This year, I will divide my time between a few Jerusalem synagogues. Here, and across other cities of Israel, I meet new Jewish émigrés from Russia, the tens of thousands of fellow Jews who have fled since the start of the war. We reminisce about our pasts, and look ahead to our future.
It is strange to feel in exile in Jerusalem, in the Jewish ancestral land — but home is strange like that. Over the centuries, rabbis used to sign their names on documents, not as a “rabbi of” a certain city, but rather “as a temporary dweller” of that city. The role of a religious leader is not only to be a pastoral guide, not only to answer questions and lead services and give sermons, the beautiful and glorious moments that fill one with meaning, a sense of purpose and awe. Those are, so to speak, the easy parts of the rabbinate.
The hardest task of religious leadership is to take moral stances in difficult times, no matter the cost.
And this is perhaps what the shofar, the ram’s horn that Jews blow on the High Holy Days, represents. According to the Bible, the shofar blow is the sound of freedom. It was historically blown at the beginning of the jubilee year — the year that freed all slaves and returned all sold ancestral property. The sound of the shofar blow is meant to remind us of both freedom and equality.
When we blow that shofar this year, let us remember how a peaceful world must rely on the fundamentals of liberty and life, not only for individuals but also among nations.
Moscow's chief rabbi will celebrate his first Yom Kippur in exile because a Russian "government source informed [his] synagogue that we would be expected to support [Putin's war in Ukraine] — or else." https://t.co/o0YteQjznG
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) October 4, 2022