A new year is before us, filled with promise and possibility. The weather is finally cooler, new school schedules are more routine, and there are now months of mostly uninterrupted time to get things done.
But events—national and local—have also presented this year as one of immediate, serious responsibility and obligation. Responding to national disasters, marching for justice and, just overnight Sunday, a horrific mass shooting in Las Vegas all demand our immediate attention.
First and right away, our prayers are with those who were slaughtered in Sunday night’s mass shooting in Las Vegas. The scope of this carnage grew from 20 originally reported killed to some 59, with more than 500 wounded. A concert turned into the worst mass shooting in modern American history. Those out enjoying music with friends and family were, in an instant, killed or injured in a barrage of gunfire. The scale and scope of this tragedy is too much to comprehend right now.
Too little is currently known about this horrific attack to draw conclusions or discuss policy, but surely we will again be having a discussion on responsible gun ownership and gun control. We will also be discussing mental health and the broader sickness in our society concerning violence.
A massive hurricane has leveled Puerto Rico, creating a humanitarian crisis. Houston will be recovering and rebuilding for a long time after torrential rains and flooding. The Virgin Islands have essentially been blown over, as have the Florida Keys. The people impacted are all Americans in America, and there should be no delay in providing as much aid as is needed. In Puerto Rico, this will likely be a “ground up” rebuilding of roads, water and sanitation, healthcare, energy delivery and communications.
The confrontation, nastiness and thinly veiled racism that have been heaped on Puerto Rico demean and diminish our national discourse. The only response to the cries for help from our island commonwealth should be, “We’re on our way.” I’m sure that New York’s diverse Jewish communities are supporting this vital effort.
Social-media feeds were filled with pictures from this past Sunday’s #TorahTrumpsHate march. Families and neighbors gathered on the day after Yom Kippur to extol Torah values in the face of increasingly confrontational, sometimes toxic, public discussions around social justice, racism, sexism and equity. As Rabbi Levi Welton once said to me over breakfast, “Nothing bad has ever come from Kiddush HaShem; we could all use more of it all of the time.”
Activism grounded in faith, whether progressive or conservative, is a proud aspect of American politics. In matters of civil rights, education, social justice and gender equity, American Jewry has always been active. As such, it was troubling that the March for Racial Justice in Washington—in which Sunday’s march should have been included—was scheduled for Shabbos, which was also Yom Kippur. That scheduling offense was not accidental: Lately, progressive politics and activism have taken a decidedly anti-Israel and anti-Semitic tone, which is a larger conversation this column and paper discuss often.
New years are new beginnings. It’s appropriate and healthy to make resolutions; it’s important to try for positive change. As we start in on 5778, we are again new but, as is too often the case, we are also deeply saddened.