Wishing a sweet New Year to all

As social an event as Rosh Hashanah can be — greeting the throngs before services, chanting prayers together with the community, going out for a nosh afterwards — there is something very private about this Holy Day.

This is a time of reflection and introspection. Rosh Hashanah is a day of reckoning for the individual (the word “reckon” comes from the French meaning “to re-know”). After all, we are each preparing for Yom Kippur, as personal a holiday as there is on the calendar.

But this year presents a unique challenge to us. How can we dwell so inwardly after a year like the one just ending? Since last Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish world has endured more than its fair share of shocks.

Twelve months ago, with the Gaza disengagement complete, Israelis and many Palestinians held out hope that life would improve for all. Then, as so often happens in that troubled region, things fell apart.

First, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon suffered a massive stroke from which he has not recovered. With his leadership gone, Palestinians elected a Hamas-led government that unleashed incalculable chaos in the region.

Then, peace talks broke down. Israeli plans to disengage from the West Bank dissipated. Kidnappings, rockets and war brought great pain and destruction to Israel. The campaign in Lebanon damaged but did not destroy Hezbollah, and triggered unfair condemnation of Israel from around the world.

Sometimes it all seems too much to bear.

But we must remind ourselves: Within a matter of weeks, the North American Jewish community launched a campaign to raise $300 million in emergency funds for Israel. The outpouring of love and concern, including that from the Bay Area, touched Israelis and reminded us, as only bad times can, that we are in all this together.

Members of the Bay Area Jewish community came through earlier this year with their collective compassion for victims of Hurricane Katrina, and again with the record campaign tallies both the East Bay and S.F. Jewish Community Federations took in.

So, given our generosity, our dedication to community, our inextinguishable Jewish spirit, how can we lose hope? How can we fail to look to brighter days ahead?

Yes, there is something very private about Rosh Hashanah. That is fitting and proper.

But may we suggest that in those moments of innermost reflection, we each consider that we are part of something greater than ourselves: a caring, mobilized community that will always be inscribed in the Book of Life.

We wish all our readers a happy and healthy New Year.