A man who lies to himself, and believes his own lies, becomes unable to recognize truth, either in himself or in anyone else, and he ends up losing respect for himself and for others.
-Fyodor Dostoevsky, novelist (1821-1881)
“We have come to a point where it is loyalty to resist and treason to submit.”
– Carl Schurz, revolutionary, statesman, and reformer (1829-1906)
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
“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
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
When Donald Trump turned on Hillary Clinton in the 2nd Presidential Debate and said “You have hate in your heart” his obvious projection revealed what is in Trump’s own heart. Not only is he consumed with himself, as classical narcissists are, but anyone who isn’t fawning all over him and those who criticize him, as far as he is concerned, are sorely deficient, bad, sad, a disaster, and worthy of being pummeled, slandered, and attacked mercilessly – the sign of a true playground bully.
I have considered the corrosive nature of hatred, and having just emerged from Yom Kippur when the Jewish people strives to self-critique, improve our lives and exorcise negativity and destructive impulses from our hearts, minds, and souls, I searched my book of quotations on the theme of hate, and I offer these pearls of wisdom.
I begin with a famous statement of German Pastor Martin Niemoller who criticized Hitler in the 1930s and suffered seven years in a concentration camp as a result:
“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
– Pastor Martin Niemoller, German Protestant thinker, teacher and activist
“Thou shalt not hate another in one’s heart!”
“I feel fairly certain that my hatred harms me more than the people whom I hate.”
-Max Frisch, Swiss architect, playwright, and novelist
“One of the reasons people cling to their hate so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.”
–James Baldwin, American novelist, writer
“If you hate a person, you hate something in him that is part of yourself. What isn’t part of ourselves doesn’t disturb us.”
–Hermann Hesse, German poet, novelist, painter
“Hatred like love feeds on the merest trifles. Everything adds to it. Just as the being we love can do no wrong, so the one we hate can do no right.”
–Honoré de Balzac, French novelist, playwright
“Never let yourself hate any person. It is the most devastating weapon of one’s enemies.”
-Katherine Hepburn’s father
“Love, friendship, respect, do not unite people as much as a common hatred for something.”
-Anton Chekhov, Russian short-story writer and dramatist
“I have decided to stick to love…Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
– The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.
“It is human nature to hate the person whom you have hurt.”
-Publius Cornelius Tacitus, Roman Senator and historian (c.55-c.120)
“In time we hate that which we often fear.”
“People hate those to whom they have to lie.”
-Victor Hugo, French poet, novelist, and dramatist
“There is a revisionist theory, one of those depth-psychology distortions or half-truths that crop up like toadstools whenever the emotions get infected by the mind that says we hate worst those who have done the most for us. According to this belittling and demeaning theory, gratitude is a festering sore.”
-Wallace Stegner, American novelist and writer
“If you understand each other you will be kind to each other. Knowing a person well never leads to hate and almost always leads to love.”
-John Steinbeck, American novelist
“Hate, it has caused a lot of problems in the world, but has not solved one yet.”
-Maya Angelou, American poet
“Hatred is the coward’s revenge for being intimidated.”
-George Bernard Shaw, Irish playwright, critic and polemicist
“Never waste a minute thinking about people you don’t like.”
-President Dwight D. Eisenhower
“I can forgive the whites in America for hating the blacks; I cannot forgive them, however, for making the blacks believe that they are worthy of being hated.”
-James Baldwin, American writer
“Now hatred is by far the longest pleasure;
People love in haste, but they detest at leisure.”
–Lord Byron, British poet
“I used to think that people who regarded everyone benignly were a mite simple or oblivious or just plain lax — until I tried it myself. Then I realized that they made it only look easy. Even the Berditchever Rebbe, revered as a man who could strike a rock and bring forth a stream, was continually honing his intentions. ‘Until I remove the thread of hatred from my heart,’ he said of his daily meditations, ‘I am, in my own eyes, as if I did not exist.’”
-Marc Barasch, American author, editor, and activist
“I shall allow no man to belittle my soul by making me hate him.”
-Booker T. Washington, African-American educator, author, orator
“There is no fire like passion, there is no shark like hatred, there is no snare like folly, there is no torrent like greed.”
“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to their human heart than its opposite.”
-Nelson Mandela, South African President
“All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need…” (John Lennon – 1967)
Surveys indicate that we gravitate throughout our lives to the music and musical groups we loved when we were teens. For me, it’s the Beatles, Dylan and much of the classic folk music of the 60s, as well as Israeli music of the classic pioneer era. The Song of Songs was a popular source for much of that music, and perhaps, this is why my wife and I engraved on the inside of our wedding rings “Ani l’dodi v’dodi li – I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” (Song of Songs 6:3)
Attributed to King Solomon as a young man, the eight-chapter poem expresses the passionate romantic yearning and love between two lovers. Tradition recognizes, however, that the Song is far more than a secular love poem. It is understood as an allegory of the eternal love between the people of Israel and God. Rabbi Akiva said of the Song when debating whether the poem would be included in the Biblical canon at the end of the first century CE: “For all the ages are not worth the day on which the Song of Songs was given to Israel; for all the Writings are holy, but the Song of Songs is the Holy of Holies.”
