Sundown begins 5776, the new year on the Jewish calendar, which means we've been continuously counting time since what was thought to be the beginning of creation. Aish.com has a nice, compact explanation:
The year number on the Jewish calendar represents the number of years since creation, calculated by adding up the ages of people in the Bible back to the time of creation. However, this does not necessarily mean that the universe has existed for only 5700 years as we understand years. Many Orthodox Jews will readily acknowledge that the first six "days" of creation are not necessarily 24-hour days (indeed, a 24-hour day would be meaningless until the creation of the sun on the fourth "day"). For a fascinating (albeit somewhat defensive) article by a nuclear physicist showing how Einstein's Theory of Relativity sheds light on the correspondence between the Torah's age of the universe and the age ascertained by science, see The Age of the Universe.
Archaeology will tell you there are cities way older than 5776 years old, so let's not get all wrapped up in the exactitude of the number. Okay? Can we at least agree on that much?
If you like numbers, 5776 is a good one. It's 3761 years before the Common Era began, 4282 years before Columbus set sail, and 4000 years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, So even if the start date is not exactly accurate, there's a sense that Jews have been counting time for a long time. We do have a sense of longevity, of history, of continuity.
But continuity does not mean frozen in time. It does not mean every Jew agrees with every interpretation of the Torah or the 613 mitzvot (positive commandments) found in the text. It does not mean every Jew agrees with how Israel runs itself as a secular or religious state. And it most certainly does not mean we think everyone has to be/needs to be/ought to be Jewish.
Most Jews would agree on one thing: stop trying to terrorize or change us. We have history on our side; we don't need anyone's permission or approval to be Jews. Chances are that, unless you're Hindu or Buddhist, your religion has a basis in ours. That includes but is not limited to Christianity and Islam. We don't tell you how to run your religion, so don't try to tell us how to run ours. In other words, respect your religious elders. Get off our case....and don't try to align your end-times mythology with our desire to live peacefully wherever we are, including in the land which our people settled and built up some 3000+ years ago and have remained in every since. The only three independent states ever on the land now called Israel were the First Kingdom c. 1050 - 587 BCE,) the Second Kingdom (538 BCE - 70 CE) and finally, after almost 1878 years of struggle, the modern State of Israel was established in the same place. That tiny little space between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. The cemeteries alone state quite eloquently that we are not new to the neighborhood.
We live in turbulent times. Jews are still threatened for being Jews...both here in the US and abroad. There are those who would see us pushed into the Mediterranean. There are those who would like more ovens. There are those who would change us into whatever they are. We Jews learned a lot back in the middle of the last century. We're good that way.
In the coming year, all humankind is going to be faced with challenges we could not have imagined a year ago. Everyone everywhere must step up to the plate to assist in the Syrian refugee crisis. There will be refugees coming to your neighborhoods soon enough. Let's remember what they are fleeing and teach them about the lands in which they are finding refuge. We were once refugees. We should remember that.
As we begin 5776, let's promise ourselves we will help those in peril to choose renewed life. And in our own world, let us choose to be honest and less judgmental. Let us choose to curb the rhetoric and hate speech in our own lives in order to create a place where can make wise decisions about the future of this nation.
May you all be inscribed and sealed in the Book of Life
for a happy, healthy, and wondrous new year.