An Israeli reflects on Rosh Hashanah in Sydney

September 11, 2015 by  
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For years I couldn’t understand why Rosh Hashanah came before Yom Kippur.

The Kalmans leave Sydney

The Kalmans leave Sydney

From: Aaron Kalman

Surely, I thought to myself, we should ask forgiveness for our transgressions of the past year before welcoming the New Year? Only with time did I understand the beauty in this illogical order. By reversing the order of things, the Jewish calendar reminds us that our past is never erased, and that change can happen only after you accept your ability to start anew and move forward.

Indeed, with the month of Tishrei drawing to a close, I find myself reflecting on my past year. Without doubt, the biggest change from last year’s high holidays is the physical difference: last year we celebrated the chagim in Sydney, this year we’re back home in Israel. This physical change reflects a larger change in our lives, as my wife and I reflect not only on one year, but on nearly two years as Jewish Agency/ZFA Shlichim in Sydney, working at The Central Synagogue and with the Hineni youth movement.

Surprisingly the question we’ve been asked most often since our return to Israel is the same question most people asked us when we were in Sydney; people are curious to understand just what a Shaliach does. The follow-up question also tends to be the same, and that’s asking us for a highlight – that’s much easier to answer, because I don’t think many Israelis have encountered kangaroos roaming their youth movement campsites!

But how do you answer the main question? What do the Israeli Shlichim (of which Australia is blessed to have many of the best…) do? Why is it that we choose to take two years out of our lives and work with a Jewish community on the other side of the world? And what is it that we have that makes communities and organizations willing to spend time and money to ensure they have their own Shaliach?

When in Australia we talked about four different aspects of our work: facilitating educational events about Israel and Judaism; bringing a fresh perspective and new approach to existing communal projects; and brining our taste and view of Israel to every place we go and everything we plan. The fourth part is also the one most unique to Shlichim, it’s what separates us not only from Australian educators, but also from Israeli’s who moved to Australia. The fourth and final aspect of being a Shaliach is returning to Israel and continuing to be a source of knowledge and inspiration to all the people we connected with during our time in Sydney.

Also in Israel we try to remain available and connected to the teenagers, students and families who welcomed us in Sydney. One example is us meeting the 25 participants of Hineni’s Shnat program (whom we last saw at the airport as they left Australia). It was an exciting event, and while they don’t want their time in Israel to end we can’t wait to welcome those who are now finishing Year 12 and will be landing in January. Multiple other examples can be seen in our diaries, in which the markings of meals and coffee dates with people coming to visit take highlight multiple pages.

With Yom Kippur a week after Rosh Hashanah, I had the chance to revisit and rethink of my time in Sydney after I had celebrated our return home and officially began this next chapter. But I also prayed this wouldn’t be a one-off occasion. After meeting hundreds of people at dozens of camps, seminars and events, I can only hope to see them again, to see YOU again. So, when you arrive in Israel, give me a call.

Aaron Kalman was a Shaliach for ZFA/Hineni/Central Synagogue.


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