Rosh Hashanah isn’t canceled

The Rosh Hashanah holiday has never been more relevant or needed.

JNF-USA supporters sound the shofar on top of the ancient Jewish fortress of Masada in 2019. (photo credit: JNF USA)
JNF-USA supporters sound the shofar on top of the ancient Jewish fortress of Masada in 2019.
(photo credit: JNF USA)

Although many of us won’t be gathering for Rosh Hashanah services like usual this year, the festival is far from canceled. In fact, the holy day has never been more relevant or needed. 

Tekiah! I watched in awe as High School in Israel’s Rabbi Leor Sinai blew the shofar and spoke with so much glee and energy about Rosh Hashanah. His enthusiasm was contagious (the only thing I want to be catching right now) and it was in listening to Rabbi Sinai that I realized it’s incumbent on all of us to recognize this period as a time of renewal and introspection as we recharge our souls and spirit.

While the future may seem uncertain, as sure as the sun continues to rise our People’s story will continue to endure and flourish. While many of our day-to-day interactions have moved into the virtual world, we have found new ways to adapt and interact. It is part of the human condition that we look to innovate when faced with challenges. It’s something I’m proud to say we’ve done, and continue to do, at Jewish National Fund-USA.

From beautiful online Kabbalat Shabbat services and our virtual Shabbat experience for JNFutures (for 22-40 year-olds) to connecting with the movers and shakers behind hit Israeli television shows, we have, and continue to engage and support our community in new and exciting ways. 

For example, barely a week after the pandemic hit Israel, we realized that the country’s small businesses who relied on tourism would bear the initial brunt of the impending economic downturn. To help, we immediately launched an Online Mitzvah Market Place enabling Americans to purchase exquisite artisanal goods from Israelis in the Galilee and Negev. 

Together with our Virtual Tours (an initiative that has seen over 3,500 participants “travel” to Israel and in turn, provide much needed income for Israel’s tour guides), we are in an unexpected way connecting new people to Israel, some of whom may never have visited before. 

While nothing can replace meeting our supporters in person and hearing about why they support Israel, our partners (donors) realized that just like Rosh Hashanah, the immediate needs of our affiliates haven’t ceased.

For instance, the staff at ALEH Negev-Nahalat Eran continue to provide care to Israelis with severe intellectual disabilities. Our MAKOM communities continue to provide support to elderly Israelis who can’t visit the pharmacy and supermarkets. And LOTEM remains steadfast in helping underprivileged children with disabilities receive laptops and tablets enabling them to learn online. 

Thankfully, we have been blessed at Jewish National Fund-USA to enjoy the support of so many dedicated partners. In fact, many of our lay leaders have stepped up and increased their gifts. Because of them and the hundreds of thousands of people who support our movement, we just surpassed the $711 million mark of our One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade initiative.

As Rabbi Sinai powerfully notes, the Torah says that “you should have a blasting of a day” – or the day itself should be a time of awakening. During this period, we should imagine the shofar blast lasting 24 hours so that we are in a constant state of awareness and awakening. In this spirit, let us see the beginning of 5781 as a time to open our hearts and souls as we prepare for all that we will achieve together in what I’m confident will be our best year yet.

Dr. Sol Lizerbram is President of Jewish National Fund-USA