The Jewish holidays are a time that calls upon us all to look inward and to reflect. During the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we are compelled by Jewish tradition to examine our actions and what we need to improve in the future. By nature, this is also a good opportunity to look back on our achievements over the past year.
Last Rosh Hashanah, we were able to gather around the table, surrounded by friends and family, like we’ve always done, as for most of us, there is no other way to celebrate our holidays, our tradition.
We could never have possibly imagined that this year, we would be celebrating in what is a completely different setting, separated, using Zoom and in the midst of a global crisis.
These unique and extreme times of being socially distant, when so many people are getting infected by the coronavirus, losing their jobs, and seeking answers, also brings out the good in people, and we’ve witnessed how individuals and communities work together to support each other.
Despite physical separation, we, the team of the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, have worked extensively to make sure that we continue to serve you and the State of Israel, adapting to the new situation. We looked for alternative ways to support our community in this time of need, and to strengthen the ties between researchers, health care providers and decision-makers to work together and battle Covid-19. And we saw opportunities that would not be possible under normal circumstances.
To ensure that we are doing our best to uplift everyone’s spirits, we kept our celebrations during the Israeli Independence Day festivities; we were able to come together virtually with people from all across our jurisdiction, from California to Oregon, to create a music video that portrays their love and appreciation for the State of Israel. It may not have gone viral on YouTube, but it warmed our hearts and made us feel as if we were in the same room, even though we were hundreds of miles apart.
We also participated in Pride by creating a set of short videos telling the story of unique individuals in the Israeli LGBTQ community in Israel, continuing our previous work in the community in the Bay Area.
As the consulate staff members are an integral part of the Jewish community of the Bay Area, we feel that it is important for us to extend our hand to those who are in need and those who are lonely. Rest assured that we are not only representing Israel in formal events, but also demonstrating our Jewish and Israeli values, demonstrating acts of love and kindness to the community in times of joy and times of sadness.
Throughout the summer, we collaborated with Jewish Family and Children’s Services, Glide and the Jewish Federation of the Sacramento Region. The consulate staff packed care packages at JFCS and personally delivered food to the houses of those who could not leave their homes. We also volunteered at GLIDE food bank, and there are additional activities that we will be part of in the coming months.
On a personal level, I must share that giving back to the community — to people you’ve never met but who need an extended hand — is an extremely inspiring experience, especially as my 13-year-old daughter joined me for these activities.
I want to take this opportunity to offer a solemn prayer not just for the Jewish community but to all the communities around us, with a hope that the new year will bring the beginning of the end of the pandemic — an optimistic and healthy world for the whole of humanity.
I hope that all those who are bereaved by the loss of dear friends and family to the virus will find comfort. I wish that those who have been impacted economically will quickly be able to find jobs. I wish the best of luck to those who chose to make aliyah in spite of the situation, and I hope that the ability to travel and gather is restored, which will allow us to visit and celebrate holidays and events and simply be together in a normal way, once again.
The new year symbolizes new beginnings as we received the wonderful news of normalizing Israel’s relationship with two more Arab states, the UAE and Bahrain, just a few weeks ago. This is a fantastic way to start the new year full of optimism and hope for a better future, and peace and prosperity for our region and the Jewish people.
Shanah tovah u’metukah.