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.
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
Volunteers preparing Christmas Dinner for 1070 people
For the past 33 years, my synagogue, Temple Israel of Hollywood, has served a full Christmas Dinner to the poor and homeless of Hollywood. We distributed this year toys, children’s books, hygiene products, blankets, and sox to more than 1000 people. We began the project in the mid 1980s to relieve our Christian brothers and sisters of the responsibility of helping the people in their neighborhood so they could celebrate their holyday with their communities and families.
The Hollywood United Methodist Church has graciously offered their facility at Highland and Franklin (a block north of the famed Hollywood-Highland Center and Academy Award Theater) these past 28 years. This year Temple Israel co-sponsored this effort not only with the Church but with the ILM (Intellect, Love, and Mercy) Foundation which has roots in Islam. Umar Hakim (the ILM Director) and the Reverend Cathy Cooper Ledesma (HUMC’s Senior Pastor) joined me as “siblings in faith” from the three great monotheistic traditions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
This is the largest interfaith Christmas Dinner in Los Angeles County.
Volunteers served over 100 roasted turkeys with stuffing, mashed potatoes, vegetables, cranberry sauce, and a number of desserts. Retirees, homeless, working families with young children, and other hungry and needy individuals and families came to eat and enjoy their holiday.
Our congregation (Temple Israel of Hollywood) signed a Brit Olam, “a covenant with our world,” via the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center in Washington, D.C. to address the epidemic problem of food insecurity (40 million people in America) who do not know from where and when their next meal is coming. The problem of hunger is particularly acute in the closing days of the month. The number of homeless individuals in Los Angeles (though down 4% this year due to an aggressive effort by Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to house homeless individuals) still hovers around 45,000 people of whom 1/3 are children.
Shelter Partnership provided us with blankets, hygiene products, toys and socks. NBC Universal and Big Sunday provided toys. The Book Foundation provided 250 contemporary books for children. Big Sunday (originally a project of Temple Israel and now its own 501C3 non-profit organization serving the greater Los Angeles area 365 days a year) connected us with a number of non-profit organizations to get the word out to the community that this dinner welcomed everyone.
The chairs of this year’s effort are Temple Israel members Ilyse Pallenberg, Sophie Grossman-Sartain, and Ken Ostrove. They led nearly 300 volunteers for the past few months culminating on Christmas Day.
I was asked by the media at the event why we Jews were doing this. I told them two things; first, there is the dire challenge of hunger that we all have to address actively in projects like this and in advocating public policy efforts in local, state and national government, and second, this co-sponsored dinner is a powerful response to the toxicity and polarization that has infected America in the last several years since President Trump began his presidential campaign of hostility and division pitting one group against another to inspire fear and hate.
Good people, I said, can bridge differences, reach across divisions in class, race, ethnicity, religion, and national origins and reaffirm the oneness of humankind and the principle that we are accountable to and responsible for each other, that walls should be torn down and paths forward together be forged.
That is what we did together yesterday. One interviewer asked me if this was a reflection of the spirit of this season. I responded “yes” but also that this is what we all ought to be doing 365 days a year.
Moses at the Burning Bush – Marc Chagall
Why did God choose Moses to be the most important of prophets and the savior of the Israelites? The Biblical text this week in Sh’mot (Exodus 1:1-6:1) begins to tell the story of this extraordinary leader.
Born of a Hebrew slave-woman, Moses was raised as an Egyptian prince but was at home nowhere. His place was with God.
The Torah tells us that Moses was the most intimate of God’s prophets who communed with the Almighty panim el panim – “face to face” or ‘soul to soul’ (Exodus 33:11). No other prophet is described in such intimate and personal terms in all of Biblical literature. We learn as well that Moses was the most humble human being ever to live (Numbers 12:3).
Moses is our people’s gold standard of a religious, moral, and political leader. In our era the world has benefited from other great figures including Mahatma Gandhi, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dr. Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela. Nevertheless, Moses stands alone.
The prophetic message is old but ever new, and as we ourselves witness cruelty on the southern border of the United States, in Syria, the Congo, and in countless other places, Moses remains our moral standard-bearer.
What follows is my effort, drawing upon Biblical, midrashic and mystic imagery, to evoke Moses’ character and experience as he begins his prophetic mission.
To read my poem – go to my blog at the Times of Israel – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-pure-soul-moses-selection-as-prophet/ .
