Installation: May We Enter in Thanks

November 9, 2017

In the words inscribed on my tallit, taken from Psalms: Pitchu li sha-arey tzedek, avovam odeh-ya/Open for me the gates of righteousness and I will enter in thanks.  As I have stepped through new gates, I enter with profound gratitude. Read the rest of this entry »


The Tower of Babel, Anita Hill, Unchecked Power, and the #MeToo’s of Sexual Harassment

October 21, 2017

We have seen the words, “Me Too” on our computer screens all week long.  In the wake of the most recent sexual harassment reports, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.  If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

Hundreds of thousands of women (correction: now 1.5 million), and some men too, have added their voices, posting, “me too.”  Although it is no woman’s responsibility to post about being harassed or assaulted, the wave of “Me Too” responses has been important.  It reminds us that sexual harassment and assault are not products of Hollywood celebrity, some unreal world that has nothing to do with us.  It’s your neighbor posting, “Me Too.’  Actually, most of your female neighbors.  The “Me Too” campaign is giving people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.  And that is a tremendous step.

For, studies show that, most people do not speak up when they experience or witness sexual harassment.  Why such silence?  What are people afraid of?  Losing a job?  Perhaps.  And understandable.  But I believe that most of all, women are trying to protect their dignity– to avoid allowing their character to be put on trial. Read the rest of this entry »


Neighbor is a Moral Concept* (Kol Nidrei 2017)

October 1, 2017

Or zarua latzadik / Light is sown for the righteous**, words we just sang as the introduction to Kol Nidrei. This Yom Kippur, we search for the light of righteousness that it may illumine our path, and the path for generations to come.

Since our last Yom Kippur together, our world feels different.  We have born witness to anti-Semitism and bigotry, meant to keep us from the faith that we have the power to stand in the light.  More emboldened than recent memories of hate.  No longer hiding behind the white hood.  Not limited to the right or left fringes.  White supremacists, have desecrated cemeteries, painted swastikas in our city, threatened our Jewish Community Centers, and just last week created a new online presence #Gasthesynagogue.  And, in 2017 America, armed Nazis stalked a Reform Jewish synagogue in Charlottesville.   According to the Anti-Defamation League, in the first quarter of 2017 anti-semitic incidents in the U.S. surged more than 86%.

What do we do, in the face of heightened Anti-Semitism? Read the rest of this entry »


When do we walk the path together?: Discernment in Establishing Coalitions

August 19, 2017

“See this day, I set before you, bracha uklalah — blessing and curse” (Deut 11:26).  It’s one or the other.  Elie Wiesel taught us: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. We must take sides.”

We can explore the issues, and learn from those who are different.  But then, ultimately, we must take sides.  The side of blessing or the side of curse.  Commentators say the phrase from God, saying: “I set before you” indicates free will.  It is our choice to make   We need to determine, which is the path of blessing.

I’m filled with gratitude to have seen so many of you on Sunday at the “Vigil for Those Who Stood Against Hate in Charlottesville, and on Wednesday where Rabbi Freedman spoke so powerfully, at the “Philly is Charlottesville: Unmasking Racism” march.  For when it comes to the anti-semitism and bigotry of white supremacy, the issue is not nuanced.  We take sides.  Hate does not require debate.  For we have moral clarity, that we are all created in the image of God, and your presence this week has demonstrated moral leadership.

Even as our congregation takes the clear side against bigotry, we do face some tricky questions about how to be involved, and how not to be involved.  I would like to step back, and to examine with you, some of the complexities I face when we collaborate with other groups, to respond to hate. Read the rest of this entry »


Whoever is in Pain, Lead Him to the Physician*

July 2, 2017

The 7-year old boy’s heart begins to beat faster as he listens to the story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  The boy actually begins to sob with pity for Isaac.  After the service, the rabbi approaches the boy.  “Why were you crying? The rabbi asks, “You know the story; you know that Abraham does not kill Isaac.”  The boy questions the rabbi, “Suppose the angel, had come a second too late?” The rabbi comforts the young boy saying, “angels, do not come late.”

That boy would become the great 20th century scholar, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, of blessed memory.  Years later, Heschel would still be haunted by the same question: Suppose the angel had come, a second too late!  As an adult, Heschel reflected that, while angels do not come late, human beings sometimes do.  “All of history,” Heschel teaches, “has been a dry run for the moment when we can act like the angel; we must not be late.” Read the rest of this entry »


Resolution of the Board of Trustees of Congregation Rodeph Shalom concerning Egalitarian Prayer at the Western Wall and Conversion in the State of Israel – June 27, 2017

June 28, 2017

Resolution of the Board of Trustees of Congregation Rodeph Shalom concerning Egalitarian Prayer at the Western Wall and Conversion in the State of Israel – June 27, 2017

Background:

This week in Israel, the Netanyahu government made two major decisions affecting most of the Diaspora, decisions which are especially hurtful because, as Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism put it, North American Jews have a “deep and unshakeable commitment to Israel.” Like we see our fellow Rodeph Shalom members as family, we see the Israeli people as family. We feel joy and pride with each Israeli accomplishment and we mourn each Israeli loss. Read the rest of this entry »


Pull the Next Woman Up*: Eager to Welcome Naomi Chazan

June 25, 2017

Have you seen the new Wonder Woman movie?

I have been thinking about Wonder Woman this week, because of some recent news commentary.  The Israeli Woman who sued El Al airlines for sexism won her landmark case.  She had been told to change her seat because an Orthodox man wanted to ensure that he would not inadvertently be touched by a woman.  The Israeli court found the gender-based seat-changing coercion practice, violates Israel’s anti-discrimination codes.

The woman, Renee Rabinowitz, was represented by the Israel Religious Action Center, the public advocacy and legal arm of the Reform Movement in Israel. The head of the Israel Religious Action Center, Anat Hoffman, described the 83-year old plaintiff Renee Rabinowitz as Wonder Woman.  Funny, because Anat Hoffman might herself be called a Wonder Woman.  From the courtroom to the Women of the Wall, Anat Hoffman has for years advocated for civil rights, women’s rights, state separation from Orthodox authority, and democracy in Israel. Read the rest of this entry »