Where is Hope?

Rabbi Julie Pelc Adler
November 7, 2011
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Sh’ma’s subtitle, “A Journal of Jewish Responsibility”, reminds us that it’s a Jewish obligation to care what goes on in the world around us. In a socio-cultural milieu wherein individualism is an ever-increasingly powerful god and our concern for others is dictated mainly by how it affects us, the belief that we are Responsible for others and for what happens in our world can be extraordinarily counter-cultural.

There is no doubt in my mind that Responsibility is an essential ingredient of Jewish identity and Jewish engagement. And yet, I cannot deny that my overwhelming instinct with respect to all things political is to disengage.

My generation knows less and less respect for politics and for politicians. We are skeptical that our vote matters; we doubt that one candidate or political platform significantly differs from the next. We feel powerless to effect real change and, even after rallying for a favorite candidate (who might have renewed our hope in governments and their ability to make life better) many of us were disappointed by the outcome.

Looking critically at the strained relationship between Jews and Judaism and the UN feels like an exercise in futility. So what? Can we really do anything to make change?
I want to believe that we can. I know that as citizens of the world we are obligated by our sense of belonging to a world community greater than ourselves. There is nothing more Jewish than the sense of Responsibility.

Except perhaps hope. Hatikva is our National Anthem, after all. Where can we find hope in this world of satire and disengagement? Who are the leaders who can re-inspire us to take risks and to step forward to act on our inner-most beliefs? How will we know that we won’t be ultimately disappointed again? These are the questions that stir my heart at this season. As the political climate in Israel and throughout the world shifts yet again, it is our Responsibility now to begin gathering up the courage to have faith in the hope for a different, better future.

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Rabbi Julie Pelc Adler works at the Aitz Hayim Center for Jewish Living in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois. She also serves as the Director of the Berit Mila Program of Reform Judaism. She received master’s degrees from the University of Judaism and from Harvard Graduate School of Education and was ordained as a rabbi by Hebrew Union College—Jewish Institute of Religion in 2006, where she found deep meaning writing and researching her Rabbinic Thesis on the Book of Job: "Talk to Me: (Or, When More Bad Things Happen to Good People)." She is married to Rabbi Amitai Adler (also an S Blog contributor) and this year became Michael Zachary Joel Adler's mother.

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