A year of decisions

A year of decisions

The new year 5773 grows ever closer. On Rosh Hashanah, a new Jewish calendar year will commence, bringing with it new challenges and new opportunities for us as individuals, and collectively as a community (in every permutation of that word).

It will be a momentous year in so many ways. What to do about Iran looms large in the 5773 picture. Once and for all, the United States must present clear and unambiguous red lines that Iran must not cross or suffer military intervention – and that, too, must be clearly and unambiguously defined. No president, Republican or Democrat, likes drawing such lines. They are politicians who dabble in diplomacy, and so they seek the kind of wiggle room that leaves options open even when they seem to be off the table permanently. President Barack Obama is no different in this regard; Mitt Romney, should he succeed to that office, will be exactly the same.

There is no place for ambiguity here. Iran must know that a full-scale pre-emptive attack to destroy its nuclear infrastructure is a certainty if it goes beyond an acceptable point. Obama must spell out in simple, clear language what “beyond an acceptable point” means.

Israel, too, must stop playing the ambiguity game, of which Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is a master. The Middle East is a powder keg in the best of times and, especially since the start of the absurdly misnamed Arab Spring, these are not anywhere near the best of times. Threatening military action can have disastrous unforeseen consequences, regardless of whether the threats are real or merely empty rhetoric designed for domestic consumption.

Beyond Iran, the Jewish world must see 5773 as a year of decision regarding our continuing ties to the Christian right. There is handwriting on the wall, and it will take the wisest among us to decipher what it actually says.

What it seems to say is that we are heading into a darker period in our relationships with “the other.”

It began years ago, but we paid it no heed at the time. From the end of the Shoah until a couple of decades ago, anti-Semitic rhetoric was not tolerated in public discourse the world over, save in certain Arab states and among their allies. That began to change, however, as anti-Semitism re-emerged, first thinly disguised as anti-Israelism and then as an outright anti-Semitism that too many among us chose to deny. They were aberrations, it was argued, but not indicative of anything we had to fear.

Now one European nation, the Netherlands, is on the verge of banning kosher slaughter, while another, Germany of all places, is wrestling with a court decision outlawing b’rit milah, ritual circumcision. The Netherlands case is the most telling, as we recently noted here, because it is a right-wing Christian self-declared “friend of the Jewish people and Israel” who is behind it-a person Jewish communities here have embraced and even helped finance.

Throughout Jewish history, before they came for us, they banned two of our most basic practices: kashrut and b’rit milah.

Closer to home, we saw hopeful signs in 5772 that the various religious streams can work together for the betterment of the entire Jewish community. These signs have been few, and for the most part under the radar. The year 5773 must see an even greater and more public coming together of the various streams.

We have serious issues to deal with in our community, not the least of which is the extremely high cost of living a Jewish life in northern New Jersey, with all that entails. It will take all of us pulling together to even begin to find solutions that may work. This is especially critical in all things educational, as noted here last week.

May 5773 bring happiness, health, and prosperity to all of us, and may this be the year that peace takes center stage in our world and in the greater world of which we also are a part.