In the wake of Newtown, it feels like a tipping point has been reached on the issue of gun violence. I've been invited to participate in a select national gathering of clergy in Washington DC on January 28-29 to discuss, "Healing the Soul of America from Gun Violence." We'll be speaking with Administration and Congressional officials abouthow religious groups can help to facilitate this national dialogue. I look forward to reporting back to you on it. See more on the effort to curb gun violence at the bottom of this O-Gram.
What better time to discuss this subject than MLK weekend, when we celebrate the life - and reflect upon the violent death - of this great leader.
See this Prayer for MLK Day. Also, see the articles, Jews in the Civil Rights Movementand Jews and Blacks Entangled.
How fitting that the Inauguration coincide with Dr. King's birthday. It came close to that four years ago (in a much more historic moment). At the time I reflected on that historic juxtoposition. As I wrote in the Jewish Week that week, for Jews, racism should now be officially over.
"Look not at the flask," we learn in tractate Avot, "but at what is within it." Long before Gutenberg, Jews were teaching their children not to judge a book by its cover. But while our sages dared to hope for an end to worldwide prejudice and our liturgy resounds with the desire for Oneness, after services we retreat to psychological ghettos of similitude. We cry for unity but settle for uniformity. It is understandable to want to live among like-minded neighbors who can reinforce our deepest values. But somewhere along the line, we convinced ourselves that like-minded people have to look alike too.
Fortunately, the Internet generation has grown up in a much smaller world, where those barriers have begun to dissolve.... That old joke, "Funny, he doesn't look Jewish," isn't so funny anymore. With the proliferation of conversion, adoption, donor eggs and surrogate motherhood, too many Jews simply don't. Interracial Jewish couples are becoming more common both here and in Israel, where, while Ethiopian Jews still face challenges, the assimilation of Ashkenazim and Sephardim is nearly complete. Increasingly, we've become fascinated by exotic Jewish communities like the Abayudaya of Uganda, Cochin and Bene Israel of India, the Igbo of Nigeria and the Ethiopians.
...The Jewish family tree is more colorful even than Barack Obama's. He may hail from Kenya and Kansas, but we come from Babylonia and Beverly Hills, Yemen and Ypsilanti, Toledo and, uh, Toledo, and in my case, Brooklyn and Brookline. Now that we live in a country where Deborah the judge and her sidekick Barak could each legitimately aspire to be President, we should pick up that flask and take a good, long drink.
On MLK Weekend, nothing could taste sweeter.
Also, a reminder that morning minyan is at the special federal holiday tie of 9 AM on Monday. And from the archives: We used to do congregational Shabbatons on MLK Weekend. Here are some photo albums: 2001, 2002 and 2003.
Bee Season at T-Bee-E
With Tu B'Shevat coming next week, I thought it would be a nice idea to direct our thoughts to nature a little early. On Shabbat morning, TBE's Beth Boyer will be discussing her fascinating hobby of beekeeping.
This week we read the portion Bo, which includes some of the ten plagues. Note that none of the plagues involves bees, though flying insects definitely get their due. But in Jewish tradition, the bee has been less a foe than friend. According to legend, King Solomon befriended a bee (it's a great children's story) and the heroine of next week's Haftarah, one of the great women in all of Jewish history is someone whose very name MEANS bee (Deborah). When the Torah calls Israel, "The Land of Milk and Honey," what does that mean? Honey is something we eat for Rosh Hashonah, so what connection does honey have to Tu B'shevat? Come learn the answers and hear why honeybees are really gentle creatures, and why we can't live without them.
Bees, like Jews, tend to be the canary in the mine shaft. When people attack Jews, they eventually attack others. And bees tend to be sensitive to environmental shifts long before we notice them. Find out more this Shabbat morning. Service begins at 9:30, presentation around 11.
Oh yes, and Beth is bringing a hive with her (Bees not included, though).
Also this Shabbat, we will send off Elana Leichter, a 12 grader at Solomon Schechter High School in Westchester, who will be traveling with her class to Poland and Israel for the next two months.
Israeli Elections, and Beyond
The US inaugurates on Monday, and Israel votes on Tuesday. All signs point to a new government that will veer rightward, though the final polls show a narrowing race, and Prime Minister Netanyahu has really no competition to take his place. Hovering above it all is the specter of newly elected and emboldened leaders of both countries who simply do not trust each other. See "An Obama-Netanyahu Primer" and Jeffrey Goldberg's report on what Barack Obama had to say about Bibi - perhaps a tit-for-tat interjection into the Israeli election campaign, after Netanyahu's perceived buddying up to Mitt Romney.
However the Israeli election turns out, you'll get first hand analysis here next weekend from our scholar in residence Gershom Gorenberg. On Friday night his topic will be, "How it Broke, How to Fix it: The Crisis of Israeli Democracy," and on Shabbat morning, "Isdael and the Diaspora: A New Relation for a New Generation." Don't miss it!
The Coolest Temple Rock Ever
Have you made reservations yet for Temple Rock Café on Feb.2nd? I've heard on excellent authority that the entertainer, Dave Binder, is a favorite among students at a certain Ivy League university in providence, R.I., appearing at Spring Weekend every year. How's that for an endorsement! Just check out his schedule! Read more about him here and by all means, make reservations here.March for Change: Feb. 14
We had a marvelous briefing session on gun violence and effecting change here last Sunday evening, targeted (pardon the expression) to teens and parents and coordinated by Rabbi Dardashti and Rob Lesser. A new congregant active in this cause sent me the following update as we begin recruitment efforts to send a large TBE delegation to the March for Change to take place in Hartford on Feb. 14:
In the days following the shootings at Newtown, a group of women from across Fairfield County, came together out of a strong desire to do something to promote change, so that this tragedy did not happen in vain. The women, mothers of babies, preschoolers, and/ or school-age children, all expressed the same sentiment: "Enough senseless violence in our community!" The asked the same question: "What can WE do to help spread this message?"
This group has evolved into a non-partisan grassroots movement advocating for sensible changes to help prevent gun violence, called The E.N.O.U.G.H. Campaign. I am proud to be part of this growing movement and support like-minded movements addressing this issue with sensible solutions. We believe in Empowering the Non-violent Opposition to Unnecessary Guns in Homes. We are encouraging others concerned about gun violence to feel more comfortable discussing the relevant issues, as there can me much reluctance to discuss "touchy" subjects. Additionally, we are providing support to those who want to express their concerns to lawmakers. Because, right now, law makers ARE listening, and it is indeed possible to make a difference. As many who know the political landscape well say, the power to change will come from the public, when they say that they have had enough.
We are encouraging the public to have a voice. In addition to emailing, calling, or visiting lawmakers, one thing that everyone can do (of any age) is to come to Hartford on Feb 14th, the two month anniversary of the Newtown tragedy, to participate in the March for Change. There will be buses running from all over CT, but you must register well in advance. Information about the march is: http://www.marchforchange.org/ and busing information is at: http://www.ctmomsonline.com/marchforchange/
For more information on The ENOUGH Campaign, please visit:
www.theENOUGHcampaign.com (website to be updated very soon) and visit us on Facebook (please "like" our page if you do).
Finally, I would like to sincerely thank the clergy at Temple Beth El for providing me the opportunity to talk about this important work, and for their commitment to helping our community and our world be the safest place we can make it.
Marni A., member Temple Beth El
Have a peaceful Shabbat, a great holiday wekeend - and GO PATS!