In the Black Night – A Poem for Vayishlach

In the black night / the river runs cold / slowly passing me by / over formerly sharp edged stones / worn smooth by centuries of churning  / as if through earthy veins / and I Jacob, alone / shiver and wait / to meet my brother / and daylight.

Will there be war? / And will the angels carry my soul / up the ladder / leaving my blood / to soak the ground?

A presence!? / And I struggle / as if in my mother’s womb / and my dreams.

We played together as children / my brother Esau and me / as innocents / and I confess tonight / how I wronged him / and wrenched from him his birthright / as this Being has done to me / between my thighs.

I was so young / driven by ego and need / blinded by ambition / my mother’s dreams / and my father’s silence.

I so craved to be first born / adored by my father / to assume his place when he died / that my name be remembered / and define a people.

How Esau suffered and wailed / and I didn’t care; / Whatever his dreams / they were nothing to me / my heart was hard / his life be damned!

I’ve learned that Esau and I / each alone / is a palga gufa / half a soul / without the other / torn away / as two souls separated at creation / seeking reunification in a great spiritual sea / the yin missing the yang / the dark and light never touching / the mind divorced from body / the soul in exile / without a beating bleating heart / and no access to the thirty-two paths / to carry us up the ladder / and through the spheres.

It’s come to this / To struggle again / To live or die.

Tonight / I’m ready for death / or submission.

Compassionate One / protect Esau and your servant / my brother and me / as one  / and return us to each other.

El na r’fa na lanu! / Grant us peace and rest / I’m very tired.

 

This poem was composed by Rabbi John L. Rosove and was originally published in the CCAR Journal: Reform Jewish Quarterly, Spring, 2010, pages 113-115

 

 

 

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November 29, 1947 – The UN Partition of Palestine – 70th Anniversary

Seventy years ago today, November 29, 1947, the newly formed United Nations voted to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish state and one Arab state. The Jewish people led by David Ben Gurion accepted the Partition Plan but it was rejected by all Arab States.

Rabbi Abba Hillel Silver, a leading American Reform Rabbi and Zionist from Cleveland, and the Director of the Jewish Agency for Israel, spoke to the United Nations. Among other things he said eloquently the following:

“… it is of course appropriate that it be clear – and I am sorry that messages delivered in recent days by certain representatives may confused what ought to be clear – that when we speak of a Jewish state we do not mean a racist or theocratic state; but a state which will be based upon full equality and full rights for all if its inhabitants, without any discrimination between religions or races, and without a take-over or enslavement …”

Rabbi Silver also spoke about the moral and practical necessity in the establishment of a Jewish state in Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel) following the horrors of the Holocaust that had ended only two years before. At the same time, he emphasized the human lesson from those years:

“… We are an ancient people, and even though we frequently experienced disappointment in the long and hard road we’ve traveled, our hearts have never dissolved. We have never lost our belief in the superiority and victory of grand moral principles. In the recent tragic years, when the entire house of Israel turned into one big house of torment, we could not build what we have built if we had not placed our safety in true victory…”

Here, Rabbi Silver speaks about the role of American Jewry in the building of the future Jewish state:

“American Jewry is obligated – to itself and to the entire nation – to completely accept upon itself the burden of scripture and the historic future of Judaism. This grand responsibility will have to gain strength from within itself. It cannot once again depend on the table of the old world… to our satisfaction, American Jewry holds great human material, filled with belief and pride and a sense of responsibility… with which we can strengthen the foundation of the central and necessary institution in Jewish community life – the synagogue, which also a school. It is our duty to strongly emphasize the importance of Hebrew language and literature education. Without the study of the Hebrew language, American Jewry will be destined to spiritual infertility…

If Jewish destiny is placed in the hands of Jews for which Judaism is only a result of persecution, chance or a random gesture of kindness, it will surely sink into ignorance and indifference… if the steering wheel is left in the hands of Jews whose Judaism is an inner necessity, a covenant in their soul, who wish to continue to path of Jewish glory – both people and culture – only then can we be sure that the necessary institutions to enrich our lives, most importantly the synagogue and school – and particularly the school – will be established.

This link includes a speech given by Rabbi Silver before the United Nations on November 29, 1947 beginning at two minutes and thirty seconds to nine minutes and forty seconds. You can hear, as well, the roll call vote of the nations voting on the Partition plan beginning at eleven minutes and fifty seconds.

