Progressively Speaking: Looking ahead to the new year
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Progressively Speaking: Looking ahead to the new year

Good riddance to 2016, but what is there to look forward to in 2017?

The past year has not been a good one for Progressive Jews, or indeed progressives of any stripe.

After the hatred unleashed during the UK referendum, the US presidential election and various votes around Europe, I’m sure we will all be glad to see the back of 2016.

There have been so many acts of terrorism, it’s hard even to recall them all – the most recent being the sickening attack in Berlin that killed 12 people, while the tragedy of the battle for Aleppo became more horrific with every passing day.

Jews have seen a rise in anti-Semitism in the UK while Progressive Jews are under attack in Israel both verbally and physically – the most extreme example being the graffiti death threats in Ra’anana issued to Progressive Jewish leaders.

And then there are the large number of people we have lost through death, including our beloved teacher and mentor, Rabbi Lionel Blue OBE.

So, given all this, how can we look ahead to 2017?

The beauty of Judaism is in how it constantly challenges us and how we respond.

Just as in the happiest times, we are commanded to remember the world is not yet redeemed, so in the most difficult and challenging times we have a responsibility to find the beauty and potential in the world.

My personal inspiration has always been Leonard Cohen, whom we also sadly lost in 2016. He famously sang: “There is a crack in everything / That’s how the light gets in.”

Similarly, Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik explained it is not about trying to understand why God lets these horrors happen but about asking ourselves how we will respond to them.

For 2017, we must look beyond what affects us directly as Jews and ask by what means can we join with others – especially those who are under threat – to form one global community.

Rabbi Charley Baginsky is Liberal Judaism’s director of strategy and partnerships

 

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