New year message: Let's work together towards a better 2021

Rabbi David Mason. Picture: Muswell Hill Synagogue

Rabbi David Mason admits it is often hard to let other people into our challenges - Credit: Muswell Hill Synagogue

The English poet John Donne once wrote that “any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind”.

Emily Tamkin took this further in an article in the New Statesman recently where she talked about empathy as something we can take forward from this recent turbulent period of pandemic.

In fact, in the Jewish religion, there is a well-known text that "we are all guarantors for the other" - not just that we are responsible for other people, but that we attempt to stand in their place and understand their plight.

This is hard, but it certainly starts with empathy. So let’s start 2021 by reflecting on the importance of empathy not just for those close to us – but for those different than us.

We need to remember also that we are still in the midst of the pandemic. We are going to find it hard to draw immediate meaning from everything until we can move on from it. We will be experiencing paradoxes.


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Some of us will feel blessed to maintain a job and a living, knowing that at the same time many others will not be so blessed. Many of us will feel pangs of desire to connect with others, at the time that we are being guided to socially distance.

But maybe one insight to start reflecting on – in other words, I am not preaching here – is that one can still believe in society, still act to help society, even if one does not regularly, constantly spend time with other people.

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Friendships are important of course. But to want society to flourish needs ideas, vision and political activism. I wonder whether we need to ensure in 2021 that our voices are heard more and are made relevant.

And so, this painful year of 2020 is coming to an end. I sincerely pray that things will open up for us in 2021. But whatever happens, things cannot be the same for our society.

Let’s all work together that the positive, meaningful and moral opportunities are those that are taken forward.

Wishing all Ham&High readers a very happy new year and a blessed 2021.

  • David Mason is rabbi of Muswell Hill Synagogue.

READ MORE: Muswell Hill Synagogue goes green: Eco-Synagogue programme is faith response to climate crisis

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