Tag Archives: freedom

Happy Fourth of July

Celebrate the 4th of July!

Today is a celebration. Barbecues, Beaches (even in NJ) and Booms (I mean fireworks, but I was going for alliteration). Enjoy this day. It is more than a tribute to our independence, it is a proclamation of values that have made this country the envy of people throughout the world.

So as you consume the food and participate in the festivities of the day, remember that we are a nation founded upon extraordinary principles. We have so much more work to do both here and in the world to extend those principles to everyone yearning to breathe free. So today let us rededicate ourselves to the amazing idea this nation represents.

Happy Fourth of July!

Selma- It is our story

This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the march in Selma. As Americans and as Jews we are proud of this landmark achievement in our nation’s history and our part in it. Jewish Americans have been on the forefront of civil rights movement and we continue to champion civil rights and social justice for all. But the march in Selma is a seminal moment and we burst with pride, kvelling, at the sight of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel along side of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. We are deeply moved that so many American Jews stood bravely and fought during the struggle, most notably including those who gave their lives for these ideals.

This was our story. We Jews had found our place in American society and we found our voice. The prophetic ideals that are a foundation of our Jewishness galvanized us to support the civil rights movement because we believed that until all were free, none were free.   So Jews stood proudly along side the African-American community demanding change.

However, the movie Selma does not tell this story. In fact, unless you looked carefully and unblinkingly during the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, you probably missed the man in the kippah off to the side.   The story told in Selma, is moving, but it is not a story that includes us. It is told from the perspective of the African-American community and glorifies the struggle that was theirs. Although the time is the same, the march is the same and the facts are the same, the stories however are different. But that is okay.

The tellers of this story needed to share their perspective, which did not have room for us. Selma was about empowering their heroes to assert themselves. It is not an unreasonable thing to look through a different lens and tell a different story that has meaning even though it is not the telling of the story we might choose. That does not detract from the contribution that Jewish leaders made, nor does it lessen the pride that we might feel for their participation. It only shows that there are particular and more universal stories that might be told about the same unfolding of events.

As we approach the Pesach Seder, this gives us an opportunity to re-examine the telling of our quintessential freedom narrative. What do we emphasize and what do we leave out? Many different versions of the Exodus story will be told this night, each of them valid, each of them part of the larger story. The recollection of events only remains meaningful when we can make the connection to those events in a way that speaks to us. Only then is it more than a recounting of events, but rather a moving story that evokes emotion and prompts us to action. We share at our Seder tables the hope that “Next year may we all be free,” but until that time, may our stories keep the dream alive.

 

 

Pesach- A Message of Freedom

Soon we will gather around the Seder table and recall our redemption from the suffering of slavery we endured in Egypt.   We ask “Why is this night different from others?” This is a particularly profound question for us in this place and time.

 We enjoy many blessings.  We have prosperity and education; we can live our lives as we choose.   We are free.  But there are many who are not.  What does our freedom mean when there are so many, Jew and non-Jew, who still suffer?

 Our tradition teaches us that we are not truly free until all are free.  The oppression of slavery comes in many forms including physical, spiritual, and economic. It comes from a sense of hopelessness, the despair that arises when people believe that things cannot get better, that there is only suffering.  We are exhorted to help those in need and those who are oppressed to break the shackles that bind them.

 We are not truly free until all are free. God’s promise to us is not fulfilled until we deliver on our part of the bargain using our blessings to help others.   As we share our prayer “Next Year in Jerusalem,” let us commit to doing our part to help others also reach that profound and great place.