Rosh Hashanah 2018: Shana tovah to the community!
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Rosh Hashanah 2018: Shana tovah to the community!

Communal and political leaders share their hopes and aspirations for a sweet and prosperous 5779

The Jewish News wishes all of our readers a healthy, happy and sweet New Year on Rosh Hashanah!
The Jewish News wishes all of our readers a healthy, happy and sweet New Year on Rosh Hashanah!

Theresa May, Prime Minister 

I would like to wish Jews across the United Kingdom and around the world a happy, peaceful and prosperous Rosh Hashanah.

This special time of prayer and celebration is also an opportunity for many Jewish families to reflect on the challenges of the past year while looking to the months ahead with renewed hope.

But it is also a time for all of us to celebrate the tremendous contribution that British Jews continue to make to their country. Whether in business, science, education, culture, or our armed forces, our Jewish community is an integral part of what makes Britain great.

Sadly, the past year has also shown us that the shameful scourge of anti-Semitism remains in this country. It’s something I’m determined to stamp out: this should be a country where everyone can succeed in life, regardless of their faith or background, and nobody should ever face discrimination, abuse or violence because of who they are.

So, as the Jewish New Year begins and the sound of the shofar is heard in synagogues around the UK,  I want to renew my unwavering vow to stand by our Jewish community now and for the years to come.

Happy new year.

Prime Minister Theresa May
(Photo credit: Chris Radburn/PA Wire)

Mark Regev, Israel’s Ambassador to the UK

As we herald the New Year with our families and friends, this time of joy gives us an opportunity to celebrate our achievements and reflect upon the challenges we face.

Read the Jewish News Rosh Hashanah supplement

British Jewry has undergone one of the most difficult years in its recent history. Anti-Semitism has cast a dark shadow over public life, and the Community Security Trust’s recent report documented a record number of anti-Semitic incidents. These threats will not disappear suddenly, and must continue to be fought with vigour and vigilance.

Israel’s 70th anniversary and the flourishing ties between our democracies offer us some good news. From the first official visit by a senior British Royal to the Jewish state by Prince William, to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s trip to mark the centenary of the Balfour Declaration alongside Prime Minister Theresa May, the Israel-UK partnership is undoubtedly strong and growing stronger.

I am proud that our countries’ ongoing cooperation in counterterrorism and intelligence is continuing to save British and Israeli lives, and that our bilateral trade has reached a record
£6.9 billion. In fact, Israeli investment in the UK has increased by an astonishing 97 percent in the last year alone, creating hundreds of new jobs in Britain.

In my two years as ambassador, I have been heartened by the Jewish community’s resilience in the face of strife, and encouraged by its optimism, ingenuity and dedication: qualities I know will serve us all well in the year to come. As we enter 5779, I wish you and your loved ones a shana tova.

Jonathan Goldstein, Chairman, Jewish Leadership Council

Last year, my pre-Rosh Hashanah message to JLC members came on the heels of our annual meeting with the prime minister. Highlighting the partnership we have across government, I spoke of our community’s robust institutions, about the importance of political engagement to promote Jewish life in the UK and about how it has never been better to be Jewish in Britain.

Jonathan Goldstein

Unfortunately, the intervening months have caused tremendous concern and, as we approach Rosh Hashanah once more, there is only one issue on our minds: the anti-Semitism prevalent in Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party.

Our community is under attack. In March, for the first time in decades, we all took to the streets demanding that those who purportedly preach anti-racism stand up against Jew-hate. Alas, we have been left wanting.

As I write, Labour has just adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism in its entirety, but they only did so kicking and screaming.

Moreover, adopting IHRA is not a panacea. Labour needs to root out the anti-Semites it has allowed to metastasise in its midst; and to ensure that Jews can be Jews in Labour as any other party member can be.

When we met with Mr Corbyn in late April together with the Board of Deputies and the Community Security Trust, we put six reasonable requests to him. He has failed on every single point and, since then, his associations with terrorists and his own views have been exposed for all to see. It is incompatible to fight anti-Semitism while befriending for decades anti-Semites and those who wish to harm Jews. It is incompatible to fight anti-Semitism while one’s actions speak to a deep belief that Israel has no right to exist and that her supporters are illegitimate citizens, foreigners living in the UK.

