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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.

My Rosh Hashanah Sermon from Wednesday eve, September 24, 2015 at Temple Beth Tikvah of Roswell. 

One of America’s greatest Jewish thinkers was Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan. He taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York and is the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism. His practice as a professor was to explain the Torah portion of the week on Monday in a sermonic manner. On Wednesday, a senior student would present his version of the same biblical text. Dr Kaplan was very demanding and critical instructor, and the students were often inhibited about speaking up and were, frankly afraid of him. Once in a class, a student took down verbatim what Dr Kaplan said on Monday. When it came to be the student’s time to explain the Torah portion, he repeated Dr Kaplan’s words from the previous Monday. Dr Kaplan said, “That is a terrible exposition.”

The student countered, “But Prof, Kaplan, that’s exactly what you said on Monday.” Kaplan replied, “young man, I have grown since then.”

We all have a need to grow if we are to make the most of our lives. Just as our bodies are constantly undergoing changes, so are our minds. We meet new situations and we are challenged by new ideas. We learn more about the past and we develop new thoughts about the present. We learn new ways to deal with people and to cope with problems. All of this is a part of growth, and to grow is to live.[1]

 

This is a day of journeys. We venture out on our own so that we can have new encounters, new experiences, gain new wisdom. But Sometimes, we can’t have those experiences until we are willing to leave our familiar places and journey forward into the unknown.

I love looking to Avraham Avinu, our forefather Abraham. He was told by God to “Go from your land and from your birthplace and from your father’s house to the land that I’ll show you.”[2]

We often focus on the term lech l’cha, which we typically translate as “go forth.” But what it really means is to “go to yourself.” In other words, look inside, and find your potential.[3] An additional interpretation from Rabbi Lawrence Kushner says: “Go back to your essence in order to find out what you are really made of. Before we go on our journeys, we need to look into our souls so that we know where we are heading.”[4]

But journeys can be scary. Moving, leaving… can be stressful. Let’s reflect once again on the text and read the phrase: “From your land, and from your birthplace, and from your father’s house.”

Dr. Richard Elliot Friedman, one of the world’s greatest Bible scholars, wrote: “The point of this order is not geographical. It is emotional. The three steps are arranged in ascending order of difficulty for Abraham. It is hard to leave one’s land, harder if it is where one was born, and harder still to leave one’s family. And where is he to go? To ‘the land that I’ll show you.’ That is, he must leave his homeland without knowing for what he is giving it up…”[5]

Let’s add one additional layer. Abraham is introduced to us as an Ivri – a Hebrew. The word Ivri is rooted in the term “to cross over,” with the Hebrew root letters of ayin – bet – resh. Abraham left everything he knew to cross over many rivers in order to arrive go to the Promised Land to fulfill his destiny, his purpose.

We are his spiritual descendants. We are the Ivrim; we are the ones who have to cross over rivers. And it is not only that we have to, we ought to. We ought to go beyond our comfort zones so we can strive and grow the way Abraham models for us.

Each of us needs to grow. We all have rivers to cross. We are designed to have experiences not simply to enjoy them, but to learn from them, and to gain wisdom through these encounters. We venture out from our parents homes… at some point. Some of us have moved to different cities. Others have changed careers. Some went back to school. Others went to a campus for the very first time.

Change is a part of life and quite frankly, it is a scary part of life. Maybe that is why Abraham is among our spiritual heroes and greatest of role models. He is far from perfect, but his faith in the One God gives him the strength to journey – to be a seeker. We don’t have to change addresses in order to be that kind of seeker. We simply need to be open to new opportunities.

A new year is an opportunity for change. With a Jewish New Year is the focus on one of our most central tenets in Judaism — teshuvah, generally translated as “atonement.” I prefer to read it as “turning.” If that is the case, then this Rosh Hashanah and every New Year is an opportunity for change, for growth, for renewal, and for us to strive to reach our potential.

 

Have you ever wondered why God didn’t bring our Israelite ancestors directly to the Promised Land? Isn’t it strange that after everything they had endured in Egyptian servitude, that they didn’t just get the…  Get Out of Jail Free card and Go Straight to Israel?

It couldn’t be that way. They needed to make the journey themselves. They needed to experience the angst and the doubt, alongside the potential for strength and hope.

…They needed to go through the desert, the midbar.

