Friday, February 3, 2017

Shabbat-O-Gram for February 3


Mazal Tov to Deborah Schwartz and to Douglas Schwartz on their daughter, Charlie, becoming a Bat Mitzvah and Todah Rabah for sponsoring Kiddush in honor of Charlie
Shabbat Shalom!

Join us for services this evening at 7:30 and tomorrow morning at 9:30, when Charlie Schwartz becomes Bat Mitzvah.  Mazal tov to Charlie and her family! I also look forward to seeing so many at our annual Temple Rock bash tomorrow night - thank you to the MANY who have worked such long hours to ensure the success of this amazing event. 

This week’s Torah Portion: Bo
Click here for a summary.  See a family-friendly video:

Two Initiatives - Two Jewish Values

This past week has seen two White House initiatives that have evoked widespread concern within and beyond the Jewish community.   Here and as we move forward, I will always strive to make clear the moral basis for any concerns raised that relate to current events.  Each of these issues transcends politics-as-usual.

The White House statement regarding International Holocaust Remembrance, which intentionally did not make reference to the six million who were murdered because they were Jews, has caused great concern across the Jewish political spectrum. These days it is rare indeed for similar distress to be expressed by the Republican Jewish Coalition and the National Jewish Democratic Council.  No one can revel in this rare picture of unity though, because the matter of denying the uniqueness of this genocide is gravely serious.  To understand why such a statement can logically be seen as step in the direction of Holocaust denial, read this statement from the National Holocaust Museum, along with this article written by noted Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt, depicting the statement as “Softcore Holocaust Denial.”  The film about Lipstadt’s famous court battle to protect the memory of the Shoah, “Denial,” is a nominee for my Jos-car awards. I highly recommend the film, which is now available to stream or purchase.

The ADL explains why Holocaust Denial is a form of anti-Semitism (“What is on the surface a denial of the reality of genocide is, at its core, an appeal to genocidal hatred.”).  A poster found in the US Holocaust museum lists fascism’s early warning signs, and it has gone viral on Twitter this week.  The museum also tweeted out  this important quote by Elie Wiesel“Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims”.

In an atmosphere where Holocaust Denial is possible, it is not hard to understand why this week, for the third time in recent weeks, a dozen bomb threats were made against Jewish institutions in the US, and why a noted white supremacist cheered the White House statement.  It all makes us wonder, why would the White House do this, and then double down on it when the problem was pointed out afterwards?
Join us this Thursday at 7:30 as we will hear noted Holocaust historian Samuel Kassow discuss “Secrets of the Warsaw Ghetto,” and no doubt, this incident as well.  And the reservation deadline for our Jewish Heritage Tour is just a few weeks away.  Now more than ever, we need to bear witness.


The Executive Order on immigration has also caused great concern among Jewish groups across the denominational spectrum.  See Conservative Judaism’s joint statement.  See our Interfaith Council’s joint statement.  I was among 1900 rabbis thus far who have signed this petition welcoming refugees. See HIAS’ website for more background and suggestions as to what you/we can do.  And see how congregations in the New Haven area are embracing the idea offering sanctuary to those most vulnerable.

TBE young adult Sam Rosenfeld shared with me this moving Facebook post.  And see the Jewish Theological Seminary’s statement, which echoes mainstream Jewish values in saying, “Let us be clear: there is no religious obligation more central to Judaism than the protection of refugees and immigrants [...] We will not stand idly by, nor will we be silent in the face of this injustice."


Why the Patriots will win (Jewishly) 

Over the years, my annual Super Bowl predictions, based on Jewish sources, have been known for their astonishing accuracy. This year, in the interest of transparency, I’ll not even pretend to be objective. So here are my top ten reasons why my hometown team, the New England Patriots, will defeat the Atlanta Falcons this Sunday:

  • In the Talmud (Berachot 9a) a protector is called a “Patranos.”  This clearly refers to the New England offensive line.
  • Also, in Hebrew, “Pitriot” are mushrooms. Go here to see some gorgeous looking Israeli mushrooms, likely from the Hefer Valley (a fertile strip of land in Central Israel). This area of the country was redeemed by the Jewish National Fund in the early Zionist days, and the great symbol of that redemption, at least here, are Pitriot.
  • This game features two teams with Jewish owners, but Robert Kraft is the only one who has built a stadium in Jerusalem. His dedication to Israel and Jewish causes is well known.  Some have criticized his friendship with Donald Trump, but the operative word is “friendship.” Kraft is a loyal friend, who does not forget those who have been associated with his family. I’ve seen that personally, in how the warm relationship his father had with mine has carried forward in his kindness to my family.  Kraft, who rarely is overtly political, has been a major donor to both Republicans and Democrats, and his relationship with Trump began long before the President adopted his current policies.  I hope he has the president's ear and will speak up about fundamental Jewish concerns (which I know Kraft shares) like embracing the stranger and affirming the uniquely Jewish dimension of the Holocaust.
  • Ever the guardians of Kashrut, the Patriots’ last two Super Bowl victories have come against unkosher birds of prey - the Eagles and Seahawks. Beating the Falcons will continue the trend, which next year will continue with a defeat of the Cardinals.
  • Indeed, the falcon is listed in Leviticus 11:14 among those “detestable things” that should not be eaten. The next bird listed, incidentally, is the raven, who the Patriots already have defeated this season.
  • The Talmud describes the falcon as a skilled hunter, trained by people and used in the chase. Atlanta’s linebackers are indeed skilled at chasing down opposing running backs, and their receivers can chase down errant passes. But can these Falcons themselves avoid being caught? Apparently not. In 2013, Turkey arrested a falcon and accused it of spying for Israel. When it comes to birds, at least, one can take the approach of President Trump, who prefers heroes “who don’t get captured.”
  • The Jewish population of Atlanta: 200,000. Boston: 261,000, and if you throw in other New England cities like Providence, Hartford, Springfield, New Haven and, yes, Stamford, the number soars well past 300,000. No contest.
There you have it, my top ten reasons the Patriots will win. As for the score, Patriot Super Bowls in the Brady-Belichick era are always close. I see a three point win (there were three patriarchs, after all), 34-31. 

Incidentally, a Hebrew numerical equivalent of 34 is Gimmel-Alef-Lamed, “redemption.” After two years of inflated accusations and a bogus four game suspension, that’s exactly what Brady and the Pats will achieve this Sunday.

Shabbat Shalom!

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman

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