A call for compassion for everyone hit by the current economic meltdown has been made by a rabbi as she contemplates the most important festivals in the Jewish calendar.
Rabbi Janet Burden, of Ealing Liberal Synagogue, Lynton Avenue, West Ealing, said she pitied those who helped cause the crisis as well as those feeling the pinch.
She was talking the week before Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) on Tuesday and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) on October 9, together known as the High Holy Days. During this time Jews reflect on their lives, atone for their sins and try to make amends for the future.
Rabbi Burden said: "We do a kind of spiritual stock take. How do we measure up to the ideals that we espouse? For some people the answer to that question this year will be,'not very well.' Sometimes we are forced into a truer assessment by external events as I was reminded recently by a friend who works in the City.
"When I asked how he was weathering the economic storm of the past few weeks he replied frankly: 'We investment bankers created all this, so you shouldn't feel sorry for us.
"I suspect my friend understands better than I do who is responsible for the crisis and I do not dispute his verdict. What I would definitely refute is the idea that culpability puts someone beyond compassion. I do feel sorry for all those affected by the current financial crisis, even those who may have contributed to it. Haven't we all done things we knew perfectly well were not in keeping with our highest principles and best judgement?
"Yet the Jewish tradition teaches us to trust that we shall be judged with mercy as well as truth. Having realised we have got things wrong, we are called upon to put them right. I hope my friend and his colleagues will be given the opportunity to do just that by helping rebuild a sound financial basis for a more just society. That would make this new year sweeter for all of us."
There are a number of traditions carried out on both festivals. On Rosh Hashanah a shofar (ram's horn) is blown in synagogue which is, quite literally, a wake-up call. Sweet food like apples and honey and honey cake is eaten to symbolise a sweet New Year.
Yom Kippur is much more solemn, with adults and children over 13 (with some exceptions) fasting for 25 hours.