I can’t help but feel how much further we’ve come as a nation since Dr. King’s life ended so suddenly and tragically. Anyone alive then will remember where you were when you heard the news, and we’ll remember Robert F. Kennedy’s poetic, compassionate and eloquent response in the rust belt states that evening of Dr. King’s death.
With the blaring light of this corrupted Trump era, it ought to be clear to anyone with a conscience that we still have much distance to travel to fulfill Dr. King’s aspirations and the aspirations proclaimed in our Declaration of Independence.
Trudge on we must! I’m confident that these next two years will move us forward as a nation in many areas with our new Congress, and as candidates begin to declare their quest for the White House, we’ll be setting the stage for another epic battle at the polls next year which, with effort, a far better outcome will be forthcoming than was the case in 2016.
We at Temple Israel of Hollywood in Los Angeles celebrate Dr. King’s life and vision every year on the weekend commemorating his birth, and we’ll do so again this coming Friday during Kabbalat Shabbat services – January 18 at 6:30 pm. If you live in Los Angeles, please come and join us. The community is welcome.
We will play 13 minutes of a 43-minute sermon Dr. King delivered from our bimah at Temple Israel of Hollywood in April, 1965. The recording is so clear it’s as if he’s in the room with us, though it has been nearly 54 years since he stood before a packed congregation.
You can hear the entire speech here – https://www.tioh.org/images/audio_collection/MLKSpeech_TIOH_1965.mp3
For a longer selection of Dr. King’s most memorable quotations – go to my blog at the Times of Israel where I have posted them – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/dr-martin-luther-king-in-celebration-and-memory/ .
Note: The final quote is Dr. King’s statement of support for Zionism and the State of Israel as the national home of the Jewish people.
Request – Share the list with your friends from the Times of Israel. They will remind us not only of the greatness of the man, but of our own prophetic tradition and engagement as Jews in the struggle for human rights.
“In contrast to the prophets of the Hebrew Bible who sought to establish goodness in the world, the President’s Oval Office speech this week exposes his malignant world view.”
This is taken from my blog at the Times of Israel. To read it, please go to https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/there-are-hearts-that-are-stones/
With the announcement this past week by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu that elections will be held on April 9 for a new Knesset, I hope that the words by Tamir Pardo, a former head of the Mossad (Israeli’s intelligence services), will be uppermost in the minds of a majority of Israelis when they cast their votes. He said:
“Israel has one existential threat. It is a ticking time bomb … Israel must deal with the demographic reality and [decide] which state we want to be. Life with alternative facts harbors a disaster for the Zionist vision. The key to saving the state requires brave leadership.”
The alternative facts he warns against is a one-state solution as the answer to Israel’s Palestinian conflict. But a one-state solution will compromise Israel as both a Jewish and a democratic state that the founding generation envisioned. The only credible alternative is a negotiated end-of-conflict two-state resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Note: For those following the news in Israel since the Prime Minister called for new elections (scheduled for April 9), the jockeying of position among potential candidates and their parties, the creation of new political parties, the hardball politics that’s even tougher than in the United States, AG Avichai Mandelblit’s long-awaited report of Netanyahu’s alleged corruption charges could have a significant impact on the political fortunes of the PM. Though some observers believe Bibi will be elected Prime Minister regardless of whether the AG indicts him on alleged corruption charges (as has been recommended by the Israeli police after a very long investigation), they also don’t believe that an indicted PM can remain in office over the long term. If he is convicted, Bibi’s fate could be similar to that of former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert who went to prison for corruption while he served as Mayor of Jerusalem.
See https://bit.ly/2GTCzai for the article itself. For those who don’t subscribe to Haaretz, here is the piece that appeared in today’s Haaretz by Revital Hovel.
“Avichai Mendelblit to announce whether Netanyahu will be indicted in three cases before April 9 election, source says
Attorney General Avichai Mendelblit is expected to make a decision on whether to charge Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the three criminal investigations pending against the prime minister before the April 9 Knesset elections and will announce his decision next month, a source close to Mendelblit has told Haaretz.
The attorney general himself declined to comment on when he would make a decision, saying: “It’s no secret that we’re trying to work as quickly as possible.” But he added that the decision would “in no way [come] at the expense of professionalism.”
Amid speculation as to how the decision might affect the election, and criticism from Netanyahu, who said he would not resign if summoned for a pre-indictment hearing, the attorney general has received backing from senior Justice Ministry officials and from his own predecessors in his efforts to make a decision before the election.
