As we approach this new year, it dawned on me that everything about my life right now feels new. A new job. A new house. New schools for my children. A new professional mission. It makes going into the new year a combination of slight apprehension and a great deal of excitement. Maybe that’s what we’re supposed to feel at this time of the year. Judaism for us should be a confrontation with tradition and an opportunity to grow and change and experience life anew.
It also occurred to me that the tension of new and old is a nexus that the Jewish Agency as a whole is experiencing. On the one hand, it is an eighty year old organization that faced the major trials and victories of Israel and our people before Israel was even a state. It was and is at the frontlines of immigration and rescue, again and again. It prepares people world-over to make their homes in Israel and to strengthen Jewish identity wherever Jews live. These goals represent both the modern and the ancient dreams of our people.
Now the Jewish Agency has taken on new leadership and a new mandate, to build Jewish peoplehood in an era when not every Jew feels like a member of our family. We are here to empower, to connect and to inspire Jews around the world to make their Jewish lives more vital and engaging, in Israel and across the globe.
Someone recently asked me how the Jewish Agency could take on a new mission when it is a relatively old organization. Why change something that is working? I responded that our task as Jews has always been to evolve as a people while holding on to an enduring sense of purpose. And I believe that the Jewish Agency is doing just that, evolving to meet the needs of a fast-paced changing world while affirming its commitment to an enduring vision. I see no contradiction in that, only growth and passion. It is a gift to be a part of a people 4000 years old that created a new state in the twentieth century, one that has been at the cusp of scientific discovery and technological advancements. The combination of old and new keeps us anchored and helps us strive.
This year I hope we can all approach our lives enmeshed in tradition and immersed in newness. And with that blessing, I want to wish you, your families, and our Jewish family around the world a joyous New Year and a year of peace, social justice and prosperity.
Dr. Misha Galperin is President & CEO of the Jewish Agency International