There is No Hiding from Difference

December 25, 2016

chanukiya-1584A rabbi named Francine Green Roston recently moved with her family from New Jersey to Whitefish, Montana, in search of a slower pace of life.  As you can imagine, there are not many Jews in their new small town (although with a name like “Whitefish,” you’d think…) but Rabbi Roston has found a small Jewish community.

She also discovered that her neighbors include the white nationalist leader Richard Spencer.  Last week, ignited by the emerging white supremacy movement, a neo-Nazi website issued a call to take action against the Jews of Whitefish.  The site listed the names, pictures, contact information, and addresses of alleged Jews in town, and photo-shopped pictures of Rabbi Roston with a Nazi-era yellow star. Read the rest of this entry »


To Raise Dust with Our Feet: Opening Up Our Definition of Spirituality

December 18, 2016

wrestling-image(delivered by Rabbi Maderer at Shabbat service 12/18/16)  Last week I shared with you a time when I lived in the suburbs and my family overdid it in the area of home security.  I made fun of the way that, even with a burglar alarm in our house, we added to the front porch, an extra security measure: a big dog-food bowl.  Even though we did not have a dog.  I went on to make fun of — and to be clear, I was making fun of my mother– I went on to make fun of the way that, to make it seem real, we painted onto the bowl the name of our fake dog: Shomer, Hebrew for “guard.”

Funny story:  Last week, here in Philadelphia… you guessed it.  My garage was broken into.  Who here believes in karma?

Now, seriously, do you think there is a connection?  One week I am making fun of my mother for over-securing our house all those years ago, and days after I write those words, a break-in.  Coincidence?  Karma?  God? There was a time I would have said: there is no such thing as coincidence.  I believed God influenced the details of our lives.  Yet as my life and rabbinate move forward, I find my response to the world changes:  more questions, less certainty of God’s role, judgment, or expectation. Read the rest of this entry »


Post-Election Complacency or Anxiety: An Alternative Path in the Stairway to Heaven

December 12, 2016

 

artwork-797_960_720(delivered by Rabbi Maderer in Shabbat Service 12/9/16)

Years ago when I lived in suburban NJ, there was a break-in in our neighborhood.  We already had a burglar alarm in our house, so we added to the front porch the only extra security measure we could think of: a big dog-food bowl.  We did not have a dog.  But we were going to scare those intruders away!  To make it seem real, we painted onto the bowl the name of our fake dog: Shomer, Hebrew for “guard.” Once guarded by Shomer, in our alarm-shielded house, we proceeded to protect ourselves with a light-timer, for evenings when we were out…

How much worry is too much worry?  Some of our concerns and precautions are well-founded.  But there is a point when our energy is so channeled into the worry that we are at risk of losing our focus and our purpose.  Meanwhile, the anxiety reduces us, to wasted grief.

As we think about our roles in civic life, teaching, parenting, business, politics, it is important to consider: where do I have control and what is beyond my control? Read the rest of this entry »