The final vote was 33 to 13 with 10 abstentions in favor. The map as determined by the partition plan can be seen here and there is also a link to what countries voted for, against, and abstained.

Watch here http://www.reform.org.il/Eng/About/NewsItem.asp?ContentID=2341

A Book Gift for Hanukah – “Why Judaism Matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi for His Children and the Millennial Generation”

My new book (“Why Judaism matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to His Children and the Millennial Generation”) is a quick read and addresses most of the most significant issues confronting young liberal Jews in America and Canada. Though the title indicates that I wrote this book for my millennial children (Daniel and David), Jews and non-Jews alike who are older have told me that this book is for every age group.

My sons, Daniel and David, offer their reactions to the book and growing up with me as their father in a touching Afterword.

You can order this book for your children and friends at https://www.amazon.com/product-reviews/1683367057

See the endorsements below as well as the twelve 5-star endorsements on the Amazon.com site above

“John Rosove does what so many of us have struggled to do, and does it brilliantly:  He makes the case for liberal Judaism to his children. As Rosove shows, liberal Judaism is choice-driven, messy, and always evolving, “traditional” in some ways and “radical” in others. It is also optimistic, spiritual, and progressive in both personal and political ethics. Without avoiding the hard stuff, such as intermarriage and Israel, Rabbi Rosove weaves all of these strands together to show the deep satisfactions of living and believing as a liberal Jew. All serious Jews, liberal or otherwise, should read this book.” —- Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie is President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism and a regular columnist for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz. 

“Rabbi Rosove’s letters to his sons are full of Talmudic tales and practical parables, ancient wisdom with modern relevance, spiritual comfort, and intellectual provocation. Whether his subject is faith, love, intermarriage, success, Jewish continuity or the creation of a meaningful legacy, you’ll find yourself quoting lines from this beautiful book long after you’ve reached its final blessing.” —- Letty Cottin Pogrebin is a writer, speaker, social justice activist, and author of eleven books including Deborah, Golda, and Me: Being Female & Jewish in America and Single Jewish Male Seeking Soul Mate. She is also a founding editor of Ms. Magazine, is a regular columnist for Moment Magazine, and has written op-eds in The New York Times, Washington Post, Huffington Post, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, L.A. Times, Toronto Star, The Nation, Harpers Bazaar, Travel & Leisure, Family Circle, and Good Housekeeping, among other publications.

“Rabbi John Rosove gets it. Here is a religious leader not afraid to tell it like it is, encapsulating for his audience the profound disaffection so many young Jews feel towards their heritage. But instead of letting them walk away, he makes a powerful case for the relevance of tradition in creating meaningful lives. In our technology-saturated, attention-absorbing age, Rosove offers religion-as-reprieve, his fresh vision of a thoroughly modern, politically-engaged and inclusive Judaism.” Danielle Berrin is a columnist and cover-story journalist for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal. She is known for her Hollywood Jew blog, has appeared as a commentator on CNN and MSNBC, and published work for The Guardian, British Esquire, and The Atlantic. 

“Rabbi John Rosove addresses his intellectual and well-reasoned investigation of faith to his own sons, which sets this book apart for its candor and its ability to penetrate not only the mind but also the heart.” Matthew Weiner is a writer, director, producer, and the creator of the AMC television drama series Mad Men and he is noted for his work as a writer and producer on the HBO drama series The Sopranos and earned nine Primetime Emmy Awards Matthew has received nine Primetime Emmy Awards.

“Rabbi Rosove has written a wonderful book, a love letter to his children, and through them, to all our children. Prodigiously knowledgeable, exceedingly wise, and refreshingly honest, Rabbi Rosove has described why Judaism matters. It should serve as a touching testament of faith, spanning the generations for generations to come.” —- Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch is Senior Rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, New York City and is the co-author of One People, Two Worlds: A Reform rabbi and an Orthodox rabbi explore the issues that divide them with Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Reinman.

“Rabbi John Rosove has given a gift to all of us who care about engaging the next generation in Jewish life. The letters to his sons are really love-letters from countless voices of Jewish wisdom across history to all those young people who are seeking purpose in their lives.  From wrestling with God, to advocating for peace and justice in Israel and at home, and living a life of purpose, this book is a compelling case for the joy of being Jewish.” — Rabbi Jonah Pesner is the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C and is Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism. Named one of the most influential rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine, he is an inspirational leader, creative entrepreneur and tireless advocate for social justice.

