Preparing for the Yom Kippur fast -- some public t'shuvah

Preparing for the Yom Kippur fast -- some public t'shuvah

Like every year, I’m preparing for the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur by focusing on t’shuvah – seeking forgiveness for the things I’ve done wrong over the past year, and also redemption and return to my better, truer, less damaged self.

Like every year, I will focus on my personal wrongdoings, as there are certainly many of those. Over the next 36 hours, I’ll be scrutinizing my own shortcomings, and seeking forgiveness from family, friends, loved ones, co-workers, and others whom I have harmed – knowingly or inadvertently – over the past year.

But this year, I’m feeling the need to engage in some public t’shuvah as well. Our political dialogue have been so badly warped in this election season, that it feels like the public sphere itself has been poisoned. I can’t think of any place where t’shuvah is so badly needed right now.

So, in that spirit, I want to seek your forgiveness for my shortcomings and wrongdoings in public office this past year.

For failing to listen carefully, for interrupting, for assuming I knew what you were going to say, for saying “I’ll get back to you” and then failing to do so. I know it can feel far too often like public officials just aren’t listening.

For sins of arrogance, for thinking I knew what was best without really considering different viewpoints, for trying to show off what I thought I knew, for craving the spotlight, for taking credit for other people’s work. 

For taking cheap shots (so easy to do in the age of social media), for grandstanding, for trying to win arguments rather than build consensus, for getting caught up in polarizing rhetoric, for cherry-picking statistics to prove a point.

For the times I lacked the courage to do what I thought was right, when I kept quiet when I should have spoken up.

For the times I didn’t fully recognize when I was bringing my own perspective and bias to an issue (as a man, as white, as straight, as Jewish, as someone without physical disabilities, as someone with kids, as a Park Sloper, as a yuppie, you-name-it), and for the times when I made assumptions about others based on who I thought they were. 

For all those times when my office and I were unable to help, whether because we didn’t try hard enough, or we over-promised, or we did our best but just weren’t able to get the job done. I hold myself out as someone who can help our community and my constituents, and there are too many times when my actions just don’t live up to my words.

As we prepare for our Yom Kippur fast, at this moment when there’s so much poison and polarization in our public sphere, I want you to know how sorry I am for the times when we let you down, how much I hope to do better in the new year – and how much I’m yearning for a clean slate, for me, for my family, for the City Council, for NYC, for our country, for my people, for all of us.

G’mar chatima tova

May we be inscribed for blessing. 

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