Rosh Hashanah, a pledge for unity

Millions of Jews will gather Sunday night in congregations and informal groups across the world to welcome the New Year. Most of us will use the time to begin repenting for our personal shortcomings over the past year, and to renew our commitment to become better Jews.

This year, however, the sound of the shofar should awaken each of us to what collectively may be our worst sin during the past year — the growing discord among the Jewish people.

Almost no Jew — from secular to ultra-religious, from right to left on the political spectrum — is free of that destructive taint.

In the United States, a few congregations have publicly rejected the annual High Holy Days campaign for State of Israel Bonds. That rebuff is meant to send a disapproving message to the Labor-led government that crafted the peace accords.

Israel Bonds, which are considered extremely important to the nation's economic growth, have nothing to do with the peace process. But some groups are trying almost any means possible to derail the negotiations with the Palestinians.

Fortunately, no groups have publicly come out against the regional Israel Bonds campaign, which needs our financial support if it is to raise a record $2.5 million during this year's High Holy Days campaign.

In Israel, meanwhile, the most visible and drastic display of the growing friction among Jews has shown itself in recent clashes between settlers and soldiers. Some say those incidents are precursors to a Jewish civil war.

The source of the painful schisms among Jews, many say, is the Israeli government's concessions to the Palestine Liberation Organization — and the scores of deaths resulting from suicide bombings.

But the true source of the discord stems from a deep conviction that each of us has a pipeline to ultimate truth, and that those who disagree are wrong, misguided or wicked.

As humans standing before God on Rosh Hashanah this year, we must shake ourselves of that erroneous assumption of moral superiority.

Obviously, no one is saying Jews should agree on everything. But for so many thousands of years, we have been able to turn to fellow Jews for support and aid. This extraordinary tradition shouldn't end now.

So let us pledge to deal with fellow Jews — regardless of their level of observance or political stripe — with more respect in the new year.

And because our acts of repentance only count if we do not repeat the sin in the future, we must also remember this vow as the months of the new year quickly pass.

L'Shanah Tovah Tikateyvu.