“If you’re a fellow Reform millennial, give yourself the gift of John’s insights. This book is written in a breezy, gentle, readable style that is welcoming without losing sharp insight. It makes an even better case for Judaism than challah. It was so enjoyable and refreshing to read and persuasive without ever being pushy. Rosove managed to do what only a truly worthy slice of kugel or chance viewing of Fiddler has done for me: reactivate my sense of wonder and gratitude about being Jewish. I am a huge WJM fan.” —- Jen Spyra is a staff comedy writer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS) and formerly was a senior writer for The Onion. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, McSweeney’s, The Wall Street Journal, the New York Daily News, and The Daily Beast, and she has been featured by The Laugh Factory Chicago’s Best Standup Show Case.

“John Rosove’s letters to his sons based on his life, philosophy, and rabbinic work address what it means to be a liberal and ethical Jew and a lover of Israel in an era when none are automatic. He writes in an unassuming personal style steeped in traditional texts as he confronts conflicts of faith and objectivity, Zionist pride and loving criticism of the Jewish state, traditional observance and religious innovation. He is never gratuitous and invites his readers into his family conversation because what he says is applicable to us all.”  Susan Freudenheim is the Executive Director of Jewish World Watch, was formerly the Managing Editor of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal and an editor at the Los Angeles Times.

“Rabbi John Rosove has written a book of the utmost importance for our time. It is an imperative read for all those who struggle with the changing and evolving attitudes towards belonging, behavior and belief. His analysis, stemming from deeply personal contemplation and decades of rabbinic experience, offers clear yet sophisticated approaches to tackling the challenges facing this generation and those to come. This book offers a treasure of wisdom through the lens of Jewish texts – both ancient and modern – which help to frame life’s major issues taking the reader from the particular to the universal.  Israel is one of the most complicated of issues tackled in this volume and his chapter on Israel bridges the divide between Israel’s critics and staunch supporters offering a comforting approach to those who are deeply at odds with Israel and offers and important opportunity for a shift in our basic narrative.  Moving beyond the conversation of crisis is critical for the millennial generation.” Rabbi Josh Weinberg is President of the Association of Reform Zionists of America and is a leading young voice in world-wide Zionist politics and affairs.

 

 

“Take Our Tired Our Poor Our Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free” – TLV1 The Promised Podcast

Eritrean and Sudanese Refugees in TA - AP photo
Sudanese and Eritrean asylum seekers in Israel – 2013 – AP Photo

This week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu proposed a solution to the Eritrean and Sudanese refugee challenge in Israel. These people had come to Israel between 2003 and 2010 as part of a great northward migration of Africans who were en mass escaping brutal dictatorships and instability of their respective countries.

In 2010, to stop the flow of refugees coming into Israel at the rate of about 3000 people per month, Israel built a fence. These refugees had walked from Africa into Israel. Many had died along the way from a variety of causes.

In 2010, 37,000 refugees were living in South Tel Aviv where Israeli soldiers, who had picked them up upon their entry into Israel, dropped them to fend for themselves. They had come, of course, without work permits. There was massive overcrowding in small tenement apartments, and local Israeli residents were fearful of the large numbers of black African men who had concentrated there (85% of the Refugees are men).

The Israeli NGO “Hot Line for Refugees,” based in Tel Aviv, was helping these people get jobs and make application for political asylum. To date, however, not one Eritrean or Sudanese refugee has been granted asylum. Though many Israelis feared a rise in the crime rate due to the growth of this refugee population, the Hot Line notes that the crime rate among the refugee population is far lower than the national Israeli crime rate.

The challenge before the government of Israel was what to do with these refugees. There have always been options – accept them as seekers of political asylum, offer them permanent settlement with work permits, offer them a pathway to become citizens, or treat them as interlopers and economic migrants and expel them?

The Prime Minister finally announced his solution this week. In cooperation with Rwanda, Israel will deport 20,000 Africans, give Rwanda $5000 per refugee to help settle them, and give $3500 as a “gift” to each refugee who is deported. If the refugees refuse to be deported, then they will be sent to a real prison.

This option has been condemned by the United Nations Commission for Refugees and other human rights groups.

Traditional Jewish values of welcoming the stranger and our own Jewish historical experience has led many of us to hope that Israel would welcome these people and grant them political asylum. 37,000 people in a nation of 7.5 million is a very small percentage of the total population. Welcoming them clearly has not happened.

The host of the Israeli TV1 Broadcast “The Promised,” Noah Efron, and his fellow journalists Don Futterman (the Director of the Moriah Fund and Haaretz columnist), and Charlotte Halle (the Haaretz International Director) this week discuss this challenging issue thoughtfully, critically, and with liberal Jewish values in mind. I urge you to listen to their discussion. The segment “Take Our Tired Our Poor Our Huddled Masses Yearning to Breathe Free” begins at 15 minutes and 40 seconds and concludes at 29 minutes and 40 seconds.

Click here https://tlv1.fm/full-show/promised-podcast/2017/11/23/the-take-our-tired-our-poor-our-huddled-masses-yearning-to-breathe-free-edition/

 

“Hamas Murdered Yuval Roth’s Brother. Now He Helps Sick Palestinians” – Tablet Magazine Headline

handshaking-at-the-barrier-2

Photo – Handshake at an Israeli-Palestinian Crossing Checkpoint

When I was in Israel last month, I learned of a non-profit organization that is doing extraordinary transformative work called “Road to Recovery –RtR.” RtR’s sole aim is to provide free-of-charge transportation to Palestinians who need medical treatment in Israel.

Every day, RtR Israeli Jewish volunteers pick up West Bank Palestinian patients from various crossing points between Israel and the areas controlled by the Palestinian Authority, drive them in their private cars to hospitals in Israel, and then return these patients back to the checkpoints to be picked up on the Palestinian side by their relatives and friends.

Begun in 2010, in the past seven years, 3,280 Palestinian patients have been driven to Israeli hospitals by 3,300 Israeli Jewish volunteers in 43,300 patient trips covering 4.38 million miles in 50,000 hours of volunteerism.

The idea for this project grew out of tragedy.

Yuval Roth (60) lost his brother Udi to a Hamas terrorist in 1993 when Udi was returning home from reserve service in Gaza, then controlled by Israel.

Yuval said: “I lost a brother but not my head, and didn’t want revenge. Yes, I was angry, but my anger was directed not at the terrorists that killed my brother but at our leaders, that for generations were unable to solve the conflict.” (see Tablet Magazine – “Hamas Murdered Yuval Roth’s Brother. Now He Helps Sick Palestinians” by Tal Miller and Yoav Sivan, http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/192659/yuval-roth-derech-hachlama). Tablet reports:

Roth joined a pro-peace Israeli-Palestinian organization of families who lost a family member in the conflict called “The Parents Circle Families Forum.” He met Mohamed Kabah, a Palestinian from the village Yaabez near Jenin who also lost a brother. Kabah approached Roth with an unlikely request. He had a sick brother in medical care in Haifa who couldn’t get to the hospital. “So I drove him thinking this was no different from what I’d do for a neighbor in Pardes Hanna. Then this friend referred another family from his village who needed help to reach Hadassah Hospital…” One referral followed another, and soon there was too much traffic for one person to handle. “So, I reached out to my circles of friends.”

Mohamed Kabah told Tablet: “Yuval and I met 15 years ago…We both lost brothers in war and shared the conviction that we must do something to bring people closer together…We met with leaders of the PA, and we kept them informed…I think our contribution to peace is greater than that of many leaders. Today, there’s no Palestinian in the Territories who isn’t grateful to Yuval. This organization made us heroes. Still, many say that it’d be too hard to achieve peace. But this is our way to say that the pain of peace is better than the pain of war.”

Yuval Roth said: “The Israeli public doesn’t understand how deep is the Palestinian will for peace. It’s not the reasonable minority but the reasonable majority. The majority of the Palestinian public wants a two-state solution and supports the nonviolent path of Abu Mazen. It will take time for the Israeli public to process this picture, but I have no doubt that is the reality. And although I don’t think Netanyahu has the will to and courage for peace, I believe some processes are greater than any person.”

Yuval acknowledges that the image of Israelis in Palestinian eyes is negative and frightening just as the image of Palestinians in Israeli eyes is rejectionist and unyielding. Palestinians see all Israelis as settlers and soldiers with weapons, just as Israelis see Palestinians as unwilling to compromise. For peace to come both sides must change and evolve.

