Rosh haShana 5781

High Holiday greeting from the ICCJ President Rev. Dr Bo Sandahl

Our common understanding of time is derived from the time it takes for the earth to circle the sun. During the year, there are many New Years to celebrate. There are many years and most of them are based on astronomical facts.

There are years that are religiously defined. The Jewish year has its starting point in the number seven and the moon’s 29,5 days cycle. In Genesis, we are told about the process of creation in seven days, with the seventh day as its completion, making the Shabbat the most important day in the Jewish calendar. And, as is well known, the Jewish year is 354 days long, which is the length of the lunar year, but adjustments are made to coordinate with the solar year.

The Ecclesiastical year begins with the first Sunday of Advent and, as the Jewish year, it’s centred around holidays but also in agreement with the astronomical year.

The Jewish year and, not least, the impending High Holidays bear witness to a spiritual richness. Holidays are a communal remembrance of events that have shaped a people and formed tradition, culture, liturgy and way of life. Holidays tell stories of new beginnings, transformation and hope. Out of slavery comes freedom, from teshuvah comes forgiveness, dead ends become new beginnings, vulnerability becomes strength, and even the most distressing moments in a communal history become something to remember and even celebrate with gratitude.

2020 is a year we will remember, for a very long time. It has been so different. Many plans have been changed and our yearly international conference was postponed. As I write this, we still don’t know if it will be possible to arrange a conference for next year. Communication has become digital in an unprecedented way. The Covid -19 virus has made us all change our way of life and how this will affect us in the future is something we still don’t know.

In all this, the communal stories we share from the past don’t tell us about Covid -19 but of other disasters and failures. Still, out of the most troublesome situations, new beginnings can grow and I’m confident we will experience the same this time. In the meantime, let’s be gentle with each other and take every precaution necessary!

Let me also remind you of the new layout in which our resource page JCrelations has been published. Please check it out and get acquainted with it! It is a great source for everyone involved in Jewish-Christian dialogue (the address is

To those who will celebrate the High Holidays, on behalf of the executive board, the staff at the Martin Buber House, our General-Secretary Anette Adelmann, I wish to say Shana Tova uMetuka!
For us who don’t, we will follow you closely with ‘holy envy’! (K. Stendahl)