Our wishes for 2013

Our wishes for 2013

The common custom is to make resolutions in advance of a new secular year and then to ignore them almost as soon as the new year begins.

As we reviewed the events of 2012, we prepared a wish list of our own – and our first wish is for this wish list to be taken seriously by us and by the community we serve. There are serious issues that face us all as a community. Ignoring them or denying them will not make them go away.

The first matter is that of how to fund communal needs, from providing our children with quality Jewish education, to feeding the homebound, to protecting abused children and spouses, to counseling the troubled, to caring for the terminally ill lovingly and with dignity.

Throughout the Jewish world, at least here in the United States, local federations are finding it increasingly difficult to raise the funds they need to provide basic services, much less to improve on the services being offered. We hear a great deal in the public square – especially from those on the right – about people helping people, not government helping people. Yet that is not reflected in the patterns of giving we see nationwide (and this is not restricted to Jewish giving; philanthropies in general are struggling).

Super Sunday is coming. On January 27, our local federation will make its annual all-out effort to raise money for the communal needs of the coming year.

Wish No. 1: This year should be a record year of giving to the general fund.

The Jewish Federation of Northern New Jersey favors no one stream over another, no one cause over another, no one need over another. If there is a need, it attempts to help meet it. Its ability to do so, however, is limited by what we give it.

Do we really believe the Jewish Home at Rockleigh or Daughters of Miriam get the funds they need dropped down to them from heaven? Will the funds people need to recover from the devastation of Superstorm Sandy and other disasters spring up from the ground like the floodwaters that caused so much damage? Can the new 3D printers coming into use be able to print more competent teachers and more modernized classrooms? Will abused spouses find protection and support living on the street?

These are our problems, not the federation’s. If we look to the federation to handle these problems – and we do – then we also have to give it the resources to do so.

Wish No. 2: Better cooperation among the streams.

Let us not debate whether Orthodox and non-Orthodox rabbis can work together to improve Jewish life in northern New Jersey. There have been positive efforts in this direction during 2012. We applaud those efforts and we pray that they bear fruit.

For the record, this is not a one-sided complaint and never has been. Too many non-Orthodox rabbis refuse to understand where their Orthodox counterparts are coming from. They see discrimination and contempt where what exists are serious ideological barriers that require great courage and perhaps even exigent need to overcome. The non-Orthodox also have their differences with each other. There are barriers that Conservative rabbis will not cross in cooperating with their Reform colleagues, compromises Reform will not make with the more traditional streams, all because of ideological differences.

We are separated by ideology, but we are still one people. Let us act that way, and let our leaders show us that this is acceptable behavior. In 2013, may there be more opportunities for public displays of cooperation among all the streams for the benefit of us all.

Wish No. 3: Better respect for each other.

All too often, the laity of the various streams look with disrespect and even ill-will at other segments of the community. How many of us, for example, have little good to say about “the Orthodox,” as if they were a monolithic whole, which they are not by a long shot? How many Orthodox Jews turn away from non-Orthodox neighbors rather than say a simple “hello” or “good shabbes” as they pass in the street, or in a store, or a movie theater? Throughout the entire community, there is the sense of “we” against “them,” with the we and the them changing from stream to stream.

Why? Because some extremist in Jerusalem tells a woman to get off the bus, all Orthodox are neanderthals? Because a Jewish neighbor drives to shul or turns on the lights, he or she is not worthy of a simple greeting?

Last week, in his column, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach cited a teaching of the Talmud that is critical for all of us to learn. It is said of the great mishnaic sage Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai, “no man ever gave him greeting first, even a non-Jew in the street.”

Our wish for ourselves: to serve you well.

Journalism is changing. Technology is changing. How information is conveyed is changing. We need to change.

This does not mean we have not been faithful to our mission, to serve our community as best as possible. From Rebecca Boroson’s era, to Shammai Engelmayer’s brief term, to the current team of Engelmayer and Joanne Palmer, to our reporters, freelancers, advertising representatives, graphic artists, and office staff, we put together a product we are proud of week after week, year after year, sometimes under the most trying conditions.

There is always room for improvement, and with changing times there is need for change. May we find the wisdom to know how best to serve you, our readers, in the year to come, and for many years beyond that.

You have a role in this, as well. Let us know how we are doing – the good, not just the bad.

Happy 2013. Stay safe. And pray for peace – for the Jewish people, the Jewish state, for our own United States, and for the world.