Shanah Tovah from the White House! At sundown on Wednesday evening, the Jewish community here in the United States and all over the world will begin celebrating Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Over the course of the High Holidays, we reflect on the past year and recommit ourselves to our core values. This year, the American Jewish community had the opportunity to do this as Jews and as Americans. That is because Rosh Hashanah this year falls just one week after our entire nation had the occasion to reflect on our values during the historic 50th anniversary of the March on the Washington.
In his 2013 video message for the High Holy Days, President Obama says:
“Fifty years ago last week, Rabbi Joachim Prinz stood with Dr. King on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. Representing the thousands of Jews there that day, he told the marchers, “When God created man, he created him as everybody’s neighbor. Neighbor is not a geographic term. It is a moral concept.”
“For millions of Jews, this moral concept is at the heart of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. As the high holidays begin, it’s a chance not just to celebrate with friends and family, but to ask some of life’s most piercing questions. Am I treating strangers with kindness? Am I living not just for myself, but for others? Am I doing my part to repair the world? Where we fall short, the New Year is a new opportunity to get things right.
“And where we still have work to do, the New Year is a chance to reaffirm our commitments. At home, we must continue building an economy that gives all people willing to work hard a fair shot at a middle-class life. Beyond our borders, we must stand for the security of our allies, even as we take new steps in the pursuit of peace. I was proud to visit Israel earlier this year to renew the unbreakable bond between our two countries, and to talk directly with young Israelis about the future we share.
“Just like the generations that came before us, we live in challenging times. But I know that if we work together we can make this moment one of hope for all our neighbors — in America, in Israel, and around the world. In that spirit, Michelle and I wish you and your family a sweet, happy, healthy, and peaceful New Year.”
Matt Nosanchuk is an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement