Tag Archives: anti-Semitism

If not now? A call for change on Yom Kippur

#4 What do we do now- Be Kind

 

We come to the Third part of Hillel’s quote: If not now, When? The answer is NOW.

I have refrained from speaking directly about Charlottesville with you thus far.

I am sure that the public display of hate deeply pained you.

The horrible chants, torch-lit marching, gun-toting thugs,

40 Jews inside Congregation Beth Israel that evening,

spiriting their Torahs out the back door, expecting the Temple to be burned, it sickens me.

 

The Nazi march was vile and despicable behavior by people who live on the fringes of our society,

a group that trucks in hatred,

truly disenfranchised miscreants who crawled out from the dark underbelly of this great nation

and are mired in their own bizarre fantasies of violence and white supremacy.

I am very angry and deeply saddened by this horrific display.

And I am equally appalled by the lack of moral leadership on this and all issues at the highest levels in our land.

However, I am not fearful.

And in response to the horrors of Charlottesville

I have a one-word reply:

Houston.

 

Charlottesville and many other places make it clear we have a long way to go in the battle for life, liberty, and equal justice for all.

Again I say Houston. For there in Houston, there is hope.

 

In response to the devastating Hurricane Harvey that dumped floodwaters of biblical proportions on the region,

the very best of humanity showed up to the rescue.

There were only two groups in the city:

The rescuers and those in need of rescue.

Race, religion, color, creed, age, sex, gender identification, political affiliation, economic class, social class-

Nothing mattered except the need to save lives of people.

The Cajun Navy spontaneously appeared, people helped people, human chains literally reaching out into the floodwaters,

holding tight to each other

so that another life could be saved from the torrents of water. Everyone was on both ends of that lifeline.

In losing everything, the people of Houston found something truly precious, their humanity.

My response to the horror of Charlottesville is the beauty of Houston.

We seem to be at our best in the aftermath of a calamity.

Houston, Sandyhook, 9/11- these are only a few catastrophes to which we have risen up as a people,

United in bonds of love and fellowship.

Why must we reserve our best in response to tragedy?

This Yom Kippur, I suggest we preemptively deploy our best behavior in our everyday lives.

 

Let us shine light into the darkness

and illumine a path that leads out of the narrow places,

the Mitzrayim- the Egypt- those spaces both literal and figurative that both confine and oppress us.

Let us join together doing acts of loving-kindness.

Let us not sit helplessly and lament the world we long for.

Let us reach out to one another and build the world that should be. Let the humanity of Houston be our inspiration.

 

 

Together let us march forward

carrying love in our hearts and good deeds in our arms.

We have come to the proverbial edge of the Red Sea,

yet one more time in our history. Let us cross over together.

 

(And if I sound a bit like a Southern Baptist preacher, I can only say, Thanks, Grandma.)

 

How do we do this?

For you may say, I am only a single individual-

what effect can I possibly have?

I recall the story told of Mother Theresa,

that saint who tended the poorest of the poor in India.

A cynic asked her how she intended to feed the overwhelming masses who were hungry- she responded simply,

One Mouth at a Time.

And that is how we do it.

Each of us has the power to effect change.

The V’ahavta prayer says VeLo Taturu.

Never underestimate the power to make a difference- each of us.

It is about meeting people, one person at a time.

It is about individuals building relationships with one another

and building these connections into bigger connections,

building a community with shared values and purpose.

And it all starts with one simple idea: You.

 

Rabbi Hillel says in Pirkei Avot,

“In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.”

As Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic insightfully translates,

it means to be a mature, courageous human being;

it also means to be a mensch. So I sum it up and say simply to you: Be Kind.

 

In an age and culture where we have become coarse and combative,

BE KIND.

In a world filled with overwhelming loneliness and alienation,

BE KIND.

In a world quick to cynically chastise and separate with fractiousness and divisiveness,

BE KIND.

Hillel condensed all Torah to this:

“What is hateful to you, do not do to another.”

BE KIND. This as our call to action.

 

Start with yourself.

Let us free ourselves from the shackles of guilt and sin keeping us mired in the past.

Learn from it to live next year better.

Be kind and forgiving of your self. Starting now.

Promise yourself to engage.

 

Jews are taught to awake with the words “I am Thankful.”

“Modeh Ani Lifanecha, Elohai Nishama Shenatati bi tihora hi.” ‘Thank you God for restoring my pure soul.”

What a beautiful intention to start the day.

A fresh slate, built on gratitude for our blessings

and hopeful for the possibilities that await us.

Use the day to engage in the things that motivate you- your Why. Actively support something you believe in,

a philanthropy or a cause,

be part of something greater than yourself.

