It’s that time again. We buy our apples and honey and set the table for our families. We begin the year again with all the excitement that new beginnings generate. But when you’re Jewish and part of a four-thousand year old family, you can never really do anything new. You just learn to recycle better.
We have a special word for that recycling process. It’s called renewal. As we close the summer months, many of us think of renewal in relation to vacations. We rest and recover. We want to see new places and come back with a new energy to face old challenges and opportunities. But we are not completely changed. We are merely new and improved.
Why do I say that? We live in a culture that loves what is new and tosses out what is old. We want what is different. We dispose of what is last year. But when you’re Jewish, renewal becomes a more important value than change for the sake of change. It’s not about a brand-new idea, a brand-new organization, a brand-new brand. The Jewish calendar teaches us to appreciate the beauty of a repeated cycle, a perspective on time that does not reject tradition but sees the old, the sacred and the valued in a new way.
From a leadership perspective, this approach is critical. We value community while trying to reinvent it and make it better. We value our lives but want to improve the way that we live. We strengthen our friendships not by continually seeking new ones, but by deepening our commitment to the friends that we already have. We seek closeness with our families. It’s easy to move-on. It’s harder to pay more attention.
Each morning now we blow a shofar in synagogue. It’s a very old instrument, maybe our oldest. But it makes a penetrating sound which invites us into a new renewal process. May we accept that invitation to make the old new and the new integrated into the old, and may we and our families be blessed with health, happiness and meaning in the year ahead.
Dr. Misha Galperin is President & CEO of the Jewish Agency International
September 22, 2011