By Rabbi Alvin M. Sugarman,
Rosh Hashana is always a time of reflection and renewal, a
time when old patterns are abandoned, and new ideas considered.
In Ezekiel, we are called on to "get [ourselves] a new
heart and a new spirit" -- ideally, we bring a measure of
healing to our world, and evolve, as individuals and
Such change can only happen, however, if we are open to the
possibility -- if we can look past the failures of the past and
envision a different future. Alexander Graham Bell once said
that when one door closes, another opens -- but we are often so
busy looking with regret upon the closed door, that we do not
see those which have opened before us.
It can seem that the search for peace between Israel and her
neighbors has been little more than a series of closed doors.
How many times have we felt that we were surely on the road to a
peaceful solution -- and how many times has the door to peace
been slammed shut?
But we are Jews -- we must not dwell on the closed door;
rather we should search for an opportunity to open a new one. As
Maimonides said centuries ago, we are not required to complete
the task of tikkun olam, repairing the world -- but neither are
we free to retire from the task.
We are alive today to begin another New Year because we have
always refused to give up. Though history would have written us
off many times, here we are preparing once again to hear the
stirring sound of the shofar. This year, as always, the almost
mystical power of the shofar speaks to the deepest part of our
souls, awakening us to the best that lies within us, and to the
possibility of what could yet be: "He has told you what is good
and what the Lord requires," as Micah says. "Only to do justice
and to love goodness."
This year, we must allow the shofar to recall to us not only
the new possibilities within ourselves, but in the Middle East,
that land of closed doors.
January will see a new administration in Washington: a new
beginning, a new president, a new possibility for peace. Whoever
is elected, it's up to us, as American citizens who love both
this country and Israel deeply, to do everything in our power to
encourage him to make peace efforts a true diplomatic priority.
We must urge a rejection of the old policies of quiet
acquiescence to the status quo, and call for an embrace of a
vigorous pursuit of reconciliation -- a new heart, and a new
spirit. We must remind our new President that true change only
comes when it is pursued sincerely, and tell him that we will
stand with him if he turns his back on the disappointments of
the past and creates new opportunities for peace and security
between Israel and the Palestinians.
We do not yet know who will be standing behind the open door
of the Oval Office, nor do we yet know what Mid-East policies
will come from behind that door. But we do know that as
individuals and as members of the American Jewish community, we
must do everything we can to influence the new Administration to
advance a two-state solution that honors the common humanity and
yearnings for peace of Israelis and Palestinians alike.
As our year turns, let us also dedicate ourselves to
achieving a turn in the fortunes of the land we hold so close to
our hearts, and this Rosh Hashanah, may we indeed "be remembered
in the book of life, blessing, and peace."
Suggestions for Rosh Hashanah:
- Discuss Brit Tzedek's Rabbinic Letter to Senators Obama and McCain
at gatherings, in the context of the holiday's spirit of
renewal. What needs to change, in order to bring peace and
security to Israel? How can we as a community encourage the
necessary changes in the next Administration? Read the letter FAQs to aid you in your
- Contribute generously in support of Brit
Tzedek's important rabbinic letter campaign. Our full-page ad
will appear on the October 3 back cover of the
Forward. Several op-eds by signers will be
published over the holidays. We will be pitching a news story
about the letter to over 100 news radio stations across the
country next week concentrating on areas where we have many
signers. We're recruiting additional signers over the next
month and plan to hand-deliver the letter to the
Resolve to increase your activism in the coming year. If
you regularly respond to Brit Tzedek Action Alerts, resolve also
to forward them to five friends; if you have written a letter to
the editor in the past, resolve to do so again, and urge friends
to do likewise; if you have attended Brit Tzedek activities,
resolve to become an active member of your chapter and join a
Brit Tzedek home district meeting with Senators and
Congressional Representatives. For more information,
- Reflect on the significance the Jewish tradition of
admitting and actively righting our wrongs before God, each
other, and ourselves; what responsibility do we bear to right
the wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? What can
individual Jews do in the process of righting these wrongs?
Rabbi Alvin M.
Sugarman is Rabbi Emeritus of The Temple
in Atlanta and a member of Brit Tzedek's Rabbinic Cabinet.
He has served as president of the Atlanta Rabbinical
Association and the Southeast Association of the Central
Conference of American Rabbis, as well as Treasurer of the
Central Conference of American Rabbis. Rabbi Sugarman has
served as a chaplain to Jewish inmates at the U.S. Penitentiary
and participated in numerous civic and religious organizations,
and advisory councils since the early 1970's.
Brit Tzedek v'Shalom, The Jewish Alliance for Justice and
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Phone: (312) 341-1205
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