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Each year, through your generosity, we donate about 4000 pounds of food to local organizations that serve those in need.
Let’s donate 5000 pounds this year, in honor of our 50th anniversary.

Bring your food donations to services on Yom Kippur, or drop them in the collection barrels at Har HaShem any time through September 27, the first Sunday School session and Sukkot evening.

The items most needed are:

*Pasta

*Pasta Sauce

*Canned Meat or Fish

*Canned Meals

*Canned Vegetables

*Peanut Butter

*Cold Cereal (non-sugared) and Hot Cereal

These words were delivered as the Rosh Hashanah Sermon for Temple Beth Tikvah on September 25, 2014.

Yom Teruah. That is another name for Rosh Hashanah. Yom Teruah – the Day of Teruah Blasts. What is a Teruah blast? We know it is the call of the shofar. It could be for joy or it could be for war. Today, it is a wake up call. Not just to wake up from a spiritual slumber as Maimonides instructs us, but a call to action. A call to wake up because our people – the Jewish People – they need us.

I remember the tour to Israel that I led a number of years ago now. We went into the underground tunnels below the Kotel. There was an area that was blocked off because of the excavations. Our guide, Zvi, somehow managed to get the guard to look the other way so we could go into this chamber…which, quite frankly, looked pretty dangerous.

As he was telling us about the room, he held onto some scaffolding and dangled himself over what seemed to be a tremendous ledge. He was scratching around in that section of rock and then… he came out and opened up his hand.

It had ash on it. Soot. It was from the Roman destruction of the Holy Temple of Jerusalem in the year 70 of the Common Era. There was our history, right on his hand.

…and here we are in Roswell, Georgia.
Ashes from destruction are a symbol not simply of death, but also of survival. Of resiliency: the resiliency of all of those Jews who made sure that there would be another link in the chain. And not just a link… not just another generation of existence, but of creativity, innovation, adaptation, dare I even say Reform.

Those generations heard the blast of the shofar. They heard the call… to life.

When I think of resilience today, I am inspired by our brothers and sisters in Israel. Let me tell you why:

When Hamas calls for a revolution, they purchase rockets.

When Israel calls for a revolution, they purchase computers.

When Hamas wants to build new construction, they invest precious resources in not-so-secret tunnels to enter into Israeli territory to do harm – to attempt to kidnap or maim innocent civilians.

When Israel wants to build, it sends cement to Gaza as humanitarian aid with the intention of building new homes and helping to ease the pain of a depressed society.

When Hamas fires against Israel, it aims indiscriminately from residential areas, mosques, and hospitals.

When Israel fires against Hamas, it takes great pains to warn the people to get out of the way.  Israel first drops … not bombs … but leaflets, to let residents know that real fire will be coming. Along with the leaflets, there were text messages and voicemail messages to cell phones. Then there was the “roof knocking,” where the Israeli Air Force dropped a non lethal bomb to make a loud noise with minimal damage, just to encourage people to get out of the way. From the point of view of a military strategist – this defies all logic because you are basically informing your enemy when and from where you are striking. Hamas, in turn, encouraged people to stay and go to rooftops so that they can say: Israel took these lives! Look at what Israel did.[1]

When Hamas kidnapped and killed innocent Jewish teens, they saw a victory – some morbid achievement.

When Jews murder an innocent Palestinian child, Israelis travel to East Jerusalem to extend their condolences…by the busload. The Prime Minister, the President, national leaders apologized and said that this kind of murderous behavior is not only criminal, it is un-Jewish. And congregations around the world added Mohammed Abu Khdeir, the fifteen year old Palestinian child killed by Israeli Jewish radicals to our Kaddish Lists, along with Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Shaer, and Naftali Fraenkel.

With all of this said, this is what concerns me….

In Genesis, we learn that Esau is approaching Jacob’s camp with his own men. The two brothers haven’t seen each other for years. After all, Jacob tricked Esau out of his birthright and the blessing of their father, Isaac. The last they saw each other, Esau threatened Jacob’s life! As Jacob learned of Esau’s approach, the Torah says: “And Jacob was greatly frightened and distressed.”[2]  Our sages ask why the two descriptions: “frightened and distressed”?

The great medieval commentator, Rashi, explains that Jacob was “frightened – lest he be killed; and distressed – lest he kill [his brother Esau].”

It reminds me of Golda Meir’s famous quote: “When peace comes, we will perhaps in time be able to forgive the Arabs for killing our sons, but it will be harder for us to forgive them for having forced us to kill their sons.”[3]

Israel has been going through great pains to minimize innocent civilian life amongst the Palestinians, putting their own soldiers in even greater risk. From a typical military officer’s point of view, this approach would most likely be considered foolish. From an Israel Defense Force military officer’s point of view…. It is right and it is just.

What other country would ever consider such a thing?

One of the most interesting pieces that was written during the conflict was by Amos Oz. Oz is not only a world renown writer, but a devoted peacenik and activist.  Just before this interview, he was hospitalized and for each rocket that came close to the hospital, he was left vulnerable, unable to be moved to a shelter. Listen to how he addressed the reporter:

Amoz Oz: I would like to begin the interview in a very unusual way: by presenting one or two questions to your readers and listeners. May I do that?

Deutsche Welle: Go ahead!

Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?

