Communal and political leaders share their hopes and aspirations for a sweet and prosperous 5776….
Ephraim Mirvis, The Chief Rabbi:
There will be a special atmosphere next year when the nation marks the Queen’s 90th birthday. Similar to 2012, when we celebrated the Diamond Jubilee, there will be a national sense of great pride and an instinctive desire to honour our longest-serving monarch in all of her majesty and grace. Opinion polls from 2012 placed approval ratings for the Monarchy at 85 percent – an extraordinary illustration of the impact these events can have on the relationship between the Queen and her people.
Rosh Hashanah provides us with that same opportunity for celebration of and connection to the ultimate Monarch, the King of Kings. The esteemed Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik used to tell a story about his childhood in Chaslavitch, in eastern Lithuania.
On the day before Rosh Hashanah, the students observed a very obvious difference in one of their cheder teachers, a Chassid who appeared to glow with exceptional contentment and joy. When they enquired about the change in their teacher’s demeanour, he said: “Tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah, the night that we call Karanatzia Nacht (Coronation Night), when we place a crown on the head of God, so to speak – and who gets the honour of placing the crown? You, me, the tailor, the shoemaker and any one of us who would like to do so.”
On Rosh Hashanah, we are offered an opportunity, not only to honour and celebrate the great majesty of God, but to open our hearts to Him, with all of our vulnerabilities and aspirations for the coming year.
During 5775, we have been confronted by many tragic events, such as the murderous attacks in Paris, which were followed by attacks in Copenhagen just weeks later, through to the murderous attack by a fellow Jew at a gay pride event in Jerusalem and the firebombing by Jews of a Palestinian family home. There has also been much to celebrate during 5775. We experienced a remarkable Shabbat UK, which touched the lives of some 100,000 people and left us so excited for the next project in October, and we have witnessed new life being breathed into Jewish communities throughout Britain.
This Rosh Hashanah, may we all be blessed with a meaningful and inspiring celebration of the eternal reign of our Creator so that He might bless us with a peaceful and prosperous 5776. With best wishes for a ketiva vechatima tova.
Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi S&P Sephardi community:
At the beginning of every new year we look forward to 12 months of strength, achievement and blessings. We develop ideas about what we would like to do and how we might like to live. Inevitably though, life presents itself to us with situations that were not part of our plan. When that occurs, it is the manner in which we respond that makes the difference between merely existing and actually living life.
When we commit to being consciously present in the events of our epic unfolding stories, even though we are not the sole authors, we expose ourselves to serendipitous delights that we might never have anticipated. Life’s events, both pleasant and painful, offer us an education unmatched by any formal system.
So do we choose life? On Rosh Hashanah, this very question is posed to us for our consideration.
Choosing life does not mean that we opt to simply exist, rather we choose to consciously engage with all that life has to offers us. We are coming from a year in which the world has been through great hardship and suffering.
Humanitarian crises, along with great financial uncertainties, have become a regular aspect of our consciousness. It is at times like these that choosing life is essential.
In doing so, we commit to making life better, not only for ourselves but for the entire world; in lending our hand as partners to the Almighty, we help to build a world of grace, beauty and perfection.
On behalf of the S&P Sephardi community, I wish a sweet and blessed new year to all the readers of Jewish News.
Laura Janner-Klausner Senior Rabbi Reform Movement:
As British Jews, we proudly self-identify as part of the diversity and difference that makes Britain great. Of course, Jews are not only an essential building block of modern Britain.
We have ourselves benefitted from its rich tapestry of backgrounds and beliefs. Britain has been a friend to its Jews and an incredible incubator of Jewish culture, cross-communalism and innovation.
Initially, I was greatly concerned when I read about rises in the number of incidents in the Community Security Trust’s annual report on anti-Semitism.
It suggests that our gratitude and love for Britain is not reciprocated.
However, delving beyond the surface, as the CST strongly suggest we do, one thing is clear. The rise is most likely to reflect more reporting of incidents, rather than a significant increase in the number of anti-Semitic incidents taking place. The results reveal more and more people are coming forward and reporting hate crime against Jews.
They show we are being listened to. They show that Britain cares about Jews just as Jews care about Britain, even in the most uncomfortable and unfortunate moments. As we enter another new year, we can celebrate this symmetry – of being integral to the patchwork of Britain and loving this and being appreciated in return. That really is something sweet to cherish.
Danny Rich Senior Rabbi, Liberal Judaism:
Let us not doubt it – life is good to the overwhelming majority of Jewish News readers. London and its surrounding areas hold such delights: parks and architectural gems, a diverse menu of theatre, film, dance, music and eateries to suit all and every taste, under-appreciated public services and innovative private businesses, and thoughtful neighbours and caring communities.
Much that is true of London could be said of other parts of the United Kingdom, of the width and breadth of Europe, and of the land of Israel, to which our thoughts turn as the shofar reminds us of the earliest celebrations of our people. Yet the High Holy Day season demands a realistic and reflective look around us.
In London itself, we live among victims of neglect or violence, thousands of refugees have arrived in Europe and, further afield, millions are trapped in fractured societies.
As we confess Ashamnu: We have sinned, so do we pledge that we can, and will, do better in the coming year to ensure that all may share in our good fortune, whether they live close to us in London or further afield.
On behalf of the staff, rabbis, board of officers and constituents of Liberal Judaism may I wish you, the readers and staff of Jewish News, a hopeful 5776 and a viable and successful future for the inhabitants of the globe wherever they have the chance to be born or to live.
Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism:
On behalf of Masorti Judaism, I wish everyone a good and happy year. I hope this will be a year in which we find the inspiration to do what is just, compassionate and generous. I pray it will be a year of learning to care better for each other and for the earth itself.
In a world of constant competition, I hope our hearts will be open to the needs of the weak, of refugees fleeing for their lives, of the physically vulnerable and disabled, of those who lack economic strength but simply want to see their family happy and thriving, of all who struggle.
I pray it will be a year of peace, in which we respect each other and our aspirations across and beyond the divisions of religion and race. I hope it will be a year in which we find meaning and happiness in our lives through caring for one another.
I pray that this will be a year of true progress in living with respect and harmony for the earth itself, for one another and for all existence.
May this be a year of blessing for us, for all Israel and all humankind.
David Cameron, Prime Minister:
I want to send my very best wishes to everyone in the Jewish community here in Britain and around the world as you celebrate this new year.
The High Holy Days offer moments to reflect as a community on the year that has passed and to make plans for the year ahead. I deeply admire the way Jewish communities emphasise their responsibility for creating a better, fairer society for everyone.
This is one of the reasons the community has made such an immeasurable contribution to all areas of British life.
As Jewish communities unite in prayer across the world, thoughts will turn to the tragic loss of life that we have seen following a number of horrific and abhorrent anti-Semitic attacks over the past year. Jewish communities must not be left to live in fear. As prime minister, I will do everything I can to stamp out such hatred, now and in the future. “And I will stand by Britain’s promise to remember the Holocaust.
The UK Holocaust Memorial Foundation, which I set up with cross party support, is already undertaking urgent work to capture the testimony of British Holocaust survivors and to ensure that the lessons of the darkest chapter of our history are never forgotten.
There is no more important task than working together to create a world free from prejudice and hate in all its forms. I wish everyone a very sweet new year.
Shana tova and a ketivah v’chatima tova.
Harriet Harman MP, Acting Leader, Labour Party
I would like to wish the Jewish community in Britain and around the world a very happy and peaceful new year as we approach Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
This is a time of reflection and contemplation on what can be done to help our communities thrive and flourish in the year ahead.
I wish you well over the fast and a happy new year. Shana tova.
Tim Farron MP Leader, Liberal Democrats
As Jews the world over prepare for the Days of Awe, I want to wish every one of you a happy and healthy new year. I admire the opportunity which this time offers to reflect on the year just past and to set new goals for the year ahead.
This has been a tumultuous year for the Liberal Democrats and yet, despite the election result, there has never been a greater need for a strong liberal voice in Britain.
Many in the Jewish community share with us liberal values, as well as many of my personal values as a committed Christian.
We share in common a belief in individual liberty and the importance of education. We know what it means to be a stranger in a strange land, and we accept the responsibility to care for one another, recognising that nothing restricts a person’s freedom like poverty, poor housing or poor life chances.
I look forward to working with all of our Jewish members, and the wider Jewish community, to promote these values we share in 5776. Shana tova.
Jonathan Arkush, President, Board of Deputies
It goes without saying that this has been an eventful year for the Jews – there are very few uneventful ones. However, the Board – both before and since my election as president in May – has been active in a wide variety of areas and the challenges have been coming thick and fast.
We have worked closely with the government to ensure that our community is protected. The good relations we have fostered led to Home Secretary Theresa May and the then Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles attending our monthly Board meeting to reassure our community in the wake of the terrorist attacks against Jews in Paris in January.
In July, when a small far-right group threatened to rally in Golders Green, we felt that the whole community should demonstrate its resolve against bigotry and the Board, in partnership with the London Jewish Forum and HOPE not Hate, with the support of the Community Security Trust, formed Golders Green Together to turn a hateful occasion into a positive outcome for our community.
We also acted against attempts to boycott Israel and anti-Semitism masquerading as anti-Zionism. Rev Stephen Sizer has now been disciplined by the Church of England after one rant too many. And after Board action, an anti-Israel conference at Southampton University was cancelled.
Ahead of May’s General Election, the Board’s Jewish Manifesto and its 10 Commitments, which encapsulated the key aims of the document, received videos of support from all three main party leaders. Jewish core beliefs and practices are not currently threatened in the UK and that is the way we want to keep things – we will work to ensure our traditions are preserved.
I hope 5776 is a peaceful one for our community. We will continue to represent your interests as only a democratically elected body can.
Eitan Na’eh Charge D’Affaires, Israeli Embassy
I am delighted to send my very warmest wishes to the readers of Jewish News and the entire UK Jewish community for a very happy and prosperous new year. We enter the new year during a period of change, and with a sense of renewed optimism.
This week we welcomed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the UK for the first time in two years. His visit not only highlighted the shared ideals and deep friendship that bind our countries together, but also laid the foundations for new bilateral projects and economic opportunities.
We look forward to advancing our cooperation under the leadership of a new ambassador, whom we are eager to welcome to London in the coming weeks. In the endeavour to build bilateral ties, there is no more inspirational sector of British society than the Jewish community.
Jewish individuals, businesses, and charities in the UK continue to do incredible work with counterparts in Israel, joining forces not only to create new innovations and overcome mutual challenges, but also to demonstrate the enormous potential of Israel-UK cooperation that has still to be realised.
In a public arena where the delegitimisation of Israel remains common, these constructive efforts towards progress remain one of our greatest assets in securing a peaceful and prosperous future for Israel, the UK, and the entire Middle East.
We truly appreciate our bond with the UK Jewish community, and look forward to deepening our friendship and our cooperation further during the year ahead.
Shana tova umetuka.