We are determined to stand up to hatred, the institutions I talked about last year have proven to be invaluable and the defence of our community is a reflection of our resilience.

Despite this challenge, we should be proud that we live in a place and time in Jewish history when we have the ability to fight for ourselves and many friends who stand with us. We will continue working for our community to ensure a successful year ahead. We will not allow our wonderful vibrant community to be defined by those who do not have our interests at heart.

Shana tova and gmar chatima tova.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner, Senior Rabbi, Movement of Reform Judaism

It would be too easy to say this year has been challenging. We all know there are worrying trends in our society and community. The continuing, disgraceful anti-Semitism within some sections of the Labour Party; our increasing polarisation and inability to communicate with ‘the other side’ concerning developments in Israel – we are all too aware of the struggles we continue to address into the new year of 5779.

Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner

To focus only on these negatives would do our community a disservice. These problems, however serious, cannot monopolise our attention. This has also been a year in which some of our charities have reached new heights, where we have seen women make huge strides in communal leadership, and where we have come together as one to mark major anniversaries such as Balfour 100 and Israel 70. Even in facing the negatives, we have shown our strength and resolve. There are positives to build on in the year ahead.

It is so well-known that it has become a joke: Jews love to focus on the negative. We are right to reach this Rosh Hashanah with a lot on our collective minds. It is right that we continue to take robust action in the face of adversity. It is also a time to celebrate the tremendous achievements we have accomplished together. For every challenge we face, we have been given countless blessings. I hope that this year we can cherish every one of them.

Rabbi Joseph Dweck, Senior Rabbi, The S&P Sephardi Community 

One of the great highs of this year was the celebration of the Balfour Declaration centennial. It not only marked the dawning of the rebirth of Israel, but also the deep ties Britain had with its inception. The week of celebrations ended with a candlelit service in the hallowed sanctuary of Britain’s oldest synagogue, Bevis Marks, the crown jewel of my community.

Rabbi Joseph Dweck

It was Britain that made the declaration in favour of a Jewish homeland, and Britain who fought to end the wicked tyranny of Nazi Germany. For a golden hour in world history, the glory of the world’s goodness and light were the British crown and the Union Jack.

It is disheartening, however, to witness in Britain a growing darkness. The spectre of anti-Semitism returns to haunt us from within its Labour Party. The Jews of Britain are rightfully anxious and distraught. The country’s future teeters on a precipice. On one side, the firm ground of its historic strength and leadership towards freedom and justice and, on the other, the dark abyss of hatred  prejudice from which it will not recover.

We can and must vote against it. But as people in covenant with God, we must couple our political clout with our spiritual strength. This Rosh Hashanah, the call of our shofar in every synagogue must be coupled with the heartfelt pleas of those hearing it – the hearts of Britain’s Jews – to God, that Britain not fall to the evils against which she risked her best and brightest to defend. May the blast of the shofar herald hope for the future of Britain and the Jewish people.

Marie van der Zyl, President, Board of Deputies

5778 will be remembered as the year the community came together to say ‘Enough is Enough’ to anti-Semitism.

It was unprecedented to see so many from all parts of the community join like-minded non-Jews at Westminster in March to protest against the anti-Semitism that is tolerated in our country’s official party of opposition.

I was gratified by the speed of the response from the 2,000 people who travelled to Westminster to stand with more than 30 MPs and friends from other faith communities. Never has our community made a more powerful statement. We will never agree on everything, but there is a right and a wrong way to disagree.
While we must fight against prejudice,  much of my work as Board president is  promoting projects aiming  for a positive outcome and I prioritise interfaith work, in particular, creating links with Muslim partners. For Israel’s 70th anniversary,  we have been promoting a dialogue for peace through Invest in Peace with Christian communities. Prince William’s visit to Israel showed he is a man with a genuine warmth for the Jewish people and, going into 5779, amid all the political turmoil this year, the image of the Duke, both at the Western Wall, and playing football on the beach, gives me wonderful memories to take into the new year. May this Rosh Hashanah bring you, your families and all of Am Yisrael, health, strength and peace.