The fourth book of the Torah is called Bamidbar, in English, it is the Book of Numbers. We see an interesting teaching right at the beginning:

On the first day of the second month, in the second year following the exodus from the land of Egypt, the Eternal spoke to Moses in the wilderness, in the Tent of Meeting, saying: Take a census of the whole Israelite people community by the clans of its ancestral houses listing the names, every male, head by head. (1:1)

 

Our sages ask: why does the Torah say that God spoke to Moses in the wilderness AND in the Tent of Meeting? One well known teaching is that we would all benefit if we would be as open and accepting as the wilderness – to new opportunities, to new ideas, and to God. After all, Torah is given in the Sinai – not in the Land of Israel.

And yet, when we think of a wilderness or a desert – both are translations for midbar – we think of a place that is empty, desolate, even barren. But it is in the desert, the wilderness, where we find God. Just like Jacob who encountered God when he was all alone on his own journey where he dreamed of a ladder bridging the Earth to the Heavens with angels going up and down on it. That was where Jacob had his first incredible, intimate encounter with God and said,

אָכֵן֙ יֵ֣שׁ ה’ בַּמָּק֖וֹם הַזֶּ֑ה וְאָֽנֹכִ֖י לֹ֥א יָדָֽעְתִּי

“God was in this place and I did not know it.”[6]

 

The wilderness is filled with opportunity, but it isn’t always easy to traverse. Our bias about the wilderness leads us to panic. But we aren’t wandering aimlessly. The first lines of Bamidbar show that God wants us to get organized, take a census, move into camps, and be prepared for what is in store. In the very place where they had angst, they were able to tap into strength that they never even knew they had to make the journey meaningful.[7]

This is the sermon I needed to give tonight. This is the truth that I needed to share. As I leave a place of comfort and kindness, I am following in our ancient ancestors footsteps to enter into the midbar, an unfamiliar place. I also know that my decision to journey forward puts you, my congregants, in a midbar, too. My decision to cultivate my rabbinate and nurture my soul is a frightening prospect on the practical level… leaving a wonderful community, saying good bye to friends. And yet, on a spiritual level, we are all on our own journeys and I am a human being who seeks challenges and meaning like you.

While we resist the idea of being in the wilderness, I believe that is where most of live every single day. Listen to this poem by Rabbi Zoe Klein – I think it illustrates the point well:

 

There are three regions in each of our souls,

There is Egypt, there is the Desert, and there is

the Promised Land.

Many of us have glimpsed our Egypt,

Or perhaps some are still there,

Wearing the chains,

Bearing the burdens of fear, insecurity,

Doubt, and weakness

Mustering the strength to clamber up.

Still fewer of us have glimpsed our

Promised Land,

Our Destiny,

Fulfillment of dreams,

Our fruitfulness, our blossoming,

Our purpose.

We talk of Egypt often.

Every holiday, every prayer service,

Mentions we once were slaves,

Recalls our hardships under Pharaoh.

We talk of the Promised Land often,

Every holiday, every prayer service,

Longs for Israel,

For the Voice to come forth from Zion,

We turn to the east,

Reminisce Jerusalem.

But rarely do we talk of, or pray about, the Desert.

Yet that is the region in which most of us are,

Pushing forward in the wilderness,

Dragging our footsteps across that forty year stretch

Of pristine, barren, moonscape.

It is there we encounter truth,

It is there we encounter miracle,

We are nomads still,

At the shore of some sparkling oasis,

And we sing our nomad song.[8]

So maybe, we have been in the wilderness all along, together. Carrying each other from stage to stage.

My time with you, moving into my ninth year at Beth Tikvah, has had many meaningful encounters. I have cried with you and held you; I have celebrated with you and rejoiced with you. I have seen children grow into amazing young adults and I have helped to bury those you loved most. For some I brought you to places of safety; for others, I tried to. I sought to sit with you in in hospital rooms and bedsides in your homes. I have tried to be present when you felt trapped and when you were ready to take a leap of faith and renew your own commitments to journey forward.

I have striven to share my Torah with you. I have challenged you, sometimes out of your comfort zones to new ways of thinking…

And I have loved you… I have loved this community.

When Deborah and I needed a community of our own, you accompanied our family, too. From the beginning of our journey, bringing three little girls to a new city far, far, far from home and what was familiar to us. You befriended us. Coming to Atlanta where there was no family, many became our adopted families. You supported us through heartache, diagnoses, even through a surgery… for a different kind of heart…break. And you have celebrated our simchas and made them sweeter through your presence. I have grown as a rabbi here. I have learned how to be a better teacher here. I hope that my gifts have been welcomed and more so, that they made a difference. We have people we care about here; that will never change.