With these two questions I pass the interview to you.[4]

He added in this interview:

… This morning I read very carefully the charter of Hamas. It says that the Prophet commands every Muslim to kill every Jew everywhere in the world. It quotes the Protocols of the Elders of Zion [a notorious forgery created by Russian czarist police officers in 1903 and later used as Nazi propaganda and still used in the Middle East to “prove” that the Jews are taking over the world]… It quotes the Protocols and says that the Jews controlled the world through the League of Nations and through the United Nations, that the Jews caused the two world wars and that the entire world is controlled by Jewish money. So I hardly see a prospect for a compromise between Israel and Hamas. I have been a man of compromise all my life. But even a man of compromise cannot approach Hamas and say: ‘Maybe we meet halfway and Israel only exists on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.’

Let me explain why I have shared this. It is one of the few times we have seen such a wide spectrum of Jewish and Israeli leaders come together in support of Israel. Left to right. Only the fringes were left out. What they don’t agree on is what to do next, how far to go to advance the cause of peace. But that is a different sermon.

I know that some struggle with my pronouncements of sympathy for Palestinians. Some might think that all Palestinians are the same. We, as Jews, object to such generalizations made about us. For good reason. I do not want to be associated with the people that killed the Palestinian teenager or who vandalize mosques in Israeli Arab cities.  So how do we dare perpetuate such generalizations about Palestinians or Muslims?

If Jews believe, as the Torah asserts, that everyone is created in God’s image… if we believe that in every person, there is a reflection of God, then how can we have a cavalier perspective with another human being’s life? Even if that human being hates us.

At the same time, The Torah tells us that we are obligated to defend ourselves. There is a text in Exodus[5] where a thief is discovered tunneling into a house. The assumption is, since he is being so covert about it, that if he makes it inside, not only will he steal from the homeowners, but he will threaten the lives of whoever is in the house. It is shockingly similar to what Hamas was doing this past summer. Our sages explained that if someone is coming into your home with the intent to kill you, you can not only defend yourself, you will not be guilty of murder if you kill him first.[6]

We are also taught in the Talmud that when the Israelites left Egypt and crossed the Red Sea, they started to celebrate. When the angels up in the heavens wanted to dance along with the Israelites, God…seeing his Egyptian children drowning, rebuked the angels, saying: “My handiwork is drowning in the sea – and you are singing?”[7]

I will always be proud of Israel for choosing ethics over strategy. For, despite what anyone says, continuing to provide electricity to the very people shelling Israeli cities so that all of Gaza wouldn’t be dark is a Jewish decision. Sending in truckloads of humanitarian aid during a war is a Jewish decision. Setting up a field hospital in Gaza for Palestinians injured in the fighting is a Jewish decision.

Don’t get me wrong, the people of Gaza are living and have been living under terrible circumstances. And no matter what they think, it is their own leaders – the leaders of Hamas – who are guilty of war crimes.

How does the rest of the world miss that? Honestly, I can’t comprehend it. When rockets are being launched from Gaza into civilian areas, Israel is at fault for responding?

There is something even bigger going on here. It is not only that anti-Semitic incidents are increasing, but increasingly tolerated, cloaked as “anti-Zionist” views.  Make no mistake – they are on in the same.

There has been a marked increase in anti-Semitism, manifested by vandalism, violent attacks, and chants of “Death to the Jews” across the world.

In a recent report, the U.S. State Department found that throughout Europe, the historical stain of anti-Semitism continued to be a fact of life on Internet fora, in soccer stadiums, and through Nazi-like salutes, leading many individuals who are Jewish to conceal their religious identity.”

Calls for Jews to be gassed were heard in Germany. More than 100 congregants were besieged for hours in a central Paris synagogue by an angry mob. The Turkish nongovernmental organization IHH (which instigated the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident) has threatened that “Turkish Jews will pay dearly” for Israel’s actions in Gaza. In Britain in July, there were roughly 100 anti-Semitic incidents, double the usual number. Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan stated that Israel’s defense against Hamas rocket fire amounts to “barbarism that surpasses Hitler.”

Signs were posted in Rome urging a boycott of 50 Jewish-owned businesses. In central London, anti-Israel protesters targeted a Sainsbury’s grocery, and the manager reflexively pulled kosher products off the shelves. (The supermarket chain later apologized.)[8]

We have seen conflicts in our own country where students are directly challenged on college campuses, where pro Palestinian … I should say anti-Israel student groups are planning an international day of protest…today, Rosh Hashanah.

An Episcopal priest at Yale University wrote in the New York Times that “the best antidote to anti-Semitism would be for Israel’s patrons abroad to press the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for final-status resolution to the Palestinian question.”[9]

And this summer, a Hamas spokesman went on the record to state that Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children to make matza — one of the oldest anti-Semitic canards around. It is hard to fathom that in 2014 we are still confronting blood libel allegations.

J.J. Goldberg of The Forward just wrote: “If there’s one thing we should have learned from the 20th century, it’s that wars are wicked, murderous affairs that defile the spirit of humankind. That despite this universal truth, there are some wars that must be fought, as wicked as they might be, because the alternative is even more unspeakable.”[10]

I think that statement is correct. Gaza is not Atlanta and Hamas leader Khaled Meshal isn’t Dr. King. Hamas isn’t fighting for peace nor for self-determination. They are fighting to get rid of Israel. If they wanted self-determination and justice for Palestinians, they would have sat down with Israel at the peace table and concluded a treaty.

Friends, what should our response be?

When we hear allegations about blood libel, what do we do?

When we learn about shootings in a JCC that are targeting Jews as we did this year in Kansas City, how should we respond?