Marie van der Zyl

Rabbi Danny Rich, Chief Executive, Liberal Judaism 

The Jewish community celebrates its highs: the inspirational work of Jewish Care, the transformative UJIA-sponsored Israel tours, the committed work of rabbis and congregants  and the solid political work of the Board of Deputies – to name but a few.  Nevertheless, the month of Elul and the coming Yamim Noraim are more suited to a time of introspection and an acknowledgement of what we have failed to do.

Rabbi Danny Rich

And perhaps, for me, the saddest low in the Jewish community as we head into 5779 is our inability to tolerate difference within. We seem unable to hold passionate but civilised conversations about, for example, Israel and Zionism, the Labour Party and anti-Semitism. I was brought up in a Jewish home where difference and debate were welcomed  to sharpen the minds of the interlocutors and perhaps teach something to one or more participants. However heated or passionate the debate became, it never lowered itself to insult, anger and the questioning of the motives of any person who held a differing opinion. It is a cause of great sadness to me that in the past year the British Jewish community has appeared unable to model such civilised debate.

Al Chet Shechatanu L’Fanecha: For the sin we have committed against You by insulting our opponents and resorting to anger instead of rational debate, forgive us. We can and must vote against it. But as people in covenant with God, we must couple our political clout with our spiritual strength. At this Rosh Hashanah, the call of our shofar in every prayer hall must be coupled with the heartfelt pleas of those hearing it – the hearts of Britain’s Jews – to God, that Britain not fall to the evils against which she risked her best and brightest to defend. May the blast of the shofar herald hope for the future of Britain and the Jewish people.

Rabbi Nicky Liss, Highgate Synagogue & Chair, Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue

Preparing for the High Holy Days gives us an opportunity to reflect on the past year and, over the past 12 months, our community has enjoyed some memorable highlights, but faced a number of challenges.

Rabbi Nicky Liss

My highlight of the year was the long-awaited Royal visit to Israel as part of her 70th anniversary celebrations. The vision of Prince William standing at the Kotel with the Chief Rabbi was enormously significant and inspiring.

Our wonderful charities have increased our care for and contribution to the Jewish community, wider British society and beyond. Interfaith initiatives are also growing in quantity and quality, one of which enabled me to fulfil a lifetime ambition of hitting a boundary at Lord’s during a multifaith cricket match in July!

Unfortunately, this year has been dominated by the very real anti-Semitism crisis festering in the Labour Party, and I was saddened to have to help coordinate the communal letter that rocketed the issue back to the national debate. We have also seen a rise in hate speech (primarily on social media) at both extremes of the political spectrum.

Because of this, it would be easy to overlook our communal achievements this year. Furthermore, the Jewish community has stood impressively resolute and united throughout.
I would like to thank the Board of Deputies, Jewish Leadership Council and Community Security Trust for their strong leadership, and wish them and all other communal bodies, as well as the entire Jewish community, a year filled with only good health, success and tranquillity.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg, Senior Rabbi, Masorti Judaism UK

The connection between Gareth Southgate and Yom Kippur won’t seem obvious.

I rarely watch football. All I saw of the World Cup were three-minute highlights. But I remember when Gareth Southgate missed his penalty in Euro ’96. I wondered how he could live with the failure, the public humiliation. It would haunt him forever. Then, 22 years later, he led England to the semi-finals with confidence and hope.

Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg

Chet, the most used word on Yom Kippur for sin, means missing the target. We confess our misses and mistakes in order to learn and change. I know nothing about Gareth Southgate’s inner journey, but I wish our generation could learn from past errors like he has.

This year has highlighted two vast wrongs. The first is racism and anti-Semitism. It’s not only the hurtful way the Labour leadership has failed to face its reality. It’s the growth of xenophobia, hate speech and violence worldwide. We will survive only if we confront our bigotry and create societies that uphold liberty, equality and justice for all. We must stand up and speak out for these ideals here, in Israel, and across the globe.

The second is plastic and pollution. Rosh Hashanah is the world’s birthday. One doesn’t celebrate someone’s special day, then trash their home. The world belongs to God, and to our children and children’s children. We have no right to ruin it, and urgent reason to clean it up. It’s a basic question of survival.

I pray that we, who have missed so many chances, learn well from our mistakes.

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