I can honestly say that as a child, I used to dread this time of year. But, come on… what child didn’t since once the calendar changed to September… it could only mean one thing… school was just about to start. And yet, as an adult, I find myself looking forward to the calendar change. Of course, as a parent, I am happy for my children to restart their school routine. But more specifically, I love that what this means is that the High Holy Days are right around the corner. And with this, the start of a new year ahead.
Part of Jewish tradition is to use the days leading up to the start of the new year as a time to reflect on the past year. Did I make the most of the 575,600 minutes I had to be the best me I could be and make the world a better place? What could I have done differently?
In her most recent children’s book, Measuring a Year: A Rosh Hashanah Story (recently chosen to be a PJ Library book), award-winning author Linda Elovitz Marshall asks a series of questions to help little ones and their families take stock and think about the past year in a poignant and thoughtful way. As I read this book, I was reminded how important it is for all of us to take a step back, step off the treadmill of life, and examine how far we have come since a specific point in time. By doing this, we can celebrate our accomplishments (whatever they may be) and think about ways that we could do better during the next phase of our life. This exercise allows us a chance to continue to evolve and become a better version of ourselves.
The other part of our tradition I really enjoy is the opportunity to celebrate the start of another year with my community and the possibilities available to us. As Rabbi Lachtman, Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Beth David, used to teach, the new year is like a clean sheet of white paper; it is up to us to decide and determine what picture we will make in the year ahead. By doing this together, we are reminded of how connected we are to one another.
Along those lines, I also wanted to share with everyone that the Jewish Federation has once again reached out to all of the school districts in our local community to make sure they are aware of when the holidays fall this year. And we encouraged them not to schedule any significant school events on those dates and reminded them that according to California Education Code, any child’s absence that is the result of a religious observance should be considered an excused absence, and they should not be penalized in any way. If you, or anyone you know, has any problems within your school, please remember that the Jewish Federation is here to help, and you should contact us immediately.
On behalf of the Jewish Federation’s Board of Governors and Staff, I wish you and your entire family Shana Tova (A good year). May the year ahead be one filled with happiness, good health, and joy.
Jason Moss is executive director of the Jewish Federation of the Greater
San Gabriel and Pomona Valleys.