Yuval said: “We offer a different horizon and help change consciousness…I don’t know to what extent our actions help bring peace but I do know that in the chaos, this is the biggest small step I can make.”

See Road to Recovery website at http://www.roadtorecovery.org.il/

See three videos at https://projectrozana.org/video/ entitled “Road to Recovery,” “Zubin Mehta,” and “Transportation.”

 

 

 

Jacob’s Dream and His Emergence into a Man of Faith

Marc Chagall’s Jacob’s Ladder

Jacob’s destiny was set from birth and would come at a price. As his mother Rebekah’s troubled twin pregnancy came to an end and the babies were born, Jacob holding Esau’s heel suggested a strong pre-natal desire to be born first and become the future leader of the tribe. In a clever commentary, Rashi (11th century, France) says that the scene reflects a primogeniture truth, that Jacob was actually conceived first, though he came out second, much as a pebble dropped into a tube first will come out second when the tube is inverted.

Despite being second-born, Jewish tradition asserts that Jacob’s spiritual potential merited his assuming first-born rights, and it also suggests that Rebecca knew that her other son Esau, a hunter, lacked the requisite sensitivity, gentility, vision, and prophetic capacity to lead the tribe, whereas Jacob possessed all those virtues.

Jacob’s dream event that opens this week’s portion Vayetze (Genesis 28:10-22) signals the beginning of a new stage in Jacob’s life. He had just fled in fear from an enraged Esau, was alone in the mountains, unsure of himself and exhausted. He fell asleep and dreamed of ladders and angels.

This dream sequence is filled with powerful religious imagery, suggestion and mythic archetypes. The stones Jacob placed under his head are symbolic of what Carl Jung called the Ego, the limited “I” of Jacob, a man still unaware of the implicate order in the universe that links the material and metaphysical worlds.

The top of the ladder represents what Jung called the integrated Self which unifies the conscious and unconscious into a non-dualistic cosmos.

When Jacob went to sleep using stones as a pillow, we suspect that something unusual is about to happen, that he’s on the cusp of new self-consciousness. Lo and behold, he sees angels ascending (representing his yearning for something greater than himself) and angels descending (representing God’s outreach towards him), Rabbi Heschel’s idea of prophetic empathy and God’s pathos.

When Jacob awoke from the dream and opened his eyes, he was astonished: “Surely God is in this place, va’anochi lo yadati, and I did not know it! … How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and this is the gateway to heaven.” (28:16-17)

The beginning of any religious experience requires us to understand that we know nothing at all. In Hebrew “I” is ani (anochi is a variant form), and when we rearrange the letters – aleph, nun, yod – we spell ain, which means “nothing”). The religious person must transform the “I” of the  ego into a great Self in which we become part of God’s Oneness. Jacob’s sudden awareness results in his newfound humility and is a prerequisite to the development of his faith.

Despite the spiritual potency of this experience, Jacob remains unaware (i.e. he lacks access to his full unconscious) and his faith is conditional. He says, “If God remains with me, if God protects me…, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe … the Eternal shall be my God.” (28:20-21)

One of the consistent themes throughout the Genesis narrative is that in order for the Biblical figures to grow in faith they had to suffer trials. As a protected child of his mother, Jacob had been pampered. However, in being forced to flee for his life from the brother he wronged, Jacob became aware of the shadow (Jung’s term denoting that part of the unconscious consisting of repressed weaknesses, shortcomings and instincts) in which he lived and which would envelop him for the next twenty years. Then he met a being divine and human at the river Jabbok and emerged with a new name, Yisrael – the one who perseveres with God.

From Jacob’s birth to next week’s encounter at the river we witness the patriarch’s evolution from the unconsciousness of his childhood to greater awareness, from a self-centered trickster to the bearer of the covenant. As he progressed he learned to view the world through the eyes of faith as he stood at heaven’s gate.

Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

President Trump’s Order Discriminates Against Muslims and Harms Members of all Faiths

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I have signed again on with 60 interfaith leaders and religious organizations as part of Amici Curiae, an interfaith group of religious and inter-religious organizations and clergy, who are supporting the plaintiffs-appellees against President Donald Trump to affirm the district court’s injunction restricting implementation of Proclamation No. 9645: “Enhancing Vetting Capabilities and Processes for Detecting Attempted Entry Into the United States by Terrorists or Other Public Safety Threats,” 82 Fed. Reg. 45, 161 (September 24, 2017).

