Friday, March 7, 2014

Shabbat-O-Gram for March 7

A Day to Unplug

Tonight’s Shabbat Across America coincides with a new tradition, an annual National Day of Unplugging created by the think tank Reboot.  Read about the Day of Unplugging here and download your own unplug sign (examples below).  This is a perfect day to reconnect with real people, have an uninterrupted meal or read a book to your child. For lots of you, that will begin here tonight, with dinner and our Klezmer service.

Quick Updates

·         You can now call me by my Travoltafied name, Jorja Hazmaton.  And did you notice that not only was I spot-on in my prediction for best picture, but I even predicted correctly what the winners would say in their acceptance speech.

·         Next Thursday evening at 7:30 we are privileged to host one of the most articulate and influential leaders on the American Jewish scene, AJC Exec David Harris. Get here early.

·         Are you reading the MUST READ book of the year, Ari Shavit’s “My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel”? Read it,  take a look at this reader’s guide, and come to discuss it with me on Thurs., March 27 at 7:30.

·         Great stuff coming for Purim next week: Super family megillah reading carnival on Sunday morning and on Sat. night, in the spirit of the holiday, the megillah reading will be spiced by a Scotch (or nonalcoholic alternative) tasting led by our own Ron Zussman, and special speaker Glenn Dynner, author of “Yankel’s Tavern: Jews, Liquor and Life in the Kingdom of Poland.”

·         Click here to read Rosalea Fisher’s stirring d’var Torah delivered a couple of weeks ago marking her 50th bat mitzvah anniversary.

·         Shabbat morning will be our next in a series of Learner’s Shabbats where we focus on a particular prayer.  This week we’ll take a close look at the Morning_Blessings (also see this introduction) along with our Torah reading in Leviticus, and how Judaism encourages us to develop an “attitude of gratitude.”

·         Reflecting on these waking-up prayers is perfect for a weekend when we (thank God!) return to Daylight Savings Time.  Can spring be far behind?   Speaking of which…

Saving Daylight

On Sunday, March 9, Hebrew school students across America will file into class, either more cantankerous and exhausted than ever - or an hour late. That's because, as it has for the past nine years, daylight savings time will begin on the second Sunday of March.
From 1986 - 2005, Americans sprung forward an hour on the first Sunday of April, but then the federal government decided that we needed one month more of DST. Even normally impetuous Israelis will be waiting until March 28 to spring forward. This year Americans are the ones jumping the gun, much to the chagrin of airline pilots, computer programmers, parish ministers and Hebrew school teachers, all of whom stand to suffer from this premature shift.

Advocates claim that we'll save up to 100,000 barrels of oil per day by being less reliant on light bulbs during working hours. But really, when's the last time we had a 9-to-5 workday? That's so 20th century! In an era of 24/7, with filled pre-dawn commuter trains and midnight teleconferences to Hong Kong, are we really saving anything? The shift was, I suspect, a bone thrown to environmentalists, buried in a 2005 energy bill granting tax breaks to Big Oil. Little did they know how this little, obscure add-on would wreak havoc on bar mitzvah schedules nationwide during the first few years of the early March experiment.  With receptions thrown off schedule, many Shabbat-observant relatives were forced to wait an ungodly extra hour for the sun to set in Syosset before making that mouthwatering pilgrimage to Leonards of Great Neck.

…As I age along with the rest of my Baby Boom lot, at no time in my life have I had a keener awareness of my growing need for daylight. I recently marked that peculiar rite of passage where I strategically placed a pair of reading glasses in every room of the house. Not long ago, for the first time ever, I didn’t grimace when a wedding videographer asked my permission to set up extra lighting for the ceremony. Not only did I give the OK to those intrusive, obnoxious beams, I positioned one over my right shoulder so I could read the fine print on the Ketubah. So I should be exulting that now there will be one more hour of light.

A recent birthday triggered this reflection: Perhaps this premature daylight savings has little to do with preserving energy and everything to do with saving daylight. I’ve always been a baby boom baby, born at the tail end of the postwar population explosion. While I am beginning to sense my mortality big-time, millions of older boomers must really be getting worried about their own darkening shadows. And these are precisely the people who now sit in Congress, the ones who voted to move up DST nine years ago. They voted to delay that moment each day when they have to reach for their glasses…

Israel “Apartheid Week” – A Concerned College Student Asks

I hear from our college students all the time and this week received an email expressing concern about so called “Apartheid Week” activities on her campus. An op-ed in her college newspaper was particularly damning – and confusing. 

It so happens that Dan is interning at a noted Israeli think tank this semester, so I forwarded the article to him for his reaction.  Both he and I feel there are some clear untruths in it.  But what is most disturbing is need to deny Jews their historical connection to this land and the lack of a desire to live side by side with a Jewish state.  I know of many Jewish groups on campus who have reached out to Palestinians and have been rebuffed. 

The BDS movement has done a good job of focusing on Israel’s infractions (some true, some trumped, some outright lies) distracting from the bigger picture of Israel’s long-term security concerns and the short term insane asylum that is Israel’s neighborhood. 
But when I speak with troubled college student – and many older adults – it is important to be honest. I have long been seriously troubled by Israel’s settlement policies, as have many Israelis and, according to the Pew report, most American Jews.  It would be much easier to make the security argument for Israel if they weren’t continuing to create facts on the ground.  I do distinguish between far flung settlements and Jerusalem, along with those areas that will eventually become part of Israel under any peace plan.  These matters are discussed openly in Israel all the time. If you watch Israeli television all the time, as I do, you know that.  But American Jews have for too long been afraid to admit to Israel’s shortcomings, thereby leaving our kids unprepared to confront them on campus.

The new book by Ari Shavit, “My Promised Land,” covers this question with balance and skill.  I cannot recommend it more highly.  See the reader’s guide (and come here to discuss it on March 27).   Meanwhile, let’s hope the American efforts to produce an agreement bear fruit and that the Palestinians and Israelis will both say yes. 

One more thing: Despite the clear economic and diplomatic dangers posed to Israel by the BDS movement, expressed by Prime Minister Netanyahu this week at AIPAC as well as President Obama and Sec of State Kerry, I do not agree that this movement, insidious as it is, is a mortal threat to Israel.  In fact, I am thrilled that the Palestinians have chosen the path of non violence as their prime strategic path toward statehood.  That path has not been embraced by all parties, as this week’s Israel’s interception of a cargo ship bringing Iranian rockets to Gaza attests; but all the op-eds in student newspapers and peaceful protests at the security fences will not kill a single Israeli on a bus.  The more that this battle is being fought with words rather than weapons, the better off we all are. 

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