 

End your day with a bedtime Shema- prayer.

Go to sleep knowing

you are in the sheltering arms of the One who loves and protects you.

 

Nurture your relationships.

Be compassionate and forgiving; for they too are as flawed, seeking wholeness and love.

BE KIND.

 

Find your community and

BE KIND.

We need a caring community to support and comfort us

During times of celebration and sorrow.

Temple Micah is an extraordinary community to find people with shared values.

And together we can make a difference

rising up our voices as one,

speaking with more power than one alone to affect greater change. Give to the food bank,

give to help the suffering victims on Puerto Rico.

BE KIND.

 

Our greater communities, both our nation and the world,

need people to champion our values now more than ever.

Your voice, your time and your money are all necessary

to champion the things you believe in.

There is no shortage of need, and we cannot be silent.

 

“Kol Arevim Zeh BaZeh.”

All Israel is responsible for each other.

Whether you see Israel literally or metaphorically,

you can make a difference in

the genocide of the Rohingya, happening as we speak,

climate change, Israel, healthcare, the political debate both national and local.

These issues are our issues.

Find the one that resonates with your and pursue it.

 

We need to build a better world.

I believe it can happen.

But only if we are willing to roll up our sleeves and do the work necessary,

for it cannot happen on its own.

As it says in Psalm 89 verses 3,

Olam Chesed Yibaneh. “We will build this world with love.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jewish Love is not romantic love.

We learn Jewish love in the Shema and V’ahavta prayer.

Love is an active verb.

Jewish love is not a state of being, it is a state of doing.

The prayer instructs us to Love God by living the commandments, teaching them to our children

and fully embracing them in all of our thoughts and actions.

Jewish wisdom sees the Heart as the guide to emotion and action.   I am the change I want to see.

This is the empowering message of the Torah.

It implores us to embrace that

only through our own action will we begin to build the world that should be.

 

The people of our nation have always had to fight for the values we hold dear;

from the moment we first expressed them through the present day. This amazing country of ours is both resilient and great.

But we remain a work in progress with a long way to go before all of her children will enjoy the aspirations of our foundational documents, including the Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights and Emma Lazarus’s poem on the Statue of Liberty.

Life, liberty, and equal justice for all remain the promise we still strive to achieve.

This promise is the beacon of light shining from on top of the hill to the other nations of the world.

We will build this nation on love.

Olam Chesed Yibaneh. We will build this world on love.

 

As we move toward the end of our prayers today

we will hear that the gates are closing and also

that the gates of repentance are never closed.

These two seemingly contradicting ideas both live in our texts.

I believe that with Ne’ilah, our closing prayers,

the liturgists are exhorting us to act.

It is the urgency of now. We cannot wait.

The prophetic tradition that is ours,

The fragility of life that makes each day a gift-

they combine to say “don’t wait another minute.”

So here is this sacred space, as we conclude our services this day,

I encourage everyone here to smile at one another,

kiss and embrace your loved ones,

and kiss and embrace whoever is near you.

This is the start of something new.

We will build this world with love.

 

G’mar Tov- May you be sealed for Good

Olam Chesed Yibaneh  (sing)

 

 

 

A call to Action

Like so many, I am deeply unsettled about events. My response is a sober, somber, and urgent call to action. Many of my friends and colleagues have spoken eloquently denouncing the vile behavior in Charlottesville. But speeches, outrage, and resistance do little to change the behavior of haters, or those feckless holders of power unable to speak to moral issues for fear of alienating a political base.

All people of good conscience must take a stand and actively support those who condemn the despicable hatred demonstrated in Charlottesville. A moral stand does not know political right or left; the courage to speak against evil is an expression of the American Values we hold dear and our basic humanity. This is a fundamental binary choice. If there ever was a litmus test for a politician, surely this is it.

For those of us who already have representatives who uphold Virtue, we cannot be satisfied that we have done our part. We must lend assistance to those in other places where this battle remains engaged. The time for action has never been critical; the stakes have never been greater.

Shabbat Shalom- A Reflection from Mt. Carmel

I have just returned from Mt. Carmel Cemetery to provide presence and support to the volunteers who came here. I was moved, being with people honoring the past and affirming their identities.

 

As Americans and Jews, we arise with a sense of unity and rededication of purpose. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, we stand arm in arm with all victims of hatred and domestic terrorism. Our values bring us together.

 

Although disturbing acts underlie this awakening of spirit, we need to focus on the good that has come from these cowardly and ugly actions. From ugliness comes beauty, from despair comes hope, from aloneness comes community, and from hatred comes love.

