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I invite my blog subscribers to visit me on Facebook as well as here on my blog. I often post items there that I do not post here.
To become followers – go to www.facebook.com/RabbiJohnLRosove
Compassionate One, fill our hearts with love and compassion for each other, that in truth we might be one nation indivisible. Bless our country, its government, its leaders, and its people. Bless the vision that is America and help us all to make it real. Help us to be for each other a mirror in which to see the best we are, and when we stray give to each one the courage to remind, speaking truth to power when need be.
Of qualities that built this land, help us to distinguish between their light and shadow sides, and to know the upright way, that good not be twisted into evil. Take the violence from us, so much part of what has been; and lead us on a new path to the Prophet’s vision fulfilled, of swords turned into plowshares that we shall, at last, learn war no more. Let not our confidence become arrogance, nor might the measure of right; mature enough in our independence, may we celebrate with all nations the interdependence from which a greater good will come.
Thirsting for peace, help us to sing an anthem now, not of bombs bursting, but of amber waves of grain and purple mountain majesties; the beauty of this land we love, your blessing manifest, not of destiny, but of goodness spreading out from sea to shining sea; and not upon us alone Your blessing bestow, but upon every nation and people in the world of Your creation.
Help us to see that we the people are America the beautiful, in all the grandeur of our colors, and in the symphony of faiths and tongues by which we sing to You and call each other’s names; in the pilgrims’ pride of roots diverse, each one of us from other lands have come, not only of a Mayflower on the sea but of steerage passage and in chains and through sweltering desert sands, wretched and poor yearning to breathe free; let us be the strength of heart and mind to sustain the hand of she who lifts her lamp beside the golden door.
In our caring for the earth, the sky, and water, may we honor those who first dwelled upon this land, and in a small measure so atone for all the wrong done to them.
With liberty and justice for all, that freedom not ring hollow, help us to insure that health and knowledge, bread and roses, be the birthright of every child born, each one free to be and become, dreams deferred no more.
Bring near the day, soon to rise, when in rainbow chorus we shall sing, we have overcome.
Rabbi Victor Reinstein is the Founding Rabbi of Nehar Shalom Community Synagogue, Jamaica Plain, MA
“Give me your tired, your poor, / Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, / The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. / Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, / I lift my lamp beside the golden door!” (from the Great Colossus inscribed on the Statue of Liberty in the New York Harbor)
We are fast becoming a nation I don’t recognize. President Trump’s Friday Executive Order on immigration is an attack on the founding principles of our country while not doing what Trump says it is meant to do – keep us safer.
Since 9/11, no refugees from the targeted countries in this order have been involved in fatal terrorist attacks in the United States.
Trump’s Order bars entry into the United States of all Syrian refugees, targets Muslim-majority countries (except those countries where it seems that Trump has business interests – e.g. Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and The United Arab Emirates) and threatens the integrity of families who want nothing more than to be together in America, work, pay taxes, and become citizens.
Thankfully, US District Judge Ann Donnelly yesterday blocked a part of Trump’s executive order brought by the ACLU on behalf of two detained Iraqi immigrants at New York’s JFK airport as unconstitutional saying: “The petitioners have a strong likelihood of success in establishing that the removal of the petitioner and other similarly situated violates their due process and equal protection guaranteed by the United States Constitution.”
I want to know this – Where is the Republican party leadership in Congress on this issue? Why have they overwhelmingly lined up behind Trump — or a stayed quiet?
Other than (to date) Representative Charlie Dent (R-PA), Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE), Representative Justin Amash (R-MI), and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME), no Republican has broken ranks and called Trump out to condemn this executive order. The five Republicans above will go down in history as having done the right thing – and I commend them all!
I am also waiting for Democrats in the House and Senate to speak out.
Attacking foreigners is easy. Bullies do it because foreigners are weak and vulnerable. They have no one representing their interests. They are alone and often traumatized. The may not speak the language or understand the laws and culture of the country in which they find themselves.
Of all the commandments in the Hebrew Bible, the mitzvah of welcoming the stranger is among the most important. The word ger (stranger or alien) appears 92 times in the Tanakh.
Why? Because we Jews understand what it means to be strangers from Egypt to Spain to medieval Europe to Germany to the USSR and to many Middle Eastern countries.
We Jews know the heart of the stranger.
We Jews know what it’s like to be hunted and persecuted.
We Jews know what it’s like to be targeted because of our religion and background.