I have joined with 9 rabbis, the Union for Reform Judaism (representing 900 Reform synagogues in America), the Central Conference of American Rabbis (representing 2000 Reform Rabbis), Women of Reform Judaism (representing 65,000 women), the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, The New Israel Fund, Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, The American Jewish World Service, the National Council of Jewish Women (representing 90,000 women) individual synagogues, churches, and a variety of Christian and Muslim Organizations as “Friends of the Plaintiffs against President Donald Trump” because we believe that his misguided order to increase vetting of immigrants to the United States is “intended to target Muslims in particular,” “to harm Muslims,” and “to violate the core Constitutional principle that is critical to the free exercise of all faith traditions in the United States” according to the First Amendment of the Constitution.

This Amici Curiae brief was filed in the Federal Fourth Circuit Court on November 17, 2017.

The following is language written in the brief:

“This order offends the fundamental tenets of all three monotheistic faith traditions including the Golden Rule, the imperative to welcome the stranger, and the belief that every individual has inherent value and dignity by virtue of being created in the divine image. Our faith traditions compel us to assist immigrants, particularly immigrants fleeing unjust persecution.

All our religious traditions have experienced prejudice against us and persecution, and it is out of our historic experience and our moral and religious values and our perception that Trump’s order is deliberately targeting the entire Muslim community that we shout “We protest….

This order recalls the infamous event in 1939 when a ship carrying 900 Jewish men, women and children fleeing Nazi Germany was turned away from our shores. This ship was forced to return to Europe  and more than 25% of its passengers perished in the Holocaust….

All of our Amici understand exactly what the Trump Order is about – an official act of discrimination on the basis of religion. Trump said during the Presidential Campaign of 2016 that there ought to be “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our representatives can figure out what is going on.”  He also said “Islam hate us” and that “we’re having problems with the Muslims….

Trump’s order also has ostracized those who simply want to practice their faith freely and live peacefully as neighbors, students, colleagues, families, and members of their community. It has contributed to an environment in which Muslims are increasingly subject to violence, harassment, and discrimination because of their faith. An FBI report has discovered that while hate crimes have risen by 6% overall in the United States, anti-Islamic bias has increased by 26.5% in 2012….

The Order’s near-absolute ban on entry by citizens of the seven countries it names is entirely contrary to the Golden Rule as well as the religious calling to welcome the stranger. Amici understand that the people barred by the Order are mothers and fathers, children and grandparents; they are clerics, congregants, shopkeepers, and students. Each one’s life is sacred-each a unique expression of the divine and a common member of humanity.”

 

“Why Judaism Matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to His children and the Millennial Generation” – Reading and Book Signing – November 27 at 7 PM – Chevaliers Bookstore, Los Angeles

Book cover

Chevaliers Books is the oldest independent book store in Los Angeles and is located at 126 N Larchmont Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90004 in Hancock Park.

I would love to see you there!

“Why Judaism Matter – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to His Children and the Millennial Generation” with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove is now available for purchase on Amazon.com (publishing date – October 10). This book is a collection of thirteen letters offering a common sense guide and roadmap for a new generation of young men and women who find Jewish orthodoxy, tradition, issues, and beliefs impenetrable in 21st Century society. It is published by Jewish Lights Publishing, a division of Turner Publishing.

Endorsements

“Rabbi Rosove’s letters to his sons are full of Talmudic tales and practical parables, ancient wisdom with modern relevance, spiritual comfort, and intellectual provocation. Whether his subject is faith, love, intermarriage, success, Jewish continuity or the creation of a meaningful legacy, you’ll find yourself quoting lines from this beautiful book long after you’ve reached its final blessing.” – Letty Cottin Pogrebin, writer, speaker, social justice activist, author of eleven books including Debora, Gold, and Me: Being Female & Jewish in America, a founding editor of  Ms. Magazine, a regular columnist for Moment Magazine, and a contributor of op-eds in the New York Times, Washington Post, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, Toronto Star, and LA Times, among other publications.

