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Australian Elections Set for Yom Kippur, Disappointing Some Jewish Leaders

Australia’s national elections have been set for Yom Kippur.

Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the Sept. 14, 2013 date for federal elections on Wednesday, disappointing some Jewish leaders.

Voting is mandatory in Australia, and non-voting is penalized by a fine. Orthodox Jews have always by mail or at pre-poll booths since Australian elections are held on Saturdays. Now the majority of Australia’s 110,000-strong Jewish community will now have to make similar plans.

Michael Danby, a Jewish lawmaker from the Labor Party, said the prime minister called him immediately after she made the announcement.

He said he plans to contact the Special Minister of State to discuss ”extra arrangements” to make it easier for Jews to cast their ballots, local media reported.

Joshua Frydenberg, the only Jewish lawmaker for the opposition Liberal Party, said he was disappointed. “I think this will be of concern to a number of Jewish Australians…I think we should respect the high holy days of all religions.”

Rabbi Moshe Gutnick, president of the Organization of Rabbis of Australia, said although the prime minister perhaps was “remiss in not taking note of Yom Kippur,” there will be a “welcome increase in pre-polling and observance of Shabbat across our entire community precisely because it is Yom Kippur.”

Peter Wertheim, head of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, said “it is not a major issue for us,” while Nina Bassat, president of the Jewish Community Council of Victoria in Melbourne, described it as “a little bit disappointing.”

Gillard’s Labor Party holds a slender grip on power in coalition with the Greens, but some polls suggest the Liberals will win.

Federal elections have not clashed with Yom Kippur since the Australian Electoral Commission began logging election dates, Fairfax Media reported.

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