We Jews know what fear means and what it feels like to be hated.
Jewish tradition is as clear about our obligations to strangers as it is about any other ethical demand:
“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt…” (Exodus 22:21-22)
“You shall love the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10: 19)
“You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him/her as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am Adonai your God.” (Leviticus 19:33-34)
“Thus says God: Do justice and righteousness, and deliver from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. And do no wrong or violence to the stranger, …” (Jeremiah 22:3)
“Adonai enacts justice for the orphan and widow, and loves the stranger, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love the stranger because you were a stranger in the land of Egypt.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-19)
“Don’t oppress the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; don’t plan evil against each other!” (Zechariah 7:10)
“God watches over strangers…” (Psalm 146:9)
“You have brought your judgment days near and have come to your years of punishment [because] father and mother are treated with contempt, and the stranger is exploited within you.” (Ezekiel 22:4, 7)
“’I will come to you in judgment, and I will be ready to witness against … those who oppress the widow and the fatherless, and cheat the wage earner; and against those who deny justice to the stranger. They do not fear Me,’ says Adonai.” (Malachi 3:5)
The American Reform movement is now organizing on the local, state and national level in support of vulnerable communities targeted by the Trump Administration and the Republican majority Congress.
Below is a letter sent this past week explaining what we as individuals and as members of synagogues can do to get engaged and become activists :
“The Reform Jewish movement of America is organizing to fight the mistreatment of vulnerable parts of the population. Reform congregations and communities across California are coming together as part of Reform CA, a project of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, to mobilize vocal support for positive state and local policies that advance our Jewish values—and vocal opposition to policies that target the vulnerable populations in our communities.
This rapid response system begins today.
We are asking you to get your Reform congregation or community to contact your U.S. Representatives, urging them to publicly oppose any executive order that threatens the rights of refugees and immigrants, including cutting off federal funding from sanctuary cities.
If you have not already done so, we urge your congregation or community to sign a Brit Olam (google “Brit Olam”), a covenant to act together to defend vulnerable communities against attack: people of color, the LGBTQ community, those with tenuous access to healthcare and reproductive choice, immigrants and refugees, Muslims and other religious minorities, and other victims of bigotry.”
See “Reform Movement Denounces President Trump’s Executive Order Barring Entry from Several Muslim-Majority Countries” http://www.rac.org/reform-movement-denounces-president-trumps-executive-order-barring-entry-several-muslim-majority
I have signed this letter sponsored Ameinu and J Street opposing the nomination of David Friedman to be US Ambassador to Israel and posted this two or three weeks ago. I am repeating the post because of the urgency of this matter.
Please forward the following letter to your rabbis and cantors and ask them to sign on as well (see below for link).
We are writing today as rabbis and cantors asking President Trump to withdraw the nomination of David Friedman to be the United States Ambassador to the state of Israel. Failing that, we implore the US Senate not to confirm him.
In this letter, we will address concerns around his denigration of American Jews who believe differently from him and his policy positions that we believe run contrary to the interests of the United States and Israel.
The Rabbis of the Talmud are adamant that we are to speak to and about other people — particularly those with whom we disagree — with love and respect. We are taught that shaming a person is tantamount to shedding their blood (Baba Metzia 58b).
Yet Mr. Friedman seems to have no qualms about insulting people with whom he disagrees.
Mr. Friedman has repeatedly compared members of the Jewish community whose views on Israel differ from his own to “kapos,” who were Jews who collaborated with the Nazis during the Holocaust. He called members of J Street, a pro-Israel organization that wants to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians, “worse than kapos.” He has even questioned whether its more than 180,000 supporters are really Jews — as if he has the right to decide such a weighty matter.
This is the very antithesis of the diplomatic behavior Americans expect from their ambassadors.
An ambassador is charged with representing our entire nation. It is historically perverse and wildly insulting to characterize Jewish advocates for peace, including many of the signers of this letter, as no better than Nazi collaborators plotting to destroy the Jewish people.
If Mr. Friedman cannot responsibly understand history, he cannot responsibly shape the future.
The situation in and around Israel is volatile. Mr. Friedman’s inflammatory comments about Jews, Palestinians and Muslims and the peace process itself are precisely the type of comments that can ignite further conflict and drive deeper wedges between parties.
While we believe the above should be enough to disqualify Mr. Friedman, we have grave policy concerns as well. Mr. Friedman vocally supports the expansion of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which American presidents since Johnson have seen as an obstacle to peace.