When we hear of candidates for Congress who openly claim that “you will lose with Jews” as we hear today in Kentucky, what needs to happen?

When we hear about vandalism, physical and verbal assaults in Europe, are we to be silent…again?

I understand that people are fearful. These are scary things. They are terrifying. But if the fear paralyzes us, then they win. If we stop being Jewish, then the ashes in the tunnel will be all that is left. We cannot go back to a place of fear, checking out, leaving the work for others to do.

Nor is it enough to just cry Gevalt. It is time to live our Judaism out loud, as if each Jewish action is another blast of the shofar, proclaiming to all that Judaism matters, the Jewish people are strong and that Jewish values can help make the world a better place.

For every anti Israel, anti-Semitic, anti Jewish act, we return with a greater resolve to observe a mitzvah. We will not just complain or make a new Jewish joke, but will make a Jewish choice that can change the world. We will show greater support for Israel. We will be more generous to agencies that reflect our values. We will be inspired to light Shabbat candles and invite our non-Jewish neighbors to celebrate with us as we reclaim our truth to be an Or L’Goyim – a light unto the nations. We will become ambassadors for light, warmth, tolerance and mutual respect.

For every act of vandalism against a synagogue, we will show up at our own synagogue.

For every attack against Israel, we will be getting ready to plan our next trip to Jerusalem.

We will be waiving the flag for birthright Israel for our young adults and we will raise resources to send our teens there for the summer or a semester.

For every slur against the Jewish people, we will advance the rule of law, we will fight discrimination, and we will speak out against racism, homophobia and sexism. We will strive for greater inclusion and deepen our interfaith relations with our neighboring churches, mosques, temples and holy places.

And we will answer ignorance, indifference and untruths with Emet – Truth, one of God’s Holy Names… Emet/Truth.

And yes, we will strengthen those institutions that are on the front lines, where the American Jewish Committee works with Parliament leaders around the world, where the Anti Defamation League continues to help us as our fact finder and advocate. We will urge our politicians to strengthen the office of the US State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, Ira Forman.

Each morning tefilah, we recite the prayer L’dor Vador.

L’dor Vador nagid godlecha
To every generation we will declare Your greatness

U’l’neitzach n’tzachim k’dushat’cha nakdish
And for all eternity proclaim Your holiness.

V’shiv’checha, Eloheinu mipinu lo yamush l’olam vaed.
Your praise, O God, will never depart from our lips.

We teach the next generation how to stand up by living Jewish lives even when it isn’t easy. We show the next generation that we care enough to bring them here, today, to listen to rabbis preach and to pray with a community. We teach the next generation by modeling what it looks like to support the Jewish community, to write letters to our representatives, to send them to Israel for a summer, to support the community so that we can send more who can’t afford it together. We hold leaders accountable and we speak the truth within our hearts.

It is Yom Teruah – the day of the shofar blasts. The blast is as much as a wake up call as it is a call from the voices, the cries, the fears of our people. We can do our part to assist them, strengthen them, and reach out to them by living with conviction. And by doing so… we strengthen ourselves and our own community.

It is a privilege, beyond words, to dream with Israel and share its destiny. To be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

As the prophet Isaiah says: “For Zion’s sake I shall not be silent, and for Jerusalem’s sake I shall not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness and her salvation as a flaming torch.”[11]

May the blast of the shofar envelop us, inspire us, and encourage us to listen…and to act and to be a spark in that torch.

[1] http://www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/07/16/idf-done-minimize-harm-civilians-gaza/

[2] Genesis 32:8.

[3] Press conference in London (1969), as quoted in A Land of Our Own: An Oral Autobiography, edited by Marie Syrkin, 1973: 242.

[4] “Lose-lose situation for Israel,” Deutsche Welle, July 30, 2014. http://www.dw.de/oz-lose-lose-situation-for-israel/a-17822511.

[5] 22:1.

[6] Rava: “If somebody comes to kill you, kill him first” (Sanhedrin 72a); Rabbi David Golinkin, “What Can We Learn from our Sources about the War in Gaza?” Volume 8, Issue No. 10, August 2014. http://www.schechter.edu/Responsa.aspx.

[7] Megillah 10b.

[8] Sources are from Jewish Council for Public Affairs, JCPA Action Alert, “Confronting Anti-Semitism,” September 10, 2014.

[9] Rev. Bruce Shipman, Letters to the Editor, August 21, 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/26/opinion/the-rising-tide-of-anti-semitism.html?module=Search&mabReward=relbias%3Ar%2C%7B%222%22%3A%22RI%3A13%22%7D&_r=0

[10] I found Goldberg’s words right on target, but I don’t believe he would apply the same message to the war in Gaza. This article addresses the threats of ISIS: http://forward.com/articles/206078/like-the-nazis-isis-must-be-confronted/#ixzz3E395IN5z.

[11] Isaiah 62:1; Rabbi Marc Angel concluded a sermon this way and it is has always left an impression with me.

Commandment 184 is that [God] commanded us to remove obstacles and danger from all dwellings…. – Maimonides’ Sefer HaMitzvot, Positive Commandment #184 (12th century)

King David is a central figure in our Jewish Tradition. Held in highest esteem by God, David (whose name means “beloved”) is a warrior who, at times, functions in ruthless ways. And yet, he is devoted to the Covenant between God and the Jewish People and is rewarded for doing so.

