Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur provide a time for each of us each year to reflect upon ourselves and our place in the world.
It is during these times we address issues within ourselves that are not necessarily pleasant or easy. However, it should also be a time when we reflect upon what is good in our lives and what aspects we wish to enhance. Have we become, in Gandhi’s famous words, “the change we wish to see in the world?”
These questions spin through our heads during the High Holy Days, but when another year passes us by and we ask ourselves the same questions without much sign of improvement, that is when we know that a change must be made. Asking the question is the first step, making a change is the next.
One change we can all make, or improve upon, is addressing the problem of hunger in our communities. While I could go on about the inequities and the wrongfulness of hunger existing in the richest country in the world, I will save that for another time. Today, as Jews, these upcoming holy days are a time of both repentance and giving. Many synagogues during these holidays now collect bags of groceries from their congregants, providing much-needed food for various food banks. It’s important to bring those bags back full of food, but it’s even more important to consider giving all year long.
There are over 40 million people in the United States who don’t have enough to eat, and approximately 15 million of them are children.
The Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act of 2004 expires on Sept. 30, 2009 — just a few days after Rosh Hashanah. This year, lawmakers must ask themselves a number of questions to understand how the Child Nutrition Program can best address the needs of hungry kids and how nutritious meals can be provided to children in school on a daily basis. The Child Nutrition Act supports a series of programs, including the School Breakfast Program and the National School Lunch Program, that provide daily nutritious meals to school children in need. Every five years, lawmakers work together to model improvements and reauthorize the federal Child Nutrition Program.
In 2008, President Obama set a goal to end childhood hunger by 2015. Let this Rosh Hashanah be the year to set that goal into motion. This year, ask yourself how you can become part of the solution. Ask yourself how you can help prevent these children from augmenting the mounting negative statistics. There is no reason to wait, now is the time to act.
Throughout the High Holy Days season, I challenge all of us to speak and act from our hearts. We turn the pages of the machzor and listen to the clarion call of the shofar as it is blown to welcome the New Year. But what happens when there are no more pages to turn and the blasts of the shofar have been silenced? Look within yourself and ask the question: How can I help?
As the Jewish community continues to grow and strengthen, our hearts do the same. L’shanah tovah u’metukah, a good and sweet New Year.