Jews putting tormenting year behind

first_imgRosh Hashana is also a time when Jews reflect on their vulnerability in a world outside their control. A liturgical poem central to the holiday is unetaneh tokef, which emphasizes that humans can’t be certain how they will perish. One of the poem’s lines – “Who by sword and who by wild beast” – carries extra salience this year. Many had been optimistic about Israel as summer approached. Violence had diminished, and visiting again seemed safe for many American Jews. “The streets of Israel were filled. There was a sense finally of hope. Then what happens?” said Rabbi Stewart Vogel of Temple Aliyah, who was in Tel Aviv with 50 members of his Woodland Hills synagogue July 13. That day, Israel bombed Lebanon in retaliation for the Hezbollah militia crossing the international border and kidnapping two Israeli soldiers. The war lasted 34 days, leveling much of Lebanon and pulverizing its infrastructure, but ended without Israel achieving its mission of destroying Hezbollah. Though Israel sustained significantly fewer casualties, the war left many Jews worried about the future of their sacred land. “Everyone who reads on this stuff has the sense this is not the end but the beginning of something,” said Rabbi Ed Feinstein of Valley Beth Shalom, a Conservative Encino congregation. “Hezbollah represents Iran, and Iran is a militant power seeking nuclear weapons. What is Israel going to have to do to survive?” American Jews responded during the war by sending tens of millions of dollars to Israel for humanitarian aid. The Israel in Crisis campaign led by the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles raised $15 million for temporary housing, food, medical care, small-business loans, counseling and other services. Tens of millions more in Israel bonds will be sold in North America during the next 10 days, said Harold Samuels, a former director of the Southern California bonds office who promotes sales at area temples. “Jews here are willing to understand that that infrastructure has to be repaired,” said Samuels, 77, of Sherman Oaks. “Roads have been bombed and destroyed. Power plants have been destroyed. There was damage to the water pipeline. There was damage to the electrical system. And they all need to be repaired.” Many from Temple Aliyah returned to the San Fernando Valley with a new interest in Israel. “My kids have changed. Their whole attitudes have changed. I can’t believe it,” said Jeff Schechter, a Calabasas dentist who took his three sons, 13, 16 and 20. “When I came back, I was really excited to be a Jew again, if that makes any sense,” said Brandon Schechter, 20. “I got very excited to be more active in my Jewish lifestyle.” Federation President John R. Fischel expects area rabbis to use the events of the past year as a launching pad for a broader theme of the High Holy Days. “What is important is that we sustained a tremendous amount of unity during the war,” Fischel said. “And now in the wake of the war, after the war, it is important for us to maintain that unity – not just for Israel but for ourselves here in Los Angeles.” [email protected] (818) 713-3634160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! At sundown tonight, Jews will welcome the new year with a collective farewell to one of the most painful periods in recent memory. It was a year when the Iranian president called for the obliteration of Israel and deemed the Holocaust a “myth.” A year when an Israeli war hero, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, suffered a severe stroke that left him comatose. A year when Israel spent 34 days fighting a war with no winners and many losses. But Jews will begin a new year with the celebration of Rosh Hashana. The first night of the High Holy Days, the Jewish new year is a celebration of creation that comes with the hope of peace for Israel. “It is still yet another opportunity to believe in faith that this country can be safe in the future,” said Rabbi Tsafreer Lev of Temple B’nai Hayim in Sherman Oaks. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREThe joys and headaches of holiday travel: John PhillipsMuch as Christian churches do on Christmas and Easter, Jewish temples swell with bodies during the High Holy Days, which run 10 days through Yom Kippur, the day of atonement. For that reason, it is historically a time when rabbis speak about pressing issues in the Jewish community. “In just about every synagogue there is going to be a sermon on Israel,” said Rabbi Jan Offel of Kol Tikvah, a Reform temple in Woodland Hills. But Jewish leaders are waiting to see how everyday American Jews respond to what Offel called the “800-pound gorilla.” A recent survey by the American Jewish Committee found that 19 percent of Jews do not feel that caring about Israel is “very important” to their identity. That is increasingly true among young Jews, particularly those who have not visited Israel. It’s a trend Jewish leaders are eager to curb. “Having the land of Israel is as key to our covenant with God as any other part of it,” said Rabbi John Borak of the American Jewish Committee. “So the new year is a time for us to, first of all, connect with that idea and to dedicate ourselves to creating the kind of world where all people can live in joy and harmony.” last_img read more

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