Clinging to hope

Clinging to hope

But still, one thing we have learned in the last half decade is that almost anything can happen.

Hope. (Photo by vallgall, courtesy of
Hope. (Photo by vallgall, courtesy of

As Jan. 1, 2018, approached, none of us could have imagined what we would experience and witness in the coming six years.

Looking back now, our lives — our world — seem almost quaint.

No, it wasn’t an easy time. At the close of 2017, we were reckoning with a polarizing president, the #MeToo movement had awakened us to the ubiquity of sexual harassment and assault, and we watched in shock as a violent demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, teemed with hundreds of neo-Nazis shouting, “Jews will not replace us.”

It was almost too much to bear.

But then life moved from the outrageous to the surreal.

An antisemitic gunman stormed the Tree of Life building 11 months later, killing 11 Jewish worshippers as they celebrated Shabbat. The mass shooting of innocents was far from the first our country had faced, but it was the most violent antisemitic attack in U.S. history and a horrifying awakening that Jew-hatred was not only alive and well in America, but lethal — and it could happen anywhere.

Seventeen months later the world shut down, the result of a pandemic that eventually would claim almost 7 million lives. For months on end, schools were closed, synagogues were closed, offices were closed, theaters went dark. When we did venture out in public, we covered our faces with masks. We wiped down our groceries wearing disposable gloves. We socialized in pods or on Zoom. It should have been the stuff of science fiction. Except it was real.

As the pandemic waned, and the trial of the synagogue shooter finally occurred and concluded, life began to resume some semblance of normalcy.

Then Oct. 7, 2023, happened.

Thousands of Hamas terrorists invaded Israel, murdering 1,200 people and taking 240 captive. The gruesomeness of the attack — which included the beheadings of babies and the barbaric mutilation of women’s bodies — was inconceivable.

We asked, how could this have happened? Is there nothing that is impossible in this world?

And yet the gravity of the last several years leaves us wondering: If we could live through horrific events that were unfathomable in the truest sense of the word, is it possible for the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction? Could we find oursevles experiencing unimaginable goodness as well?

Perhaps this notion is naïve. But still, one thing we have learned in the last half decade is that almost anything can happen.

Since Oct. 7, Jewish communal gatherings regularly have included the singing of Israel’s national anthem, “Hatikvah,” which translates in English to “The Hope.” It is a constant reminder that hope has been the lifeblood of Jews throughout our history.

The late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks differentiated hope from optimism. “Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better,” he wrote. “Hope is the belief that we can make things better … It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to hope.”

As 2023 comes to a close, we cling to the hope for a better world, believe it is possible, and pray for the courage to make it so. PJC

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