As we prepare for Rosh HaShanah, the beginning of a Jewish year, and reflect on the one that is ending, I am writing to wish you — our beloved JFREJ members, friends, allies, and fellow travelers — a good and sweet and reflective new year.

I also want to share that the JFREJ “office” will be closing for the period in our tradition known as Yamim HaNoraim or The Days of Awe — i.e., the ten days between Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur (Friday, Sept. 18th - Monday, Sept. 28th). This is new for JFREJ and I want to tell you why we are taking this step.

I don’t need to tell you how painful, challenging, sometimes exhilarating, and unprecedented this year has been. Together, we’ve navigated uncharted waters and fought with every fiber of our individual and collective beings against the ongoing assaults on all our communities.

We are grieving so much loss. And we know we are preparing for even deeper struggle in the coming months.

And, we are also facing energizing new realities: a new political terrain is emerging, in which defunding the NYPD, passing the New York Health Act, and building a New York that works for all of us may indeed be possible for the first time. We are clear eyed about the stakes and what we’re building. The future is ours for the taking, if we dare to rise up and seize it. As David Graeber (z”l) put it, The ultimate hidden truth of the world is that it's something that we make and could just as easily make differently.

But, we won’t get there if we are running on fumes and if we don’t take the time to collectively breathe. Many of our movement partners have modeled the kind of care that we at JFREJ also believe is critical to building the city, state, and world of our dreams. We are taking our cues from them, and humbly reminding ourselves that the burden we feel to fight and struggle each and every day is not ours alone to carry. We can and must rest. We can and must reflect. We can and must take time to ground ourselves and to prepare emotionally, spiritually, and physically for the work ahead.

Tisha B'Av Service as part of 40 Days of Teshuvah. Photo credit: Ali Levin.

I am grateful that our Jewish tradition offers a sacred container for us to embody this practice. The Days of Awe — Yamim HaNoraim — offer us space to do the internal work we need to do: the reflection, the repair, the re-balancing.

This is true for each of us who want to be able to gather strength to confront our broken world in the new year and to do it with generosity, kindness and love. And it is true for an organization like JFREJ whose staff and members work at full strength throughout the year. Now we are given, and give ourselves, some time for teshuvah, for return to the best of ourselves and our community, for repair of breaches when needed, and especially for the re-balancing that every person and every organization needs. We hope that each of you will also take some time to do this work as you see fit: to pray, to blow shofar, to find sweetness in apples and honey, to gather (virtually) in community, to do tashlich — ritually discarding all that stops you from being who you know you can be.

Your JFREJ family wishes you the strongest, brightest, sweetest year we can imagine. And we appreciate your honoring our time of rest. Know that we will return renewed and refreshed, and ready to join with you again, newly determined to make this the year when we win back our future.

Yours in gratitude and solidarity,
Audrey Sasson
Executive Director, JFREJ