A quick public service message to say you are important, you matter, you count. In the Book of Numbers, Bamidbar, a census of the Jews traveling through the desert is taken, twice. At the beginning of the journey and again at its end. Funds were raised and property/assets disbursed according to the counting.
The National Faithful Census Weekend is coming up March 27-29. Please be counted. Fill out your Census as an act of community empowerment this weekend or anytime over the coming weeks. The Census can (and should!) be done from the safety and comfort of your home. It is simple, safe and secure and can be done by going to www.2020census.gov. A complete count determines Congressional representation as well as federal resources to Colorado for the next ten years, approximately $2,300 per person per year to support social safety net programs including Unemployment Insurance, Highway grants, Water Pollution Control State, Interstate, and Tribal Program Support, Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities, State and Drug Free Schools and Community Grants, Child Abuse and Neglect State Grants, National Fire Plan - Wildland Urban Interface Community Fire Assistance and hundreds more. You can see that these funds go towards a vast variety of issues important to our state and its inhabitants.
When we answer the Census, we declare that we are part of “we the people” and commit to doing our part to bring critical funding and political representation to Colorado.
We each embody the Divine image, b'tzelem Eloheem. As we continue to watch out for one another by carefully following the CDC and WHO guidelines to get through COVID 19, we ask for blessings for those who are ill, those on the front lines taking care of them: physicians, nurses, aides, transportation workers, administrators; those providing resources for the general public at stores, pharmacies, transportation sources, police and fire personnel; the teachers learning to adapt to online curriculums and student interaction; and all those who are researching, creating, assisting in the worldwide fight against this virus. We extend Mi Sheberach blessings as well as for everyone, each and every person who needs support, hope and strength to weather these circumstances. Every person counts and we give thanks we are here to participate in this counting.
Baruch atah, Adonai Eloheinu, Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higiyanu laz'man hazeh.
Blessed are You, Adonai our God, Sovereign of all, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.
Blessings and Shabbat Shalom
Like governors, mayors and corporations around the country, Jewish leaders have joined together to lift our voices in support of the world wide desire to tend to and attend to God's creation, our earth. I was delighted for the opportunity offered me by Hazon to sign the letter that supported the Paris Climate Accord which was published June 13th, 2017.
We are Jews, organizational leaders and rabbis, teachers and students who work passionately towards a bright American Jewish future.
We are also human beings who care deeply about all life.
And from this integrated Jewish and universal perspective, we are shocked by the US government’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
This decision stands against common sense. Across the whole world, governments, corporations, non-profits, religious communities, and families and individuals are doing the hard work of slowly trying to wean ourselves from our own unhelpful behaviors and our fossil-fuel based economy, and toward a brighter future that better protects our planet and all its inhabitants.
The Climate Accord is a voluntary framework, signed by every country in the world except for Syria and Nicaragua. The signing was one of the largest gatherings of world leaders in human history. The withdrawal of the United States is tragic, and deeply problematic. As Jews living in a free society, we know the power of a shared framework which, even without legislative sanction, has a huge influence on the world. That’s what the Torah is; that’s why the Jewish people for twenty centuries have been on the right side of critical issues; and that’s why it is so critical that the Jewish community now stand up not merely to advocate for the Paris Climate Accord, but also to help implement it.
As Jews, we are also proud of our long history of economic innovation and entrepreneurship, so we are baffled by the false premise that withdrawing from the Paris Accords somehow prioritizes American jobs; on the contrary, our 21st century economy is driven by new energy technologies and our solar sector already far surpasses coal. Even so, we empathize with workers in the fossil fuel industry fearful of the changing energy economy, and strongly support business innovation and public policy to assist these workers during the transition to clean energy. Our nation’s economic interests are far better served by investments in this new energy economy than by the denial of climate science. Many experts agree that withdrawing from the Accord will weaken our economy – and threaten vulnerable populations both here at home and across the world.
In the face of this unfortunate decision, we applaud the leadership of mayors, governors, and businesses across the country who are taking responsibility for working towards the goals of the Paris Climate Accord. The US federal government is a vital actor when it comes to fighting climate change, but there is much that we can do ourselves, as institutions and individuals. Our children’s future demands that we do all we can.
Today, therefore, we call upon all Jewish federations, JCCs, synagogues, camps, day-schools, Jewish organizations, leaders, businesses, and community members to identify ways in which we, the organized and powerful American Jewish community, can and must respond to this climate crisis. There could not be more urgency at this moment, and our moral courage and bold leadership is needed on a national and global scale.
Here are some of the things that you can do:
In the Mishna, Hillel teaches us, “When no else is acting, act.” We stand together, united in our commitment to a sustainable future."
And, it is signed by individuals as well as organizations, both big and small.
Are you ready to observe the commandment of baal tashcit? To neither destroy nor waste but rather to be a caretaker of the environment.
Are you planning to attend the January 21 Women’s March in Denver? Concerned citizens of the diverse communities of Colorado will come together to champion human rights and dignity, and to send a message to our elected leaders to act to protect the needs of women, their families and our society.
In recognition that it is Shabbat, there will be a brief Shabbat service at 8:45 A.M. before the march begins. All are warmly welcome to come to share inspiration and hope. Meet at the First Baptist Church of Denver, 1373 Grant Street, downtown near the State Capitol. See more details at https://www.facebook.com/events/735818996567451/
One Step Forward: Recently Israel, for the first time, took its place as Head of a Permanent UN Committee. Danny Danon, Israel’s envoy to the UN, will chair the UN’s Sixth Committee, which interprets legal questions in the General Assembly. Danon, appointed by Netanyahu, is opposed to a two-state solution. His election to the committee was opposed by the OIC (Organization of Islamic Cooperation) but supported by the Western European and Others regional (WEOG) group.