Daniel Rosove, Program Director at MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger spoke at Temple Israel of Hollywood this past Kabalat Shabbat as part of “Human Rights Shabbat.” The following is edited from his presentation:
My Dad says that “loving the stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 10:18-19) may be the most difficult mitzvah in the Torah. I agree.
Universal humanity, dignity, equality; the right to justice, love, compassion and respect. The golden rule. These are but some of the meanings you can draw from “welcoming the stranger.” Though difficult, it is essential.
It is this moral world view that led me to MAZON, a non-partisan voice on food insecurity working to end hunger and its causes among all Americans and Israelis of all faiths and backgrounds. We do this through government affairs, education and strategic investment and partnerships in the anti-hunger and economic justice sectors.
Food insecurity is defined as not having reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable and nutritious food. Basically, it is being unsure where one’s next meal will come from.
The US Census and Department of Agriculture’s 2017 annual report on food security of America’s 127 million households found the following: 12% or 15 million households experienced food insecurity in 2017 – 40 million people – some 27.5 million adults and 12.5 million children – 12.5% of the population. Think about it. That’s larger than the population of Canada.
58% of eligible families and individuals participate in the US nutrition safety net. These programs range from Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (known as SNAP, formerly as Food Stamps), a special program for women, infants and children (known as WIC), school meals, after school and summer feeding programs, senior feeding programs and more.
Food insecurity affects some populations more than the national average. Households headed by single women with children experience 30% food insecurity. African American-headed households – more than 20%, and Hispanic-headed households 18%. Large regional differences also exist with the majority of the country’s food insecure living in the South, followed by Midwest, Northeast, and West.
With nutrition programs administered on the state level, debates on these issues are guided by a state’s executive and legislative branches, economic prosperity and the strength and vitality of its advocacy and direct service sectors. Unfortunately, these debates have become partisan and ideological. If you are to the right of the political spectrum, you are more hostile to government aid programs and spending. If you are to the left of the political spectrum you are more in favor of government solutions.
On the federal level, the current Congress and the Trump Administration have represented a once in a generation existential threat to the federal safety net. We have seen the public discourse coarsen.
Today – Monday, December 10, the Department of Homeland Security is closing its public comment period on a new rule that would change how non-cash assistance to legal immigrants is calculated, making Medicaid, SNAP, school meals and housing assistance count as “cash assistance.” This would make someone classified as a “Public Charge” or someone deemed too reliant on federal aid, which for legal immigrants could negatively affect their status.
The proposed rule, in effect, uses the feeding of one’s children as a cudgel against the parents. It means whole families won’t have access to SNAP and it may affect 382,000 people a year.
One study shows 1 in 4 children in the US have an immigrant parent. It has been widely reported that a chilling effect has settled within the legal immigrant community in the US with many declining enrollment in critical and available programs.
We should ask ourselves: should access to nutrition be a civil right? Should it be a human right?
Erwin Chemerinsky, the distinguished Dean of the Berkeley Law School, Jesse H. Choper Distinguished Professor of Law and Chair of MAZON’s Legal Advisory Council, asserts that the US Constitution’s “Due process clause…prevents government from depriving a person of life, liberty or property without due process of law.”
He argues that “government inaction in the face of hunger and starvation which results in harm or death can be viewed as a constitutional violation.”
The human right to food was first declared in Article 25 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948: “Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services.”
In the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women, a woman’s right to health includes “adequate nutrition during pregnancy and lactation.”
The 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child declares a government’s obligation to provide healthcare and adequate nutritious food to children. Access to nutrition should be a civil right in the US and access to nutrition a universal human right. Lack of nutrition is one of the largest impediments to personal and national progress. It disproportionately affects women and children. It holds people back from realizing their full potential.
How can we tackle such an immense issue?
First, we must make clear to our elected officials and candidates for office on all levels that this is an issue of great importance to our community and our country. And we must help our elected officials understand that charity cannot do it alone. Food banks and pantries, soup kitchens and canned food drives are essential but not sufficient. It is only a wide ranging, coordinated and well-resourced government response that can help the tens of millions of Americans access the nutrition they need.
We must fight divisive rhetoric blaming the food insecure by writing them off as takers, undeserving or drags on society. In many cases they are blameless – children.
We can direct our philanthropic dollars and time towards organizations that aim to fight the root causes and systemic issues affecting food insecurity that work to strengthen the safety net and engage in the public policy, like MAZON, rather than solely engage with direct service organizations.
