A Message of Hope for the New Year
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From the Desk of Stephen H. Hoffman
Accounting for your soul – Cheshbon Ha'nefesh. It's one of the major themes of Rosh Hashanah. As the sun sets tonight, we will greet the New Year, not with fireworks and champagne, but with reflection and contemplation. We will be entering the ten Days of Awe leading to Yom Kippur.
In these ten days, our tradition tells us we are being judged by the Almighty and our "sentences" for the coming year are being drafted. So, it's time to plead our case.
When pleading our personal cases, it's common to look back at the year just ended and ask ourselves, "Could I have been a better person, kinder, more compassionate? Was I a good friend, parent, child, sister, brother? Was I fair in my business dealings?" And so forth. Lots of questions to ponder and maybe some things to set right or on a new course.
Tradition tells us that even nations are judged – which will thrive and which will fall down. Is it also true of communities? If yes, our Jewish community should also examine itself in the coming days. Are we caring compassionately for each other? Do we provide meaningfully for the hungry among us? The sick, the infirm? Are we successfully educating our children? When someone is troubled, are we easily there for him or her?
As the President of the Federation, I ask myself those questions on top of my personal accounting – actually they're pretty intertwined! During the next ten days, I will be doubting myself on the personal questions at every turn. But, when I contemplate our work as a community, I have no doubt we have done our best, even as I believe we can "raise the bar" and do even better.
You, as a member of the Federation, have sustained a Jewish community that has helped to feed hundreds of thousands of Jews who needed us in Cleveland and the former Soviet Union. In recent weeks when thousands of Jews in Eastern Ukraine fled their homes, you gave us the resources to feed them, shelter them, help them prepare for the winter or leave for Israel.
We did this through our international partners, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee (JDC) and the Jewish Agency.
Our same partners helped us respond when the people of Israel were under attack for 50 days this past summer. With the emergency funds we raised, our partners provided care for elderly under fire, took children away from the incessant missile attacks, and provided trauma counseling to relieve the stress.
Our partners could act because we, you, made it possible for them to exist, to serve our people before the crisis, year in and year out.
It's the same with our local agencies. When a person or family has a crisis and needs help right then, our agencies are there for them because of you.
As we gather at family dining tables, congregate in our synagogues, and talk of and pray for the New Year ahead, the supporters of this community, our Federation, can add a little extra merit on our side of the ledger. Together, we are stronger and make this a better world.
May you and all your loved ones be inscribed for a New Year of good health, fulfillment, and joy. And may our family in Israel be inscribed for a year of peace.
Stephen H. Hoffman