Thursday, June 18, 2015

Grieving with Charleston, Pride Shabbat, Michael Oren, Saluting our HS Graduates, the Talmud and Archie Bunker's chair Shabbat O gram for June 19

Shabbat candle lighting - 8:11 PM
Torah Portion - Korah - see a three minute cartoon summary here

Shabbat shalom 

On a very sad day following the senseless, hate-inspired murders in Charleston.  People at prayer, murdered in cold blood in a sacred place. We Jews know what it is like to face this brand of unadulterated hate.  And we need to speak out constantly against racism in all its forms.  We also are sobered by the ease with which an unstable, angry young man was able to acquire a gun.  Our prayers go out to all the victims and their families. 

Here is a statement released by the Interfaith Council of New York:

New York, NY - We of different faith traditions stand together in our grief for the murdered victims of Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.  We mourn the senseless loss of life, the broken hearts of the bereaved and the brutal disregard of human decency.  We pray that God send comfort to entire shattered community and fill their hearts with courage as they confront this horrific tragedy.

God should be colorless. Sacred places of worship should be safe for all people, free from violence and fear.  We all proclaim "Love your neighbor as yourself," without distinction of race or religion.

We will continue to work together to extinguish the fires of hatred and discrimination, religious or otherwise so that we broaden the path where all can worship and walk together. 

Graduation Central

Congratulations to all who are graduating this week.  Today, Roxbury Rd. becomes graduation central, with Westhill's ceremony this afternoon and Bi-Cultural's 8thgraders here this evening.

In honor of these grads, just above and at the bottom of this email are some photos from the archives of our TBE High School graduates when they were in 7th and 8th grades.  Next Shabbat we'll be honoring them, and all our high school and college students are urged to join us to hear Linda Scherzer speak about issues involving Israel on campus. H.S. grads, please let me know if you are coming - we've got goodies!

Pride Shabbat


It's hard to believe that this Friday will be our first Pride Shabbat, but we are more than making up for lost time, as we'll be featuring world-class klezmer fiddler Alicia Svigals (click to hear her play!) and keyboard/accordionist Uri Sharlin. Katie Kaplan will also be joining the cantor and myself.  We're expecting a big crowd, so get here early!  And invite your friends, all your friends.  Since our publicity began to go out, we've heard from people who have been looking for a long time for a truly loving community.  I know that's precisely what we are.

When you arrive here on Friday you may notice something new next to the coat room. We've long had an accessible bathroom for those with physical disabilities, dedicated in memory of Marsha Gladstein, who was a champion of those with such needs. That restroom will now be designated as our all-gender bathroom too.  We want this to be a place that is warm and welcoming to everyone.


This will be the final time the cantor and I will be leading services together until mid-August.  She heads off to vacation this coming week, and then I'll go out when she returns.  It's been a great first year, capped off by last weekend's phenomenal Cantor's Concert, which was dedicated in memory of Norma and Milton Mann, as this annual concert will be moving forward.  Click here for the photo album, courtesy of Aviva Maller.  You can almost hear the music!

We've long had an accessible bathroom for those with physical disabilities (and the room was dedicated in memory of Marsha Gladstein, a champion of rights for the disabled); it will now be designated as our all-gender bathroom too.  We want this to be a place that is warm and welcoming to everyone. See our sign below.



The God of Love


As I wrote this week on the Times of Israel site, in posting entitled "The God of Love," "It is truly astounding how quickly the landscape has changed. It often takes generations for social attitudes to evolve, and we've seen how stubbornly slow that process can be with racism in America and anti-Semitism everywhere else. But in America, for LGBTQ rights, the change has been stunning and dramatic."

In the article, I trace my own evolution on this topic to my relationship with my cousin Jeff Avick, who spoke here in 1993 about his coping with HIV.  He said, "The God that I learned about in my home was a God of love, understanding, mercy and reason. That God has given me real strength...His love for us is not measured by the absence of hardships. His love for us is the life he's given us."

ix years later, when I last saw Jeff in hospice, curled up in a fetal position and barely breathing, I understood that no God of mine could have afflicted him so mercilessly. Rather, I sensed the sanctity in every heroic gasp of air, in each moment of survival. I reached back for every bit of kindness I could summon, and held his hand.

