If Yom Kippur is dominated by forgiveness, Rosh Hashanah has to be about resolutions.
The leaders of our community and our country share their thoughts
Laura Janner, Senior Rabbi of the Reform Synagogue
After the shofar blast echoes around our synagogues we declaim “today the world is born”, “hayom harat olam” three times. Through this prayer, we reflect on our failures and achievements from the last year and let them mould our own spiritual rebirth.
It may feel like New Year has fallen at exactly the right time here. Our community feels bruised after war in Israel and Gaza and concerns of growing anti-Semitism. This is the perfect time for drawing a line on the past year and for turning towards the renewal that the next year can bring. We can relish the chance to reaffirm hopes for a better year.
However, I believe that the difficulties of last year should not define our Rosh Hashanah. As British Jews, we have much to be joyful about. We live in a country that is free and cherishes difference. We have a robust and impactful public voice. We see a growing number of institutions – many cross communal – that offer cutting edge Jewish education and social justice. British Jewry is forward facing and dynamic.
So when we recite ‘hayom harat olam’ this Rosh Hashanah, as well as remembering last year’s challenges, we can also treasure our considerable successes. Shanaha tovah u’metukah.
Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi of Masorti Judaism UK.
May this Rosh Hashanah herald a year of healing. Again and again people have said how the world feels more violent, more irrational, more racist, more unpredictable and more frightening. Fear and uncertainty threaten to lead in turn to more intolerance and anger, frustration and hopelessness. Yet now, perhaps more than ever before, the world needs not hurtfulness or hatred but wisdom and compassion.
Many of our most important relationships are wounded. We will suffer increasingly because of how we treat the earth itself, and our partners on it, the animals, birds and fish. We will suffer because of social and economic injustice. We suffer because of the angers and misunderstandings between faith and faith, nation and nation, culture and culture.
Despite all the pressures and distractions, I hope that we will find within ourselves and inspire in each other the goodness, kindness, courage, creativity and moral imagination to bring new understanding and healing to the world.
Judaism teaches us to believe in life, hope, effort, and the human potential for goodness. In them lie the opportunities God has given us to work for a world of justice, compassion and peace. May we use those opportunities well in the coming year.
Vivian Wineman, President of the Board of Deputies.
Rosh Hashanah is about introspection and renewal. The Board, likewise, is reflecting on an extremely busy 5774, which has seen much advancement, but also continual challenges.
As the community’s representative leadership body we never stop challenging ourselves to do better, on your behalf.
In London we have been feeling rightly vulnerable in the wake of the substantial increase in anti-Semitic incidents during Operation Protective Edge.
We are a proud and visible community however and must not be cowed by anti-Semites. While continuing to display our Jewishness we should take the fight into their camp as the Board has done by getting Muslim organisations to condemn anti-Semitism and intimidatory action explicitly.
We are responding robustly in other ways as well. We not only contact party leaders on a regular basis – to tell them when they have got it right as well as wrong on Israel and anti Semitism among other issues – but have worked with grassroots, including through the work of our regional Deputies and through helping to arrange three rallies since July.
We have also taken part in dozens of media interviews during Operation Protective Edge, including national radio, BBC News, and national print publications, including being on the front page several times. We wish that this could be for good news stories, but – in the good times and the bad – we are the first responders to opinion formers.
Whether it be future communal planning, lobbying on Jewish rights, or in interfaith relations 5774 has been a significant year of achievement for the Board. Let’s hope that 5775 will be a year of peace for Israel and the Middle East and a successful one for the community.
Daniel Taub, Israel’s ambassador to the UK
As we come to the end of an enormously challenging year for Israel and for all those who care about her, my New Year’s resolution and the resolution I would offer to Jewish News readers is that we hold fast to the remarkable qualities we have seen displayed throughout this difficult period.
May the coming year be one in which we show the unity of purpose that brought together people from all sectors of the political spectrum and every quarter of the Jewish world to support Israel’s campaign against Hamas.
May we continue to show the dignity and courage that have been exhibited by all Israel’s citizens, forced to live their lives and raise their children within minutes of bomb shelters, and by the young people of the IDF, who have risked their lives to protect their families in the most challenging of circumstances.
May we also continue to demonstrate the courage of all those around the world who have found the strength to raise their voices in support and defence of the Israel they know and love.
Above all, may we remain resolute in our commitment to the positive vision that has guided us throughout our history: the vision of a vibrant, strong, energetic Israel contributing to humanity and living side by side with our neighbours in peace.
Danny Rich Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism
The past few months have challenged us all. Like so many, I felt conflicted by the tragedy playing out nightly on our TV screens.
Friends and family in Israel told me they were scared and would support their government in ‘ending the threat of rockets’, but any decent human being would have been anguished by the death, destruction and humiliation inflicted on the Palestinians.
A New Year offers hope of a new beginning – but progress depends on whether all those in the region, and those that support them in the UK, are prepared to take the risks and make the compromises necessary to secure a just and sustainable peace.
So this New Year I reflect on the words of the late Rabbi John Rayner: “It is not enough to pray for peace. We have to work for it: to challenge those who foster conflict and refute their propaganda; to ascertain and make known the truth, both when it confirms and when it runs counter to conventional views; to denounce injustice, not only when it is committed against us but also when it is committed against others; to defend human rights, not only our own but also theirs; to insist that peace requires sacrifice – of pride, or wealth, or territory; to practise and promote the way of moderation, compromise and reconciliation; and to build bridges of respect, understanding and trust…”
Rabbi Joseph Dwek & Portuguese Jews’ Congregation
ROSH HASHANAH is the day we celebrate and acknowledge all the world’s possibilities, dreams, and goals that God put into it at its conception. It assumes that the world has a purpose and a future and that all history is the story of the universe coming into itself.
In seeing the world this way, every day becomes a precious piece of a whole life. As we live our days, the degree of care we put into each of them directly affects the quality of the whole. The more we love, care, feel, think, focus, and learn, the more vibrant and vivid the life that emerges.
On Rosh Hashanah, we all take the time to pause and meditate on the path our lives are following. The sound of the shofar awakens us so that we may ask ourselves core questions about the course of our lives. Am I living consciously? Is it time for change?
Have I chosen to live my best possible life? On the anniversary of the world’s conception, we look at our current life superimposed against the backdrop of the life we wish to create.
Together with the Creator, we make these judgements. L’shana tova tekatevu vetehatemu – may we all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.