A new year — it’s about time

So, finally, it’s time to begin a new year

It begins on Sunday night (according to my calendar, that’s also Grandparents’ Day. There is no doubt a great deal of significance in that coincidence, but I leave it to readers to figure it out).

It’s been a long slog, this unlikely year, full of anger and crassness and cruelty, fifth-grade insults and stoked hatreds.

It’s also been a weird summer; we’ve cooked in our own grease as the humidity has gone to swamp-like levels. (If anyone’s doing any swamp-draining, if less humidity is a side effect that would be greatly appreciated.) It’s been so very hot for so very long that it’s hard to remember the miseries of icy winter, and easy to long for them.

But now it’s a new year. The world is about to be reborn, and we will be among its midwives. (No, not the midwives whose birth certificates are being rejected by the State Department when officials there say that the Spanish-surnamed American babies under whose watch they were born aren’t American after all. Other midwives!)

And now, very seriously, it is time to hope for a better year.

We know that we can have a better year. We know that we all, as Americans, as Jews, can decide to agree to disagree civilly. We can accept that we do not all see the world in the same way, but that we all love it. We can agree that we all are capable of love and of goodness. (Okay, okay, maybe not all but overwhelmingly most of us are capable of love and goodness.)

We can agree that progress not only in technology but also in justice and decency is possible.

We can agree to be strengthened rather than weakened by our diversity. We can agree to live side by side, and even to learn from one another.

As I do so often at this time of year — and find myself doing even more strongly this year — I think about Achot Ketanah, the piyyut — the liturgical poem — that the titular “little sister,” who is identified with Israel, sings to her beloved. The song details her suffering through the year about to be ended — the always terrible year. All the stanzas but the last one end the same way. “Let the year and its curses conclude,” the little sister cries. And then, at the end, she looks forward to the year to come. “Let the year and its blessing begin!” she sings.

So, with the optimism that is the triumph of hope over experience (that quote’s attributed to Samuel Johnson, who was brilliant and funny and sad enough actually to have said it), let us hope that this coming year, 5779, is a better one for all of us.

We at the Jewish Standard hope that all our readers share a year of hope and civility, decency and restraint, peace, health, and prosperity, of no drought and no flooding and no ice storms and no baking heat. We also hope for every single one of us at least one flash of pure wild heart-stopping joy.

About the Author
Joanne is the editor of the Jewish Standard and lives in Manhattan with her husband and two dogs, so she has firsthand knowledge of two thriving and idiosyncratic Jewish communities. (Actually that's three communities, if you also count the dog people.)
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