Eric M. Robbins’ 2021 Rosh Hashanah Message
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Eric M. Robbins’ 2021 Rosh Hashanah Message

Read community insights, perspectives and opportunities seen as we enter into the 5782/ 2021 New Year.

Eric M. Robbins is the president and CEO of the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.

Eric M. Robbins
Eric M. Robbins

When I joined the Federation five years ago, Steven Rakitt, a past CEO, congratulated me by sending a big, green plant. It thrived in my office until we left to work remotely, then it dramatically wilted and turned brown. I consigned it to our HR Director, Jeanette Park, who spent months lovingly nursing it back to life. Today my plant is smaller, but thanks to Jeanette, it’s green and growing.

The plant’s comeback hints at one of the most revolutionary ideas in the history of humankind — the Shmita or sabbatical year. Shmita is the Torah’s commandment that humans take responsibility for the earth by letting the land lie fallow every seven years. A Shmita year is also about justice: we are commanded to forgive all debts and let those who are hungry glean the grapes, olives, and crops that have not been harvested.

Rosh Hashanah 5782 ushers in a Shmita year, and it has me thinking that, among all the ways we have adapted and pivoted these past 18 months to survive the pandemic, what, if anything, have we done to truly change? Certainly, when it comes to global warming, the U.N. Climate Change Report says: not very much. The earth is in a red zone, with forests ablaze, epic floods, and record-breaking high temperatures.

This Rosh Hashanah I believe that we stand at the brink of a major moral opportunity. There is no going back to normal. Everything around us has been disrupted, and yet we cling to old habits, worn strategies, and puny expectations. A Shmita year, especially after a pandemic, is a reset — a moment to commit to radical change.

Let us use this brilliant opportunity, the Shmita year, to reevaluate our priorities and address them with fresh and bold thinking. It has never been more relevant or more urgent than right now.

Eric Robbins is the president and CEO of Shmitah Year: A Call to Change.

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