These backers said they believe it is Mendelblit’s obligation to made the decision public before the election. Mendelblit added that there was “nothing to prevent” the prime minister from serving in office prior to a pre-indictment hearing if it is decided to file charges against Netanyahu. For his part, late last month, Netanyahu, said: “It’s inconceivable that a hearing against me will be launched before the election and it will end after it.”
One of the cases against the prime minister, dubbed Case 1000, involves allegations that the prime minister accepted gifts from wealthy business figures in violation of the law.
A second case, Case 2000, centers on discussions between the prime minister and Arnon Mozes, the publisher of the Yedioth Ahronoth daily, allegedly involving favorable news coverage for the prime minister in exchange for government policies benefitting Yedioth.
The third case, Case 4000, involves allegations that Netanyahu provided regulatory concessions to the controlling shareholder at the time of the Bezeq telecommunications firm in exchange for favorable coverage from Bezeq’s news website, Walla. The prime minister denies any wrongdoing in the cases.
Mendelblit began marathon meetings on the cases about two weeks ago. Deliberations on Case 1000 took two weeks and have concluded. On Sunday discussions are expected to begin on Case 2000, to be followed by Case 4000. In Case 1000, Mendelblit is reportedly inclined to indict the prime minister for fraud and breach of trust.
Note: This was sent to our congregants at Temple Israel of Hollywood in support of the LA Women’s March. Please note the strategic activities we have scheduled around this event.
To Our TIOH Family,
It would be impossible to overstate the power and uplift so many of us have felt witnessing and participating in the past two Women’s Marches. These marches, harnessing multigenerational expressions of women’s dignity and power and bringing to light so many issues of critical importance to our country, have been catalysts for much good in our world.
It is, at the same time, impossible to ignore published accounts claiming that specific individuals in leadership positions of the National Women’s March have made blatantly anti-Semitic remarks.
We at TIOH have been and remain committed to the Women’s Rights Movement, gender justice, and civil rights. We also refuse to let anti-Semitic statements or actions go without response. Our challenge is to hold both truths in this complicated and fraught time, which at its core, holds so very much potential for change.
We share with you our thoughts on this moment:
- If you look to the homepage of the Women’s March Los Angeles (WMLA), you will see a strongly worded statement stating clearly that WMLA “has no affiliation and was never part of the Women’s March Inc. WMLA is its own separate organization with separate leadership, board, and funding.” Part of what has come to light in the face of recent allegations of anti-Semitic comments by a few leaders of the National Women’s March is that the national leadership does not represent, nor is it connected by finances or governance, to many of the hundreds of local marches across the country, including Los Angeles.
- Anti-Semitism is a very real problem in our world and lies at the heart of white supremacy. There has been an historic increase, according to surveys published by the ADL, in anti-Semitic hate crimes over the past two years in our country and abroad. Acknowledging, learning about, and fighting anti-Semitism wherever it occurs, including in the National Women’s March leadership group, is of critical importance to everyone concerned about promoting an inclusive and decent America.
- That being said, the Women’s March Unity Principles reflect much of the justice work in which TIOH and our partner organizations are engaging. We are pleased that changes have been made to these Unity Principles to explicitly include Jewish women and that representatives of national Jewish leadership organizations were part of the crafting of the 2019 Women’s Agenda. Being involved in the real work of this movement is very much in line with our justice principles.
- Despite the anti-Semitic statements by some individuals in the National Women’s March, we believe that it is critical for representatives from the Jewish community to remain in dialogue and actively engaged with them, as well as to continue the important work of eradicating anti-Semitism at every level of our society. Teshuvah, a return to each person’s best self, is always possible. We believe strongly that The Women’s March, as an intersectional movement, must include Jewish women because it is there, in the heart of the movement, that we can both act on our social justice principles and combat anti-Semitism.
- We especially encourage TIOHers to participate in our local Women’s March Los Angeles. We also encourage TIOHers to explicitly speak out against all expressions of anti-Semitism whenever we encounter them. Our public engagement in both the women’s movement and our work to combat anti-Semitism is at the core of who we are as American Reform Jews.
Please read these comments from the Union for Reform Judaism and Women of Reform Judaism. You will see that our position at TIOH is cast in the same spirit as our Reform movement’s leadership.
