Monday, September 1, 2014 Elul 6, 5774

5766: A Year of Unity, A Year of Learning

September 29, 2005
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It is an intrinsic element of Judaism to approach the beginning of a New Year with introspection. During the Days of Awe, we look at ourselves and ponder what we did in the past year. It is just as necessary to perform the same act of self-examination as a community.

In conducting our communal cheshbon nefesh - a spiritual accounting of our lives - we must continue to embrace the Jewish future. How do we do that?

First, by continuing to fight for the State of Israel as it struggles to maintain itself in a sea of Arab hate and world indifference. In the aftermath of withdrawal from Gaza, Israel still faces the threat of Palestinian terrorism with little sense of optimism about the future of peace talks. In Europe, anti-Semitism grows and festers as a virulent disdain for Israel distorts world opinion. We must speak up about the importance of the U.S.-Israel alliance, and we must talk back to the media, and not let it get away with biased coverage and commentary.

But in doing so, we must also resist the temptation to further divide our already fragmented Jewish world. Disagreements over the correct policies for Israel - be they inspired by the concerns of the left or the right - have helped tear us apart in the past.

Let 5766 be a year in which we take a step back from the rhetorical abyss, and recognize the legitimacy of the views of our Jewish antagonists and grant them the respect we crave ourselves. We have no shortage of deadly enemies; let's remember that the foes of Zion are numerous enough without seeking to identify fellow Jews as allies of Hamas.

We must also not be distracted from our obligation to build the community via support for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. If we allow its funding to stagnate - or if disputes about the shape of philanthropic efforts cause it to decline - the result would be a disaster of historic proportions. The future of Jewish education and help for Jews in need, here and elsewhere, is at stake in this question.

For all of the optimism about the future, growing rates of assimilation and disaffiliation are inextricably linked to the fact that the majority of American Jews remain among the most Jewishly illiterate in our history.

This should motivate us to dedicate the coming year to the vital task of promoting Jewish education at all levels. It means that as a community, we must continue to work to improve access to day schools, which remain not only the most comprehensive option for Jewish education but the best investment in our future - and in the future of children and grandchildren. At the same time, we must continue to increase our support for synagogue Hebrew schools, which remain the choice of most Jewish familiesy.

But also of vital importance is the need for all of us - no matter the age - to resolve to enhance our own Jewish knowledge. Whether you are a beginner or a scholar, let 5766 be a year in which you improve your understanding of the Hebrew language, Torah, Jewish history, Israel, Holocaust studies and the rest of the vast treasure trove of our heritage.

May we all be inscribed for good in this coming year, and may we all find within ourselves the commitment to ensure that the sparks of Jewish life continue to burn brightly. Each of us has the power to shape and change Jewish history for the better over the course of the year to come. Let's not waste another moment before doing so.

From the publishers and staff of the Jewish Exponent to all of our readers and their families, may 5766 be a year of peace, health and happiness.

L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu!

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