A happy Yom Kippur, courtesy of foot-in-mouth.com

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A man in a bright blue suit, a yellow tallit and a red kippah rocks back and forth to the tune of "That's What Friends Are For," alongside an open Torah.

The message: "Wishing you a happy Yom Kippur!"

The sender: You, via deepest

feelings.com, which may zap you with a message about acid reflux while you're choosing your music. Selections run the gamut from the theme from "Beauty and the Beast" to "Stairway to Heaven."

But laughter is better for the soul than antacids, and amid our introspection as the Days of Awe approach, we can't help but chuckle over those who are unclear on the concept.

In addition to well-meaning friends and neighbors who wish us a happy Yom Kippur, there are merchants and organizations that commit bigger gaffes.

Last week Evite.com sent an apology in its August newsletters "for having listed Yom Kippur as one of our 'Reasons to Party.' We understand that Yom Kippur is a Day of Atonement, a day to be taken seriously," the apology went on, also atoning for the fact that it listed the wrong dates for Labor Day, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

But Flowersandfancies.com still doesn't get it. This online gift company will send Yom Kippur fruit and gourmet baskets as well as

roses to your loved ones. And at

theholidayspot.com, you can get Yom Kippur wallpaper for your desktop. As far as I know, nobody is marketing Yom Kippur wallpaper for synagogue social halls, but it just may be a matter of time.

Not so long ago, those who were are not clear on the concept scheduled the first day of school on Rosh Hashanah, a college picnic on Yom Kippur or a community pancake breakfast on Passover.

Today, as Americans strive to be more sensitive and inclusive, the gaffes take a different direction — well intentioned but missing the mark. Some time ago, Petrini's, a former upscale market in the Bay Area, ran a special on challah for Passover. The store later apologized to "our Jewish friends." And more recently, the Safeway in the same Alameda shopping center that housed Temple Israel featured Star of David cookies during Passover week. A sisterhood officer visited the store and thanked personnel for their gesture, while letting them know why it was inappropriate.

During the High Holy Day season, I once drove past an L.A.-area flower shop that announced in a big bold sign, "Special for Yom Kippur! Roses, 2 dozen for the price of 1 dozen!"

Then there are the tree ornaments. Log on to Christmasspirit shop.com and you will find Stars of David and menorah candles on white globes to hang on your…Chanukah bush? There are also Happy Bear Mitzvah bears and Hoppy Hannukah rabbits. But perhaps I should give Christmas Spirit the benefit of the doubt. Maybe these ornaments are really meant for the sukkah.

As if that weren't enough, one year at Passover I received a phone call from a member of a Santa Rosa-area church who was responsible for baking matzah for a Christian seder.

She asked me for a recipe. I proceeded to tell her that Jews in this country don't make matzah but buy it instead, since it wouldn't be kosher for Passover unless a rabbi were around to supervise the preparation.

"Oh," she said. "Well, could I bake plain white bread instead?"

"No!" I shouted into the receiver, taking her aback. Then I proceeded to tell her the story of Passover, its restrictions and commandments, and how we as Jews commemorate it.

"Wow!" she said. "There's more to it than I thought!"

Janet Silver Ghent
Janet Silver Ghent

Janet Silver Ghent, a retired senior editor at J., is the author of the forthcoming book “Love Atop a Keyboard: A Memoir of Late-life Love” (Mascot Press). She lives in Palo Alto and can be reached at [email protected].