In an unusual twist of the calendar, this year’s High Holidays, the most sacred stretch of time in the Jewish cycle, are rapidly approaching. Next week, beginning the evening of Sept. 4, Rosh Hashanah lands on the heels of Labor Day, colliding with the opening of most school districts. Before we’ve barely said goodbye to summer, we embark on that annual ritual of cheshbon nefesh, an accounting of our lives.
The Days of Awe are rich in meaning and metaphor; they provide us the opportunity to reflect on both the pain of the past and the promise of the future. But as we approach this period of transition and reflection, we are reminded that although change is rarely easy, it is necessary for growth.
We are urged to look inward and assess what has transpired, what we need to let go of and how we want to act differently going forward.
As a community, too, the chagim provide an opportunity to take stock. Among our institutions, we are experiencing a plethora of transitions, including leadership changes at many of our organizations and synagogues. New figures are in place or coming soon to the American Jewish Committee, the Anti-Defamation League, Perelman Jewish Day School, Torah Academy, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and several area synagogues. And a search committee is assiduously working to find the next CEO for the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.
Beyond these changes in leadership, many of our once-venerable and thriving institutions are being forced to reassess their futures. Economic and demographic pressures are wreaking havoc with the model of Jewish life that defined our community structure for so long.
Yes, change is inevitable in both our personal and communal lives. But that doesn’t make it easy. As the saying goes: “The only people who like change are wet babies.”
But we also know intuitively, as Darwin was paraphrased as saying: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.”
This truism must apply to our communal landscape as well. The angst that accompanies many of the inevitable transitions are justified. But angst alone will not spawn creative solutions to grow and revitalize our rapidly changing community.
So as we approach Rosh Hashanah 5774 and celebrate, according to our tradition, the birthday of the world, it is incumbent upon us to dig deep, to be the change agents we need to grow personally and communally.
May it be a sweet and fulfilling new year for all. Shanah tovah.