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Together again

What a difference a year makes.

This time last year we were in lockdown. Rows of seats sat eerily empty in our synagogues.

We were unable to gather together to hear the blowing of the shofar, nor the words of wisdom from our rabbis who save their best sermons for this time of year.

We were unable to be with our extended families at Rosh Hashanah dinners.

For those in Melbourne, it was the second year in a row being confined to our homes during the High Holy Days. The previous year in Sydney, reduced capacity at shules meant not everyone could davven together.

So as we all gather together this year, let’s count our blessings. Cherish all those things that we took for granted in previous years before they were taken away.

Much has also happened in a year. Antisemitism has risen worldwide, with Australia not immune. The Sydney festival boycott showed the ugly face of the BDS movement. On campus, Jewish students have faced horrendous anti-Zionist activity bordering on antisemitism.

On the positive side, Australia officially endorsed the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and proscribed Hamas and Hezbollah in their entirety. The new Albanese Labor government is treading a pragmatic line on Israel and proving to be a friend to our community. Two Australian states – NSW and Victoria – banned the display of Nazi symbols.

Worldwide, a wave of terror in Israeli cities earlier this year threatened to escalate, as did a round of conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in early August. Israel’s government collapsed, leading the country to its fifth elections in three-and-a-half years.

The people of Ukraine have been living under attack since February. And just recently, Queen Elizabeth passed away, ushering in the era of King Charles III.

The new year is certainly beginning with many changes. As we mark Rosh Hashanah, may we pray for peace, not just in Israel but for all those living in conflict, wherever they may be.

With Rosh Hashanah being a time of renewal, it is apt that we mark it with the end of the pandemic hopefully in sight. We have renewed our social lives, office lives and our overseas travel plans.

Let’s also renew our commitment to being better people, to looking each after and contributing to our communities.

Shana tova.

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