Now that we have experienced Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur together, and following our celebrations of Sukkot, the completion of another cycle of the reading of our Torah and the start of a new cycle of readings, I reiterate my wishes for a good, healthy, fulfilling year to all of you and yours. celebrating the High Holy Days together this year, in community, was a precious gift. Seeing so many of you and sensing the energy of a fresh start fill me and my family with both gratitude and passion for our community. We are fortunate to be among you and to share in the mission of advancing our brand of Judaism and values. as this period of Tishrei (the first month of the Jewish calendar) comes to an end, we can look forward to many more opportunities to worship, celebrate, learn, engage, and build community together.
As always, our Jewish mission is anchored in a clear, candid understanding of the world we inhabit. as you know, on November 4th of this year we will mark the 40th anniversary of the unfolding of the hostage crisis in Iran. Following the Islamic revolution there, a group of hundreds of radicalized “university students” stormed the United States embassy in Tehran and took fifty two American diplomats and citizens hostage. a number of the hostages would only be liberated approximately fifteen months later. the eruption of this hostage crisis caused the immediate resignation of Iranian Prime Minister Bazargan and his cabinet, signaling a growing hostility towards the West, in general, and the United States, in particular. Since then, the events of November 4th,1979 have marked the start of a new chapter in the relationship between the Shiite-clergy leadership of Iran and the world. this day also serves as a reminder of the kind of hostility and violence that certain forms of religion, especially when mixed with politics, can promote in human lives. to us, the recollection of this day and its events should serve as yet another echo of the shofar call – it must strengthen us in our resolve to advance our enlightenment-based, open, accepting, and bridge-building brand of Judaism. Our world demands it.
With this historical marker and others in mind, we are in the midst of preparations toward our Kristallnacht commemoration that will take place on November 8th. This year, our commemoration will include our friends from St. Gregory of Narek Church – the only Armenian parish in the Cleveland area. Our joint service will commemorate both Kristallnacht and the precursors to the Armenian genocide – precursors that included the expression of religious hatred in the Ottoman empire in November of 1914. We will redouble our efforts to educate our friends and neighbors about the Holocaust and deepen our appreciation for its context, devastating implications, and for the continued impact of antisemitism. Our joint commemoration of Kristallnacht will be especially meaningful because Hitler specifically cited the Armenian genocide as a precedent for the Holocaust. We will continue to build bridges of understanding and common purpose and fight antisemitism, as well as other forms of hatred and prejudice. We hope that you will join us in force for this important event.
Later in November our focus will turn to the potential for progress and for the gradual unfolding of justice in our lives. together we will recall that one hundred years ago, women did not yet have the right to cast a vote in this country, and that in 1919-1920 this wrong was made right. along with Havdalah on November 16, we will engage in learning about women’s long struggle for equality and celebrate women’s leadership in religious and civic life. This event will offer us the opportunity to consider both our heritage and the work that remains to be done for us to pave a path of fairness and enable all members of our greater community to realize their potentials and, in turn, strengthen us.
In summary, we are ready for a Jewish year of meaningful and purposeful worship, educational, and cultural programs at the temple. there is much for us to remember in sadness, and also a great deal to appreciate and celebrate. In this vibrant community of ours, we will neither forget nor lift our arms in despair. We must and shall continue to forge ahead in 5780, praying, learning, and working to enhance meaning and goodness for us, our loved ones, our friends, and our neighbors. may we find strength together, and proceed from strength to strength.
With warm regards and all good wishes,
Rabbi Jonathan Cohen