Toward a happier new year

Toward a happier new year

Let’s face it. Many of us are still walking on eggshells – proud to be Jewish but just as happy to live below the radar. If, in some contexts, it’s still hard to be a Jew, it’s even harder to be one when Jewish names trumpeted in the media become synonymous with bad behavior.

Looking back at 5769, it seems that Jewish names – or Jewish-sounding names – popped up in a number of unflattering contexts. To be sure, not all the malefactors were Jewish, but that, sadly, does not count for much in a world that feeds on sound-bites and where perception trumps reflection.

Canards were given new life – a Swedish newspaper reported that the Israeli army removed the organs of a dead Palestinian; the recession took on a Jewish face, thanks to public villains such as Bernard Madoff and Jewish names such as Lehman Brothers; and Israel, once again, was charged with intransigence and accused of committing war crimes during the offensive in Gaza.

If it’s difficult to come up with a silver lining right now, we still have the assurance offered by the High Holy Days that every new year offers new opportunities for growth and change. And if this sounds a bit Pollyanna-ish, we need to remember Elie Wiesel’s injunction that “one must wager on the future.” Above all, said Wiesel during an interview in 2005, “we must not give in to cynicism.”

If this is easier said than done, we must remember that Wiesel’s charge came with conditions: “To defeat injustice and misfortune, if only for one instant, for a single victim, is to invent a new reason to hope,” he said.

We can, each of us, invent new reasons to hope. If we must give less tzedakah money this year, we can still give something, helping to support local food pantries or homeless shelters. If we cannot give money, we can spend time, helping children learn to read, for example. If we cannot do that, we can still raise our voices to protest injustice, writing to members of Congress and supporting advocacy groups that chamption issues we hold dear.

We wish our readers a happy and healthy new year and charge each of you with inventing new reasons to hope. Keeping an eye on the future, and on our worthy goals, will help ensure that 5770 will herald brighter days.