A community of communities

February 2016

Fri, 02/26/2016 - 8:50am -- Rabbi

Last night our Social Action Committee met to hear about all of the different ways that people in our community are taking the values and teachings we learn from Torah and transforming them into action in the world.  There are so many ways in which this world needs our efforts, and there are members working on quite a number of them.  In coming months, we hope to find better ways to communicate all of those opportunities to you, so that you can find the way that works for you.  In the Talmud (Kiddushin 40b), the ancient rabbis were asked, "Is study better [than action], or is action better [than study]?"  Rabbi Tarfon answered, "Study is better."  Rabbi Akiva answered, "Action is better."  Then they all answered together, "Study is better because it leads to action."  May all of our study lead us to action to perfect the world given to us.

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Fri, 02/19/2016 - 1:34pm -- Rabbi

 

Dialogue As Rabbi Lewis taught about last Shabbat, yesterday was the 9th of Adar, a date marked in rabbinic tradition as one on which respectful disagreement between the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel devolved into violent conflict.  The ancient rabbis suggested that this date be remembered with fasting and with a recommitment to ensuring that all of our arguments are l'shem Shamayim - "for the sake of Heaven."  Unfortunately, we are living through a moment in which our public sphere is providing us with terrible models of argument, and these bad models are spreading.  Instead of respectful disagreement, we see personal attacks and smears.  Instead of thoughtful discussion of issues, we see scare tactics and slurs.  And instead of critical thinking, we see the use of stereotypes and polarizing oppositions that obscure the complexity of the world we must confront.  Please listen to the words of the ancient Jewish sages, who prized respectful disagreement and argument above all else.  Within our community and outside it, you can be a model of respect, thoughtfulness, and appreciation of complexity when we address issues on which we disagree.  May such values - essential Jewish values - spread from you to those around you and to all in our community and country.  And may all of our arguments be for the sake of Heaven.

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Fri, 02/12/2016 - 2:45pm -- Rabbi

When I first interviewed for the position of assistant rabbi at Germantown Jewish Centre, it was the week of Parashat Terumah. In this parsha, which we read this Shabbat, the Torah lays out an itemized list of materials that will be used to construct the mishkan, our sanctuary for our journey through the wilderness. Sitting with Rabbi Zeff, Chris Levin and Linda Kriger at JTS, I spoke about the detail of the keruvim, the two angelic beings, perched atop the ark in the Tabernacle, their faces turned toward one another. The Torah describes how the presence of God emanates from this point of encounter between beings turned toward one another in relationship. Since then, I have felt the Divine presence in this place in relationship with you and as I have witnessed your relationships with one another. In thinking about transitioning this summer from my role as a rabbi here, I am full of gratitude for our relationships. Over the past week, I have been moved by your calls and notes and by our conversations in response to the announcement that I will be taking time to focus on family. During this moment of transition in the life of our GJC community, please know that my door is open. Feel free to reach out if you would like to talk at any point about this transition or anything else. I hope to connect with each of you over the coming months. Wishing us all a Shabbat of deep relating in our lives and in our community.

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Fri, 02/05/2016 - 1:08pm -- Rabbi

Wall tallitotThis week we heard good news out of Israel with regard to the legitimacy of non-orthodox streams of Judaism. An agreement was reached which will provide for equal access to the Western Wall for those who wish to pray in an egalitarian setting, as well as providing for those who wish to pray in gender-segregated areas.  While this is indeed a positive sign, I worry that in our concern about religious pluralism in Israel and our critique of the ways in which the Israeli government has not always supported the full diversity of Jewish life and practice, we have been giving ourselves a pass on those very same issues in the American Jewish community.  The idea that there is more than one way to be Jewish may be a truism to us, and we at GJC can legitimately be proud of our internal diversity, but we have to face the unfortunate truth that American Jews are deeply implicated in attacking the legitimacy of other Jews.  Whether with regard to religious practice, Israel politics, American politics, foreign policy, or other issues, Jews here are constantly calling into question the Jewishness of those who do not agree with them.  This has to end.  Just as we rightly call on Israel to honor and respect all streams of Jewish life - even and especially those that challenge established views or practices - so too must we look inside ourselves and call on the American Jewish community to do the same.  Respect for those who express their Jewishness differently from us must be a core value of American Jewish life, and we must work hard to make it so at GJC and in all corners of the Jewish world.

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