Moreover, Mr. Friedman opposes the two-state solution, which has been a policy cornerstone for Republican and Democratic administrations for the past quarter century. We are very concerned that rather than try to represent the US as an advocate for peace, Mr. Friedman will seek to mold American policy in line with his extreme ideology.
We yearn for an Israel that is secure, democratic and the national homeland of the Jewish people. Mr. Friedman’s pro-settler positions and opposition to the two-state solution are in conflict with our views and the majority of American Jews who see settlement expansion as an obstacle to peace and who strongly support a two-state solution. Mr. Friedman’s favored policies would weaken Israel’s security, democracy, and status as the national homeland of the Jewish people.
Mr. Friedman’s apparent inability to speak respectfully about and to people with whom he disagrees and his advocacy of extreme policies which threaten the future of Israel and run contrary to American interests are both sufficient reasons to disqualify Mr. Friedman’s nomination. He is the wrong choice to serve as our nation’s Ambassador to Israel.
Note: I am speaking only for myself and not on behalf of my synagogue or any Jewish organization.
“Science is more than a body of knowledge; it is a way of thinking. I have a foreboding of an America in my children’s or grandchildren’s time — when the United States is a service and information economy; when nearly all the key manufacturing industries have slipped away to other countries; when awesome technological powers are in the hands of a very few, and no one representing the public interest can even grasp the issues; when the people have lost the ability to set their own agendas or knowledgeably question those in authority; when clutching our crystals and nervously consulting our horoscopes, our critical faculties in decline, unable to distinguish between what feels good and what’s true, we slide, almost without noticing, back into superstition and darkness.”
-Carl Sagan, astronomer and author (1934-1996)
Source – wordsmith.org
Highlights from Terry Gross’ interview:
“A president is not permitted to receive cash and other benefits from foreign governments,” Norm Eisen tells Fresh Air’s Terry Gross. “And yet, Donald Trump is getting a steady flow of them around the world and right here in the United States.”
…Eisen describes Trump’s business entanglements as “frankly and nakedly unconstitutional. … It is extraordinary that we’ll have a president who is violating the constitutional conflicts clause, the so-called Emoluments Clause, as soon as he takes the oath of office,” he says.
Painter concurs with Eisen’s assessment. “The president needs to focus on protecting the United States and American interests in a very dangerous world,” Painter says. “I really hope that President Trump takes the steps he needs to, to be free of conflict of interest in that endeavor.”
It is clear that Eisen and Painter decided not to wait for Trump to do right on his own, recognizing that he will never do so – their recourse to the courts is the first step. The second step will be to persuade enough responsible Republicans that their standard bearer is fleecing America and is on the road to destroying whatever credibility remains of the Republican party.
“Never before have the people of the United States elected a President with business interests as vast, complicated, and secret as those of Donald J. Trump,” the lawsuit to be filed on behalf of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) alleges, “creating countless conflicts of interest, as well as unprecedented influence by foreign governments.”
It isn’t only that Donald Trump is as petty and narcissistic a figure as we’ve ever seen in our national life, it’s that he shares traits with every brutal authoritarian dictator, as Allen Clifton argues persuasively in his piece “5 Traits Donald Trump Shares With Nearly Every Brutal, Authoritarian Dictator” from ForwardProgressives (see below)
How Trump gets away without any reaction from his own supporters when he denies the obvious, most recently that his inauguration crowd had only one-quarter (if that) of those who attended Barak Obama’s 2009 inauguration (1.7 million), and that he spends his first day as President attacking the legitimate press for reporting real news, is unfathomable to me.
I remember so well as a kid watching Jiminy Cricket on Sunday night’s Disney hour teaching the physics principle – “To every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.”
Trump’s borderline personality and his threats to American democracy without shame can’t last forever. I’m hoping (yay – praying) that by the end of 2017 at the latest, we will witness the pendulum suddenly shift direction and bring us back to a measure of national sanity.
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My community at Temple Israel of Hollywood had a poster writing party before Shabbat for the March in LA. Thanks to Jennifer Levin and dozens of others, young and old, who are “praying with their feet” this Shabbat ( per Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who explained what he did in the march from Selma to Montgomery with Dr. Martin Luther King in 1965)
Blacks, whites, immigrants, Jews, Muslims, Christians,
LGBTQs, women, men, children
are what make America great!
