The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, has sent his greetings to the Jewish Communities at the start of the festival of Rosh Hashanah. In his message Dr Williams recalls his visit to Auschwitz and Birkenau with the Chief Rabbi and Rabbi Tony Bayfield, and looks ahead to the presence of the Chief Rabbi in the House of Lords, as well as his meeting with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
The full text of the greeting is below:
To Jewish friends and fellow workers on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah 2009
It gives me great pleasure once again to be able to offer my warmest greetings and good wishes on the occasion of Rosh Hashanah to all in the Jewish communities in this country and abroad. The turning of the year offers once again the opportunity both to reflect on events past and to look forward with hope at the possibilities which lie ahead for us to renew the already deep bonds of solidarity and friendship in faith that bind us together.
Looking back on the past year, I recall with vivid intensity the visit to Auschwitz with the Chief Rabbi and Rabbi Dr Tony Bayfield and other religious leaders of this country, arranged through the Holocaust Educational Trust. It was a remarkable day for all of us whether in the travelling to and from Auschwitz; in the experiences of solidarity in faith; or in the sheer intensity of the horror that remains present at Auschwitz and Birkenau. To have encountered this together, side by side, in a moment of the most profound recollection, was a salutary reminder to us that we must continue to struggle together against the selfsame tendencies that remain present today.
For this reason I was glad to be able to host the London Conference on Combating Antisemitism here at Lambeth in February, and to make clear once again the Church’s unshakeable commitment to opposing the forces in our society that nurture a new anti Semitism as well as other forms of racism and dehumanisation.
The resurgence of violence in southern Israel and Gaza was the occasion of a deep testing of our relationship of trust and friendship. I dare to believe that in maintaining the bonds of relationship between Christian, Jewish and Muslim friends here in the United Kingdom, we set an example to the wider world and made a small but, I hope significant, contribution to the long term peace and reconciliation in the Middle East for which we all long. Our combined appeal from all three communities for humanitarian aid was a symbol of our determination not to follow the paths of separation and antagonism. We must pray that the current renewed efforts towards reconciliation and a lasting peace will bear fruit.
Looking to the year ahead, there is much to celebrate and to hope and to work for. We shall be glad to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, which has made such continuous contributions to our society and will continue to do so under its new leadership. I welcome wholeheartedly the future presence of the Chief Rabbi in the House of Lords where he will continue to offer profoundly important reflections on the moral issues of our times. I look forward to visiting the Middle East again and to my next meeting with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel with the opportunity to renew the commitments on which our dialogue is founded. I have been encouraged by the continued strengthening of the work of the Council of Christians and Jews and especially the broadening of its Presidency and I hope for an extension and deepening of the ways in which church and synagogue encounter each other in faith.
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us in the year ahead.