Second step forward: In 2018, for the first time, Israel will have the opportunity to run for a seat on the Security Council. This Council is obsessed with finding Israel as the world violator of human rights despite the multi-front wars occurring in nearby areas, and the devastation and expulsion or flight of millions of people who are now exiled and homeless.
How can that possibly be? What creates the environment that allows an international community to agree to condemn Israel over other human rights violators? Wherever hate is unleashed, regardless of the perceived target, Jews have historically been, and will for the foreseeable future continue to be, recipients of the fallout of that hate.
One step back: In Brexit, the ‘other’ worker objected to were the Poles. Yet, swastikas are being found all over England. England was the voice of defense in the EU when issues of circumcision and kashrut arose. Who will speak up now in the EU? With the current sentiment against all foreigners, despite many living there for decades and generations, who will support the Jews in the UK? Jews had been expelled 200 years prior to Christopher Marlowe writing The Jew of Malta in 1594 and Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice two years later. Will living with Jews make it more difficult to turn against them?
Second step back: Jews live without fear in America. Unless you are attending a university where hate crimes are up according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program. Contrary to popular belief, according to the FBI, 57% of religiously targeted hate crimes targeted Jews.
Are you on twitter? Have you seen or heard of the Jewish Cowbell? It looks like this:
((( NAME ))).
"The inner parenthesis represent the Jews' subversion of the home [and] destruction of the family through mass-media degeneracy. The next [parenthesis] represents the destruction of the nation through mass immigration, and the outer [parenthesis] represents international Jewry and world Zionism."
This internet meme began a few weeks ago as part of a response to a New York Times reporter, Jonathan Weisman’s tweet, regarding an essay by Robert Kagan on the emergence of fascism in the United States. Since then, I have had friends and colleagues report that they have been the victims of internet abuse and harassment. Many Jews are fighting back by encapsulating their own names in the triple parentheses announcing being a Jew is a source of pride.
How is it then, that regardless of the fight, hate always exposes anti-Semitism?
Perhaps the answer is that being a Jew isn’t simple. It is not simply a religion although it revolves around a belief in an ethical monotheistic God. It is not a simple race since it is comprised of people of many races. Indeed, Israel may be the only country to fly people from other countries and of other races onto its land. It is not a simple culture since it draws from and blends with many cultures of the world. As Jews, we have lived in nearly every corner of the world. While based on ancient texts, Judaism is ever evolving. Unless someone is keeping up, they will frequently make invalid suppositions. And,
Third step back: Scapegoating is a psychological defense mechanism that provides a sense of gratification or denial by targeting ‘others’ for justified aggression by projecting blame on them and convincing themselves (and often others) that negative occurrences are the scapegoat’s responsibility. In as much as the term scapegoat originated in the Torah, we have now completed the dance.
Nonetheless, if you saw the postings in Rabbis Against Gun Violence, they said, #DisarmHate. Our job as Jews is to keep looking to find the Divine in our fellow human beings, to view every human being b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God and to assist in ridding humanity of hate. Here’s a way to begin: attempt to go a week without using the word against, person, place or thing.
BTW: Ginger Rogers said her job was to do everything Fred Astaire did except in high heels and backwards. Sometimes, three steps back is the same dance as three steps forward.
Enjoy the balance of the summer.
What a delight it was this past Friday evening to gather with the Pueblo Jewish Community for dinner and to discuss/debate our views on gun issues. Using Jewish texts as our baseline, we entered into a passionate exchange of ideas around buying and selling, ownership and inheritance of guns, guns and ammunition restriction, licensing, registration, background checks, age limits, mental health and its various parameters including the emptying of the institutions decades ago and the lack of funds to assist people currently, parental responsibility, state versus federal regulations and of course, gun manufacturer responsibility. We even included an exchange on the safety controls that are both current and upcoming through R&D, the pros and cons thereof.
Who would have imagined that Biblical texts about dangerous dogs, roofs around parapets, not putting stumbling blocks before people and beating swords into plowshears could be so relevant! We even came to some consensus on a few issues.
Just as importantly, with the understanding that we gathered as community, friends, with regard for each other as individuals and respect for one another's opinions, thirty people with strong opinions spent an hour together and never once was anyone belittled, called a name, had their ideas dismissed or was cursed. Plus, the dinner was wonderful thanks to our chef and the volunteers who helped provide it.
Thanks to all who prepared and all who participated. I can't wait for our next alternative Shabbat.
They’re at it again! Congress! Another Anti-Choice/Anti-Abortion bill! Do not be fooled. This is not pro-life. It puts in danger the life and physical, emotional and mental well being of the women and girls and the families of those women and girls in need of services. Abortions beyond 20 weeks will be allowed to a sexual assault victim only after a 48-hour waiting period following ‘counseling’ or ‘treatment’. If the assault is also incest, the victim must be under 18 years of age. (Wouldn't you love to know what makes incestuous rape ok at age 18? So would I.)
Abortion providers will be required to report the procedures to the government. (Small government at work?) Fetal abnormalities will not be taken into account for decision making. (So much for genetic testing - oh, yes, that would count as science.) Physicians can be prosecuted by the law. They have been persecuted by the Anti-Choice activists for years; they, their families and their practices.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, 205 anti-choice, restrictive reproductive laws have been past by states in the past three years. That is more than in the preceding decade. Along with this, in 27 states, more than half the Unites States, women are at risk of finding supportive, adequate health care; particularly low income and young women. You see, along with taking away support for choice, closing those clinics also eliminated health care providers for annual exams, urinary and vaginal infections, cancer screening, health and sexual education, pre-natal care, birth control and more.