 “John Rosove does what so many of us have struggled to do, and does it brilliantly: He makes the case for liberal Judaism to his children. As Rosove shows, liberal Judaism is choice-driven, messy, and always evolving, “traditional” in some ways and “radical” in others. It is also optimistic, spiritual, and progressive in both personal and political ethics. Without avoiding the hard stuff, such as intermarriage and Israel, Rabbi Rosove weaves all of these strands together to show the deep satisfactions of living and believing as a liberal Jew. All serious Jews, liberal or otherwise, should read this book.” Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, President Emeritus of the Union for Reform Judaism and a regular columnist for the Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz.

“Rabbi John Rosove has given a gift to all of us who care about engaging the next generation in Jewish life. The letters to his sons are really love-letters from countless voices of Jewish wisdom across history to all those young people who are seeking purpose in their lives. From wrestling with God, to advocating for peace and justice in Israel and at home, and living a life of purpose, this book is a compelling case for the joy of being Jewish.” – Rabbi Jonah Pesner, Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C.

“Rabbi John Rosove gets it. Here is a religious leader not afraid to tell it like it is, encapsulating for his audience the profound disaffection so many young Jews feel towards their heritage. But instead of letting them walk away, he makes a powerful case for the relevance of tradition in creating meaningful lives. In our technology-saturated, attention-absorbing age, Rosove offers religion-as-reprieve, his fresh vision of a thoroughly modern, politically-engaged and inclusive Judaism.” – Danielle Berrin, columnist and cover-story journalist for the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, commentator on CNN and MSNBC, and published work for The Guardian, British Esquire, and The Atlantic.

 “If you’re a fellow Reform millennial, give yourself the gift of John’s insights. This book is written in a breezy, gentle, readable style that is welcoming without losing sharp insight. It was so enjoyable and refreshing to read and persuasive without ever being pushy. Rosove managed to do what only a truly worthy slice of kugel or chance viewing of Fiddler has done for me; reactivate my sense of wonder and gratitude about being Jewish. I’m a huge fan of WJM.” – Jen Spyra, staff comedy writer on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert (CBS), former senior writer for The Onion, actress, and stand-up comedian. Jen’s writing has appeared in The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Daily News, and The Daily Beast, and has been featured by The Laugh Factory Chicago’s Best Standup Show Case.

“Rabbi Rosove has written a wonderful book, a love letter to his children, and through them, to all our children. Prodigiously knowledgeable, exceedingly wise, and refreshingly honest, Rabbi Rosove has described why Judaism Matters. It should serve as a touching testament of faith, spanning the generations for generations to come.” – Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch, Senior Rabbi of Stephen Wise Free Synagogue in NYC, former Executive Director of the Association of Reform Zionists of America-World Union for Progressive Judaism, author of One People, Two Worlds: A Reform rabbi and an Orthodox rabbi explore the issues that divide them with Rabbi Yaakov Yosef Reinman.

“Rabbi Rosove has written a book of the utmost importance for our time. It is an imperative read for all those who struggle with the changing and evolving attitudes towards belonging, behavior and belief.  His analysis, stemming from deeply personal contemplation and decades of rabbinic experience, offers clear yet sophisticated approaches to tackling the challenges facing this generation and those to come. This book offers a treasure of wisdom through the lens of Jewish texts – both ancient and modern – which help to frame life’s major issues taking the reader from the particular to the universal. Israel is one of the most complicated of issues and he bridges the divide between Israel’s critics and staunch supporters and moves beyond the conversation of crisis for the millennial generation.” – Rabbi Joshua Weinberg, President of the Association of Reform Zionists of America

“John Rosove’s letters to his sons based on his life, philosophy, and rabbinic work address what it means to be a liberal and ethical Jew and a lover of Israel in an era when none are automatic. He writes in an unassuming personal style steeped in traditional texts as he confronts conflicts of faith and objectivity, Zionist pride and loving criticism of the Jewish state, traditional observance and religious innovation. He is never gratuitous and invites his readers into his family conversation because what he says is applicable to us all.” – Susan Freudenheim, Executive Director of Jewish World Watch,  journalist, former managing Editor of the Los Angeles Jewish Journal, and a former editor at the Los Angeles Times.

See 11 Reader 5 Star Reviews at Amazon.com

Filling My Children’s Cups – Toldot

 

Kiddush cup - Shevach shevach Jerusalem

I am Isaac / Tradition doesn’t esteem me / as my father and son.

To our people’s cynics / I’m a passive placeholder / set between two visionaries / one hearing God’s voice / the other communing with angels.

