Ah...another year, another blog post!
I mentioned during the last Shabbat service of 2011 that I do not celebrate the start of the secular new year. I think the fact that I was raised without it was more due to my parents' teetotaling ways rather than any religious strictures in this matter. Nonetheless, I was pleased to recently come across this reminder of why Jews might find the hoopla of December 31st "a foreign affair" of sorts.
On Shabbat, I turned 2011's closing summation over to Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks (via his beautiful commentary on the parasha Vayigash). Now, I would like to turn 2012's opening remarks over to Gershom Gorenberg, the American born, Orthodox Israeli historian and journalist, via his Letter from Jerusalem: To a Progressive American Jewish Friend.
We here at Emanu-El had the challenging pleasure of engaging in an evening of learning and conversation with Gershom in November. Whether in person or through his two most recent excellent books - The Unmaking of Israel and The Accidental Empire (excerpts can be read in Slate - The Mystery of 1948), I say there is no better starting point for getting the measure of the current challenges facing Jews and Israelis than with him.
Gershom will not accept pessimism or fatalism - - they are to him merely expressions of one's weakness. And with 2012 already replete with news headlines about ultra-Orthodox radicalism in Israel, what resonated most deeply for me is Gershom's refutation that you:
...should feel tied to Israel only if it is already a progressive country. Think about that word: Progressives are people who work for progress....don’t give up. Get involved.
I hope 2012 is a good one for you, those you love, and for the entire house of Israel.