But alas, there comes a time when we need to grow… When we need to find a new challenge… When we need to nurture ourselves and live our lives out to the fullest.

If we are to be as open as the wilderness to new experiences, as difficult as they may be, then I hope we will see the possibilities in front of us too. I know that there are concerns, but there can be blessings in going as there are blessings in arriving. If my presence has been positive, then I hope this community will continue supports its leaders, and welcomes its next rabbi, embrace their family, and take care of her or him as you have done for me.

I know as I take my next step in my journey, I will take much from this community. I hope that what I leave will be celebrated and carried with you, too, as this great synagogue continues on its journey.

 

This is a year of transition, not just for the synagogue. It is a year of transition for our Selves. If we seek to be spiritual beings, if we seek encounters that are meaningful and awesome, then we can embrace the changes that are ahead of us. That is the ultimate lesson for us in this new year.

But change needs a foundation of faith. Let’s look at a parable that I believe provides us a lens through which to seek and understand that foundation:

Sometimes I fear my life is a series of trapeze swings. I’m either hanging on to a trapeze bar swinging along or, for a few moments in my life, I’m hurtling across space in between trapeze bars.

Most of the time, I spend my life hanging on for dear life to my trapeze-bar-of-the-moment. It carries me along a certain steady rate of swing and I have the feeling that I am in control of my life. I know most of the right questions and even some of the right answers. But once in awhile, as I’m merrily (or not so merrily) swinging along, I look ahead of me into the distance, and what do I see? I see another trapeze bar has my name on it. It is my next step, my growth, my aliveness. In my heart-of-hearts I know that for me to grow, I must release my grip on the present, well known bar to move to the new one.

Each time it happens to me, I hope (no, I pray) that I won’t have to grab the new one. But in my knowing place I know that I must totally release my grasp on my old bar, and for some moment in time I must hurtle across space before I can grab onto the new bar. Each time I am filled with terror. It doesn’t matter that in all my previous hurtles across that void of unknowing, I have always made it. Each time I am afraid I will miss, that I will be crushed on unseen rocks in the bottomless chasm between the bars. But I do it anyway. Perhaps this is the essence of what the mystics call the faith experience. No guarantees, no net, no insurance policy, but you do it anyway because somehow, to keep hanging onto that old bar is no longer on the list of alternatives. And so for an eternity that can last a microsecond or a thousand lifetimes, I soar across the dark void of “the past is gone, the future is not yet here.” It’s called transition. I have come to believe that it is the only place that real change occurs. I mean real change, not the pseudo-change that only lasts until the next time my old buttons get pushed.

I have noticed that, in our culture, this transition zone is looked upon as “no-thing,” a no-place between places. Sure the old trapeze bar was real, and that the new one coming towards me, I hope that’s real too.

But the void in between? That’s just a scary, confusing, disorienting “nowhere” that must be gotten through as fast as possible. What a waste! I have a sneaking suspicion that the transition zone is the only real thing and the bars are illusions we dream up to avoid the void, where the real change, the real growth occurs for us.

Whether or not my hunch is true, it remains that the transition zones in our lives are incredibly rich places. They should be honored, even savored. Yes, with all the pain and fear and feelings of being out of control that can (but not necessarily) accompany transitions, they are still the most alive, most growth filled, passionate, expansive moments in our lives.

And so, transformation of fear may have nothing to do with making fear go away, but rather with giving ourselves permission to “hang-out” in the transition between trapeze bars. Transforming our need to grab that new bar, any bar, is allowing ourselves to dwell in the place where change really happens. It can be terrifying. It can also be enlightening, in the true sense of the word. Hurtling through the void, we may just learn how to fly.[9]

 

Letting go is our work of teshuvah, atonement, turning, striving, transforming…

Letting go requires that we know that there is a net. We call that net emunah – faith.

I need faith to feel secure enough to let go, to make the necessary changes, to be willing to journey into the midbar. And so do you.

So let’s be grateful for our journeys, for our opportunities, for the ability to ever increase our wisdom so that we can not only find meaning in our lives, but so we can bring meaning and purpose to our community and to our world.

I thank God for the possibilities that are before all of us. For our ability to dream, to hope and be courageous as we enter into the midbar together. We might be moving on different paths from one another, but we are all striving to reach the Promised Land.

 

May your journeys be sweet this year.

May our time together be filled with more joy then sorrow.

May this year be a year of strength and courage for all of us.