To them I’m the do-nothing / dull-witted middle-man / neither here nor there / coerced into submission by a father / tricked by a son / abandoned by God / who willed me slain / to test my father’s faith / thus becoming history’s most misunderstood near-victim.

My father was driven by voices / left home on a promise / and journeyed to a Place he’d never seen / a low-lying mountain shielded round about / by a cloud / beneath heavenly fire.

My son dreamed of angels / ascended ladder rungs / from land and form / into spirit and spheres.

Tradition diminishes me insinuating / that I merely built a worldly fortune / on my father’s wealth.

Dear ancestors / I’m more than this / the wellsprings I uncovered / are more than you know / greater that waters deep, calm, cool, and tranquil / their streams flow to the Source of souls.

I dug anew my father’s wells / the same the Philistines / with stopped-up hearts / and clogged souls / filled in when he died.

I and my servants dug / our thirst unquenchable / passions unleashing / hearts expecting / souls soaring / on angels’ wings.

After our digging / we found the well / and the spring / flowing in earthly and heavenly wetness.

The inflowing fountain never dries up / The well is replenished continually / and whoever drinks from its waters / merges into Oneness through supernal faith.

The wells I dug / are the same as my father’s / That is our gift to you!

I yearn that you / pour the waters into your cups / dig anew / and pour the same / into your children’s cups.

 

Poem composed by Rabbi John Rosove – The Kiddush Cup was created by Shevach Silversmiths of Jerusalem (Mamilla Mall)

 

 

Twinship

The following are the thoughts of Rabbi Jacob J Weinstein (z’l) whose daughters Judith and Deborah were identical twins. I return every year to his reflections about his daughters during the week of Parashat Toldot (Genesis 25:19-28:9), the story of two other twins, Jacob and Esau.

“Job said that there were some things which he could not understand: the way of a ship upon the sea, a coney on the rocks, and the way of a man with a maid.  How then can I understand the super mystery of twinship?  A Rabbi — like other carers of souls —becomes a chameleon and takes on the coloration of the confessor, and I have sometimes felt the kick of the child in the pregnant woman who comes to relate her fears of childbirth. But I have never been able to enter into that very special intertwining relationship which governs twins. Where does one find a scalpel keen enough to sever an invisible umbilical cord?

Your description was about as close as any I have heard in capturing the inwardness of that shifting half-separation and rebounding amalgamation which takes place between the Jacobs and Esaus, the Judiths and Deborahs of our world.

You both will find it hard to realize that separate parachutes may be the only means of salvation at certain times — that there must be spaces in our togetherness, that the oak tree and the cedar do not grow in each other’s shadow.

While this may be a constant source of danger and will require a degree of special awareness, the compensations are more significant. Your twinship will have reduced to a minimum that fear of relatedness, that reticence in sublimation, that inability to put yourself into another’s shoes, or skin or heart or mind—which accounts for so much of the alienation, divisiveness, frigidity and uncommunicativeness in our society. I know that you recognize Mother’s and my wisdom in deliberately placing separateness in your togetherness, even as we recognize how wisely you have disciplined yourselves.

I know that having learned to respect each other’s differences and each other’s need to follow the compulsion and vagaries of your individual hearts, you will both be ready for that most crucial laboratory of relatedness, which is marriage. While you have at times condemned each other and bitterly pointed out faults in each other, you have never allowed these criticisms to dampen your affectionate acceptance of each other, and you have always and at times savagely resented attacks from any outside source (including your parents). If you can transfer that “acceptance” to your mate, you will have it made.”

From “Letters from A Father” – by Rabbi Jacob J. Weinstein, pages 10-11. These letters were privately published by his children, Ruth, Daniel, Judith and Deborah Weinstein in 1976 in Berkeley, California. 

Note: Judy and Deborah both became psychologists. Each was a remarkable woman. They died of cancer two years apart at the age of 48 and 46 respectively leaving husbands and 3 children between them.

Deborah was among my wife Barbara’s and my dearest friends. She was a force of nature, brilliant, passionate, socially conscious, a strong feminist, and kind. She loved us and we loved her. We miss her still nearly 24 years since her death. We knew Judy less well, but she was no less extraordinary. They adored each other. Witnessing them interact revealed the complexity that comes with the closest sibling relationships and  the joy that comes with the deepest intimacy.