I am certain that our legislators would be happy to live in a house for an extended period of time with someone who has assaulted them - after they have reported it. I have no doubt that they are happy to have their medical records on impotence and premature ejaculation released to the government. But I doubt that they are willing to cross picket lines to have prostate cancer tests.
Here in Colorado, the legislature attempted to circumvent two prior state votes against personhood by passing a personhood bill in April under the guise of ‘fetal homicide’. Fortunately, it was narrowly defeated. However, they did manage to block the funding that has reduced teen birth rates by 40 percent over the past five years. This brilliant action occurred the day after the funding program received a prestigious award recognizing the achievement at an annual conference by the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association.
Do we really want to take the country back? Back to the days when we couldn’t discuss sexual issues, when we couldn’t find birth control, when having an abortion meant back alleys and the probability of not having children? If we are not vigilant, we will find ourselves back in the pre-Roe v. Wade era not only for abortion but for all women’s health issues. Don’t give away what was so hard fought and won. We’re near tilt now.
The Torah is filled with laws and calls for justice. Be holy, for I, Adonai your God, am holy. The holiness code instructs us how to behave but not how to feel or to think. This comes from behaving day after day in a given fashion. Learning to have a certain outlook, to anticipate specific outcomes, to seek outlets.
I have lived in Colorado for nearly thirty years. I cannot imagine awakening with anything in my heart but joy for another day, another opportunity to make life better. Not a day goes by that I am not appreciative of living in what I have come to call my piece of heaven and in the United States.
Then, as the day evolves, being the news junkie I am, I let myself out of my heart and into my head. Who shall live and who shall die, we ask? And how? How shall it occur? I am wholly aware that on the other side of the world Jews are at risk. We are still fleeing from and being transported from harms way every year. Christians are at risk in the Middle
East. Dozens of churches have been burned, though for some reason, until the latest Egyptian uprising, this was not making the nightly news. In India, Hindus and Muslim have been in constant conflict, and children have been attacked for singing their national anthem, though this, too, did not make our national news.
Americans are sorely at risk. My prayers are with those who provide our country with strength and protection, who are
devoted to their chosen professions of service to the country. May they return to their families safely and with honor.
At a time in history when half the world is recognizing the human rights and dignity of people of every race, creed, color, ethnic and sexual persuasion, it seems that the other half of the world is racing head long in the opposite direction. Most of us are familiar with the phrase, tzedek, tzedek terdof, Justice, justice shall you pursue. (Deuteronomy 16:18 - 20) but not everyone knows what precedes those words.
18 You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice. 19 You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just. 20 Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
In the bronze age, the time in which Torah was written, humanity already knew some things about the human soul. They
knew that pride and power could distort a person’s judgment. They knew that an individual could bring an idea but a group was needed to implement it, the power of numbers – we might call it peer pressure. Maybe that’s why we need ten adult Jews to form a minyan, ten to pray. They knew that the soul is weak when tested and the body is weak when tempted. They knew that it is easy for wealth to blind the eyes of the wise and that words of the just - are just as easily confounded by gain.
They knew that people needed a focus. They needed to be able to engage their senses. They needed to turn their hearts and reach their hands toward something tangible. They needed to be involved.
Recently, while listening to a speaker, I was completely taken by a throwaway line because it was like a light bulb going off – it was just so true. He said, “It all began with the clicker.” It all began with the clicker. Suddenly, with no effort at
all, one could turn away from the sights and sounds they didn’t want coming to them over the TV. You didn’t even need to get out of your chair. Enjoying a light hearted show – click – now I don’t need to hear a plea for UNICEF. Getting into the rough and tough western – click – don’t tell me how many have died in battles. Fantasizing about living in that future world – click – I can’t be bothered with sink holes swallowing houses and resorts, or disappearing bee colonies.
We want things to exist but we no longer want to be responsible for that existence. Institutions are included in those things we want to exist. We want the Temple or at least a Jewish community available when we need it, but we want to “click” the rest of the time. We want Israel to exist so we feel we have a refuge, or maybe a nice place to visit. We’ll even celebrate it on the holidays and chant ‘next year in Jerusalem’ when it is appropriate but otherwise, click – we have our own problems. And, indeed, we do.
It should send a chill down the spine of every Jew who knows even the merest trace of Jewish history that Russia is rounding up people based on their life style. The reform Jewish community is in the forefront of the LGBT human justice issue. I would go so far as to say that anyone who says, “I am not related to and have no friends who are part of the LGBT community”, that they can say that because most likely the people around them know how they feel and simply are not being open and honest. Who by hatred? Who by fear? Justice shall you pursue.
As a country we are facing many issues. Issues that are further dividing us rather than helping us find unity. The World Health Organization has found gender violence to be the most common human rights abuse. “Worldwide, women aged 15-44 are more likely to be killed or maimed due to male violence than by cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined.” Were it not for the Violence Against Women’s Act, enacted in 1994, the effects in the United States would be
even worse. Thanks to this Act, in the past 20 years the number of individuals killed by an intimate partner has decreased 34% for women and 57% for men. Who shall live and who shall die at the hand of the one they love? Justice shall you pursue.
Prior to entering the clergy world, I was a social worker. While I worked with several different societal groups including run-aways, the psychiatric unit at the VA, home health watch which has since become termed hospice care, my primary field for nearly 12 years was reproductive health care. I can’t help but look at what is happening in a third of the states in this country and wonder why they want to turn back the clock fifty years when it comes to women’s health care, family privacy and freedom of choice. Justice shall you pursue.
In Isaiah we read, “Is not this the fast I ask for: To unlock the shackles of evil, To loosen the thongs of the yoke, To send forth crushed souls to freedom, To tear every yoke in two! To tear up your loaves for the hungry, To bring the poor wanderer home, When you see the naked, clothe them, When you see flesh and blood, do not turn aside! Then your light will burst forth like the morning and new flesh will cover your wounds.”
