Wendy Kalman
There are many ways to see and understand

New beginnings

Tomorrow is moving day. Tomorrow I say goodbye to the house my three sons and I called home for over 13 years, though two of them now live in other states. My youngest, while enjoying spreading his wings his freshman year downtown at Georgia State University, came home on Friday to help my fiancé and me pack up my house. I imagine it is more bittersweet for him, since we first moved here the summer before he started kindergarten, and he knows the next time he comes home, it won’t be here. But he is also, I believe, happy for me.

Regardless, falling between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, this move not only takes place at the beginning of a new year but is part of a year of so many sweet and exciting new beginnings in my own life. A new role at work that didn’t exist before (lots of challenges there!). A son’s wedding. A new daughter-in-law and her wonderful family. A trip to Israel (first in 15 years, so much is new since I moved back to the States in 2003). Going back to school and having to learn new things (believe me, standard deviation and research might be old hat to those in scientific fields, but I was an English major, art minor in college; my brain is only beginning to get back into gear!). My own wedding to plan (come on people, if you haven’t RSVPed yet, please do, the suspense is killing us!). And tomorrow, the move, after which I begin another new role, as a landlord.

So in between my jumble of a life in which I need to read and research and prepare an original study for a school project and pack up the food in the refrigerator and order a wedding cake and figure out which furniture we’ll be taking up to my son in North Carolina while on our honeymoon and plan a presentation to explain to one group of leaders at work what I do (I wish I knew!), and so on and so on and son on, I have to say that it feels right to be observing the high holidays now.

As we step back from day-to-day work to go to synagogue and collectively pray, the sound of the shofar on Rosh Hashana calls us to action. Its wake-up call affords us all an opportunity to consider our coming year, how we want to live it. And so, as always, the choices we make define us. For this coming year, I choose to be more pro-active. I choose to be more helpful. I choose to try and grow. To think before I speak. To have better control over my impatience. These are not resolutions but action plans. On while on Rosh Hashanah, our fate is inscribed in the book, we are taught that prayer, charity and repentance can avert the severe decree. For ten days, people behave more piously, look inwards, ask for forgiveness from those who they have wronged. This is a marvelous thing, one we should do year-round.

As Yom Kippur approaches, when fates are sealed, I can’t help but think how all these beginnings for me tie in so well to these high holy days. In taking stock of the values dear to me, I find kindness, thoughtfulness and the importance of family overwhelmingly important. From these all others flow. And whether it be at work, in the classroom, at home or in the street, if we treat our fellow man as we would treat family, if we truly think about what people are saying and give as much thought to what we ay and how our words are received, we can change the world, let alone ourselves, with this dose of kindness and thoughtfulness. In our polarized world today, more than ever, this approach is needed. Whether it be homes, jobs, marriages, or simply attitudes and behaviors, now is the time to begin.

Though first, I must get back to packing…

About the Author
Wendy Kalman, MPA, MA, serves as Director of Education and Advocacy Resources for Hadassah The Women's Zionist Organization of America, Inc. Previous roles include senior academic researcher for an Israel education nonprofit, knowledge manager at a large multinational as well as roles in marketing and publishing in the US and in Israel. She has presented papers at political science and communications conferences and has participated as a scholar-in-residence at an academic workshop on antisemitism. Wendy lived in Israel for over a decade and is a dual citizen, fluent in Hebrew.
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