When I think of Rosh Hashanah, I think of a new beginning. The chance to start over again, and yet this year feels more like being trapped in the film Groundhog Day. Waking to “I Got You Babe” and forced to live the same day over and over again. Though unlike the character Phil Connors, we don’t have the luxury to gather in a crowd, eat comfortably in a restaurant, or attend a lavish party. Who would ever think that we would look back at that film and think, “He didn’t know how good he had it?” I miss life. I miss seeing my family and friends. I miss being with other Adat members at the Onegs. I miss theatre. I miss being in a classroom with my students. I want to help them all through this. Our new reality is much more isolating than Punxsutawney in 1993, but like Phil Connors learns, there are always others whose suffering is worse. In the film, Phil learns how to live by truly experiencing the day: Seeing all the things that he failed to find value in.
So, for this new year I turn to Hope. Rabbi Esther Adler explains that “Hope, in Hebrew, is Tikvah, which comes from the root KAV [Kaf-Alef-Beit]. KAV conceptually refers to a line, and by extension, a path, or direction.” To me, Hope is more than just wishing for the future to be better, but proactively contributing to it. We can all do our part, by following scientists’ recommendations, by protesting inequalities, by donating, and by listening and learning about other’s oppression. I have been grappling with my place in systemic racism. Being Jewish and white has always seemed like an oxymoron to me. I am privileged because I am a cisgendered, heterosexual white woman. However, I am oppressed because Jews experience the highest level of religious hate crimes. I feel a camaraderie with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) because we experience hatred from the same sources. I have always wanted to believe that because my ancestors came to the United States to avoid persecution decades after the dissolution of slavery, that I was somehow different. However, I am wrong. My grandparents, both first generation, were hardworking people. My grandfather was a bus driver in Brooklyn and my grandmother worked at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. They experienced antisemitism, but persisted. Poppa fought in World War II and was eligible for a federally guaranteed mortgage under the G.I. Bill of Rights in 1950. He bought a house in Levittown, Long Island which created affordable living — for whites only. It wasn’t advertised this way, but to this day, 95% of the people who live in Levittown are white. I only just learned this. I love my grandparents and, because of them, I was given opportunities they didn’t have. However, I must acknowledge that my opportunities came with the exclusion of others.
So, on this Rosh Hashanah, I have Hope that this new year will be better than the last. I will walk the path of knowledge and continue to fight for others who do not have the privilege that I have.