He further says to reach out to the soul of the hungry and ease the soul of the bruised; to remove the menacing hand and the abusive words and the oppressive yoke.”
Jews have known disenfranchisement and subjugation in so many lands, not just Egypt and not just 2500 years ago. This is why our prayers are dotted with the reminder that we were strangers in a strange land. Our Torah is spotted with ‘you shall be holy for I your God am holy’. That is why our history is marked by involvement in civil rights wherever and whenever they appear.
When Jews appeared on these shores in 1654, Stuyvesant tried to send them back to whence they came, the Portuguese Inquisition. When told by the Dutch West Indian company that they were to stay, (there was a no return policy) he enacted laws that restricted those colonists. They could not serve in the military but because they did not serve in the military they had to pay a tax for not serving in the military. They were not allowed to build a synagogue. Colonial voting laws were set locally and so in many regions, Catholics and Jews, Native Americans and African Americans along with all women were NOT allowed to vote.
English jurist William Blackstone wrote in the 1700s: The true reason for requiring any qualification, with regard to property, in voters, is that it gives a great, an artful, or a wealthy man, a larger share in elections than is consistent with
general liberty. Yes, they knew that in 1700.
August 26th marked the 93rd anniversary of voting rights for women. That week, Hadassah announced VISION 2020: Five goals to be achieved by the centennial anniversary of the 19th amendment:
Women in senior leadership positions
Family-Friendly workplace policies
Youth Education and civic engagement, and
Voter Mobilization promoting participation in the political process.
From the voting booth to taking care of the poor, the children and the minorities, Justice, justice shall you pursue.
Why justice twice when we are told the Torah uses words sparingly? Justice has two sides. We forget that when we
rally for a cause, there is someone on the other side. When we celebrate victory there is someone who is not rejoicing. Rabbi Pinchas HaCohen Peli (1930-1989) a tenth generation rabbi of the 20th century and Professor of Jewish Thought and Literature at the Ben-Gurion University, wrote, “It is, indeed, much more difficult to find a way between two claims, both of whom have justice on their side, than to decide a priori which of the two sides is absolutely just and must be be aided.”
The Sefat Emet, Rabbi Yehudah Aryeh Leib of Ger, an eminent Chassidic sage and the second Gerrer Rebbe of Warsaw, Poland, 1847 -1905, wrote commentary on the Torah. In his view, justice and truth are synonymous and neither is obtainable. Therefore, the pursuit of justice is endless as is the pursuit of truth.
The pursuit of truth. There’s a notion. The truth is ----- we are a nation in turmoil, Americans, yes. Jews even more so.
For nearly 25 years, women have sought the right to pray at The Wall, The Western Wall, HaKotel, wearing tallit and tefillin, and to read from the Torah as a group. As a group they are known as WOW which is the acronym for Women of the Wall. During the last week of July, when it was NOT Rosh Chodesh – Rosh Chodesh is a the holiday that celebrates the new moon, the new month in the Jewish calendar - ten women prayed in tefillin and tallitot without incident at the Kotel. Why? Because, in truth - most people are not bothered by this. They need to be incited to throw rocks and chairs and spit at men and women who want to beseech God for peace and blessings.
The courts have stated that it is not WOW that is causing the disruption at the Wall but those who are protesting their presence. Yet, while prior to the ruling many of the women, both Israeli and visiting Americans have been arrested or detained, the current protesters are not approached by the Wall police. Even the whistle blowers – no, not the Edward
Snowden type, these are men blowing whistles just feet from the women praying – even they are not bothered by the Wall police who do not view whistle blowing as ‘creating a public disturbance’, A PUBLIC DISTURBANCE - the crime for
which the women in prayer had been arrested so often.
In truth, do the protesters enhance their own kavannah (intention for prayer) through such actions while at this sacred site? In truth, how many of those who block the women’s section from the members of the WOW (Women of the Wall) would come there to pray on their own rather than come to protest as a group? Indeed, we know a large percentage are
gathered only for the purpose of disrupting the prayers of the WOW.
And this is not the only difficulty in my beloved Israel. Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, a prominent leader in the haredi
world, and I quote Rabbi Iris Richman in Moment Magazine, “instructs his followers that Jews who serve the land of Israel and want Haredim to become educated participants in Israeli life, with the civil obligations of all Israeli citizens, are the greatest enemy of the Jewish people. The followers of this rabbi are praying three times per day, every weekday, that (other) Jews should be “destroyed in a moment” for supporting an Israel where all of its citizens live together in shared responsibility and unity.”
To be clear, this is an influential rabbi speaking specifically about [Yair] Lapid [Israel’s Finance Minister, and her Education Minister Shai Piron) as Amalek – the worst enemy of the Jews. It is from Amalek that Haman and
Hitler were to have descended and according to Torah, Amalek is deserving of death.
For nearly 25 years, I have prayed in a tallit, worn tefillin and read from the Torah. I did not have to endure rocks and chairs, merely snide comments, barbed looks, questions and shunning. I went through back doors to be accepted and had to prove myself repeatedly to rank and file. However, I am no longer the unusual female davener clad in
I cannot understand leaving a house of worship, any house of worship, wanting to do harm to others. I quite frankly
do not want to begin to contemplate what I might need to say to you to not only make you think it ok, but to encourage it. I cannot comprehend teaching and preaching hatred when fear is already a menacing pursuer.
Rabbi Peli again, “While there are those who perceive justice to be always on their side, there are others, who in
their fervour to do justice to their opponents, tend to forget that there is justice also on their side.” Justice, justice shall you pursue. Remember to see both sides of justice. At this season, we ask God to temper justice with mercy for we know we are each, from time to time, on either side of that justice.