May the New Year be a good year, a sweet year and a healthy year for you and yours.

 

[1] Adapted from Rabbi Dov Peretz Elkins, Moments of Transcendence, p. 101. Message by Rabbi Bernard Raskas in Heart of Wisdom II.

[2] Genesis 12:1.

[3] Ed. by Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Itturei Torah. Tel Aviv, Yavneh Publ: 1996, 83.

[4] Lawrence S. Kushner and Kerry M. Olitzky. Sparks Beneath The Surface: A Spiritual Commentary on the Torah, 1993.

[5] Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah, 2001.

[6] Genesis 28:16.

[7] Thanks to Rabbi Lou Feldstein for helping me to see this text in the context of transitions.

[8] Reprinted in Richard Address’ To Honor and Respect: A Program and Resource Guide for Congregations on Sacred Aging. New York: URJ Press, 2005: 42-43.

[9] Danaan Parry, “The Parable of the Trapeze: Turning the Fear of Transformation into the Transformation of Fear,” Warriors of the Heart: A Handbook for Conflict Resolution. Charleston, SC: BookSurge Publishing, 2009. Thank you, Rabbi David Wolfman, for introducing this powerful teaching to me.

I am a believer that we all have a desire to continue our own growth as human beings, to make our personal journeys meaningful. But I also see that we are pulled in many directions that often distract us from the experiences we would like to have.

 

I would like to encourage you this year to try something that perhaps will be new. The idea of a “class” doesn’t really describe what it is that we do when we offer our adult learning opportunities. When I think of a class, I think of a school setting where information is being shared and we take the data.

 

Our adult learning “classes” are really opportunities to have our own encounters with our own faith tradition’s ideas and values. We meet others within our community to become familiar with traditions, to learn about ideas from texts, but ultimately, they are challenges to be better, to do better, and to be inspired to try harder.

 

I love learning together because there is an intimacy that we can get with other people that draws us closer to one another. And yes, it draws many of us closer to God. As Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon teaches: “When two sit together and exchange words of Torah, then the Divine Presence dwells with them.” (Pirkei Avot 3:2) It isn’t just about the learning that brings God’s Presence closer… it is the sharing, it is the openness to new ideas, it is the closeness we can have with another person to help us grow. When we engage in real relationships that aren’t hierarchical, but communal, then we invite God to be a part of them. That has always moved me when I teach… because I receive at least as much as I give from those who are learners with me.

 

So here is the pitch…  Try it. Let us know if you’d like to attend a class by sending an email to rsvp@bethtikvah.com. We have an abundance of opportunities. Here are just a few:

Monday, August 4 at 7:30 pm

Join me in the Library to mark Tisha B’av, the 9th Day of Av, which marks the Destruction of the First and Second Holy Temples in Jerusalem.  We will explore its meaning in Jewish history and its meaning for Reform Jews today.

Thursday, August 21 at 7:30 pm

I will be leading a session on “Preparing Your Hearts for the Days of Awe.” What do we need to do to show up on Rosh Hashanah ready for atonement and healing?

Sundays, August 24 and September 14 at 10:00 am

Let’s explore the Days of Awe together! We will have a book discussion about the book:  This Is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared: The Days of Awe as a Journey of Transformation by Alan Lew.   From Tisha B’Av to Rosh Hashana to Yom Kippur to Sukkot, we will journey together and emerge fresh and whole again.  Meeting dates:  8/24 (Chapters 1-5) from 10-11:30 am in the TBT Library; and 9/14 (Chapters 6-10) from 10 -11:30 am at the Coleman Village Starbucks at 930 Marietta Hwy.

Our discussion leader will be Cindy Getty.  This book is available from Amazon as a hardcover or on Kindle. For more information or with questions contact Cindy at rsvp@bethtikvah.com.

September 20 at 9:00 pm – Selichot are “penitential prayers” (prayers asking for forgiveness). We call the Saturday night prior to Rosh Hashanah Selichot as a special day. Before our brief, late night service that includes changing the covers of our Torah scrolls, we learn about the themes of the Days of Awe – why are they so holy, ideas of teshuvah/turning and acts of atonement, and prepare our hearts for the Days of Awe later that week.

New: On Yom Kippur, after the Late Service (of our Morning Services), we will have a conversation on Forgiveness with a very special panel. Cindy Getty will be moderating and participating, so will Rick Winer, a psychiatrist and our Gabbai. More to be confirmed. Watch for details.