 

We stand together against hate.

Hate has no home here.

Shabbat Shalom.

Hate has No Home Here in Philadelphia or anywhere in the USA

 

An Anti-Semitic desecration of a cemetery has come to Philadelphia. As most already know, the Mt Carmel Cemetery was vandalized and between 75-100 headstones were toppled. This is an empty act of cowardice, hatred, and stupidity. But more important than the base acts of these thugs is the outpouring of love and support in our community. People joined at Mt. Carmel Cemetery to witness the vandalism and begin the process of restoration. A vigil was held last night in Narberth to express solidarity.

Hate has no home here.

Please donate what you can to aid in the restoration by clicking on this link to the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia: https://www.jewishphilly.org/donate-now-mt-carmel-cemetery#.

Also, the Daarus Salaam Mosque in Tampa was burned this past Friday. Please make a donation to help the Islamic Society of New Tampa community rebuild as well by going to: https://www.launchgood.com/project/stand_with_new_tampa_muslims_against_hate#/

Together we stand, a bit shaken but unbowed, committed to the values of love and unity that make our country great. No acts of domestic terrorism or hatred will dampen our commitment to each other and the country we love.

 

The University of Oklahoma offers an important lesson for us all

Kudos to President David Boren of the University of Oklahoma for taking swift and decisive action against the racist hate speech on campus. The “threatening racist behavior” was unacceptable and closing the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity and holding accountable those who made these vile statements is welcome. Boren said these students created a “hostile environment” for student and the university community. He went on to say “I hope the entire nation will join with us in having zero tolerance of such racism when it raises its head in other situations across the country.”

To all the campus presidents who are permitting our Jewish students to be subjected to similar ugliness, I call upon you to heed President Boren’s call. There is no place on the college campus for speech that threatens or intimidates other students. It is antithetical to everything that our great country and every university represent.

Words carry weight and responsibility. It is incumbent upon all college administrations to maintain campuses of some level of decorum and at a minimum civility. It is incumbent upon us to demand this kind of environment for all our young people. We need to continue to do our important work in making the college experience everything it should be for our children.

 

 

Klinghoffer Continued

In response to my teacher and friend who posted a comment on my last submission on “The Death of Klinghoffer”

 My quarrel is with the Met not the writer of Klinghoffer.

I am a defender of free speech even when that includes writing something reprehensible. I recall the Nazis marching in Skokie and the right of these evil hate-mongers to spout their bile. My commitment this core constitutional and human value required I defend the right to march in the public space of the town even though the march was designed to promote hate and incite anger due to the venue. But the Met is different.

The Met has selectively and deliberately decided to produce Klinghoffer. This season there are 24 productions, six (6) new and 18 revivals. The names include: Mozart, Bizet, Verdi, Puccini, Rossini, Tchaikovsky, Bartok, Shostakovich, Donizetti, Wagner, Lehar and Offenbach. Englebert Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel is also on the schedule for a bit of fun and amusing fare. And then there is John Adams’ “The Death of Klinghoffer.” It is outrageously conspicuous. For an institution of the Met’s esteem, the choices it makes for its productions are important sending a message to the world. The Met sullies her reputation and gives an imprimatur of respectability to this work by producing it without regard to the repercussions.

 I do not usually stand on the side of censorship. And in fact, I am not. I would be deeply offended if some lesser institution, the off-Broadway equivalent of the Met, were to produce Klinghoffer. But I probably would not be adamantly opposed. I am struggling with the fact that I have not actually seen Klinghoffer and yet I have taken a stand against its’ production. I accept the inherent problem with my situation.

 I guess the immediate contrast would be to argue that I would see Richard Strauss’ Salome at the Met. It too has outrageous and highly provocative material. For a substantial amount of time, it was banned- sometimes due to the sexuality involved sometimes due to the depravity involved, sometimes due to a combination of both. Ultimately, Straus’ gravitas forced people to give it the benefit of the doubt. Adams has a few noted pieces in his repertoire and has earned critical acclaim. However, at this stage, I am not prepared to put John Adams and Richard Strauss in the same category.

So I conclude that this is a very bad misstep for the Met. It is inappropriate and unworthy. The subject is vile and contemptible. The production almost seems like a gratuitous attempt to be controversial and relevant. But it is not. It is merely offensive, inappropriate and wrong. I understand that Peter Gelb (the Met) and Abe Foxman (ADL) have been working together to lessen the impact of this production. I probably will need to experience this opera to better understand it, which may alter my opinion. But for now, the Met would have served all of us including itself better were Klinghoffer not part of this season’s lineup.