A community of communities

March 2016

Fri, 03/25/2016 - 12:52pm -- Rabbi

 The awful terrorist attacks in Brussels have shaken us here in the U.S., just as the terrible terrorist attacks in Israel during these last months have torn at our hearts.  We shed tears for the victims and their families, but how else can we react?  What can we do?  Of course we must face the fact that the threat of terror is real, and governments and law enforcement must take steps to guard against it and to bring its perpetrators to justice.  And of course we must each take reasonable steps to ensure our own safety, as we are continually doing at GJC by working with Jewish communal agencies and law enforcement to keep us safe.  But by themselves, these two strategies are not enough.  These horrific events also challenge us to take steps to connect with those around us who are different from ourselves so that we can show them and ourselves that we are all human and deserving of respect despite our differences. From Jewish history - including the story of Esther that we just read on Purim - we learn how dangerous it can be to wall ourselves off from those around us in the name of security.  As tempting as it can be when faced with violence to react only with anger and aggression or only with fear and withdrawal, we must push ourselves to also redouble our efforts to reach out in a safe, sane, balanced way to those around us who could so easily view us as less than human and thus targets of violence.  In the long term, helping everyone to recognize that all humanity was created in the image of the divine is the best route to security for all.

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Fri, 03/18/2016 - 3:19pm -- Rabbi

The Purim story seems like a crazy one, with a drunken king whose only rule about drinking is "no rules!", advisers who deceive, queens who conceal their identity, and all-too-convenient plot twists that bring the low high and the high low.  We revel in having fun with this story, yet the message we can take away from it is a serious one:  sudden, radical transformation in our world is really possible.  Not only that, such topsy-turvy twists of fate are evidence of divine power breaking out into the world!  So when we dress up in costume, cheer for Queen Esther, boo the wicked Haman, roll our eyes at the antics of King Achashverosh, and eat far too many hamantaschen and other sweets, we are celebrating the possibility that our world can turn on a dime and form itself into a more just, more equal, more loving, and more fun place.  The ancient rabbis recount that when such changes happen in our world, the Holy One laughs.  May we all share in the divine laughter of transformation this Purim.  Hag Purim Sameah!

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Fri, 03/11/2016 - 12:49pm -- Rabbi

Saturday night we are privileged to host the world music band JAFFNA in a concert at 7:00 PM.  You can read more about the band and the concert in the Jewish Exponent article, and I encourage everybody to come out and hear them.  JAFFNA and its music is an example of exactly the type of connection across difference that we champion so much at Germantown Jewish Centre.  The band's members come from South Asia, Armenia, and the Middle East, and they are carriers of diverse musical traditions, but they find a way to connect with each other and create something beautiful together.  This is what we hope to do both within our community and in our interactions with the diverse residents of our city, neighbor, and region.  I hope that we will be inspired by this example to find more ways to connect, through music, conversation, and action, with the beautifully varied world around us.

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Fri, 03/04/2016 - 3:43pm -- Rabbi

Purim processionThis Shabbat we will recite the blessing of the new month for Adar II, the month in which we celebrate Purim.  Our Purim Bash is this Saturday night, and Purim itself will be arriving soon, on the evening of Wednesday, March 23rd.  Purim is a time of rejoicing, commemorating the survival of the Jewish people through a time of danger, but it is far from the only such moment in Jewish history.  From the story of the Golden Calf to the difficulties of the wilderness to persecution in Rome and Europe, the Jewish people again and again have faced overwhelmingly difficult experiences and persevered.  Of course we hope that such experiences never visit us again, but part of the joy of Purim comes from recognizing and celebrating the resilience that Jews have showed throughout history.  When we really take in the knowledge of how we have overcome what seemed like impossible odds to survive, we can face the future and whatever troubles we currently face with confidence, secure in the support of our community, and we can allow the pain or fear in our hearts to be replaced by joy.  May we all rejoice together!

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