It is times like these, like the days after the terrible hostage crisis at Congregation Beth Israel, our nearest neighbor shul, a community with which we have many ties, that I think to myself (and I’m sure many of you do, also), what would Charles Bronson do? Charles Bronson was probably my favorite tough-guy actor while I was growing up. I know much of my generation was still in the thrall of John Wayne, but for me, Bronson was far more watchable. For one thing, he was a more plausible everyman hero. He could convey vulnerability as well as toughness. … Read more
Originally Posted in Rabbi’s Words on January 5, 2020. Thursday I pulled into the CKA driveway for the first time since returning from our splendid and inspiring congregational trip to Israel. I came bearing joy, having witnessed the continuing growth and prosperity of our fellow Jews in our homeland, Eretz Yisrael, but also facing the darkness of what has happened here, in our home, while we were gone. Two events cast a shadow over the light of the holiday: a series of violence occurring and reoccurring throughout Hannukah directed at Jewish traditional communities of New York, culminating in the brutal … Read more
It was some time back, perhaps on my last trip to Israel, that I first saw a rainbow pattern kippah (Jewish ritual skullcap). I don’t know if it was meant to be a “Pride” kippah, but that’s how I interpreted it, and I bought it. My brother is gay. I performed his wedding to an Israeli man (a doctor! Sigh of Jewish pride). So, when Pride Month rolled around this year, given the amount of push back people in the LGBTQ community have endured in the last couple of years, I felt like I had to represent. I could have pulled out my … Read more
I was floored. Not by the news that over 500 children in Brooklyn had developed measles. I have seen the anti-vaccine movement gain steam over the past two decades. No, I was floored that most of these children were Hasidic Jews, an insular branch of Jewish ultra-Orthodoxy. Why should that surprise? It surprised me because, while I am not an Orthodox rabbi, I am fairly conversant in Jewish medical law (Halacha) as expounded and practiced in Orthodox circles, and I know that their religious authorities are ferociously pro-medicine. The great scholars uniformly say, in the name of biblical law and … Read more
Following the path blazed by Rabbi Jonah Pesner of the RAC, and by Rabbi David Stern, President of the CCAR, I journeyed from Dallas to McAllen to see, to learn, and to protest the morally offensive and deeply destructive policy of separating immigrant children.
Our holiday of Sukkot – part harvest festival, part historical reenactment – is the holiday of insecure dreams. We are commanded to build a shelter for ourselves, but only the most flimsy, temporary shelter, to remind us of our own fragility, the transitory nature of life, and what it was like to be refugees from Egypt, with only the good will of a great power to sustain us. But then we are commanded to dwell in it. We are to welcome guests: our neighbors, the poor, and even our wandering ancestors, to be with us. And then, ideally, we sleep … Read more
So today I thought I’d talk about the concept of the klutz kasheh. This is a Yiddish term which literally mean a ‘klutzy question,’ or a ‘silly conundrum.’ The great Jewish tradition of grappling with silly difficulties goes back to the Talmud, where the Sages liked to pose unlikely, seemingly ridiculous problems to each other. A classic is one where someone poses the question, “A person with two heads, does he put tefillin on one head, or both?” A favorite from medieval Jewish tradition was the question of whether, being short a tenth person, could a golem be counted in … Read more
Did you hear the one about the fellow who stayed up all night wondering where the sun went? It finally dawned on him. The sun. It’s easy to take it for granted, even to resent it, living in Texas. But of course it’s a start point for everything on this planet that interests us. Without the sun constantly bombarding the surface of our planet with energy, life on earth would not have been able to defy the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics and evolve into the magnificent diversity we see and know today. Think of the things you don’t take for … Read more
I have this theory. It goes something like this: You can gauge the way people feel about God by the way they feel about inclement weather. As for me, I appreciate storms. Windy days invigorate me, and volatile weather — lightning storms, torrential rains, blizzards — enthrall me. Even though they make me uncomfortable or frighten me, I am moved by the display of power; storms remind me of my relatively humble place in the cosmos. Others, I know, dislike violent weather. They have a marked preference for moderate, serene, and placid climates. A few people I know go even … Read more
A Christian vandal? Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Yet Congregation Kol Ami has had to deal with just that. In response to the ongoing crisis in New Orleans and Alabama, like churches and synagogues around the nations, CKA went into tzedakah (“charity”) hyper-drive. As part of that, we posted a new message on our roadside marquee board in front of the synagogue: CHARITY SAVES FROM DEATH – PROVERBS TZEDAKAH HELP ALA MISS LA. Past postings on our board have included such zingers as UNDER THE SAME MANAGEMENT FOR 3500 YEARS and HAPPY CHALLAH DAYS, so I thought what could be more … Read more
August 28 - Welcome to the Synagogue September 18 - Sound the Shofar! October 23 - Learn the Blessings November 13 - Shabbat Shalom! December 11 - Spin the Dreidel! January 8 - Song and Dance February 5 - The Jewish Table March 5 - Haman, Boo! April 2 - All About Israel May 21 - Jewish Families Around the World!