Growing up in the Reform movement, my synagogue’s prayer book for the High Holidays was Gates of Repentance. While my practice of Judaism has changed dramatically since those days, I still love that book, partly because of the powerful memories it evokes, but also because it’s beautifully written and edited.
One of its best passages is a work by the late American poet Anthony Hecht, “Words for the Day of Atonement.” The poem begins:
Merely to have survived is not an index of excellence,
Nor, given the way things go, even of low cunning.
Yet I have seen the wicked in great power,
And spreading himself like a green bay tree.
And the good as if they had never been;
Their voices are blown away on the winter wind.
And again we wander the wilderness
For our transgressions
Which are confessed in the daily papers.
As I got older and more traditionally observant, I found this passage increasingly troublesome, if still beautifully rendered. It seemed to me lazy and evasive to effectively self-absolve by replacing a process that was supposed to be about what I do wrong with one about what we do wrong.
I thought about this poem recently while driving home from an event in Chicago that I was covering for the Haym Salomon Center. You can read my piece on the event – which was a celebration for convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh – here. In the car, I thought about the people I had seen cheering for Odeh, calling her murder of two Israelis “activism,” and defending the morality of violence against the innocent. And, when I remembered the people I had seen wearing t-shirts that said “another Jew against the occupation,” I thought:
“And again we wander the wilderness for our transgressions which are confessed in the daily papers.”
With all the darkness in the world, it’s easy to feel that way. It’s one thing to see the forces arrayed against us – including cultural forces like the mainstream, legacy, and online press who contribute to the demonization of Israel and the West – and despair a little. But we also see too many of our fellow Jews abandoning us and a restored Jewish state. We see people who should care about liberal democracy and its core values siding with zero-sum barbarians. We see people who should know better believing ridiculous, ahistorical nonsense.
And again we wander the wilderness…
But as I pulled into my driveway that night, having spent the trip home wondering how I would write a report on the evening’s events, I remembered why I do what I do – and it’s right there in Hecht’s poem: “which are confessed in the daily papers.” Haym Salomon Center has spent the last two years changing what is confessed in the daily papers. With your help, we’ve covered stories no one else covered, changed the focus of previously-reported stories, promoted pro-Western and pro-Israel opinion, and had an impact that far outweighs our size and budget. We’re enormously proud of our work. And grateful for our supporters who share our perspective and vision.
As you consider the many appeals you’ll get this time of year, I hope you’ll commit to the work we do.
Please support the Haym Salomon Center by donating online at http://www.haymsalomoncenter.org/donate or by sending a check to:
Haym Salomon Center
PO Box 5004
Buffalo Grove, Illinois 60089
It’s true that our people – and the free world – seem to be in a time of wandering. But amidst the chaos, Haym Salomon Center offers a ray of hope.
May the year 5778 be one of peace and prosperity for you, for Israel, and for all the world.
Jonathan L. Greenberg
Senior Vice President