Monthly Archives: June 2015

The Power of Love and Forgiveness this Shabbat

Today the community lays to rest Reverend Clementa Pinckney along with the others murdered last week: Cynthia Hurd, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Tywanza Sanders, Ethel Lance, Susie Jackson, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Rev. Daniel Simmons, and Myra Thompson.

 We have much to learn from the power of faith and the power of forgiveness of these extraordinary people and those who are left behind. The survivors of those who were slain by a human consumed with hate have shown the power of love and forgiveness. Jewish tradition views forgiveness differently. Personally, I struggle to think I could forgive as they have. We all have something profound to learn from these wonderful people imbued with a faith based in love.

We say zichronam livrachah, may their memories be for a blessing. The nine people assassinated during bible study in their church truly were a blessing to us. They and those they leave behind are an inspiration to all of us. We are all blessed. May that blessing be merited, may we build on what they have left to us.

 Wishing you all Shabbat Shalom,

The Chain of Tradition Continues if we are a Solid Link

 A meaningful connection between our elder generations of age 50+ and our synagogues has profound implications in keeping our tradition vibrant and alive. Active embrace of these cohorts is a key to Jewish continuity and enriching succeeding generations. We can accomplish this provided we are prepared to actively engage them in our tradition.

 We are inheritors of a great tradition. Accumulated wisdom and insight has been passed from one generation to the next, being revised and revived at each step along the way. We view ourselves as links in a sacred chain. As we have received the tradition, we too shall pass it on. This is the Shalshelet HaKabbalah. But transferring our legacy is not automatic. But it is a challenge however to pass on the values successfully since the next generation often speaks a different language and lives within a different culture.

 The synagogue has traditionally been a part of this process. But as choices continue to open up to us in our modern society, expressions of meaning and community do not necessarily happen by joining synagogues. We can seek meaning and community elsewhere. And so we see the Baby Boomer generation leaving synagogues and their children not joining.   We can still connect however through actively embracing those who remain connected and most visibly need us, namely the elder cohort, dubbed “The Longevity Generation” by Rabbi Richard Address. We can offer access to community and meaning-making that clearly demonstrates the value of Jewish community in connection to a synagogue. The Shalshelet HaKabbalah or Chain of Tradition is a model that still works as an expression of continuity and community but only if we fully embrace it.

 The Longevity Generation is in the greatest need of the services and community that we offer. Teaching, pastoral care, community and social engagement, end of life care including hospital visits; hospice and end of life life-cycle events are all important services to this age group. If we give this generation all that they need, providing a rich and meaningful engagement with Judaism, they are not the sole beneficiaries; the value flows to their adult children as well. Further, this is not limited to current synagogue members. It can be an effective outreach to the older unaffiliated as well. It is an investment of time and caring that might yield dividends.

 The significance of our service and community support is understood and appreciated by the Boomers through the meaning we give their parents and the burden we help to share through our caring presence.   As the Boomers live through this experience they hopefully are drawn into it, provided caregivers, the congregation, and we the rabbis purposefully reach out to them while we are reaching out to their parents. Besides the support we provide the elder generation directly, we can help facilitate the often-difficult conversations that need to occur, from ethical wills and end of life decisions, to the shift away from independence to more dependent forms of living and the sharing of personal stories and family history as legacy. We invite the Boomers to be a part of a caring community and continue the conversations with us, others like them and hopefully those who have yet to experience these important transitions.

 Through helping the Longevity Generation we help and embrace the Boomer Generation who experience the value of Jewish Community. This understanding inclines them to share the meaning that they have known. In this context of values and community, the Boomers can be prompted to reframe the congregation experience from one of obsolete Institutional membership to a relational community of belonging.

 Our elders have much to teach us. Beyond learning their wisdom, we can also learn about our own humanity through the sacred service I describe. Our elders are valuable and important parts of who we are. The Longevity Generation deserves our honor and respect. As we engage in these behaviors of lifting them up, the integral and vital values of Judaism are naturally transferred to the next generation.

Hazak Hazak v’nitchazek

We are strong and together we are strengthened.

A somber Shabbat

Last night I participated in the vigil at Mother Bethel AME church. People of all faiths joined to grieve these senseless tragic murders based in hate. We countered with a message of love and a call to action. In that sacred space we declared, “We are all AME” and we will move forward together to put a stop to this kind of violence that is all too common in our country.

 It is incumbent upon each and every one of us, not only to speak out but to also take action. Words are not enough to affect change. Without actions, words alone are hollow. All of us are diminished by this tragedy. Serious conversation about the underlying issues must lead to thoughtful and deliberate actions to stem the tide of hatred and violence. It is long past time. President Obama admitted to being stymied by the constraints of Washington. So we must look to ourselves, our communities and our states to find solutions to this horrible blight. It all begins with us.

 Today we grieve. Tomorrow we must act.

 Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom, a Shabbat where we might find Peace

Poor Diane Rehm, Poorer us.

The recent flap over Diane Rehm’s inappropriate and improper question about Bernard Sanders dual citizenship is less about the interview and much more about what we deserve from the “Fourth Estate,” the institution of the free press.

 In today’s fast paced twittering environment, things are released into cyberspace without regard for accuracy only for speed. It is more important to get the story out than to get the story right. Half-truths and lies permeate the environment and we have no way to know these from truth until eventually a correction or clarification reins in the rumor. Unfortunately that happens too long after sustained damage is done.

 Diane Rehm should have known better. Someone of her caliber should have checked and verified sources and facts, she committed a faux pas of the first order. Ms. Rehm was embarrassed for doing her job so poorly in the public sphere and she did apologize. But we depend on stalwarts to do right by us. When they don’t, it means this new phase of “getting it first instead of getting it right” has permeated news and reporting in sad and unfortunate ways. We can no longer count on those whom we have traditionally counted on to be honest and straightforward in delivering news and reporting to us.

 At some point I believe that our desire for truth and the mission to deliver truth will again align. Those who report the news and hold its truthful telling as a sacred mission will ultimately prevail. Ultimately they will because we need them to, and hopefully we will not settle for less.