The New Year 5769: Challenges of Hope


Another Jewish New Year — 5769 — is about to begin. Once again, our High Holidays can rightly be called “The Days of Awe” because of the many challenges and hopes confronting us as Americans and as Jews. Indeed, recent events have caused considerable anxiety and even abject fear over their implications:


* The United States just marked the seventh anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center in New York, at the Pentagon and in Pennsylvania at the hands of Osama bin Laden’s terrorist group Al Qaeda. To this day, bin Laden apparently remains alive and able to elude capture. While no other terrorist attacks on American soil have transpired, the threat to innocent American citizens continues.

* In very recent days, the financial and economic stability of the United States has been battered by daily reports of venerated financial institutions and entities going bankrupt or being bailed out by emergency government rescues. Firms like Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, American International Group (AIG), which have been around generations, have virtually collapsed. The financial stability of the United States seems to be in freefall and we are deeply concerned. History has proven that Jews and other minorities are especially vulnerable to being scapegoated during times of economic distress, as was the case during the Great Depression of the 1930s. We pray that history will not repeat itself.

* On the international scene, Russia’s reckless and brazen invasion of Georgia, along with continued potential nuclear weapons threats from Iran and North Korea, continue to threaten global stability. In times of sudden and violent disruptions in the world order, Jews are often caught in the middle. They have been in Georgia. Fortunately, we can provide direct support to Jews in Georgia and other distressed regions by contributing to the Jewish Federation’s Georgia Relief Emergency Fund.

* In the State of Israel, the terrorist organization Hamas, which refuses to recognize Israel, continues its iron grip on the Gaza Strip. Moreover, while the period of “calm” negotiated between Israel and Hamas by Egypt has reduced the violence, groups like Islamic Jihad, which claim independence from Hamas, continue periodic rocket attacks and suicide bombing attacks against targets in Israel.

* The situation in Israel and among its neighbors has been complicated by the weakness of Israel’s own government, which is in transition. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has relinquished his post because of a investigation of alleged corruption, and any of three potential candidates — Tzipi Livni of Kadima, Ehud Barak of Labor and Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud — could emerge as Olmert’s successor. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, whose “control” is limited to the West Bank, is regarded as too weak to deliver on a peace agreement, regardless of who heads Israel’s government.

* In this nation, as in Israel, we are in the midst of a spirited and often acrimonious election campaign to determine who will be the next president and who will control Congress during these volatile times. While the St. Louis Jewish Light does not endorse or oppose candidates for public office, we can point out that American Jews, like all Americans, are concerned about a vast array of issues. We take to heart the reminder that our right to vote must never be taken for granted.

These are indeed “times that try our souls.” These are times which cry out for strong leadership at every level of government. And these are times that call for a strong and unified nation that can rise to meet any and all challenges. This country has endured a Great Depression and two world wars. In his first inaugural address, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself.” This nation emerged from the Great Depression and World War II stronger and more united than ever.

As we prepare to observe the High Holidays 5759, let us reflect on how we have been able to overcome our fears in past critical times, and resolve to do all we can as citizens to carry us through the challenges that lie ahead.

May it be the Almighty’s will!