There is a parable of a king who had cups made of delicate glass. The king said, “If I pour hot water into them they will expand and burst; if cold, they will contract and break. So he mixed the hot and cold and they remained unbroken. So, too, did God say, If I create the world with mercy alone, its sins will be great; if only with justice how will it endure? So, God created the world with both justice and mercy.”
How far does the world need to regress - to devolve? Fifty years? 200 years? Back to the bronze age, the 2nd Temple generation?
A short tale from Shlomo Carlebach as retold by Diane Wolkstein (in Mitzvah Stories) and adapted here.
Shlomo Carlebach’s father, Naftali Carlebach, was the rabbi of a large synagogue in Berlin in the 1930s. This was a very intolerant time, even among the Jews. In Naftali’s synagogue, a German Jew stood by the entrance, and if any Jews came from Poland, he would tell them that they had to sit in the last two rows of the synagogue. At that time in Germany,
Polish Jews were not allowed to stand at the pulpit to give the blessings of the kohanim during the high holidays. Shlomo’s father began the custom of allowing Polish Jews to join German Jews at the pulpit at Yom Kippur to offer blessings.
After one holiday, a German Jew who was a multi-millionaire, found himself standing next to a Polish Jew whose socks were torn and who smelled terrible. The next day he sent a letter to Shlomo’s father. The letter said:
Dear Rabbi Carlebach:
Yesterday in synagogue, I stood next to a Jew whose socks were not only torn but he smelled so terrible that I could not pray. Either you end this new custom of allowing Polish Jews to stand as kohanim or I quit.
Signed: Max Kugelman
Rabbi Naftali Carlebach wrote back to him:
Dear Mr. Kugelman:
Thank you for your letter. I was expecting a letter from you. But the letter I had hoped you would write said:
Dear Rabbi: Yesterday in shul, my heart opened as I noticed my neighbor was was standing next to me. He must have
been so poor he could not afford to bathe or buy new socks for the holidays. I thought, ‘I have so much. How can I help this man? If his socks are torn, maybe his heart is also torn.’ Tell me,
Rabbi, what can I do?”
Rabbi Naftali Carlebach
Martin Luther King, Jr., in his famous ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, said, “I do not believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt.” He was right. It was not and is not. What you may not know is that two Jewish organizations were officially recognized as sponsors of that March: the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (today the Union for Reform Judaism) of which this congregation is a member, and the American Jewish Congress. Rabbi Richard Hirsch, Founding Director of the Union’s Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C. was one of the organizers of the march and it was inside the Religious Action Center of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, that the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights was housed. It was there that the civil rights act was signed.
It was not Rabbi Hirsch, but rather Rabbi Yoachim Prinz, who serving as president of the American Jewish Congress 50
years ago, spoke on that late August day on the steps in Washington DC, that day whose anniversary we just observed. Prinz was an immigrant, a refugee from Germany. Prinz stressed that the greatest sin of the German masses under the
Nazis, when confronted by the evils of discrimination, persecution and social injustice, was the sin of silence. Justice, justice shall you pursue.
Avinu Malkeinu, Our Father Our King,
Chaneiynu v’aneinu be gracious and answer us
Asey emanu Do for us
tzedak v’chesed justice and kindness.
And together we say,
Women of the Wall are fighting for the right to pray with equality at the Kotel in Jerusalem. Thousands of girls are sold into marriage each year in India to satisfy family debts. We deplore the abuse of girls and women in countries where it is dangerous for them to walk the streets alone and they are forbidden to be educated. Meanwhile, at home, though not nearly so dramatic, we are ignoring the fact that a woman’s second-class citizens status is being secured through incremental measures. We are walking backward in time to meet that which we protest as abhorrent elsewhere.
Equal Pay Day, April 9, 2013 was used in an attempt to advance the Paycheck Fairness Act that has been on hold or filibustered in one house or another since 2009. Equal Pay Day marks how far into the next year women must work to earn what a man did in the prior year. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 was signed by President John F. Kennedy who declared it the end of the ‘unconscionable practice’ of women being paid less than men are for the same job. Fifty years later, women are still earning on average, 77 cents to the dollar paid to men. Considering that in 53% of households, women are now the primary source of income, we can begin to understand the rise in poverty levels.
Now a further insult is pending. The new proposed guidelines for Family Practice Residents reads, “Residents must care for patients with female reproductive health issues including well woman care. If a FMP has adequate volume of patients with health issues specific to women, this requirement may be fulfilled in the FMP”. This means that training in contraception, family planning and pregnancy options counseling as well as training in performing uterine aspirations, critical to providing miscarriage and abortion care will not be required. Project, if you will, 20 years ahead. Who will be available to provide these medical services when no one has been trained? That is the Idea, isn’t it? Another back door to removing options and subjugating women.
Just as the Supreme Court overturned forty years of precedent by ruling that Lilly Ledbetter should have complained earlier regarding discrimination about which she did not know, this lack of education will willfully deny women first class medical care of their own choosing. Of course, that is being done already in multiple states where doctors are being told by legislatures what they MUST say to female patients considering a variety procedures. Yes, medical personnel are given ‘scripts’ with inaccurate medical information which they must recite to their patients.
President Obama righted the wrong in Ledbetter v. Goodyear by signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, allowing a person 180 days to file a complaint from the time she learns about the discrimination. We cannot wait years while medicine walks backward for women. We need to get this right now.
 DRAFT OF PROPOSED ACGME Program Requirements for Graduate Medical Education in Family Medicine, http://www.afmrd.org/files/PD%20Toolbox/RC-FM_Handout_2_Draft_Proposed_Program_Requirements_for_GME_in_FM.pdf, 4.23.2013
NOVEMBER 15, 2012 (posted on facebook)
Over 100 Rockets have exploded in Israel so far this week. Missiles from Gaza are hitting Ashkelon, Sderot and Be’er-Sheva. The residents of southern Israel - men, women and children have been traumatized by the terror of ongoing rocket attacks. With only 15 seconds to find cover, lives are in jeopardy. Nearly 1 million residents are within striking range of missiles from Gaza. Over 13,000 Kassam ... Rockets have been fired into southern Israel in the last 10 years, deliberately targeting Israeli civilians, causing chaos, destruction and death.
An additional problem exists at the UN where Palestinians are seeking state observer status. This will be voted on at the end of November. Voted on by Iran and Syria (where 36,000 of its own citizens have been slaughtered and untold tortured) who maintain
leadership roles in the Human Rights Council. Voted on by Sudan (you remember Sudan of massacres and genocidal fame), just elected to the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC)—which regulates human rights groups and oversees human rights related committees. Voted on, where Israel is constantly and consistently singled out as a human rights violator.
Meanwhile: Syrian army tanks crossed into the demilitarized zone on the Golan Heights in pursuit of rebel forces and a mortar shell hit an IDF post in the Golan Heights adjacent to the Israel-Syria border, as part of the internal conflict inside Syria this week.
Amidst these onslaughts, a letter signed by 15 interdenominational Christian leaders* was sent to Congress calling for “the United States to withdraw military aid to Israel until such time as Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights cease, and it begins to behave in accordance with U.S. and international law.”
Really? What other country provides aid to the enemy who has sworn to annihilate them?
According to the Civil Administration, over 100,000 Palestinians received medical care in Israel during the past year.
Israel also provides economic and educational assistance. A project initiated by the ICLA (Israeli Civic Leadership Association, established in 1986 by JDC) and coordinated with the Khan Younis Association and the Arava Export Growers as part of the continuous support for agricultural development in the Gaza Strip, enabled Gaza farmers to export spices for the very first time. Farmers in Gaza were given tutorials on how to grow spices and they were then provided the seedlings from Israel.
me again why aid to Israel is being protested?
* THE LIST
1.Rev. Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly, Presbyterian Church (USA)
2.Mark S. Hanson, Presiding Bishop Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
3.Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, President, Council of Bishops, The United Methodist Church
4.Peg Birk, Transitional General Secretary, National Council of Churches USA
5.Shan Cretin, General Secretary, American Friends Service Committee
6.J Ron Byler, Executive Director, Mennonite Central Committee U.S.
7.Alexander Patico, North American Secretary Orthodox Peace Fellowship
8.Diane Randall, Executive Secretary, Friends Committee on National Legislation
9.Dr. A. Roy Medley, General Secretary, American Baptist Churches, U.S.A.
10.Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President, United Church of Christ
11.Rev. Dr. Sharon E. Watkins, General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
12.Rev. Julia Brown Karimu, President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ),, Division of Overseas Ministries, Co-Executive, Global Ministries (UCC and Disciples)
13.Rev. Dr. James A. Moos, Executive Minister, United Church Christ, Wider, Church Ministries, Co-Executive, Global Ministries (UCC and Disciples)
14.Kathy McKneely, Acting Director, Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
15.Eli S. McCarthy, PhD, Justice and Peace Director, Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM)
NOVEMBER 5, 2012 (posted originally on facebook)
Someone mentioned to me that Obama had not visited Israel. I replied that only one president had done so in their first term. I was incorrect. Two did: Carter and Clinton. Here are the facts (sorry, there is only one side to facts - you may interpret them anyway you wish). From the FactChecker by Kessler, you can also retrieve the same information from the State Dept. records but it takes numerous site visits. Politifact also has the same information.
"The State Department historian’s office maintains a list of presidential foreign travels, so we can quickly see which presidents have visited Israel — and when. Here’s the list since Israel’s founding:
Harry Truman: no visit
Dwight Eisenhower: no visit
John Kennedy: no visit
Lyndon Johnson: no visit
Richard Nixon: sixth year of presidency
Gerald Ford: no visit
Jimmy Carter: third year of presidency
Ronald Reagan: no visit
George H.W. Bush: no visit
Bill Clinton: 4 visits—in the second, third, fourth and sixth years of his presidency
George W. Bush: 2 visits—in the eighth year of his presidency
According to this list, only four of the last 11 presidents visited Israel during their presidency, and two — Nixon and George W. Bush — waited until their second term to make their first trip. In both cases, they visited in the last year of their presidencies (Nixon resigned because of the Watergate affair shortly after his trip.)
Only Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, then, visited Israel in their first term. And of the last four presidents, two never visited Israel, one visited in his second term and one visited in his first term.
Thus Obama’s failure to travel to Israel thus far is not unusual at all.
The Emergency Committee ad also suggests that Obama has visited Arab countries rather than Israel. But the State Department records also demonstrate that every president who traveled to Israel had previously visited Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
The ad also incorrectly says Obama has “traveled all over the Middle East.” Obama visited just Turkey and Iraq in April 2009, and Egypt and Saudi Arabia in June 2009. The stops in Iraq and Saudi Arabia were barely a few hours long — and Obama has not traveled at all to Middle East in the past three years. (Many of the images in the ad of Obama with Arab leaders are from international confabs held outside the Middle East.)
Indeed, George W. Bush, Clinton and George H.W. Bush were much more well traveled in the Middle East than Obama has been so far in his presidency.
OCTOBER 30, 2012 (posted originally on facebook)
Posting for those interested in Israel as relevant to their vote:
An Open letter on Israel from the chairman of the senate Armed Service Committee
This is the first letter I've ever written in the hope that the "social media" winds take it not just to people I know, but also to people I've never met and to places I'll never see.