I have always found it inspiring that such a leader like David, who is held in such high regard, could not build the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. It was his leadership that united the kingdom when he conquered Jerusalem to make it the capital of the Jewish People, and still he could not build the Holy Temple because as a warrior, he had blood on his hands.

Not only that, our Holy Temple could not be built with iron. Jewish tradition teaches that the people used other methods to carve out the massive stones. Iron couldn’t be used because that material was often used to shorten another person’s life; thus inconsistent with the sanctity of the Holy Temple. (See Deut. 27:5, M. Middot 3:4).

There is even a custom in Jewish families to cover up the knives when we say our Shabbat blessings around the dinner table. Since our table is considered a mikdash m’at—a miniature altar (referring to the ancient Temple) – it is a sacred place and a place of peace. So we cover the knives that represent weapons and bloodshed – imagery that has no appropriate place in the midst of our Sabbath blessings.

And so it is… this is why I have been earnest in speaking out against what I consider to be the idolatry of guns in our society.

We can debate the intentions of our founding fathers with regard to the Second Amendment. That is for a different time. As a people of faith, we are commanded “to be a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19.6) As I reflect on these words, it teaches me that we are to not simply go an extra mile. We are asked by God to choose a path that will model holiness. So we must balance our necessary requirements of security with holiness. From my point of view, it is a holy act to provide hospitality, and thus security, for those who come into your house. That is an important reason why we have our friends from the Roswell Police Department with us regularly and routinely. The chair of our Temple Security Committee is a Police Detective. We take safety and security seriously.

And it is with these two values combined – security and holiness – to guide us, that I can say I am proud of our leadership to make Temple Beth Tikvah a weapons-free zone, with the exception of those who are law enforcement professionals or on active duty in the military.

The recent law that the Georgia Legislature passed and which Governor Deal signed into law, says that houses of worship are to be considered private property. The law does not permit individuals, whether they have a permit to carry a firearm or not, to bring a firearm into a house of worship. The law will now permit congregations to OPT IN and permit people to bring weapons onto their property, if they choose to. Our synagogue’s Board responded to a thoughtful plea by our own Mark Mosbacher and resolved to make TBT a weapons-free zone in our building and on our grounds.

Why did we (along with Temple Sinai and The Temple, the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta) pass resolutions when the law hasn’t changed in terms of bringing weapons into houses of worship?

One reason is to affirm our truth – bringing weapons into our sacred space, whether it is the sanctuary, the school or the social hall, diminishes that very same sacredness as illustrated in the beginning of this article.  A second reason is to have an opportunity to educate how the interfaith religious leadership in Atlanta is predominantly opposed to bringing weapons into houses of worship and we are opposed legal changes that will uproot reasonable gun ownership and carry regulations. I have joined over 280 other members of the clergy in the Interfaith Coalition against Gun Violence to do what we can to provide a faithful response to these issues. And a third reason: Leviticus 19:16 teaches that we must not stand idly by the blood of our neighbor. This is a pro-active position that communicates to our faith community, the larger Atlanta faith community, and our government leaders that gun violence is a serious issue that needs serious solutions. We fully expect that the issue will reappear in next year’s legislative session to advance that congregations will need to OPT OUT rather than opt in if they want to be weapons-free. (We also expect them to return to raising legalization of carrying weapons on college campuses).

This isn’t about the right to own or carry a weapon. This is about having our synagogue remain a sanctuary from the storms outside. For me, it is also about my concern about the easy access and prevalence of guns that will raise new challenges to issues of public safety. And it is statement that we see every life as precious.

Kol Hakavod to our Board of Trustees for passing this resolution:

WHEREAS, in keeping with the spirit of Isaiah 2:4 ” And he shall judge between the nations and reprove many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”;

AND WHEREAS, reflecting that Temple Beth Tikvah is a house of God and a house of hope,

THEREFORE, with the exception of active military and law enforcement personnel, Temple Beth Tikvah shall be declared a weapons-free zone;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that this be actively communicated to the congregation and to law enforcement.

–Resolved April 17, 2014

 

To my Ayekah followers, I am sharing a message from a coalition of clergy and religious leaders from around metro Atlanta. I have been communicating with our Jewish community for the need of responsible and reasonable gun violence prevention measures to be passed in the Georgia legislature. I have heard arguments in favor of reducing restrictions on where to be able to carry weapons where advocates are talking about it as a civil right, a concern of property rights, and how the right to carry is given by God and the Constitution.

Let me share a brief response here and also give you an update from this interfaith coalition for those who choose to pick up the phone and contact your legislators and the Governor.

I think that Rabbi Eric Yoffie had it right in his article “Gun Worship is Blasphemy.” I think that there is a kind of worship of guns — weapons — in this country that I cannot begin to understand. Frankly, I see it as a kind of idolatry.

We have many police officers that come through our doors here to take care of us. Their opinions are diverse. There are also a number of congregants who also believe in the right to carry. Yet, I have found that most agree to reasonable and sensible gun ownership and carry restrictions. Thinking about our own synagogue — I am concerned that a congregant or guest who is carrying a weapon and felt a need to respond in a dangerous situation would not be able to determine who is the “bad guy” and who is the “good guy.” Being trained on how to shoot under controlled circumstances is a far cry from being trained in public safety. When it comes to security, I trust our law enforcement professionals who are here to take care of us after ongoing, meticulous training.

We are also a house of God and a house of hope. With that notion alone, I find that bringing a weapon into our building belittles our Jewish value to pursue peace.

