At this Season of Our Renewal: Rosh Hashanah 5777


By Steven Windmueller, Ph.D.

Our Nation:

Our country appears to be at a transformational moment in its history. Civility has left the stage, replaced by a culture of violence and a pattern of social disrespect. Our politics reflects our flawed status as a nation, caught up as we are in a profound battle over how we ought to define this our American story. We will need to reaffirm our sense of national pride, repelling those who seek to tear down the ideals that have defined this society.

Yet, we seem as a citizenry to be tired, divided, and disconnected, somehow unprepared and unable, or maybe unwilling to tackle the challenges ahead. Complexity has masked and clouded our vision.

In turn, our youth want definition and meaning to their world. Disenfranchised citizens expect us to be present representing their interests and acknowledging their pain.

Sadly, we note a spike in anti-Jewish rhetoric and action. This assault extends beyond Jews as we see the promotion of hate-filled messages being directed against immigrants, Muslims, Latinos and others.

Our destiny as a society is at stake!

Our Community and Our People:

Just as our religious tradition requires our activist hand in pursuing our ongoing commitment to heal the world, American Judaism, reflecting both external challenges and internal strains, is struggling to define itself for new generations of Jews.

Beyond these shores our dream for a safe and secure Jewish State still seems uncertain, the national character of our Zion remains to be affirmed as Israel struggles to reflect its Jewish and democratic identity, while charting its way unevenly to secure the unfulfilled vision of peace between Jews and Arabs.

Just as religious fanaticism accelerates across the globe, there is a growing tendency among some of us when encountering alternative Jewish expressions of faith and ritual to marginalize our own sisters and brothers. The well being of the Jewish people must not remain an ideal but by necessity needs to be affirmed.

In this Moment:

The shofar calls the household of the Jewish people to action, compelling us to be responsive to our collective welfare and requiring us to heal the deep strains that divide us within our community, this nation and beyond.

Dr. Steven Windmueller is the Rabbi Alfred Gottschalk Emeritus Professor of Jewish Communal Service at the Jack H.Skirball Campus of the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles. His writings can be found at