What else is in store? We are planning to continue our partnership with the The Florence Melton School of Adult Jewish Learning through the Brill Institute at the MJCCA (Monday nights). We are organizing our Women’s Study Group that will meet monthly. Rabbi Donald Tam, our Rabbi Emeritus, Cantor Kassel and I will be announcing our classes shortly. We owe great thanks to Cindy Getty, our chair of adult education, for putting all of these pieces together. You can contact Cindy directly with any question or if you would like to get involved (her email is in our newsletter).

May this year not only be a great year of learning, but one where we permit ourselves to return to our truest Selves – seekers who are journeying towards truth, contentment and meaning.

stop-the-sirens_600x400_FBPostFriends,

I am hearing from many of our congregants asking similar questions:

“Why is there such a bias in the media against Israel?”

“What can we do from here to support Israel?”

“How come people don’t seem to be holding Hamas accountable for their actions, using their own people as human shields?”

 

I wish I had a simple answer for you. I believe that most people out there really have no sense of what the conflict is about or how it plays out. Most don’t realize that Israel has no presence — military or civilian — in Gaza. They don’t realize what Hamas is at its core.

So, we need to respond. We need to give to the Stop the Sirens Campaign, we need to tell others to do the same, we need to write to our Senators and Representatives to encourage them to continue their support for the State of Israel, and we need to inform, teach, and share resources on social media.

Here are a few pieces, some harder to access than others, to help arm ourselves in defending Israel as best as we can from Atlanta.

One of the things that I think is very important is for us to also affirm: we believe in a two state solution, a Palestinian state side by side a Jewish State of Israel. I don’t mind saying that there are times when I wish Israel would make different decisions. But I share my critiques out of a love for Israel, not a desire to break it.

So stand with Israel. Teach our friends and neighbors important truths. Pray for peace in Jerusalem and for the Palestinian people. No one wants bloodshed. But we need to listen to each other’s narratives and hope for one another’s success.

However today, I need my community to read these resources and act.

 

Statement Not Issued by the UN Security Council (this is a great piece of what they SHOULD have declared)

Support the Stop the Sirens Campaign with your act of tzedakah. This is the American Jewish community’s collective response to Israelis needs.

Live Updates from a leading Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz: click here.

Israel May be Raising the Moral Standards of Warfare

Getting the Law Right on the Israel-Hamas Conflict

8 Things You Need to Know about the Gaza – Israel Conflict

David and Goliath: Perception and Misconception (discussing one approach to why there is so much negative feelings against Israel)

Hamas War Crimes Provoke Response

Read the IDF Blog – there are tons of resources to SHARE

What if Terrorists Could Should this Rocket in Your Country? Then scroll down, and enter in YOUR CITY to see the range Hamas’ rockets can reach.

 

Regarding Hamas using its own people as human shields:

Hamas Uses Civilians as Human Shields

Main Points 

  • Israel targets terrorists to protect its civilians. Hamas targets civilians while using its own people for cover.
  • Since the beginning of Operation “Protective Edge” Hamas has been actively encouraging Palestinians in Gaza to become human shields by praising it as an act of bravery and proof of steadfastness, an esteemed Palestinian value.
  • Hamas cynically exploits the Palestinian civilian population as human shields to protect its terrorist activity against Israel.
  • Rocket launching pads and weapon caches are hidden in private homes and public buildings such as schools and mosques.
  • Hamas exploits any collateral damage that results from its use of human shields for propaganda purposes.
  • Hamas’ actions are in clear violation of the most fundamental principles of international law, including the principle of distinction which requires Hamas to clearly distinguish itself from its own civilian population.
  • Hamas uses this horrific tactic knowing full well that, as opposed to Hamas, Israel takes every precaution to avoid harming uninvolved civilians. For example, Israel routinely warns residents about impending attacks to enable them to evacuate to safety despite the tactical difficulties this poses.

Recent Examples of Hamas Encouraging Civilians to Become Human Shields

  1. On 8 July, Hamas Spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri appeared on the terrorist organization’s al-Aqsa TV network. In the clip, Abu Zuhri can be seen saying that “the fact that people are facing Israeli warplanes bare-chested to protect their homes, I believe this procedure has proved its efficiency. And we in the Hamas movement call on our people to adopt this procedure.”

A reporter is heard saying that “the citizens performed a brave deed by congregating on this roof to prevent the conquering force’s planes from bombing.”