At his funeral, which took place in my synagogue's sanctuary, I read a poem Jeff had written decades earlier, when he was a teenager, called "Valentine to Man."

"I listened to the music -
And it sounded so sweet that I shouted
up to heaven:

"Let me love."
And God spoke to me and He said...
"You do love.

You feel the sun rise and exalt as it travels
Its long journey over its old road.
You see the great green wonder rolling in and out,
taking life from its depths of turbulence to its shores of peace
You hear the music of nature singing to you
Ringing sweetly in your ears.
You laugh and you cry, small yet large
against the majesty of life.
And while there is no one, nothing -
You do love...
And you breathe and sing along with the awkward,
Beautiful melody...
And you love."

We'll be reading from Jeff's poetry at Friday's service.

I've reflected on Jeff's words as the world has become more accepting of people in their infinite variety, and more embracing of all who don't fit so neatly into the categories that used to comprise what we called "community" but was in fact was leaving far too many behind.

Not only have I been freed from old, crusty preconceptions, my God has as well. My God is now, unequivocally, a God of love, not a God of exclusion, not a God who afflicts good, loving people with dreaded diseases to punish them for being so good and loving.

Some come out of the closet. I came off the fence.

Either one is a leap of faith, an act of great courage. It is also an act of return - a return to our true values, our deepest held beliefs, to who we were all along.
Click here for the full article.


"Taste of Shabbat" on Shabbat morning

We'll be kicking off a series of special "Taste of Shabbat" programming, which, much like Synaplex a few years ago, will give you the chance to experience Shabbat prayer on several different levels.  Unlike Synaplex, where several different services went on simultaneously, this week we'll be staying all together, experiencing these alternatives styles within the same service. 

So, from 9:30 - 10:15, I'll be exploring some of the themes of the Shacharit (morning) service and we'll open things up for informal questions and conversation.  At the same time, Cantor Fishman will spice things up with some beautiful, meditative melodies.  For the first part of the service, then, we'll exercise our left brain, our right brain and our soul.

At 10:15, our service will revert back to traditional mode for the Torah service and beyond.

This experiment is a preview of something we hope to expand upon in the fall.  We would love your feedback. Our ritual committee, clergy and staff are committed to moving ahead with bold new initiatives for Shabbat evening AND morning, even as we remain mindful of preserving a traditional flavor.

Also this Shabbat, we will be bidding "Shalom" to Chuck and Ellen Donen, who will be relocating from our community, with a special lunch in their honor.  Come early and then stay for lunch!


Two Sides to Everything...

I had the chance last week to watch this week an interesting debate between pundits Ari Shavit and Caroline Glick on the continued viability of the Two State Solution.  I highly recommend it.  It's about an hour long but well worth it.  You can find it here, along with a transcript, at the C-Span website.  I strongly believe that "two states" is an existential necessity for Israel, but even Shavit has some cautionary words about the chances to get anything done now.  Glick argues with passion for her one-state case - which in my mind is a spurious and dangerous claim.  But watch for yourself and decide!

Meanwhile, Michael Oren's new book and Wall Street Journal op-ed have been causing quite a stir this week.  Oren, a former ambassador to the US and, more significantly, TBE Hoffman lecturer, who also spoke to our Israel tour group during the withdrawal from Gaza ten years ago, is widely respected, so his insider view carries great weight and needs to be considered.  Oren's interview with David Horovitz of the Times of Israel is sobering.  But as always, there is a second side, and JJ Goldberg's rebuttal to Oren makes some excellent points.  There tends to be a romanticization of how prior US leaders handled the alliance, and Goldberg suggests that Oren does that too.  


So there are two sides to everything....
...Except This

Now the answer to those few people on earth still asking the question "Is the earth warming?" can be, "Is the Pope Catholic?" 