I recall the Song and particularly this verse because today is the first day of the Hebrew month of Elul in which the Jewish people begins a 30-day period of introspection and self-criticism leading to Rosh Hashanah. Today also commences a 40-day period that crescendos on Yom Kippur, the same period of time that Moses communed with God and received Torah (Exodus 34:28).
The verse – Ani l’dodi v’dodi li – evokes both this Hebrew month and the goal of our 30- and 40-day periods. The verse is an acrostic – the first letter of each word – Aleph – lamed – vav – lamed – spells Elul, suggesting that it is love that can lead us back to ourselves, to everything we cherish, to our families, friends, community, people, Torah, and God – “All you need is love!”
May this season be a time of turning, renewal and love for you, the people of Israel, and all children of the earth.
There can be no doubt that President Obama’s address last evening at the DNC transcended partisanship and articulated brilliantly the exceptionalism of the American experience. Republicans, Democrats and Independents were all moved by the President’s rhetorical skills and vision. Indeed, we may not see such an extraordinary Presidential address for another generation, which has lead me to reflect on what makes for a great leader.
Great leadership certainly requires a hefty measure of intelligence, clarity of vision and strong character, and it helps if the individual has great rhetorical skills. But, as Bill Clinton said the night before, giving speeches is the fun part. Great leadership requires something else – hard work day in and day out over time.
I offer here reflections from Jewish tradition and beyond on the theme of leadership:
“Rabban Gamaliel, in appointing two rabbis to posts of authority, said to them: You apparently suppose that I am about to bestow rulership upon you. What I am bestowing upon you is servitude, as it’s said, ‘And they spoke unto him, saying: If you will be servant until this people…’ (I Kings 12:7). The verse teaches you that the one who is appointed over a community becomes the servant of the community.” -Talmud Bavli, Horayot 10a-b; Yalkut Shimoni 1 Kings 197
“The ideal public leader is one who holds seven attributes: wisdom, humility, reverence, loathing of money, love of truth, love of humanity, and a good name.” –Rambam, Hilchot Sanhedrin 2.7
“The best test [of a servant-leader] and difficult to administer is: do those served grow as persons; do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?” -R.K. Greenleaf – “Servant Leadership”
“Rabbi Eleazar said: Any leader who guides a community gently will merit guiding it in the world to come.” –Talmud Bavli, Sanhedrin 92a
“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory and when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.” -Nelson Mandela
“The boss drives his/her [employees]; the leader coaches them.
The boss depends upon authority, the leader on goodwill.
The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.
The boss says ‘I’; the leader, ‘we.’
The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown; the leader fixes the breakdown.
The boss knows how it is done; the leader shows how.
The boss says ‘Go’; the leader says ‘Let’s go!’ -Harry Gordon Selfridge, Sr.
“Whether you are an insurance executive or a school principal, you simply cannot be effective without behaving in a morally purposeful way.” – Michael Fullan, Canadian educational researcher and former dean of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE)
“The character and qualifications of the leader are reflected in the people s/he selects, develops and gathers around her/him. Show me the men/women and I will know their leader.” -Arthur W. Newcomb, writer and businessman
“Anyone can steer the ship when the sea is calm.” -Publilius Syrus, Roman author, 1st century B.C.E.
“The true lawgiver ought to have a heart full of sensibility. He ought to love and respect his kind, and to fear himself.” –Edmund Burke, Irish statesman, 18th century
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” –President John Quincy Adams
“If you say something outside the consensus, you create enemies. The less you say, the less trouble. That is a basic political truism. But it is not the stuff great leaders are made of.” –Uri Avinery, Israeli political leader, journalist and activist
“You must be headlights and not tail-lights.” –Representative John Lewis, US Congress, Georgia
“Leadership is a passionate activity. It begins with a warm gratitude toward that which you have inherited and a fervent wish to steward it well. It is propelled by an ardent moral imagination, a vision of a good society that can’t be realized in one lifetime. It is informed by seasoned affections, a love of the way certain people concretely are and a desire to give all a chance to live at their highest level. This kind of leader is warm-blooded and leads with full humanity.” –David Brooks, NY Times columnist
“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” –Emanuel James “Jim” Rohen, American entrepreneur, author and speaker
“…American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all of the burden ourselves. Real leadership creates the conditions and coalitions for others to step up as well; to work with allies and partners so that they bear their share of the burden and pay their share of the costs, and to see that the principles of justice and human dignity are upheld by all.” –President Barack Obama