Join us at the LA Women’s March! TIOHers will be joining Jewish Center for Justice (JCJ), as well as folks from synagogues across Los Angeles, at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, January 19th to pray and march together. Meetup details will be forthcoming.
In addition to marching, come to the following events:
- At TIOH this Sunday, January 4, at 10:00 a.m., join Rabbi Jocee Hudson for bagels, coffee, and an open informal conversation about what it means for us as members of the Jewish community, who are committed to Women’s Rights and Civil Rights, to participate in the Women’s March.
- Please join members of the broader community on Sunday, January 13, at 7:00 p.m. at University Synagogue for a Teach-In with Zioness and JCJ.
- Please join us at TIOH before Shabbat services on Friday, January 18, at 5pm, to show our public resistance to anti-Semitism as we hear from David Lehrer on “How anti-Semitism Lies at the Heart of White Supremacy.”
For questions about our Social Justice work at TIOH, please contact Heidi Segal firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rabbi John L. Rosove – Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh – Rabbi Jocee Hudson – Shelly Fox, Cantorial Soloist and Musical Director – Heidi Segal, TIOH Vice President, Social Justice – Aliza Lesser, WoTIOH Chair
Image thanks to Shutterstock
Recently, I was talking with a good friend and colleague when he said, “John – I’ve been really irritable lately. Everything people do and say bothers me.”
I asked if anything particular was wrong. “No. Everything’s fine,” he said. His marriage is happy and strong, his children well, and his work satisfying.
“Yet, I feel impatient all the time. Things that normally don’t bother me now do.”
Knowing the way he works I suggested that he was likely exhausted. “Perhaps,” he said, “but I don’t feel any more tired than normal!”
That’s the rub. My friend’s “normal” isn’t normal at all. Though he does what many rabbis do, such work is so often overwhelming. When I spelled it out for him, he acknowledged that I was probably right.
Certainly, the rabbinate isn’t the only occupation that exhausts its practitioners. No one is immune in any walk of life.
In this week’s Torah portion Vaera (Exodus 6:2-10:1) we see the deleterious impact that relentless demands can have upon us.
The pivotal scene puts Moses talking with God. He and Aaron had appeared before Pharaoh to demand the people’s liberation; but, every request turned Pharaoh’s heart harder.
God responded by promising the people the greatest reward:
“I will take you out from under the burdens of Egypt and I will rescue you from their bondage and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great retributions. And I will take you to Me as a people and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God Who takes you out from under the burdens of Egypt. And I will bring you to the land that I raised My hand to pledge to give to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, and I will give it to you as an inheritance. I am the Lord. And Moses spoke thus to the Israelites, but they did not heed Moses out of (kotzer ruach) shortness of breath and hard bondage.” (Exodus 6:6-8 – translation, Robert Alter)
What’s the meaning?
Rashi’s comment: “The people didn’t accept consolation [i.e. Moses’ message of their impending redemption] for they were too much under stress.”
Though we are no longer “slaves,” our schedules control us, people to whom we’ve given influence over our lives oppress us, obligations we’ve taken on weigh us down, and the legitimate needs of others burden us.
In thinking about the deleterious impact of being constantly burdened, I recall Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind: Why Right-brainers Will Rule the Future. He showed that in business, manufacturing, construction, law, medicine, the sciences, education, religion, and the arts, creativity will be the competitive difference that distinguishes one thing from another.
Speaking personally, my synagogue is a center of intense productivity, but for me, when I’m in my synagogue study almost nothing creative comes because of the constant demands made upon me in the building by young and old, staff and lay leaders. That’s a central part of my work, so I’m not complaining. Creativity, however, happens for me at home when I’m alone studying, reading, thinking, and writing.
The novelist and Nobel laureate Pearl S. Buck wrote:
“The truly creative mind in any field is … a human creature born abnormally, inhumanly sensitive. To him[her]… a touch is a blow, a sound is a noise, a misfortune is a tragedy, a joy is an ecstasy, a friend is a lover, a lover is a god, and failure is death. Add to this cruelly delicate organism the overpowering necessity to create, create, create – S/he must create, … s/he is not really alive unless s/he is creating.”
We need to be able to create environments that catalyze the greatness within us. An essential element to creativity is our solitude.
My rabbinic friend is not me disguised, but like him I too feel the effects of kotzer ruach, shortness of breath. Necessary breaks in our routine encourage ruach shalem, wholeness of spirit.
In this new secular year, I hope for each of you that measure of wholeness leading to your own creativity and expression.