Further, to entitle people to bring weapons into bars, as this bill advocates, makes no sense to me. If we argue that driving drunk is an abomination, then how can we agree to carrying a weapon into a bar where the whole purpose is to drink alcohol which leads to some level of impaired judgment.

And I am sorry, God has not given anyone a right to own or carry a weapon. To defend ourselves, yes. To protect our borders, yes. Is gun ownership permitted, yes. Can a government place reasonable limits for public safety… yes.

I heard testimony last week from the parents of a victim of gun violence. The father, a military veteran, spoke before the Georgia Senate Committee hearing testimony for and against this bill. His argument was passionate but had great clarity. He launched a petition here (it is worth reading, even if you choose not to sign). We have other congregants who have been affected by gun violence directly or their immediate families. They, too, are concerned that this bill will affect families like theirs — changing their lives forever. Even during this past year, there were two different times where our police officers needed to leave our synagogue on a Shabbat evening to support fellow officers in shooting incidents in close proximity to the synagogue.

Our local, state and federal governments have clearly permitted gun ownership among citizens. I don’t have a problem with that. However, restricting who is entitled to own a weapon, to carry a weapon, what kind of weapon can be purchased, and where individuals can bring it (airports, bars, schools, college campuses, houses of worship) — these are things that our government can and ought to restrict.

I take my lead from these sources:

How long, O Eternal, shall I cry out, and you not listen?
How long shall I shout to You, “Violence!” and you not save?…
Violence is before me, strife continues and contention goes on.
That is why decision fails, and justice never emerges:
The villain hedges in the just man – and judgment is deformed.
Habbakuk 1:2-4

In the days to come,
The Mount of the Eternal’s House
Shall stand firm above the mountains
And tower above the hills;
And all the nations
Shall gaze on it with joy….
Thus, God will judge among the nations
And arbitrate for the many people,
And they shall beat their swords into plowshares
And their spears into pruning hooks:
Nation shall not take up
Sword against nation;
They shall never again know war.
–Isaiah 2:2-4

Isaiah’s words are my hope; this is my prayer.

Isaiah’s call and Habbakuk’s cry is why I act…and I hope you will, too.

Here is a Clergy Statement that I signed on to: Clergy Statement 03 2014 on gun violence

Here is another Jewish perspective on people of faith responding to gun violence: Listen to Rabbi Hirschfield.

This letter, below, is from this Coalition on what we can do is below. Please read it and please make your call as you see fit.

______________________________________________________________________________

Dear Clergy friends,

Here is an update on the last week at the Capitol.  Please forward this message to your congregations as we need as many people as possible to call the Governor and Lt. Governor and go to the Capitol on Tuesday and Thursday this week.

There are now two gun bills that could come before the full Senate for a vote on Tuesday or Thursday of this week.  The bills are complex and this is what we understand about them:

HB 875 – The original gun bill passed by the House of Representatives has been amended by a Senate Committee. The new version changes some provisions of the original bill, but guns would still be allowed in schools K-12, and places of worship and bars if the property owner permits weapons. You can view this substitute bill in its entirety at http://www.legis.ga.gov/Legislation/20132014/139285.pdf.

HB 60 – The House Sponsor took the original HB 875 (before being amended by the Senate Committee) and attached it to another bill, but with the campus carry provisions completely omitted. This bill allows guns in churches, bars and schools unless the property owners opt out. This would require every house of worship that does not wish to allow guns to vote on the issue and then somehow notify the public and their members with signs or screening mechanisms as to their decision. The General Assembly has not posted the text of the new HB 60 online so we are unable to supply you with a link.

With regard to airports, both bills provide that there is no penalty if a concealed weapon permit holder carries a gun past TSA security checkpoints if the weapon is immediately relinquished, and the penalty is a misdemeanor if either permit holders or non-permit holders do not turn over a weapon after being notified.

Both of these bills are still in play and both still expand the places where concealed weapons will be allowed.

What you can do to make your opinion known about the expansion of gun carry in Georgia:

1.    Call the offices of Governor Nathan Deal, Lt. Governor Casey Cagle, and your own state Senator and Representative.  These calls are easy to make; you need only say whether you are opposed or in favor of the gun bills.

          Governor Deal’s Office  404-656-1776

           Lt. Gov. Casey’s Office   404-656-5030

Find your Senator and House member at   www.votesmart.org.  Send them an email or telephone their office.

2.    Go to the Capitol on Tuesday, March 18 and Thursday, March 20 to talk with Senators about the gun bills or to help watch monitors and follow the bills.  Reply to this message if you are interested and we can send you details about where to meet up with folks who can help guide you at the Capitol.  You will not be doing this alone.

Thank you,

Outcry! Faith Voices Against Gun Violence

For those who will be commenting on this blog, please do remember, these are faithful conversations. If dissent or agreement is not respectful, it will be deleted from my blog.

InterfaithEvent - March 2014

One of my most meaningful encounters has been to learn and engage in conversations with people of faith who aren’t Jewish. Learning about others, their ideals and their challenges, along with sharing the gifts of our own Jewish community with others is an enriching experience. I love finding common ground and appreciate where we differ. That is a true encounter with pluralism. And when I do have these conversations, they bring me closer to my own faith in Judaism and my place in our Covenant.

