Rosh Hashana, which begins the evening of Sept. 8, initiates the 10 days that culminate in Yom Kippur. Rosh Hashana means “head,” or “beginning,” of the New Year. According to the Jewish calendar, this year will be 5771; according to the calendar we use every day, the New Year starts the night of Dec. 31, and on next Jan. 1, the year will be 2011.
While there is talk of making personal resolutions at that time, the focus is really on the party, the hats, the noisemakers, and the ball dropping in New York City’s Times Square. In contrast, the High Holy Days are a time for introspection. We ask what we can do, as individuals and as a group, to improve ourselves and the world.
The purpose of the Jewish Federation of Monmouth County is to help people — all people. Some are your next-door neighbors, who may need counseling. Some receive food or clothing. Some require special schooling. All these people and so many more are provided for though programs funded by the federation. Some of the assistance is offered regardless of the recipient’s income; some help is only for those facing economic difficulties.
The federation’s programs reflect the values of social justice and human rights that define the Jewish people and the values of caring and sharing that transform lives and perform miracles. We are part of the group of 157 federations and some 400 independent Jewish communities throughout the United States. Federation protects and enhances the well-being of Jews worldwide through the values of tikun olam (repairing the world), tzedaka (charity and social justice), and Torah (Jewish learning). The federation is concerned about keeping Israel safe and strong. The federation cares for vulnerable populations, whether they are in Thailand or Tbilisi, Sudan, or the Gulf. Needs are met because people join forces to address them. That’s what federation does.
The Jewish Federation of Monmouth County represents all the Jews in the county, whether they belong to a synagogue or not, whether they live near the shore or near Route 9, whether they are new to the area or were born here, whether they are toddlers or great-grandparents, whether they are married or not.
Thus it is particularly appropriate now, as we approach the Jewish New Year, to think about what we have, how we can help others, and how fortunate we are to be living in this extraordinary country, in which freedom is a right, not a hope; in which caring and sharing are the norm. It’s a time for a special salute to all those serving in our armed forces. They are the best of us, and deserve the best from us.
On behalf of the federation, I wish everyone a year of peace and health, of miracles large and small, in our homes and in our world.