A community of communities

July 2015

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 11:37am -- Rabbi

The end of this week brought us the news of two horrific attacks in Israel.  In one, a Jewish man stabbed six people at the Jerusalem Pride Parade, which celebrates the Israeli LGBT community, leaving at least two people with very serious wounds.  In another, unknown assailants firebombed a Palestinian family's home in the West Bank, killing an 18-month-old child and leaving his family gravely injured, with burns covering most of their bodies.  Hebrew graffiti left on the home suggested that this was a "price tag" attack carried out by Jews.  Both of these awful acts of violence have been condemned by the Israeli government as hate crimes and have caused outrage in Israeli society.  Prime Minister Netanyahu called the firebombing a terrorist attack on Palestinians that will not be tolerated.  Huge forces have been mobilized to find the attackers and bring them to justice.

 

While the reactions of both the Israeli government and the Israeli people are reassuring, we also need to look more deeply into the forces that drive these attacks. When political opinions turn into hatred, when shouts of disagreement are replaced by knives and bombs, when Jews turn from argument to violence, something has gone very wrong inside our Jewish communities.  As Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan said, "A people whose children were burned in the Holocaust must search our souls at a time like this."  We need to look inward and commit ourselves more fully to finding ways to disagree without condemning each other, to make our political arguments without personally attacking each other, and to face the fears and anxieties that come from within us without turning away from the human face of the other that calls us to behave humanely toward them, no matter how much we may disagree.  The rabbinic tradition teaches us that strong conflicts can be discussed in an atmosphere of respect and love for those with whom we argue.  We need to model that behavior in our own, very diverse community and spread that message out into the world.  May these awful events inspire us with the urgency to make this task our own.

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Fri, 07/24/2015 - 12:28pm -- Rabbi

 

 "Arise, cry aloud in the night! ...Pour out your heart like water before the presence of God! ...See, God, and look! ...Should priest and prophet be slain in the sanctuary of God?  On the ground in the streets lie young and old; young men and young women, have fallen by the sword" (Lamentations 2:19-21)

 

 

 

This year on Tish'a B'Av we feel even more keenly the pain of these ancient words.  In these last months, we have seen indeed seen priest and prophet slain, young and old taken from us by acts of horrific violence.  These tragic events have of course devastated the families and friends of those who have died, but as with the events we recall on Tish'a B'Av, they have also deeply affected us as a community.  Like the ancients, even those of us without personal connections to the those who have been lost feel the trauma of their deaths.  We call out to God, we cry out with pleas and challenges, and we feel despair when we imagine the future of a world in which such things could happen.

 

Tish'a B'Av calls us to come together, to share our trauma and our despair, and to draw strength from each other so that we can dare to hope again.  This year we are privileged to have a guide in Bobbi Breitman, who will speak on Saturday night about trauma and finding a path to healing.  And we have the words of our prayers, the keening cries of the book of Lamentations, and the kinot, the liturgical poems of mourning, to help us give words to our feelings.  May we together go from darkness to light.

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Fri, 07/17/2015 - 8:12am -- Rabbi

Thinking about the Iran Agreement with Torah 

From the beginning of nuclear negotiations between European nations, the U.S., and Iran, there has been much debate both here and in Israel about whether an agreement - or even entering into negotiations - was worthwhile.  Now that an agreement has been announced, that debate has intensified.  During the next two months, Congress will appropriately consider the language of the agreement and its costs and benefits for the security of this country, Israel, and the world.  As we listen to and participate in this debate in the run-up to the High Holidays, we should keep in mind the obligation that Jewish tradition places on us with regard to war and peace:  "When approaching a city to wage war on it, first offer it peace" (Deuteronomy 20:10).  Even in a situation in which we are prepared to go to war, we must try our best to avoid it through attempting to negotiate with our enemies.  Jewish texts acknowledge that this may be difficult to do.  We have to face the uncertainty and risk inherent in negotiating with a hostile power.  And we have to face our own very real fears of destruction, fears that are heightened for us as we prepare for Tish'a B'Av, recalling the many moments of destruction that the Jewish people have endured throughout the centuries.  Because it is so difficult, we are taught:  "Seek peace and pursue it" (Psalm 34:14).  We must not be content to simply accept peace if and when it comes to us.  We are required to go out into a sometimes hostile world and chase after it.  We must do the hard work of sitting down with our enemies, working with our friends, and pursuing every possible path that has a chance of avoiding war and bringing peace on us, on Israel, and on the world.

 

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Mon, 07/13/2015 - 3:51pm -- Rabbi

 

 

 

 

 

 

This week we saw an important symbolic step taken by the state of South Carolina, as its legislature voted to remove the Confederate flag, a symbol of a racist past, from the state capitol (as Alabama did in the photo at left).  In Israel, we saw the governing coalition take an important symbolic step as it repudiated the words of one of its own ministers, affirming that all Jews - even Reform and Conservative Jews - are welcome in Israel and among the Jewish people.  In both cases, these symbolic steps were welcome.  But in neither case should we make the mistake of confusing symbols with substance.  Although the Confederate flag will no longer fly over the South Carolina capitol, the truth is that endemic, structural racism continues to constrain the lives of African Americans in South Carolina and in this nation as a whole, and justice demands substantive attempts to change both the legal structures that makes racism possible and the social atmosphere in which it thrives. Although the representatives of the governing coalition in Israel said the right words, the truth is that non-Orthodox Jewish Israelis - who represent a large majority of Israel's Jewish population - continue to suffer under a system that does not recognize their Jewish choices as legitimate.  The Torah teaches us that truly moral action requires both symbol and substance.  Facing injustice in our own time, we must demand both from ourselves and from those who represent us.

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Mon, 07/06/2015 - 8:54am -- Rabbi

Thank you

 

 

 

 





As my family and I return from a wonderful, enriching, and energizing sabbatical in Israel, we are filled with gratitude to this amazing community.  You have given us the precious opportunity during these past nine months to learn, to recharge, and to reconnect with each other and with the land and people of Israel, and it has been an incredible blessing to us.  We are grateful to the lay leaders, rabbis, staff, and members who took it upon themselves to make sure our community continued not only to function but to grow and develop during our time away.  And we are so happy to be back here with you.  I am more conscious than ever of the privilege of being your rabbi in this community that I love so much, and I look forward to reconnecting with every one of you.  There is so much to share about our experiences in Israel, and I will be doing so in the weeks and months to come.  For now, from Cheryl, Zeke, Avi, Mati, and myself, simply, thank you.

 

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