Living in Roswell, I have developed a far stronger appreciation for pluralism. From a self-serving point of view, which I don’t apologize for in any way, I think it is of great value for others in our local community to have encounters with Jews and get to know our community a little bit better. And of course, learning about others brings down barriers to trust and builds roads to shared hopes and mutual understanding. Dialogue and help advance a theology of pluralism that will put us side by side – shoulder to shoulder – to confront bigotry, intolerance, and hatred. Rabbi James Rudin wrote that “…dialogue is not a luxury, but rather a necessity that provides a spiritual mooring on the planet, so billions of people who believe differently can reside together in peace…. Developing a theology of pluralism…is a clear recognition and firm belief that there is and will continue to be extraordinary plurality of spiritual expressions, beliefs and actions all operating under a universal God.” (From Rudin’s Christians & Jews—Faith to Faith)

My friends, Dr. Lane Alderman, the Senior Pastor of Roswell Presbyterian Church, and Bassem Fakhoury, a lay leader at the Roswell Community Masjid (“masjid is the Arabic word for “mosque”) and speaker for the Islamic Speakers Bureau of Atlanta, will each take a turn to teach and respond to a three session class that will address fundamental truths within Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Both have become good friends of mine and both are invested in strengthening our local community by advancing pluralism. There is still much prejudice and misunderstanding out there in each of our houses to go around. So the three of us hope that we can bring Jewish, Christians and Muslims together in a safe place to learn, ask our questions (respectfully), and celebrate the common ground we all share.

Dr. Alderman is sharing the same message with his church. See his blog here: http://rpcpastorblog.wordpress.com/2014/03/08/lets-talk/

Click on the graphic, above,  for all the details about this program for our community.

I wrote this for our newsletter just before Veterans Day 2013.  It will be shared in our December Kol Tikvah. But I am sharing it with you know. As we express our gratitude as Thanksgiving approaches, maybe we can consider the “giving” part as we give “thanks” and find a way to support our veterans. Please read on…

As I write this, we are not far from Veterans Day. A day that is supposed to be devoted to recognizing and expressing gratitude to those who have served – and continue to serve – our country in the different arms of our military. Yet, it is often characterized by sales at the mall with few people who take stock in how fortunate we are to be in America.

For our own Jewish community, we have veterans who served in World War II through the most recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. From our Tradition’s point of view, we know well that there is a time to make war and a time to make peace. Even when war is about to break out, we are instructed to find a pathway to peace. Some of our greatest heroes were also warriors – Abraham, Joshua, King David, Deborah, among others. Even God is referred to as Ish Milchamah – a Man of War – as God brings the Israelites out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land.

What does this say to me? Jewish Tradition does not embrace a pacifist perspective. While we must be rodfei shalom – pursuers of peace, there are times when we must defend ourselves or others who are vulnerable.

But as Veterans Day approaches and will pass, I will be thinking about our women and men in our military who will be putting themselves in harm’s way to protect our nation, its democracy and its interests worldwide. What happens to these soldiers, sailors, airmen when they return? How has our country expressed its gratitude?

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), it is estimated that 18 veterans die by suicide every day. The same report in 2010 found that as many as 950 suicide attempts each month occur among veterans receiving services through the Veterans Administration (VA). The rate is lower, however, among veterans aged 19-29 who are receiving services when compared to those who are not currently receiving care through the VA.

According to NAMI: While officials speculate that a better screening and reporting system may be a factor in the increase, it is also likely that repeated deployments during the extended conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are a part of the equation. The suicide rate is also impacted by high levels of Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) in young veterans who served in one of these regions.

I have been reflecting on this a great deal since last Memorial Day. (Again, it isn’t really supposed to be a day devoted to shopping.) My family and I always attend Roswell Remembers, the local Memorial Day ceremony. There is a time where veterans come up and share their own memories and ideas relating to their fellow fallen soldiers. They are always moving tributes. But this year, a mom came up and spoke about her son who served, was recognized for acts of bravery, and yet could return to “normal life” here in the States. Her son took his own life. She pleaded to all of us to write our Members of Congress to advocate for better services through the VA, but also implored us to be better partners with other organizations to support these men and women who return wounded – physically, emotionally or spiritually.

For a list of organizations to support or to share with someone in crisis, visit www.nami.org and search for “Veterans and Suicide.”

Let us join together and show our truest sense of gratitude by making sure that when they return home, they have the tools the need to re-enter their lives, find meaningful employment, get the emotional and physical support they need to heal their wounds. And let us join with them as we return to Isaiah’s ultimate hope: “Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, nor shall they learn war any more.”

This summer, many of you have read about or heard me speak about a young boy at one of our Reform movement camps who was struck by lightening. He wasn’t the only one, but he was the most significantly wounded.

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, just wrote a blog post asking for help for his care from the members of our Reform Jewish Community.

Please, read his blog so respond to his request to help 13 year old Ethan Kadish. His family’s insurance will only take care of so much, so they need their community’s help. Rabbi Jacob’s words and information on how to help can be found here:

A Family in Our Community Needs Your Help

August 21, 2013

Ethan Kadish is a 13-year-old boy in great need of the Reform Jewish community’s help.

On June 29, 2013, the afternoon peace of Shabbat at URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute (GUCI) in Zionsville, IN, was shattered by a lightning strike that left three campers unresponsive on the athletic field. Thanks to the skill, courage, and quick thinking of the GUCI staff, all three campers made it to the hospital and survived this unimaginable tragedy.

