Friday, November 8, 2013

Shabbat-O-Gram for Nov. 8

This Shabbat-O-Gram is sponsored by Claudia Lubin,
in honor of her daughter Bailee becoming Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat

Mazal tov to Bailee and family!  Also, read the divrei Torah from last week’s b’nai  mitzvah: Rebecca Morgenthaler on Rosh Hodesh Kislev and Hudson Price on Toldot.  Last week, honoring the foodiest portion of the Torah (Toldot) and the grand opening of Stamford’s Trader Joes, we conducted hallah taste tests both at our main service and at Tot Shabbat.  Hallot from Beldotti’s, Fairway, Stop and Shop and the new Trader Joe’s were judged for  freshness, density, sweetness, egginess, softness, symmetric appearance, artistry of the braiding, size, shininess, crunchiness of crust, and last but not least, French-toastability.  The winner from Tot Shabbat was Fairway and at the main service... (drumroll) Trader Joe’s!  

This Shabbat morning we’ll be hearing from an eyewitness to Kristallnacht, Walter Wertheim, father of TBE’s Fran Ginsburg.  And don't forget next week's scholar in residence, Dr. Jeremy Benstein from Tel Aviv's heschel Center, speaking on "Sustainability as a Jewish Issue."  See the full schedule at the bottom of this O-Gram.


Come to an informational meeting on Sunday, Dec, 15, from noon to one.  Check out our interactive itinerary and other information.  Please RSVP to me at to RSVP or if you have any questions. Things are shaping up for us to have a very nice, diverse group.


For those unable to watch my panel conversation on Shalom TV regarding the PEW Report,  you can watch it online here.   You can also read the survey.


I was honored to be a panelist at the grand plenary roundtable of yesterday’s Interfaith Climate Stewardship Summit in Hartford.  See news coverage of the event, and here alsoTV coverage here.  About 200 people of many faith backgrounds exchanged ideas on how best to address what Thomas Berry has called, “The great work of our times.”  Our solar panel project has attracted lots of interest, not just statewide but nationally, and that became apparent to me yesterday.  As more houses of worship (and others) follow our lead, the impact of our mitzvah to save the earth increases exponentially.  But there is so much more urgent work to do, in order to preserve what was called aptly “the integrity of Creation.”  For in fact we are undoing Creation right now, something unprecedented in human history.  Just this week, the World Meteorological Organizationrevealed that greenhouse gasses have reached record levels.  The most recent revelation is the oceans are more acidic now than at any time over the past 300 million years, a trend that could lead to a mass extinction of key species.

For the latest on this urgent topic of climate change, see these downloadable fact sheets. If you are interested in seeing just how much the consensus has grown regarding the urgency of addressing climate change, see the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication.  You can also download the Skeptical Science app  to convince those holdouts on the fringes that this is not a political issue any more, but an urgent call based on scientific consensus. It is also a moral issue.  We have reached what one speaker called “the climate change endgame.”  The rest of the world is waiting for us to wake up - even China is now recognizing the folly of its ways and the damage that they've done to their surroundings.  



On the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Women of the Wall, this supplement was distributed in newspapers across Israel today. It is part of a special effort the New Israel Fund is making to broaden the debate about women's rights and religious pluralism. Too much of the discussion in Israel is dominated by extremists. Their response is to demonstrate the depth of support for the notion that women should be full partners in modern Jewish life.


On this eve of the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht, The New York Times reports a surge in anti-Semitism in Europe. That may be true, but a city in Europe stands out as perhaps the one most hospitable to Jews, and it is, irony of ironies, Berlin.

The renaissance of Jewish life in Berlin has become one of the most astounding stories of the post Holocaust generation.   No one could have imagined that just seventy five years after Kristallnacht marked the beginning of the last chapter for German Jewry, a new chapter would yet be written.  It would have been unfathomable even a few years ago that Berlin would become the European city most welcoming to Jews and a magnet for Jewish tourism and immigration.  On Kristallnacht weekend in Berlin this year, there will be lots of glass clinking at bars, but the only conceivable glass breaking involving Jews would have to come under a huppah. 
The ultimate irony is the plethora of Israeli immigrants, who have left a state designed to protect them from the very evil that was propagated by those living in their new home town. The Israeli presence can be felt at nightclubs, artistic venues and schools according to a 2011 JTA article. “You just hear Hebrew really often today, and it would have been really exotic five years ago,” said Nirit Bialer, who works on youth exchange programs between Germany and Israel.

This subject was discussed in a recent edition of “The Promised Podcast,”  one of my favorite sources for provocative Israel-related banter.  I can understand why this ex-flux of Israelis to Berlin would be disturbing. But I believe that the Jewish renaissance there should be seen as the ultimate poke in the eye to the Nazis, not as a stiff challenge to Zionism.  After all, the fact of Israeli emigration is nothing new, and while it annoys many, it does not reduce by one iota the legitimacy and importance of there being a Jewish state.  One could argue that Jews would not be able to move back to Berlin, or other former graveyards like Warsaw and Cracow, were it not for the continued existence of a Jewish state that “has their back.”  Israel bolsters our confidence and pride no matter where Jews live, be it in the shadow of the Reichstag or of the Freedom Tower. 

Columnist Jeffrey Goldberg recently told an audience at TBE a moving tale of how he took his son to Berlin and together they worked on his bar mitzvah speech in, of all places, the house of the Wannsee Conference, the very spot where the Final Solution was drawn up.  That is the ultimate thumb in Hitler’s eye, much like the annual March of the Living, where Jewish teens whoop it up in the shadows of the gas chambers.  Imagine an Olympic village at Ground Zero in Manhattan.  Some may consider it distasteful for teens to be trading pins and phone numbers as on Spring Break, right there where Mengele pointed to the right or the left.  I found it exhilarating.

The continued shifting of Jewish population centers is hardly a new phenomenon.   What’s new is that most Jews are not fleeing anti-Semitism, but moving about this shrinking world freely, looking for economic opportunity and personal adventure.  Thanks to the wisdom of the ancient rabbis, the Judaism they bring with them is eminently portable and adaptable.  Since there are few places on earth where Jews have not been persecuted, to rule out settling in places marked by prior Jewish victimization would be to rule out most of the populated planet - and most of Israel too. 

The return to the land of Israel was the ultimate vindication of Jewish destiny.  We no longer wail at the Kotel, but the dismantled stones of the temple, tossed from the building by Roman soldiers, still litter the street.   The same imperative that drove Israelis back to the Etzion bloc after the Six Day War is what drives Jewish life back to the streets of Poland and Germany.  And just as the blood of 240 massacred Jews crying from the Etzion earth would not allow any Israeli government to declare Efrat “Judenrein” in any final status agreement (though compromises will need to be made elsewhere), neither should the Final Solution have the final say on the fate of Jews in Berlin. 

Ezekiel’s dry bones are metaphor that doesn't just presage the return to Zion, it envisions a national return to life - and that return can take place anywhere Jews have died simply because they were Jews.  Everything we do reinforces that message.  When a loved one dies, the first thing we do after leaving the cemetery is go home and eat.  Eating is the ultimate reaffirmation of life in the face of death. So is clinking glasses at a Berlin bar.

The return to Berlin is not a negation of Zionism; it is an affirmation of the Jewish revival that Zionism has engendered.  It is the ultimate celebration of the Jewish spirit that simply refuses to die.  Anywhere.

Shabbat Shalom!

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