Another secular year has ended and a new secular year has begun. It’s time to review and time to plan. What can be different in the coming year? And while the yearly refrain of “the more things change, the more they stay the same” repeats in our thoughts, I can’t just accept what has been.
For Jews, the activity of evaluating the secular year is difficult. Our New Year begins at the end of summer or early fall and is viewed with anticipation, beginning a yearly cycle, accented with holy days and agricultural and historical holidays, and, in a sense, it commands us to renew our commitment to our community and each other.
Try as I may to put the secular year behind me, it is difficult. The war in Gaza hangs heavy in my heart, and although it found unanimous support by American Jews, like a broken record, we saw the nations of the world criticize the Jewish state in a way they would never allow against themselves. More incidents of anti-Semitism in Europe followed, and recently, several European nations “recognized” the nonexistent state of Palestine. Radical Islamists, under the name of ISIS, kill whoever is different from they are and display barbarism rarely seen. Iran remains on the verge of becoming a nuclear power. At home, the Pew study occupied sessions at conference after conference projecting the demise of the American Jewish community or, at a minimum, casting fear in the minds of those working to enhance the community. It seems like 2014 was a year to forget.
My view of our world and our community isn’t to ignore what has occurred but to view it in context. The Jewish People, my people, have been on a long journey, and in our travels we have experienced both joy and misery. Pew suggests our community is becoming less Jewish, but programs such as PJ Library, Birthright Israel and numerous Jewish camps indicate to me that the fight is far from over. Israel appears to be always alone; yet, our efforts through the Jewish Agency, FIDF, AIPAC and our own JFNA continue to funnel support and encouragement. The Joint Distribution Committee continues to provide care for generations of Jews in the former Soviet Union and in other lands. Our own Howard County Jewish community is constantly growing and maturing. Our federation, once an afterthought, is now vibrant and provides opportunities to enhance our Jewish spirit.
What will 2015 bring? This coming year will provide me the opportunities to further our Jewish community in Howard County and in Israel. I know I can make a difference. The New Year can be filled with hope or despair. I choose hope.
Gary Perolman is a past president of the Jewish Federation of Howard County and serves on its executive board as assistant treasurer.