This heartrending incident tested the GUCI family, the URJ camp community, and the entire Reform Movement, but none more than the families of the injured campers. Their strength has been nothing short of inspirational. Two of those families’ children, thankfully, recovered and returned home; one even returned to camp. The third camper, Ethan Kadish, remains hospitalized in Cincinnati, OH.

To date, Ethan’s recovery has included a series of successes that began with his survival and includes milestones like opening his eyes, breathing independently, and responding to stimuli. Ethan is in the care of a fantastic medical team and undergoes several hours of intense physical therapy every day. His family looks forward to the day he will return home, but they recognize, too, that even once he’s home, his challenges will continue. Ethan will require regular therapy and constant medical care, which, once he leaves the hospital, likely will not be covered by insurance. Ethan and his family face a long, hard, and, yes, expensive road ahead.

The Kadish family’s remarkable strength comes largely from their faith – faith in the healing power of God, faith in the skill and wisdom of Ethan’s physicians, and faith in the support of the URJ and GUCI communities. We are pledged to maintain that support, ensuring that throughout the challenges ahead, their faith in our communities will not waver.

This week – the week before Ethan was to have celebrated his bar mitzvah – a fundraising campaign in his honor has been launched with HelpHOPELive, a nonprofit organization that assists the transplant community and those who have sustained catastrophic injury. The funds will help Ethan’s family meet immense financial challenges associated with uninsured therapies, home modifications, and other injury-related expenses. All contributions made in Ethan’s honor will be administered by HelpHOPELive, specifically and solely for his injury-related expenses.

Our tradition teaches that Kol Yisrael arevim zeh b’zeh (all Jews are responsible one for the other). Indeed, together with HelpHOPELive, the Reform Jewish family can honor Ethan and his family, sending a strong message that we stand together with all of them during this time of need.

To make a charitable contribution by credit card, please call 800.642.8399 or visit Ethan’s page at helphopelive.org.

To make a donation by check, make checks payable to: HelpHOPELive and include this notation in the memo section: In honor of Ethan Kadish. Mail to:

HelpHOPELive
2 Radnor Corporate Center
100 Matsonford Road, Suite 100
Radnor, PA 19087

Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law. This campaign is being administered by HelpHOPELive – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing fundraising assistance to transplant and catastrophic injury patients – which will hold all funds raised in honor of Ethan in its Great Lakes Catastrophic Injury Fund.

http://blogs.rj.org/blog/2013/08/21/a-family-in-our-community-needs-your-help/?j=1001307&e=rabbigreene@bethtikvah.com&l=25128_HTML&u=24230571&mid=1065187&jb=0

This summer I embarked on a three week journey to New Jersey on a program called NFTY Mitzvah Corps. The Mitzvah Corps program is a URJ volunteer program that also exists in other locations such as Costa Rica, New Orleans, and New York. The New Jersey program, however, is the only Urban Mitzvah Corps (UMC) where we work in a city environment. When I signed up I did not realize that this experience would be a huge life changing event.

When I landed in New Jersey I knew no one, but once I arrived at the dorm I was greeted by the staff and other teens, and became friends with them instantly. The next day we were introduced to our job sites; we got to choose between four different sites for the session. I decided I wanted to work at Regency, which is a Jewish nursing home. Working there not only changed the Residents lives but mine as well. I mainly worked in the Alzheimer and Dementia unit. At first it was weird and I did not think this was right for me, but after meeting Roger, who always forgot peoples names, somehow he remembered me and was excited to see me everyday. There was another woman, Bobbi, she forgot everything about you in 10 minutes, but what was amazing is she knew seven different languages and could speak them fluently. One of my favorite people there was Martin. He was a quiet guy, but was always so happy to see me whenever I went in the the room to talk to him. He got so excited and asked if I could take him outside. All of these Residents changed my life while I was trying to brighten theirs.

It was not just the job sites that created such an impact on me; several programs changed me as well. The best program of my life was who police officers came in and talked about hate crimes. There was a slide show full of graphic images from the KKK to Neo-Nazis. It all became too real when he pulled up a map of all the organized groups in the U.S. and told us the number of groups was rising. Then he proceeded to show images of different attacks, such as James Byrd, Jr. who was dragged behind a pick up truck and gruesomely killed in 1998. After, the police officer told us he was gay and that he was out, and the other cop was his partner. The second officer, however, was not openly gay because he would be scared if he got into a bad situation that no one would help him because of his sexual orientation. This program made me think about what I can do to stop the hatred of others. Those officers  told us that it’s the simple steps that can stop hate crimes, such as telling people that saying offensive words are wrong.

Urban MItzvah Corps has changed me by giving me an opportunity to do something to help the larger community. Whether it was brightening the day of an elderly person or helping out at a Sandy victim’s house, I grew tremendously. This program as a whole is the best thing you can do for the summer.

Jacob is not only a great guy, but an 11th grader who completed Confirmation, a URJ Camp Coleman alum, a past participant in the Religious Action Center’s L’taken Seminar, and Temple Beth TIkvah’s youth group’s Membership VP.

Thanks to TBT Member,  Religious School Teacher, and Family Promise Volunteer Michelle Rodabaugh for sharing these words!

Recently, a neighbor’s husband passed away.  It was so sudden and unexpected.  They had just come home from a fantastic 4th of July weekend in Hilton Head with their close friends.  I had the opportunity to hear all about it, because when I went over to sit with her that was what she talked about.  She showed pictures of them on the beach marveling over how good he looked.