There is no planet B
Love, not hate, makes America great
Left or Right — we can all see Wrong
Kind is the new cool
Love has no border control
Be Brave – Choose Love
Fight like a girl
Fake your tan not your news
Make America Kind again
Hear me roar!
One race: human
Let’s teach our kids NOT to have a favorite color
Hey grownups: your silence is your consent
Okay Ladies, let’s get in formation –
My voice counts!
My body My choice
Yes, we can.
Si, Se Puede!
Dumbledore wouldn’t let this happen
I am so angry I made a sign
I know signs.
I make the best signs.
So you prefer Unplanned Parenthood?
Immigrants welcome! Racists go home!
We’ll paint a rainbow over whitewashed America
Save the mermaids, please keep our oceans clean
This is what a feminist looks like
Build kindness not walls
I am not powerless
Did I object to your marriage?
The planet does not get a recount
“I know up on top you are seeing great sights,
but down here at the bottom,
we too should have rights!” Dr. Seuss
Stay off of my Mom’s vagina!
No-one is free when some are oppressed
Kids against bulls**t
A woman’s place is in the revolution
Make America think again
Uh, oh – Now you’ve pissed off Grandma
I will not learn your hate
To all the adults out there – we are counting on you
A woman’s place is in the House, the Senate, and the Oval Office
This is the last straw
Love is gay. Love is straight. Love is lesbian. Love is bisexual. Love is transgender.
I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change.
I am changing the things I cannot accept.
If I make my uterus a corporation, will you stop regulating it?
Feminism, back by popular Demand
I didn’t come from your rib, you came from my vagina!
Things money can’t buy:
Integrity, character, common sense, manners, love, kindness, class
“Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about things that matter!” MLK
It’s a country, not a corporation
If God hates gays, why are we so cute?!
I’m really not happy about this
When someone tells you they got rich through hard work, ask them, “Whose”?
No woman can call herself free if she does not own and control her own body
Hell hath no fury like 157 million women scorned
When all the trees are cut
When all the animals are dead
When all the waters are poisoned
When all the air is unsafe to breathe
Only then will you discover…
YOU CANNOT EAT MONEY
1968 is calling, don’t answer
Protest is patriotic
We were served a LEMON
But we’ll make LEMONADE
Nasty and Loud
Left – Right – How about forward?
Mother Earth hasn’t shown you nasty yet
Build a wall around Hate, Oppression, Violence, Inequality, Bigotry, Fear
It’s global warming, stupid!
If you don’t like gay marriage, blame straight people.
They’re the ones who keep having Gay babies!
You know things are messed up when the white guys start marching
Our Voices together cannot be Silenced
Thanks Trump –
You turned me into an activist
Speak your mind or someone will speak it for you
We will not be voted into the closet
Not a socialist, not an elite, not an anarchist, not a left-wing nut
Just a parent here for a better world for my kids!
And this is just the first day of the next four years
Power to the peaceful
To all the little girls watching right now:
Never doubt that you are valuable & powerful & deserving of every chance in the world
Your election was a hate crime!
Yes, I am a feminist. No, I don’t hate men.
This kitty grabs back
“If you really think the environment is less important than the economy,
try holding your breath while you count your money.”
If you cut off my reproductive choice… Can I cut off yours?
Does conversion therapy work for bigots?
Have your wall, but my generation will tear it down
It’s easier to buy a gun than my education
Abortion is health care
Don’t trust me with a choice, but with a child
“Thou shalt not mess with women’s reproductive rights” Fallopian 4:28
Make empathy great again
“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil,
but by those who watch them without doing anything.” Albert Einstein
Note: SAVE FOR FUTURE MARCHES
Given the contentious nature of public debate in this election year and in light of the inauguration of Donald Trump as the nation’s 45th President, my own synagogue and the American Reform Jewish movement have been challenged about the nature of our speech and activism.
What ought we to be saying and when should we be saying it? Should we as a synagogue community speak collectively about the great challenges confronting our nation in the area of health care, economic justice, criminal justice reform, the poor, women’s and LGBTQ rights, racism, immigration, religious minorities, civil rights, climate change, war, and peace?
Or should we refrain, as some have argued in my own community, and concentrate purely upon “spiritual,” religious and ritual matters? What, if any, limitations should rabbis and synagogue communities impose upon themselves?
