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Dear Reader: Reimagining Jewish Life

Photo by
Ian Spanier

It’s that time of year. Time to take a deep, honest look at our lives and our world. The classic Jewish term for this work is cheshbon hanefesh, an accounting of one’s soul. I think of it as a strenuous spiritual audit, forcing ourselves to be truthful in facing the shortcomings we’ve glossed over or chosen to ignore in the past year.

Have we done all we could to make our world a more fair and just place? Have we given enough tzedakah? Could we have taken more action to shape responsible public policy at home and abroad? Have we stood up for Israel as best we could? Surely we have not succeeded on all counts.

The upcoming Days of Awe also present an opportunity for us all to do a collective cheshbon hanefesh and reenvision together how we can be true to our highest values as a Jewish community.At the Union for Reform Judaism, we are reimagining Jewish life, setting our sights on what we, as the Reform Movement, must now become.

I invite you to join me, along with the URJ board and staff, in making 5773 a year of reimagining the ways we engage in the core work of Jewish life, from undertaking sacred study and spiritual practice to building compassionate Jewish communities and working to heal our broken world.

Albert Einstein famously observed, “Imagination is more important than knowledge.” In the Akeda story we read on Rosh Hashanah, our patriarch Abraham raised his eyes to see the place that God chose, while his servants saw nothing. That’s our challenge today as well—to courageously envision a bright future, even if—perhaps especially if—others cannot see it.

Let us, then, not squander the High Holy Days by going through the motions. Instead, let us open ourselves—individually and collectively—to the rigorous self-scrutiny and the intense reimagination that our tradition prescribes.

L’Shanah Tova Tikatevu. May you be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs

President, Union for Reform Judaism

Your thoughts and ideas are welcomed. Contact Rabbi Jacobs: and/or send a letter-to-the-editor:


Union for Reform Judaism.