing negative health effects caused by clock switching and lower crime rates and increased physical activity for children when there are fewer hours of darkness.

In 2020, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine released a position paper opposing the twice-annual practice of switching the clocks, noting an elevated risk to cardiovascular health and other negative health impacts. However, they advocated for permanent standard time because, they said, daylight saving time is “is less aligned with human circadian biology.”

Diament noted that the turning of the clocks comes just two days before the midterm elections and therefore is unlikely to come before the the House for a vote during the lame duck session before the next Congress is sworn in in January.

“Because Congress is going to turn over in January, the proponents of this legislation are going to have to start all over again, and get it reintroduced both in the House and the Senate,” he said.

He noted that there is one compromise that has yet to gain much traction: rather than making daylight saving time the default, make a permanent change to standard time. The Georgia Senate passed such a bill in 2021, much to the delight of some local Orthodox Jews. The bill died in the state’s House of Representatives.

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