My neighbor has many close friends and a large family close by for support, but I went to sit with her anyway and joined in the organized list to provide her with food and company during this difficult time for her (my day is Friday).  This is just something that we do as good neighbors… Jews…Humans.  Now, my neighbor may not be Jewish and sit shiva, but we have traditions and customs for a reason…because they are embedded in a basic sense of humanity and a desire to help when someone is in need.  We all do this.  It is part of our culture and the way we were raised.  It is easy to identify a person in need of our love and support when we know that they have just suffered the loss of a loved one.   We have all experienced it in some form and so our hearts naturally go out to them and we respond the same way our parents did.  We go over and sit with them, send or bring them food, and pray.

Not so easy to see is the struggling family, putting on a good face until they lose everything  including their home, or the single mother venturing out from a bad relationship and determined to make a better life for her and her kids, but with nowhere to go.  We don’t have as good of a guide map for handling and responding to these situations.  Our hearts may go out to them, but we don’t know what to do.  I have been fortunate to participate in Temple Beth Tikvah’s Family Promise Project.  I signed up for the first family because I knew it was the right thing to do, but as I did, I admit, I signed up for what was convenient.  Dinner the first night, because it was a Sunday and I wouldn’t have to work that day and Clean-up the last day, because I had to be at Religious School that morning anyway, so why not come in an hour earlier to help.    The next time to sign up came around and I volunteered for the same two slots.  This time, not so much because of convenience, but because of the utter sense of accomplishment and well-being that I got the first time.  Dinner was mid-week, but the other volunteers and I had each taken a portion of the meal and it came together beautifully.  I helped clean up again but this time is wasn’t so convenient.  Since there was no Religious School, I didn’t have to be up early on a Sunday morning, but there I was, coffee in hand ready to move boxes and load the van.

Next time a family comes to stay with us, school will just be getting underway.   Our houses may be a mess and lunches will have to be made.  Bedtimes will have to be re-enforced, and we will have to adjust to our school schedule.  It may not be convenient to give our time and energy to a family that we do not know, but it is  something what we need to do as good neighbors…Jews…Humans.  These families in the program are working so hard to better themselves and their situation; all they need is a little helping hand.  Our hand.  Please reach out with me to give them the hand that they need.

 

To sign up for week of August 18 -25:

1.    Click on this link: http://vols.pt/1pAkqB  to go to our invitation page on Volunteer Spot.

2.    Enter your email address.

3.    Sign up! Choose your spots. You will receive an automated confirmation and reminders.

 

Grateful to Jeff Schultz, one of the co-chairs of TBT’s team to work with Family Promise/Interfaith Hospitality Network where we host up to four homeless families, four times a year, in the synagogue.

It wasn’t long after the rooms were emptied, the moving the truck was loaded and another successful Family Promise week was complete when one of the residents of the program approached me in the parking lot at Temple Beth Tikvah.

“I just want to thank you,” the single mother of two said. “Everybody was so nice.”

And then she handed me an envelope with a thank you note.

I bring this up because I’ve come to learn that there are two kinds of charity, two kinds of helping, two kinds of giving back to the community: One is the kind that most of us do from a distance – writing a check, donating to a food drive, giving old clothes to various organizations, all of which are great. But the other kind, the hands-on kind, the charity that asks you to give a little bit of your time and experience the difference one can make on the relative front lines, has been a far more fulfilling experience for myself and my wife, Jeanne.

I mentioned that a mother from the last Family Promise week at Temple Beth Tikvah handed me a thank you. I’m now going to share that with you:

“Greetings, I would like to utilize this opportunity to thank each and every one of the Temple Beth Tikvah family for your hospitality this week. Whether it was a prepared meal, a kind act, an encouraging word or a warm smile, I am appreciative of the sacrifices you all made to ensure my daughters and I were safe, showered and well fed! I pray God blesses you individually as well as collectively for all you have done!”

Family Promise has been an incredibly rewarding program. I applaud our wonderful spiritual leader, Rabbi Fred Greene, for spearheading the effort to bring the program to the synagogue and for expanding TBT’s community outreach efforts. When we help heal others, we help all of us. It’s sometimes easy to forget that as we get caught up in our own lives, families and jobs.

I bring this up because a third Family Promise week almost is upon us and we need you! TBT will host up to four families again from Aug. 18 to Aug. 25. More than anything else, we need both women and men from our community to spare a little time, volunteer to spend a night and serve breakfast, or perhaps act as a “captain” for a few hours in the evening between the dinner and the overnight crews.

It’s a very small commitment that can go a very long way.

As always, we also welcome anybody who can provide a meal for an evening. But it’s imperative that we have the overnight slots filled as soon as possible and we MUST have one female and one male on each night.

If you would more information on the Family Promise program, here’s a primer from the website (FamilyPromise.org): http://familypromise.org/ihn-how-it-works

Here’s a video that introduces the program:

http://familypromise.org/ihn-video

To sign up, please go to  http://vols.pt/1pAkqB  to go to our invitation page on Volunteer Spot. You may need to register if you haven’t already.  After you enter your email address and sign up, you can choose when you want to volunteer and you will receive an automated confirmation and reminders.

For further information or questions you can call contact Andy Fried at  andyf17@gmail.com or me at asburypark@comcast.net.

Thanks to all of those who have volunteered in the past and to the rest of you for considering joining in. We look forward to seeing you in August!

Jeff Schultz

Jeff Schultz is a general sports columnist and blogger for the Atlanta Journal Constitution and a long time member of Temple Beth Tikvah.

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