The clip can be viewed by going to: http://youtu.be/7ejXZuvQ52E

  1. A cartoon produced by Hamas calls on Palestinian civilians to form human shields against Israeli attacks. The cartoon depicts how a large group of civilians standing on the roofs of houses creates a metaphorical shield against incoming bombs, and praises the “steadfast people.” Cartoons are an important medium for influencing public opinion in Palestinian society.

The cartoon can be viewed by going to: http://imgur.com/P3HevwB

 

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

 

I think that this is an important piece for all to read.

How often do I hear that parents won’t come to services because they are concerned about their children misbehaving. Frankly, I don’t think it is really about them misbehaving… it is about them being children and us not tolerating them.

I can recall a time when, as a new rabbi, I was approaching the bimah for a special service in our community. My daughters were quite little and got a little, well… toddler-ish. A congregant reprimanded my wife for their innocent, child-like behavior. My wife was so hurt that she left the sanctuary with our daughters. While the person later apologized (and felt horrible that this was done to the new rabbi’s family), the truth is… it happens a lot.

If we can be so easily distracted by children in services, perhaps we should focus on our own souls and prayers with a little more energy.

Please read “Children in the Sanctuary.”

I look forward to reading your thoughts on this…

One of the things that I encounter most is when folks of a certain age choose to disengage from a synagogue community and say, “my kids are grown and I don’t need it anymore.”

On the other end of the spectrum are the comments of our long-time congregants who continue to support and sustain our Jewish community, but believe helping out and volunteering are for “the new – the younger generation.”

How is it that the synagogue in America has been seen as so narrowly focused? Is it our emphasis on the Bar Mitzvah?

It is clear that the majority of American Jews connect to synagogues when it is time to enroll a child. The overwhelming majority of America’s Jews are members of synagogues at some point in their lives, but only about a third of us are synagogue members at any one time.

I think that there are many factors that have contributed to this idea. Regardless of what they are, it isn’t healthy – not for our People and not for ourselves. The synagogue is the central address for Jewish life, other than one’s home.  If it is left to the young parents to lead, then an entire segment (and a growing population of older adults) of our community will feel left out. The same is true if it is only run by our more senior members – the voices of our younger members and families will not be present.

Yet, what I believe is even more important than a voice at the leadership table is the fact that we are all spiritual beings. We all have been given a soul that needs to be nourished in order for us to stay healthy. You have often heard me share how I believe that it is so easy to become distracted and focus on things that might not necessarily be so essential. Focusing on our spiritual sides, looking towards the holy can keep us grounded, generous and grateful.

Sacred Aging is something all of us can encounter. Thorughout our lives, we do have different needs – physical, financial, emotional and spiritual. We are all getting older and we all face questions about meaning in our lives. We can’t only think the Jewish community or synagogues are only about the kids in our schools (and you know how devoted I am to our youth!). If that was the case, then we foster a pediatric Judaism. A sacred community involves people of all ages who offer their gifts – learning in community, prayer, spiritual growth, volunteering to help one another, volunteering to help those outside of our community. We all have gifts to give and they all matter.

Remember the purpose of a synagogue – to be a house of prayer / beit t’filah, a house of learning / beit midrash, and a house of gathering / beit Knesset.  According to Harry Moody in Five Stages of the Soul, spiritual journeys of mature adults can be compelling because we have achieved some life experience and are able to understanding our personal histories; we get a panoramic view – we see where we have been and have a clearer picture of what is in store for us; we are able to discern a pattern to our past and perhaps identify a meaningful goal; we need to be grounded when disability or illness strikes; and we are more prepared to engage in practical and existential questions about life and death.

Yes, synagogue communities must be responsive and welcoming to our families with young children and teens. It is critical. But we cannot – ever – cast away our seniors or our empty nesters. They, too have gifts to give, perhaps different than our families with young children. They have wisdom to share. Their needs matter.  And a true sacred community is a community for all – not just the kids.

So the next time you hear that “it is the next generation’s turn” or “we don’t need a temple any more…” consider these words. Make the case for a shared endeavor in covenant with a community, our people and with God. We never cease being a Jew and a being engaged in a Jewish community is about much more than membership. It is about covenant. It is about doing our part. It is about pursuing the holy.

 

A bit of Torah to share with our Temple Beth Tikvah community…

The text I share in the video is here:

The four cups of wine represent the four promises of redemption:

1) I will bring you out from under the Egyptian yoke
2) I will deliver you from bondage
3) I will redeem you with an outstretched hand
4) I will take you to be my people

5) I will bring you into the land

From Exodus 6: 6-7

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.

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