Sundown this evening begins the ancient Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah, which marks the beginning of the season known to Jews as the High Holy Days. I would like to offer my wishes for a sweet, prosperous, safe and happy new year to the Jewish community in the District of Columbia.
The Jewish New Year and High Holy Days are a time for introspection, meditation and resolutions on the Jewish principle of tikkun olam -- repairing the world through acts of service, justice and kindness.
The Jewish community is integral to the history and fabric of America and of the District of Columbia. I am personally thankful for the immeasurable and invaluable contributions of Jews to the cultural, civic and social life of our city and our nation.
The great symbol of Rosh Hashanah is the shofar, or ram's horn, which is also an encouragement for all of us -- of all faiths and backgrounds -- to work to better each other's lives. The blast of the shofar appears in the Torah as a signal of freedom, as it states in Leviticus (25: 9-10) that “you shall blast the shofar … and then declare liberty in the land.”
As Jewish congregations blow the shofar and mark the beginning of a new year this Rosh Hashanah, it is also important to look back on the past year, which has been a difficult one for many District residents, and pledge to work together as One City to improve the lives of our neighbors. As a rabbi once taught me, it is not enough for us to simply blast the shofar; we must also hear its sound as a call to action to help our neighbors.
As we begin this year, I hope all residents of the District will recommit themselves to repairing the world through service to others, concern for the plight of the most vulnerable in our society and through justice and kindness toward all.
To all, I wish you a Shana Tova Umetuka -- “a good and sweet new year” -- this Rosh Hashanah.
Vincent C. Gray