The good, the bad and the ugly of the new year

Happy new year…please!

As we usher in the year 5765, we say goodbye to a tumultuous 12 months: suicide bombers in Israel are back after a brief summer vacation. Anti-Semitism is again part of the Paris fall collection, and the U.S. presidential contest has become what one pollster dubbed “the armageddon campaign.”

Somebody blow a shofar already.

Just when the global agenda seems impossibly overstocked, the High Holy Days roll around and we Jews close for inventory.

Right now, we could use the sound of the ram’s horn to remind us of the important things in life. For the next few weeks, the shock and awe of world events make way for the ultimate personal days.

The respite we will soon feel in our sanctuaries provides lasting sustenance throughout the year. It girds us against the blows, personal and communal, sure to come.

Of course, no one knows what joys and sorrows 5765 will bring (we still can’t purchase the Book of Life on eBay). But a look back at last year’s good news might allow us to dream of better days ahead.

The year 5764 began with a strong Jewish relief effort here to help those devastated by the 2003 Southern California wildfires. Last year’s Super Sunday phonathon brought in a record $2.8 million. U.C. Berkeley, normally not the most Jew-friendly of campuses, began offering kosher food at two campus mini-marts.

Gorgeous new JCCs opened in San Francisco and Foster City. In the spring, the S.F. Anti-Defamation League chapter reported a 50 percent drop from the previous year in anti-Semitic hate crimes. Local teen trips to Israel saw enrollment way up after three years of intifada-driven freefall. Israel in the Ballpark was a home run, and the S.F. Jewish Film Festival was boffo at the box office.

Of course, we had our share of tsuris. Virulent anti-Israel activists seemingly popped up everywhere. Local immigrant Yana Slobodova was deported to her native Russia, and remains mired there in immigration limbo. Financial problems continue to stall the plans of many Jewish agencies, schools, synagogues and local communal organizations.

There will always be more of the world to repair.

But on the High Holy Days, we indulge in an audacious hope: that the year to come will fulfill more promise than the year before. We Jews are constitutionally incapable of filling up on apples dipped in honey.

So this Rosh Hashanah, we pray for peace, prosperity and contentment. We pray for an end to war, violence, hunger and despair. Someone’s gotta do it. And who knows? Maybe this time it’ll work.