Before I offer the principles that have guided me over many years, it is important to understand what we mean by “politics.” Here is a good operative definition from Wikipedia:
“Politics (from Greek πολιτικός, “of, for, or relating to citizens”), is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs. It also refers to behavior within civil governments. … It consists of “social relations involving authority or power” and refers to the regulation of public affairs within a political unit, and to the methods and tactics used to formulate and apply policy.”
The fundamental question before us is this: Should rabbis and synagogue communities be “political” in the sense of this definition?
I believe we should, and that we have an obligation to speak and act according to the above meaning.
There ought to be, of course, limitations.
First: When we speak our words ought to be based upon Jewish religious, ethical and moral principles, and our goals ought to promote justice, equality, compassion, humility, decency, freedom, and peace not only for Jews but for all people.
Second: We need to remember that we Jews hold multiple visions and positions on the myriad issues that face our community and society. Rav Shmuel (3rd century C.E. Babylonia) said “Eilu v’eilu divrei Elohim chayim – These and those are the words of the living God” meaning that there are many authentic Jewish values even when they conflict with each other.
The American Jewish community holds no unanimous political point of view, though since WWII between 60% and 90% of the American Jewish community has supported moderate and liberal policies and candidates for political office locally, at the state and national levels. We are by and large a liberal community, but there is a substantial conservative minority among us as well.
The Reform movement (represented by the Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C., the social justice arm of the Union for Reform Judaism) has for decades consistently taken moral, ethical, and religious positions on public policy issues that come before our government and in our society as a whole, though the RAC does not endorse candidates nor take positions on nominees for high government positions unless specifically determined conditions are met. The RAC’s positions on policies are taken based on the Reform movement’s understanding of the Jewish mission “L’aken ha-olam b’malchut Shaddai – To restore the world in the image of the dominion of God,” which means that we are called upon to adhere to high ethical standards of justice, compassion, and peace.
The following guide me whenever I speak and write:
1. I do not publicly endorse candidates for high political office and have never done so in my 38 years as a congregational rabbi, except once – this year when it was clear to me that statements, tweets, and policy positions of the Republican candidate for President have proven to be contrary to fundamental liberal Jewish ethical principles;
2. When I offer divrei Torah, sermons, blog and Facebook posts, I do so always from the perspective of what I believe are Jewish moral, ethical and religious principles. Necessarily, there are times when my statements are indeed “political” but they are not “partisan,” and that is a big difference;
3. We as individuals or as a community ought never claim to possess the absolute Truth about anything. There are many truths that often conflict with one another. Respect for opposing views is a fundamental Jewish value and the synagogue ought to be a place where honest civil and respectful debate can always occur;
4. When I speak and write in the media, I have an obligation to clearly state that I am speaking as an individual and not on behalf of our synagogue community or any other Jewish organization.
The Mishnah (2nd century CE) teaches that “Talmud Torah k’neged kulam – the study of Torah leads to all the other mitzvot.” (Talmud, Shabbat 127a) The Talmud emphasizes as well that action must proceed from learning.
Plato warned that passivity and withdrawal from the political realm carry terrible risks: “The penalty that good [people] pay for not being interested in politics is to be governed by [people] worse than themselves.”
Rabbi Joachim Prinz, the President of the American Jewish Congress, who spoke in Washington, D.C. on August 28, 963 immediately before Dr. Martin Luther King delivered this “I have a dream speech, said:
“When I was the rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin under the Hitler regime, I learned many things. The most important thing that I learned under those tragic circumstances was that bigotry and hatred are not ‘the most urgent problem. The most urgent, the most disgraceful, the most shameful and the most tragic problem is silence.
A great people which had created a great civilization had become a nation of silent onlookers. They remained silent in the face of hate, in the face of brutality and in the face of mass murder.
America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent. … It must speak up and act, from the President down to the humblest of us, … for the sake of the … idea and the aspiration of America itself.”
Last week at Temple Israel, Dr. Susannah Heschel, the daughter of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, told my community that her father believed that the civil rights movement of the 1960s (of which he was an active and intimate partner with Dr. King), enabled the American Jewish community to affirm and reclaim its moral voice.
Perhaps this new administration and government offers the liberal American Jewish community yet again an opportunity to make our voices heard
Rabbi Prinz ended his speech at the Lincoln memorial that day by saying:
“The time, I believe, has come to work together – for it is not enough to hope together, and it is not enough to pray together, to work together that [pledge of allegiance said every morning by children in their schools] from Maine to California, from North to South, may become a glorious, unshakeable reality in a morally renewed and united America.”