You can go online to the “Protecting Immigrant Families Coalition” to submit a comment to the Department of Homeland Security opposing their proposed change to the public charge rule, which would hurt hundreds of thousands of legal immigrant families.
Please do so today, before the close of Monday, December 10.
We must not give up. Each of us cannot close ourselves off to this critical human and civil rights issue. We cannot forget the Ger, the “other,” those in the shadows. We cannot deny them their human dignity.
“The existence of the Chief Rabbinate as an arm of the state violates the core principles of democracy. It is rejected by the overwhelming majority of Israeli Jews. No contemporary democratic Jewish community would submit itself to a monopolistic Orthodox rabbinic authority. Only in today’s Israel, under the pretense of maintaining Israel’s identity as a Jewish state, has the government put a system of religious exclusivity in place. This allows the Chief Rabbinate to impose its will on the religious practices of Jews in Israel and now abroad.
A number of months ago, an alternative model was proposed – one that is unifying, Jewish and democratic in character. “A Vision Statement: Israel as a Jewish and Democratic State” was written by a Reform rabbi and an Orthodox rabbi and signed by rabbis and communal leaders of all denominations and diverse political views. It addresses all the key areas of contention regarding matters of religion and state. It is anchored in love, support and commitment to Israel’s well-being and Jewish peoplehood.”
see JTA article – https://bit.ly/2rpRPBh
This is a Hanukah gift that I recommend. See endorsements below and the more than 20 five star endorsements posted on Amazon.
To purchase the book, go to Amazon.com.
“Why Judaism Matters – Letters of a Liberal Rabbi to His Children and the Millennial Generation” with an Afterword by Daniel and David Rosove 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.
I have addressed this book of letters to millennials specifically, but this volume is also for their parents and grandparents, the younger generation of college-age Jews, high school students, and non-Jewish partners and spouses of Jews who are interested in the possibility of living meaningful and vibrant Jewish lives.
I invite you to purchase this book and multiples of it and share it with those you love.
“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 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, former 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.
“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, creator of the AMC series Mad Men, the current Amazon Prime series The Romanoffs, and was a writer and producer on the HBO drama series The Sopranos. Matthew has earned nine Primetime Emmy Awards.
“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.
“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.
“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.
As we move towards the mid-term elections next week, I think of all the dark moments in our nation’s experience these past months; the Muslim ban, the Charlottesville violence and murder of a young woman, the national abandonment of Puerto Rico after its devastating hurricane, the separation of children at the border from their parents, the fixation on political refugees fleeing for their lives from Honduras and hoping for political asylum based on a well-founded fear of persecution should they return to their home country, the rise in anti-Semitism, the murder of eleven Jews at prayer in a Pittsburgh synagogue by a white anti-Semitic nationalist, the threatened pipe-bombings of many of our nation’s leaders and Democratic activists, the murder of two African Americans by a white nationalist, the relentless dog-whistling to racism and hate, the personal attack on political enemies and the media, and on and on.
And I think of all the lightas well, people from every ethnic, religious, and national background coming together in solidarity to affirm our common humanity.
As much as I worry about the direction of our country and the cowardice of too many political leaders in Washington to speak out morally against all the outrageous statements and actions by the President, I also take heart that so many good people are running for office at every level of city, state and national government and that our nation has an opportunity to make a correction in its path, to renew the checks and balances built into the Constitution, and release the better angels of our national character.
In the Babylonian Talmud (Shabbat 54b) it is written:
“Whoever can stop…the people of his/her city from sinning, but does not…is held responsible for the sins of the people of his/her city. If s/he can stop a whole world from sinning, and does not, he/she is held responsible for the sins of the whole world.”
Rabbi Abraham Heschel expressed the moral spirit of Judaism when he said that “some are guilty; all are responsible.”
We are responsible whether we’ve been critics of this government’s policies or not. That’s why it is so important on Tuesday that every adult American vote. Polls suggest historically that young people do not vote in mid-term elections. If you have a son or a daughter, a grandson or a granddaughter, a niece or nephew, cousin or friend, employee or colleague that is young – please tell them to vote next Tuesday and remind them that recent history has proven that elections can be decided by only dozens of people.
I am hoping for a turnaround election and a resulting statement to the nation and world that America is still America, that the light of morality shines through in our political process!