The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia
On Rosh Hashanah eve, Sephardic communities recite a liturgical poem called “Ahot Ketanah.” Each stanza closes with the words, “Tikhleh Shanah V’Kileloteha — May this year and all of its curses come to an end.” The poem ends with an appeal, “Tahel Shanah U’Birkhoteha — May this year with all of its blessings now begin.”
This past year has been one like none other, with the onset of COVID-19, the losses we have endured and the challenges that it has created for us, our families, our institutions and our world. As we stand on the precipice of the year 5781, we long for glimmers of hope, for the end of this year’s curses and for the blessings of a better year ahead.
The Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia is proud of the variety of creative and responsible ways that our Philadelphia-area rabbis and lay leaders have enabled our synagogues and other community institutions to carry out our core missions. We are proud that our Jewish community has continued to provide care for those who have needed extra support, amid the uncertainty of the pandemic and the evolving demands of public health and physical distancing.
We are proud that our Jewish community has come together to uproot ideologies of hatred, to dismantle systems of oppression, and to rekindle the shared commitment to building our world in a way that sees everyone, of every religion and skin color, as created in the Divine Image and worthy of dignity and life.
Just as this has been a year like none other, it is likely to be a New Year like none other. Synagogues around the region are continuing to figure out how best to serve the spiritual, emotional and physical needs of our communities and how to show up for those who are most vulnerable in our country.
The Board of Rabbis has been at the forefront of helping our Philadelphia-area synagogues and other Jewish institutions think about how to weigh these vital concerns thoughtfully, courageously and in accordance with the values of Jewish tradition.
Ushering in the new year in the midst of so much loss and uncertainty feels bittersweet. Over the coming years, our society will recalibrate itself to accommodate new needs, new precautions, new institutions and new challenges. Even as we prepare ourselves for this reality, we don’t know what it will look like. Yet we take comfort in remembering that throughout history, Jews have responded to crisis and cataclysm with bold innovation.
This era has already shown us that we are capable of acting with creativity and compassion beyond our wildest dreams of even a few months ago. We are grateful for our community’s capacity to respond to unprecedented challenges with innovative sparks and timeless wisdom.
However you celebrate Rosh Hashanah this year, the Board of Rabbis wishes you a meaningful observance that allows you to reflect on the core themes of the holiday: faith, affirmation of our personal and collective responsibility to act for good, gratitude, joy, acknowledgment of the uncertainty of what lies ahead and, yes, hope.
From all of us at the Board of Rabbis to all of you in the Philadelphia Jewish community and beyond: We pray that 5781 will be a year of resilience, blessing, and healing — for all those whose lives have been upended by this pandemic and for all the world. As the closing words of the Amidah state: Barcheinu Avinu, kulanu k’echad, b’or panecha — Bless us, our Source, all of us as one, in the light of Your Presence.
Let 5781 be a year remembered for goodness and renewal, as we feel the warmth and hope of the Divine Light, as we kindle light amid the darkness for a better future ahead, as we pray that we may leave behind this past year’s challenges and enter the new year, with all of its blessings.
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