Did you enjoy 5766? For Jews around the world, it was the usual assortment of bad -- and even worse -- news.
It was a year of war and suffering in Israel. Hamas won an election, and low-level warfare in Gaza was followed by large-scale war in the north with Hezbollah. Elsewhere, the bloody stalemate in Iraq continued, as did the rise of anti-Semitism in Europe. Ariel Sharon was felled by a heart attack, and Ehud Olmert was elevated to the prime ministership only to find that the job wasn't as much fun as he'd thought.
Here at home, we experienced some shifts in opinion as President Bush's poll numbers continued to dive, while heretofore Jewish Democratic icon Joe Lieberman was cast out by his own party.
So as we pause to catch our collective breath, the arrival of a new Jewish year has us all wondering about what's in store for 5767. Can things get worse? Of course, they can!
Yet even as we cope with Katyushas, terrorism and cut-throat politics, we shouldn't lose what's left of our sense of humor. But before the Almighty writes down just how much worse (or better) it will be for us in the proverbial Book of Life, I present (with apologies, as always, to former New York Times columnist William Safire) the annual "Jewish Pundit Quiz" for 5767.
For the record, in last year's quiz, I managed to get at least one big answer wrong, though a few right.
Not only did I incorrectly predict that Ariel Sharon would still be prime minister, Ehud Olmert wasn't even listed among the alternatives. On the other hand, I did correctly forecast the fall of House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Texas), another round of Palestinian violence and no light at the end of the tunnel in Iraq. Save this column, and see how you or I do in 5767.
So guess -- or should I say prognosticate -- along with me about the coming year. My answers are at the bottom of the column.
And remember, if you are worried about the outcome, teshuvah ("repentance"), tefillah ("prayer") and tzedekah ("acts of justice and charity") may avert the severe decree.
L'Shanah Tovah Tikatevu!
1. The outcome of the 2006 congressional elections will be a:
a. Democratic sweep of both the House and the Senate.
b. Republicans hold onto control of both houses of Congress.
c. Republicans hold onto the Senate, but a Democrat takeover of the House.
d. Democrat takeover of the Senate while Republicans hold onto the House.
2. The winner of the bellwether Pennsylvania U.S. Senate race will be:
a. Republican incumbent Rick Santorum.
b. Democratic challenger Bob Casey.
c. Green Party candidate Carl Romanelli.
3. Polls will show the issue that most influences Jewish votes for Congress this year will be:
a. Support for Israel.
b. Fear of the influence of the Christian right.
c. Opposition to the war in Iraq.
d. Concern about the war on Islamist terror.
e. Activism against genocide in Darfur.
4. The most influential Jewish member of Congress in 5767 will be:
a. Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wisc.), who will use his new status as a member of the majority to launch investigations that will embarrass the White House and prop up his own bid for the presidency in 2008.
b. Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Ind.-Conn.), whose re-election as an independent after losing the Democratic nomination will unexpectedly put him in the catbird seat after the midterm election ends in a virtual tie between the two parties in the Senate.
c. Sen. Arlen Spector (R-Pa.) whose return to the chairmanship of the Judiciary Committee will again be crucial in possible court appointment fights.
d. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), whose influence will rise after his fundraising efforts lead to a new Democratic majority in the Senate.
e. Rep. Allyson Schwartz (D-Pa.) whose clout in Congress will make her a force to be reckoned with in Pennsylvania politics.
5. The prime minister of Israel at the start of 5768 will be:
a. Ehud Olmert of Kadima.
b. Benjamin Netanyahu of Likud.
c. Amir Peretz of Labor.
d. Ehud Barak of Labor.
6. During the course of 5767, Israel will find itself in conflict with:
a. Hezbollah, as the U.N. peacekeeping force fails to enforce the cease-fire.
b. Hamas, as the need to distract Palestinians from their suffering under Islamist rule necessitates an increase in terrorism.
c. Palestinian Authority Mahmoud Abbas, whose new coalition with Hamas and Islamic Jihad will give cover to the terrorists and leave peace talks stalled.
d. Syria, whose meddling in Lebanon and alliance with Iran will continue.
e. All of the above.
7. By the start of 5768, efforts to prevent the Islamic regime in Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons will:
a. Be resolved after U.S. strikes on Iranian nuclear facilities render the issue moot.
b. Still be stalemated after efforts to enact U.N. sanctions are sabotaged by the French.
c. Have succeeded as the West unites to enforce tough sanctions causing Iran to fold.
d. Have failed after Iran announces that it has created its first nuclear weapon years earlier than expected due to help from Russia.
8. The most significant trend in American Jewish life in 5767 will be:
a. The legalization of slot machines in synagogues solves Jewish fundraising shortfalls, while the exponential growth of addiction to gambling creates a host of new problems.
b. The acceptance of gay rabbis and commitment ceremonies by the Conservative movement of Judaism.
c. The need to confront a rising tide of anti-Semitism on our own shores as anti-Israel activities on college campuses spills over into popular culture.
d. The rejection of pro-Israel causes by younger American Jews, who are turned off by "parochial" issues, and prefer charities and activism focused on the plight of non-Jews.
Tobin's answers: 1. c, 2. a, 3. b, 4. c, 5. a, 6. e, 7. b, 8. d