The Hebrew month of Elul, which precedes the beginning of the Jewish new year, has always been a time of reflection and introspection. Particularly as we get closer to Rosh Hashanah — which we will celebrate this weekend — we look back over the past year and think about the possibilities and likely realities of the coming year.

5780 began with much of our concerns focused on the safety and security of our local, national and international Jewish community. We survived but continued to worry about deadly synagogue shootings by white supremacists, verbal attacks on Israel from the political left, and the disturbing spread of anti-Semitism and attacks on Jews. We were focused on addressing those and several other important issues.

And then, halfway through the year, the world changed. We were hit by a worldwide pandemic that upended much of our lives, confining people to their homes, attacking millions with an enigmatic virus for which no cure or vaccine exists and condemning nearly 200,000 people in this country to death. Despite significant efforts by political leaders, scientists and medical personnel, the coronavirus continues to perplex us. 

And there is no end in sight.

Notwithstanding those pressures and fears, we have seen remarkable community resilience. Beginning with the impressive care and sacrifice by first responders and others on the frontlines of providing essential services, and continuing with caring neighbors, family and friends. In the face of a novel set of challenges, we have seen a welcome renewed focus on the importance of a caring community, the warmth of a loving family, and focus on personal health and safety. These reactions are encouraging, and much of the credit goes to the impressive performance of our area synagogues and communal organizations, which have adjusted to the pandemic by increasing outreach, engagement and involvement with each of us, in an effort to assure the well-being and survival of our cherished community.

All of this as our country tries to address issues relating to lingering racism and racial inequality, historic unemployment and financial insecurity, and a raft of social and political issues that beg for attention and thoughtful solutions, including continuing concern about the evil scourge of anti-Semitism.

We did, of course, see some rays of hope, including the recent normalization of relations between Israel and the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain. These are unquestionably solid diplomatic and economic accomplishments, which we hope will lead to more progress with Arab and Muslim states, and a long overdue negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

And, of course, we are less than two months away from a consequential

presidential election.

The unprecedented experience of the past year and our hopes and dreams for the year 5781 give us a lot to think about. We wish our readers and our community a healthy, happy, productive and satisfying new year. Shana Tova! JN

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