Shana Tovah from Eric S. Goldstein

On Rosh Hashanah, the blast of the shofar is meant to awaken our souls,
drowning out the noise of everyday life — at least momentarily.

In these days marked by ever-increasing polarization and incivility, that noise can feel especially deafening. It takes courage today to eschew divisiveness, to actively join others with whom we may disagree, to come together across the political divide to address our community’s greatest challenges.

And while the Jewish community in America has so much to be grateful for, our challenges are too great to stand divided. Growing anti-Semitism across the country — and in our own backyards — requires a concerted response. The need of the many among us living in poverty and despair demands collective action. Jews searching for meaning and purpose deserve access to a more welcoming, inclusive community.

With so much to do, I hope you’ll join us.

For more than a century, UJA has been the backbone of the New York Jewish community. We bring together people of every type and background to address our most pressing challenges, and work to foster a greater sense of Jewish connection — in New York, in Israel, and around the world.

“What binds us?” we ask. The answers are complicated, and beautiful.

For me, “binding” brings to mind the mitzvah of wearing tefillin — an important daily ritual in my life for over 46 years. In the biblical verse familiar to many of us as the source of the Shema, we’re instructed to love God and to teach the words of the Torah to our children. The text goes on to command us, in an allusion to tefillin, to “bind them [i.e. the words of the Torah] as a sign on your hand and let them serve as a symbol on your forehead” (Deuteronomy 6:8) — all designed to draw us closer to God and God’s teachings.

In a similar vein, the prayer we recite when putting on the tefillin commits us to God — and, by extension, to each other — b’tzedek u’v’mishpat u’v’chesed u’v’rachamim, “in righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, and mercy.”

In these times, this prayer powerfully resonates as a personal challenge to all of us. Can we begin the New Year committed to treating everyone — those we agree with and particularly those we do not — with righteousness, justice, lovingkindness, and mercy?

As you read the essays that follow, we invite you to consider for yourself what binds us to one another — and what we might each do in 5780 to bring our community closer together.

L’shanah tovah u’metukah. May it be a sweet and peaceful new year for all.


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