I do so because I'm deeply troubled by how the Jewish community is being flooded with inaccurate and sometimes inflammatory attacks on President Obama, claiming that he is not a strong supporter of Israel.
I do so because as a Jewish senator and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I feel a responsibility to share what I have personally seen and what I know about Barack Obama and Israel.
As I write this, U.S. and Israeli forces are engaged in a large joint military exercise. We hold these exercises regularly. But this is
the largest joint exercise we have held with Israel, involving over 3,500 U.S. troops, about 1/3 of them deployed to Israel for 3 weeks.
This exercise comes at a critical moment for putting massive pressure on Iran to end any quest for a nuclear weapon.
The joint exercise will dramatize our joint military capability to defend against an Iranian missile attack. The exercise combines U.S. Patriot batteries and Aegis ship radar with Israel's Arrow, Iron Dome and David's Sling missile defenses. These Israeli missile defenses received significant funding by the U.S. and have been strongly supported by President Obama.
As Iran decides whether to try to build a nuclear weapon, Iranian leaders will now have to factor in more than ever that they will not be able to deter a strike against a nuclear weapon facility by threatening to retaliate with their missiles. Iran's leaders can't do so because a retaliatory threat by them or by their allies Hezbollah or Hamas has been degraded by Israel's and our combined missile defenses, as demonstrated by the current joint exercise.
I have seen up close how President Obama has acted in many other ways to strengthen Israel's military capability.
Israel's current Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister, recently put it this way:
"I should tell you honestly that this Administration, under President Obama, is dong in regard to our security more than anything I can remember in the past." (July 11, 2012)
Prime Minister Netanyahu himself told the AIPAC Conference in May of this year:
"Our security cooperation is unprecedented. And President Obama has backed his words with deeds."
President Obama has also made clear that he will not permit Iran to get a nuclear weapon. For instance:
"It's my firm belief that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would pose a security threat not only to the region but also to the United States." (November 14, 2011)
"My policy here is not going to be one of containment. My policy is prevention of Iran obtaining nuclear weapons. And as I indicated yesterday in my speech, when I say all options are at the table, I mean it." (March 5, 2012)
Iran must know from the record of President Obama, including his use of force in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia, that he doesn't bluff or bluster.
He is a serious man.
He speaks carefully.
He doesn't flip flop around.
He doesn't throw
words around carelessly.
Iran has seen him act -- his warnings aren't
President Obama has succeeded in unifying the world against Iran with biting sanctions. Those sanctions have done major damage to Iran's oil revenues (they are down by 60% over the last year) and to its currency (the value of which is down by 80% over the last year).
In part because of the respect in which he is held around the world, he has also succeeded in the challenging environment at the UN in preventing unfair damage to Israel at a number of crucial moments, including stopping a UN condemnation of Israel when it prevented a flotilla of ships from forcing itself through its blockade of Gaza.
President Reagan is rightly remembered as a strong friend of Israel, although he led the world's condemnation of Israel at the UN when Israel knocked out Iraq's threatening nuclear facility. I'm amazed how some in our community judge President Obama, who has prevented unfair condemnation of Israel at the UN, by a different standard.
I have seen President Obama act forcefully to protect Israeli citizens at Israel's embassy in Cairo when a violent mob recently came within minutes of reaching and attacking them. Here is what Prime Minister Netanyahu said about President Obama's actions:
"I requested President Obama's assistance at a decisive -- I would even say fateful -- moment. He said he would do everything possible, and this is what he did. He activated all of United States' means and influence -- which are certainly considerable. I believe we owe him a special debt of gratitude."
By any standard, fairly and consistently applied, President Obama has been a proven friend of Israel.
Support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship has been bipartisan, and it is essential it remain so for our security and for Israel's security. It is harmful to that relationship and to Israel for some in our community to attempt to drive a wedge between the Obama administration and Israel.
I won't comment here on the many other reasons I support President Obama. My goal is to simply express my abhorrence at blatantly unfair, inaccurate and sometimes inflammatory claims that President Obama is not a strong supporter of the U.S. -- Israel relationship, when that relationship is important to U.S. security and to the goal of Middle East peace.
I hope that this effort will succeed in utilizing the internet's ability to have one's thoughts shared broadly. If you believe they are worthy or interesting, please share them with your friends.
This came across my desk and appears to be an amalgamation of writings from Steve Sheffey.
Steve Sheffey has long been active in the pro-Israel community and in Jewish communal life. He served on the Board of CityPAC, Chicago’s premier pro-Israel political action committee, for seven years, including two years as its President. In 1992, he ran for delegate pledged to Tom Harkin in what was then the Illinois’s Ninth Congressional District. He has volunteered in various capacities in the Congressional campaigns of Abner Mikva, Robert Weinberger, Sid Yates, John Cullerton, Lauren Beth Gash and Dan Seals. He is the author of “God Has Brought Me Laughter,” a collection of jokes organized by the Torah portion of the week. The views he presents in his writings and talks do not necessarily represent the views of any organization he is or has been associated with, and unless otherwise noted, he does not write or speak on behalf of these organizations.
Move a Chicagoan to San Diego and soon he’ll forget the wind, sleet and snow and start complaining when the temperature drops below 60 degrees.
August-September 2012 Av-Elul 5772
In August of 2002, I had the opportunity to speak with Senator Lieberman during his visit to Denver. My question was, "What can you do now to counteract the delegitimization and eventual boycott of Israel?" He told me it could not happen here. My daughter, Rachel, related an event that oc-curred. She had attended a USSA (United States Student Association) meeting earlier that year. The focus was on illegal behaviors and human rights violations by Israel. All the speakers presented only the Palestinian side. Rachel alone stood to speak for Israel. She was soon prevented from speaking, as she was no longer recognized by the moderators. Still, she contacted me every night of the convention to obtain historically accurate information to bring to the conference body. I looked at Sen. Lieberman and said, "Historically, what happens at the university level will be main stream in ten years." His response was, "It can't happen here."