The Pope's searing encyclical on climate change adds a significant moral, religious voice to the overwhelming chorus of scientists and people of faith who understand the need for an immediate, concerted global response to save our planet, because of changing climate conditions that are at least in part man-made.  Our CSA partner Hazon hasreleased a comprehensive media guide, presenting a Jewish call to action in response to the Pope's plea.  As people of faith are rallying behind the core tenets of their traditions, which encourage care for all of Creation (both humans and the environment), we must all promote the common good by protecting those who disproportionately feel the environmental impacts and health effects of climate change. There is no second side to this issue anymore.  

Is the earth warming?  Ask a billion Catholics!

Now, on the lighter side....

Five Suggestions from Rabbinic Sources for Father's Day (share)

While Jewish mothers usually get all the attention, this is the weekend to celebrate Jewish fathers.  Some suggestions from the rabbis:

1)     A child should not stand or sit in a place where his father is accustomed to standing or sitting (Kiddushin 31b)  Some call this the "Archie Bunker Law."

2)     A child should not support his father's opponents in a scholarly dispute. In other words, they forbade "Patrilinial Dissent." (Sorry for that groan-inducing pun)

3)     The rabbis praised Duma, a heathen who refused to awaken his father, although he needed a key lying under his father's pillow in order to conclude a transaction that would have netted him a profit of 600,000 gold coins. One can imagine how proud Dama's father was of his son when he woke up... (Kiddishin 31a)

4)     The rabbis state firmly that a child is obligated to attend to the material needs of his parents while they are alive and to mourn for them properly when they die. (see more rabbinic sources here)

5)     One more suggestion not mentioned in the Talmud: on Father's Day, let your dad sleep nice and late!

-          Also, read how Jewish fathers are the opposite of TV dads.

-          And two favorite articles I've written about fatherhood, following the births of my two sons: "Birth Rite" and "Fathers and Sons"

-          The Forward asked for Six Word Memoirs about Jewish fathers. Here are a few of them:
Actor, scrap man, embellisher of of stories.
Ilene Stein, 64, Riverside, Calif., about Max M. Fields

He lives generously. That's my inheritance.
Paula Chaiken, 42, Kingston, Pa., about Gene Chaiken

Dad's matzo balls? Hard. Heart? Soft.
Cheryl Levine, 48, Yellow Springs, Ohio, about Barry Levine

Dad, homework done, healthy. Don't worry!
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, 46, congresswoman, Weston, Fla., about Larry Wasserman

Always making puns, always causing groans.   (See "Patrilineal Dissent," above)
Julie Grossman, 26, North Bethesda, Md., about Garry Grossman

Sense of humor, debt-free educations.
Alexandra Schmidt, 44, Niskayuna, N.Y. about John Lutch

Eating ice cream in underwear. 5 a.m.
Rich Cohen, 45, author of "Israel is Real," Ridgefield, Conn., about Herb Cohen

Captivated by Alharizi, Job and Frost.
Jonathan Reichert, 81, physics professor and businessman, Buffalo, N.Y. about Victor Reichert, close friend and mentor to Robert Frost

Zayde shined my shoes and heart.
Donna Erbs, 52, Portland, Ore., about Max Joffee

Waiter, I ordered the kosher lobster.
Shira Kaiserman, 28, New York, about Ronald Kaiserman

Clean linen handkerchiefs comfort me still.
Roberta Rosenberg, 58, Clarksville, Md., about Harry Rosenberg

Brimming bookshelves - bent, leant and shmoozed.
Wayne Firestone, 49, president of the Genesis Prize Foundation, Rockville, Md., about Bruce Firestone

Mel Brooks movie marathon: perfect Shabbos.
Casey Stein, 25, New York, about Alan Stein

Dude dug prunes, melbas and mama.
Henry Greenspan, 65, Ann Arbor, Mich., about Albert Lewis Greenspan

Happy Father's Day!
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman


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