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Why do rabbis wear white on Yom Kippur? Should I wear white, too?

Why do rabbis wear white on Yom Kippur? Should I wear white, too?
Answer By: 
Rabbi Victor S. Appell

At one time, it was customary for Reform rabbis and cantors to wear robes when leading worship. While this custom has decreased in popularity, it is still common for rabbis and cantors to wear robes on the High Holidays. White represents purity, and so the clergy wear white robes on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. 

According to Jewish tradition, Jews are buried in a simple white shroud. Thus, wearing white on Yom Kippur serves as a reminder of our mortality. Some congregants also choose to wear white clothing on Yom Kippur.

More common is the custom of refraining from wearing leather shoes. To better focus on the day’s meaning, some Jews refrain from wearing leather, a symbol of luxury. Thus, on Yom Kippur one may see people wearing sneakers in synagogue.