It Is Up to Us to Write the Next Chapter

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This time in the Hebrew calendar is known for heshbon hanefesh – accounting of the soul, a time of self-reflection. Every year is unique, thus making this annual time to reflect a special opportunity to ask ourselves – did we do enough this past year to assist others in our family, community, and world? And what changes would we like to make in the new year in order to heal, learn, and grow?

On the one hand, there is a tremendous sense of pride that permeates our diverse community right now. Jewish Cleveland is emerging stronger and more deeply connected despite the tremendous individual and communal challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. You can see it at community-wide celebrations and commemorations. You can hear it in everyday conversations with family, friends, and neighbors. And it fills the air of our schools, synagogues, and other Jewish organizations. We are energized! We know there is no limit to what we can accomplish when we work together.

At the same time, we watch the continued coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine with horror, as the largest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II painfully unfolds. Similarly, antisemitism – at times disguised as anti-Israel rhetoric – continues to spread throughout our country and around the world. Sadly, you do not have to look too long or listen too closely to find the conspiracies fueling this new era of Jew hatred. All of this leaves us feeling drained, defeated, and demoralized.

As we look within at a time of such extremes, we need to draw strength from community to stay focused on moving forward.

Last week, we traveled throughout Israel with a bus full of talented, curious business leaders of all faiths from our general Cleveland community. Among other things, such trips are critical to our efforts to create mutual respect and deeper understanding across the various ethnic and religious communities that comprise Greater Cleveland.

Throughout the visit we discussed the concepts of memory and history, from biblical times to modern-day Israel. These conversations reminded us that the world has been destroyed already by baseless hatred – during the periods of the First and Second Temple, as well as during the Holocaust. In the time of the Temple, the baseless hatred came from within – Jews fighting with each other. In the time of the Holocaust, the hatred was external. The results of either type are devastating; worlds were destroyed.

Today, we are living in a period conceived by many scholars to be the “Third Temple” and our growing, global community is more diverse and more inclusive than ever before. Yet again we find ourselves facing a destructive strain of baseless hate. How do we want this next chapter of our stories to read? How can we continue to tap into the powerful energy of our Cleveland Jewish community to combat what threatens us today? What can we do differently to better ourselves, our family, our community, and our world during the next year?

As we observe Rosh Hashanah this year, these are some of the questions we must answer if we are to write the next chapter of our story. Thank you for all that you do to strengthen our world – through your actions, your investment, and your commitment to one another.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova U’Metuka – may we all be inscribed in the book of life for a sweet, happy, and healthy new year.

Daniel N. Zelman
Board Chair

Erika B. Rudin-Luria

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