September 18, 2020

To all that are celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, in our community over the next two days, I want to wish you and yours a good and sweet year! Shanah Tovah Umetukah!

In these uncertain times, I cannot help but truly reflect on Rabbi Isaiah Rothstein’s words in “Never Give Up on Humanity.” As Rabbi Rothstein notes, “On Rosh Hashanah, the first day of the month, we hear the shofar’s call for change, reminding us that the world is never immutable, no matter how fixed society might seem.” He continues:

As I write these words, I can’t help but think how different this Tishrei [the first month of the Jewish year] will be. As humanity prepares to mark its birthday, there are too many ways in which our planet faces an uncertain future. One has to wonder: Can the spiritual technology of Tishrei respond to a moment beset by civil unrest and profound polarization?

With multiple crises unfolding, the Jewish year 5780 has unmasked just how disparate the human experience is for people of different ages, locations, socioeconomic status, community, skin color and more. And yet, COVID-19 has also shown us all that there is a common link between all of us. Working to see ourselves in the other is like engaging in spiritual push-ups. And like physical push-ups, it is not always easy, but in the long run it’s worth it.

Though Rabbi Rothstein is speaking to Jewish people, I believe his call is for all of us: “not to ignore or repel the realities of life, but to remain vigilant in reimagining what is possible.” He offers three ways to go about this: 1. Loving and honoring yourself, 2. Considering your choices, actions, and inactions, and 3. Unlearning that which is harmful, unjust and untrue.

For many in the Jewish community, Rosh Hashanah, the ten days leading to Yom Kippur, and Yom Kippur provide opportunities to reconnect with family members and religious and cultural traditions. Though Covid-19 has complicated this, I think about a word that seems to roll off the tongue so easily these days—“flexibility.” As Rabbanit Dasi Fruchter and Marc Fein say in their article, “How to Celebrate the High Holidays at Home,” “Many of us might be grieving what can’t be this year, and that’s natural. But one way to look at this year’s High Holidays is to consider what becomes possible in this time.”

Today at 5 PM, I will listen for Rabbi Aaron Potek’s shofar’s blow from the rooftop of Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, across the street from my apartment building.

Shana Tovah,
Dr. Anthony Perry
Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion