Perspectives on the New Year

Jason, my nephew, turned 13 in December. In honor of reaching this milestone, my brother and sister-in-law permitted him to create his very first Facebook account. So, as most new users do, Jason got busy connecting with friends and uploading pictures.

Today, however, while vacationing in Israel with his family, Jason put up his very first “real” post. He wrote, “January 1st is known as Sylvester for Jews in Israel. January 1st was a horrible day for the Jews in the medieval times. Sylvester was a saint who was extremely anti-Semitic and convinced Constantine the 2nd to kill, rape, rob, and destroy almost all of the Jewish evidence in Israel at the time. I am not telling you not to celebrate new years but it is a horrible day in Judiasim.”

As I sit here, I cannot help but contemplate and reflect upon my nephew’s comments.

  • First and foremost, I’m fascinated by the fact that this topic was the chosen post of a 13-year-old on New Year’s Day. I cannot help but wonder what inspired his remarks.  (Maybe I’ll call him and ask.)
  • Additionally, I’m curious about whether his post is just a reflection of Jason’s upbringing or whether it’s a true glimpse  of his own perspectives.  (I’m sure that time will tell.)
  • Looking back over the 5,000+ past years of Jewish history, one probably could find at least one anti-Semitic act committed on every single day of a calendar year. So what makes January 1st particularly special?
  • While I don’t want to quibble with a 13-year-old, a quick glance at Wikipedia reveals that Pope Silvester I was pope of the Roman Catholic Church for about 20 years.  He died on December 31, 335 and, actually, very little is known of him.  Constantine I, however, was the Roman emperor during that same time period and was the first to convert to Christianity.  (Once the Romans became determined to spread Christianity through the crusades, no one was safe.)
  • Finally, Wikipedia’s entry for New Year’s Eve displays a list of cultural, secular, and religious ways that the holiday is celebrated around the world today; none of which is anti-Semitic.

So, to my dear nephew Jason, given that the Jews have their own New Year — Rosh HaShanah — it is true that there is no good reason to celebrate the secular New Year; regardless of its pagan or potentially anti-Semitic roots.  But, I do believe that this is a good time of the year to take stock; to perform a quarterly review of where we are on the commitments and resolutions we made back during the High Holidays and even add new ones.

For me personally, I still resolve to:  eat healthier, get more exercise, stay in better touch with family and friends, take more vacations with my husband, kick butt in my new job, and write my book.  Happy New Year!

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