Well, here we are, ten years later and as I expected, BDS has become a national movement. However, it has been building throughout this decade with little resistance. Indeed, I would say with a level of support not only from anti- Zionists but also from well meaning Jews who site halacha (Jewish law) as if it were universally accepted (which it blatantly is not, even among Jews, let alone non-Jews).
Are you familiar with the BDS movement? BDS stands for boycotts, divestment and sanctions and refers specifically to Israel. BDS "call(s) upon international civil society organizations and people of conscience all over the world to impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era." Signed by 116 Arab organizations in 2005, its purpose is:
1. Ending its (Israel's) occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
According to the President of the International Court of Justice, Stephen M. Schwebel (1997-2000), professor of International Law at Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, "Where the prior holder of territory [Jordan] had seized that territory unlawfully, the state which subsequently takes that territory in the lawful exercise of self-defense [Israel] has, against that prior holder, better title."
"Jeffrey S. Helmreich, author and writer for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs is quoted, 'The settlements are not located in ‘occupied territory.’ The last binding international legal instrument which divided the territory in the region of Israel, the West Bank and Gaza was the League of Nations Mandate, which explicitly recognized the right of Jewish settlement in all territory allocated to the Jewish national home in the context of the British Mandate. These rights under the British mandate were preserved by the successor organization to the League of Nations, the United Nations, under Article 80 of the U.N. Charter.'
"The Jewish right of settlement in the West Bank is conferred by the same provisions of the Mandate under which Jews settled in Haifa, Tel Aviv and Jerusalem before the state of Israel was created. … The Jewish right of settlement in Palestine west of the Jordan River, that is, in Israel, the West Bank, Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, was made unassailable. That right has never been terminated. …" recorded Eugene W. Rostow, former U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and Distinguished Fellow at the U.S. Institute for Peace.
Addressing the equal rights of Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel, it is unfortunate but seemingly true, that minorities in any community may be viewed as unequal. We have but to look in our own country to see this truth. Yet, the apartheid accusation is far from accurate. First, a definition of the word. Apartheid, according to my computer dictionary means, a separation of different peoples from those of European origin or any system that separates people according to race, caste, etc. Under these definitions, I can think of a number of countries that would be apartheid. However, one has but to walk the streets of Israel to see that it is not among them. Find a picture of the marketplace, the housing centers, the hotels, the beaches and you will see for yourself that it is not segregated or separated except for a few specific religious centers. Unfortunately, for liberal American Jews, The Kotel (Western Wall) is among them.
As for the 'right of return' argument via the UN General Assembly Resolution 194: on November 12, 1948, the GA (whose resolutions are non-binding) wrote "... that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible." The War of Independence was in full bloom and the entire Arab world rejected the resolution since it meant that the equally displaced Jews from Arab lands should also have the ability to return to their homes. Further, the "live at peace with their neighbors" has never been on the table since even today, the destruction of Israel appears in the Hamas charter (Gaza is under Hamas rule).
So why am I ranting about this now? In 2007, the World Council of Churches produced the Amman Call, a document that condemned violence and endorsed a two-state solution but also called for the 'right of return' for Palestinians and dismantling of the security fence. In 2008, they proposed the Bern Perspective, which, among other things, instructed Christians to under-stand all biblical references to Israel only metaphorically. In 2009, they posted on their website the Kairos Palestine Document which
demonized Israel as an evil occupation and inferred it held no historical ties to the land. In 2010, they urged the U.S. government to withhold funds from Israel. The U.S. Presbyterian Church was at the forefront of the call.
In early July, members of a committee of the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church voted in favor of divestment from three companies: Motorola, for providing surveillance equipment for Israeli settlements; Caterpillar, for providing bulldozers; and Hewlett-Packard, for selling hardware used by Israel in its naval blockade of Gaza. The General Assembly narrowly defeated this measure. However, they voted in favor of boycotting products made in the West Bank settlements, such as Ahava, and produce from Hadiklaim Israel Date Growers. The issue is certain to be brought up at subsequent councils. The narrow margin on the vote is an unhappy harbinger of things to come.
Thirteen hundred Rabbis and over 12,000 American Jews signed letters to the Assembly requesting they reconsider this step. Jeremy Ben-Ami, President and Founder of J Street wrote, "I would say to the Church’s leaders as they again consider joining forces with the BDS Movement, that the Movement’s rhetoric and tactics are not only a distraction, but a genuine threat to conflict resolution. Even the limited divestment approach under consideration by PCUSA falls under the rubric of larger BDS ef-forts to place blame entirely on one side of the conflict. Such an approach encourages not reconciliation, but polarization."
I pray that the future brings healing and hope for interfaith as well as Israeli-Palestinian relationships.
1. The Palestinian Unified Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, 9 July 2005,
2. Note to boycotters: Israel is not a thief, David Suissa, July 3, 2012,
4. Boycott, divestment and sanctions put allies at odds, Jeremy Ben-Ami, July 3, 2012 http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/ boycott_divestment_and_sanctions_put_allies_at_odds_20120703/
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Community educator, choreographer, composer, performer, Becker, M.S.W., M.Ed., M.R.S., Ph.D., serves as rabbi for Temple Emanuel-Pueblo, cellist for Apples and Honey and is a Storahtelling Maven.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON ISRAEL
WOMEN OF THE WALL http://www.nytimes.com/video/2012/12/22/world/middleeast/100000001969698/women-at-the-western-wall.html