WASHINGTON, Oct. 15 (JTA) – The mayor of the nation’s capital is coming under fire for calling on all residents of Washington, D.C., to observe Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s “Holy Day of Atonement.” In addition to issuing a proclamation this week supporting Farrakhan, Marion Barry has granted all city employees a day off without pay. This will enable them to heed Farrakhan’s call to fast for 24 hours and stay home from work and school, Barry said. Farrakhan’s holiday on Thursday was timed to celebrate the anniversary of last year’s Million Man March. Farrakhan borrowed his idea of a day of atonement from Yom Kippur, he said when he announced the new holiday last year. In a sharply worded statement, the Anti-Defamation League labeled Barry’s proclamation “disappointing and disturbing.” ADL accused Barry of “sanctioning and legitimizing” the Nation of Islam. Last year, local Jewish officials clashed with Barry after the mayor invited Nation of Islam representatives to sit on a religious council. In the end, the Jewish representatives resigned from the committee. The District government was allowing all employees to take the day off without pay under a “liberal leave” policy. But in an ironic twist it was the Jewish community that observed Farrakhan’s call, one Jewish official in Washington quipped. Because the Nation of Islam holiday fell on the first day of Sukkot, most Jewish organizations were closed.
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