Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Yom Kippur Sermons 5770, and Follow Up Comments

You can find the complete text of my Yom Kippur sermons by clicking here. Rosh Hashanah sermons texts can be found here and Rosh Hashanah audio here.

Kol Nidre Sermon: "Mitzvah, Money and Madoff" Stream

Yom Kippur Day: "Mitzvah and Mindfulness: God's Tweets" Stream

Regarding the Kol Nidre sermon, I received an e-mail from a congregant yesterday expressing concern about my comments regarding Hadassah. Since undoubtedly there are others out there sharing that concern, it would be worthwhile to reprint here what I replied to that congregant:

Thanks for your input and I can see how my comments regarding Hadassah might have been construed as being harsh. I tried to make clear my love and admiration for the work Hadassah does, which only compounded my disappointment in how they’ve handled this entire matter (the affair between their former CFO and Bernard Madoff) – a disappointment that I’ve heard from a number of Hadassah members. In setting Hadassah as an example for many other organizations, I do see how it could be perceived that I was singling it out unfairly, and apologize if that impression came through more forcefully than was intended.

I stand behind the facts of what I said, though, and think I tried to make it clear they were not directed toward any particular members of Hadassah, (which would include my mother in law and Mara, who are life members), but to the organization’s leadership.

Let’s hope this will be a better year for Hadassah and for all Jewish organizations.

Again, thanks for your comments.

More generally: I consider that Kol Nidre sermon to be one of the most important I've ever given and am pleased at the many positive comments I've received, both in person and in writing. Some people have been struggling with these issues for years. Here's an excerpt from an e-mail received yesterday (slightly edited for clarity), from a congregant who, as he put it, was speaking from the heart:

I was so touched with your speech regarding the today's Jews... especially here in America, that are ruining the name of Judaism, the way they are conducting themselves in the eyes of all the nations. My long lasting hopes have been to see someone standing up and admitting it, which your speech did very professionally, and I am so happy that you have.

The reason I was so surprised was that for over 20 years I have been thinking about all the points you had made and was so frustrated all along, that I could not bring any awareness on the surface. I have been debating the topic with many people in Israel regarding this issues, all these years but have never been successful in having any American Jews to listen to me, not even once. But I feel at peace with myself now that I know there is this rabbi in Stamford Ct. who thinks the same as I have for many years. I thank you for setting my feelings straight so that I do not have to fight my inner soul any longer.

My ultimate hope is to see more voices on this topic all across the country in order to awaken the awareness in most people where our prioroties need to be. After all, all of your efforts as one voice will or can be an uphill battle and lead to more frustration.

We as a Jew, must live a careful life in every society we live in, to go through life under the radar.... Thank you for listening to me, and for all of your efforts to set our nation on the right path.

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