A community of communities

December 2015

Mon, 12/28/2015 - 8:58am -- Rabbi

Interfaith Center GraphicAs many of you know, I have been taking part in a weekly study group with Christian pastors for the last several years, discussing readings from both the Hebrew Bible and the Christian Bible.  One of the many things I have learned is how similarly we see our missions in the world, despite the very different ways in which we approach them and the different language and practices provided to us by our traditions.  Like us, they see their mission as bringing divine values of love, freedom, justice, and compassion into a world in which these are so lacking.  Like us, they often feel besieged by the world around them, which sometimes seems hostile to that mission.  Of course, as a religious minority, we have a different perspective, and the overwhelmingly Christian public sphere of this country can itself often seem oppressive to us.  But on this most joyous of Christian festivals, I think it is worth thinking about the ways in which Christians can and do help us move the world in exactly the directions we are hoping for, and it is worth seeing them as allies in our work.  May their light bring us light.

Tags:
Comments: 0
Fri, 12/18/2015 - 9:59am -- Rabbi

At a moment in which the world can seem like a very frightening place, there is a lot of talk about how we can keep ourselves safe.  Some urge reinforcing our homes and our borders, others argue that we should investigate or block particular people or groups from entering, and still others advocate using military force around the world to eliminate potential threats.  While we can and should debate the ethics and utility of each of these ideas, as a religious community, we know a different truth about what makes us secure.  We find security not by isolating ourselves in a fortress but by reaching out to those around us and connecting to each other.  Time and time again, security experts have told us that interacting with and looking out for each other is the best way to increase security in our building and in our community.  Of course we will continue to take common sense precautions, but human connection will always be our most important tool.  This Shabbat, reach out with a smile, a word, a conversation.  Get to know someone new.  Feel the warmth of our community.  Give each other the gift of being known and cared for.  Together, we can find the safety that we all need.

Tags:
Comments: 0
Fri, 12/11/2015 - 12:04pm -- Rabbi

Interfaith Center GraphicDear Imam Muhammad Shehata,

We at Germantown Jewish Centre were horrified to learn of the desecration of the Al-Aqsa Islamic Society this week.  Teenagers from our synagogue have been your guests many times to learn from you about Islam, we have hosted your teenagers at GJC, and Rabbi Zeff was privileged to participate with you in a session of sharing between religious leaders at the Islamic Society several years ago.  We have always appreciated the warm welcome and kindness that you have extended to us.  So we feel the pain of this attack on you very personally, and we want to express our solidarity with you and our outrage at those who would desecrate your sacred space.

As Jews, we are struck forcefully by the fact that this attack came during the festival of Hanukah.  Hanukah recalls a period of Jewish history over 2,000 years ago in which a non-Jewish authority sought to intimidate Jews and to induce them to abandon their faith and practices by, among other things, desecrating the Holy Temple in Jerusalem with pigs.  The successful struggle by the Jewish people to retain their religion and to reclaim and rededicate their holy place is what we remember when we light the candles of the Hanukah lamp.  On Hanukah, we celebrate the power of the light of understanding and freedom to banish the darkness of ignorance and bigotry, and we rededicate ourselves to spreading that light in our own time.

Sadly, the attack on the Islamic Society demonstrates that darkness and bigotry still permeate our world.  We want to assure you that we rededicate ourselves this Hanukah to working with you to spread the light of mutual respect among all religions and faiths and to deepening the ties between our communities.

With prayers for light and for peace,

Rabbi Adam Zeff and Rabbi Annie Lewis

Tags:
Comments: 0
Mon, 12/07/2015 - 8:51am -- Rabbi

GunsYou shall not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor; I am the Lord (Leviticus 19:16).

 

We are standing idly by.  We are standing idle while the blood of our neighbors is being spilled in the streets of this country.  We are the witnesses to the epidemic of mass shootings, horror after horror, totaling over 350 incidents already in 2015.  We hear talk about gun laws, about supports for mental health, about anti-terrorism measures.  But none of those ideas - from any side of the political spectrum - has been put into action.  Instead, prayers are offered, memorials are constructed, and speeches are made.  And the blood of our neighbors still pools in the streets as we stand by and watch.

 

The teachings of Torah do not allow us to be idle.  The teachings of Torah demand that we act.  The bloodshed won't stop until we do.  Do not stand idly by.  Find a way to act.  Now.

 

Tags:
Comments: 0