My Shabbat Message for Shabbat June 15, 2018

Dear Friends,

As you are likely aware, Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently employed a Biblical text to justify the Administration’s “zero tolerance” approach to immigration and the resulting policy of separating children from their parents. He stated,

“I would cite you to the Apostle Paul and his clear and wise command in Romans 13 to obey the laws of the government because God has ordained the government for his purposes.”

When asked about this, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders doubled down stating that it is “Biblical to enforce the law.”

Many religious leaders and organizations have pushed back and taken issue not only with the current policy that results in family separations but also with the recent decision to restrict the application of “asylum” and the use of religious text to justify such policies.

For example, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops stated,

“Families are

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My Shabbat Message for January 26, 2018

Dear Friends,

One of the Books I have been reading while on sabbatical is Nine Essential Things I Have Learned About Life by Rabbi Harold Kushner. In the first chapter he explores his theology and the ways in which his belief in God has changed in the years since he was ordained. Toward the end of that chapter he writes:

God’s role is not to make our lives easier, to make the hard things go away, or to do them for us. God’s role is to give us the vision to know what we need to do, to bless us with the qualities of soul that we will need in order to do them ourselves, no matter how hard they may be, and to accompany us on that journey.

As I read this powerful statement, I was reminded of a news article I had read just a few days before. …

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My Last Shabbat Message of 2017

Dear Friends,

As 2017 comes to a close I have been thinking about what I might say in this, the last Shabbat message of the year. After all, it has been a year in which we have found ourselves “living in interesting times.”

Then I came upon a tweet from Rabbi David Wolpe that made clear what I wanted to share today. (Yes, my final Shabbat Message of 2017 is based on a Tweet!) Rabbi Wolpe wrote:

“I was going to delete a tasteless tweet of mine but then I found the superior solution of not writing it.”

Rabbi Wolpe reminded me of a teaching found in Martin Buber’s wonderful book, Tales of the Hasidim. It states:

Rabbi Avraham once told his disciples that they [and we] can learn something from everything.

“Everything can teach us something,” he taught, “and not only everything God has created. Everything we humans have

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My Rosh Hashanah Sermon

This is the 26th time I have stood on this Bimah as we welcomed the New Year together and I can honestly say that the process of trying to figure out what to say to you has never been more difficult.

I thought about giving the type of sermon that would encourage you to leave here ready to take on the issues we are currently facing. But I know we do not all agree on what the issues are nor how to go about fixing them.

I considered ignoring everything going on in our nation and giving a sermon that would have you walk out of this service feeling hopeful and inspired. But the challenges facing our country and the world are so serious that they are impossible to ignore.

These are challenging times in both our nation and our synagogues. The divisions are great. The rhetoric is harsh. And …

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Here’s How SOMA Can Help Those Affected by Hurricane Harvey

This article from The Village Green by TSTI member Donny Levit offers some great suggestions for how we can all help in response to the ongoing crisis in Texas.

The effects of Hurricane Harvey continue to take a catastrophic toll on the Texas community as the slow-moving storm dumps what forecasters estimate to be a mind-numbing 50 inches of rain over an area populated by millions.

“This is going to cost a great deal, in so many different levels,” Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner said at a press conference on Monday. “The emotional cost this storm is having is hard to measure.”

And while the stories of displaced storm victims can surely be overwhelming, local residents know that the road to recovery will need the support of those far away from the affected regions.

“During Superstorm Sandy, people from throughout this great country and around the world showed us incredible kindness, …

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Last Night’s Vigil in Maplewood

Dear Friends,

Like many of you, I watched in horror as members of the Alt-Right (Nazis, White Supremicists, KKK) marched in Charlottesville. I was shocked to hear that a terrorists rammed his car into a group of counter-demonstrators killing one of them and injuring numerous others. I was equally shocked to see footage of domestic terrorists beating a man simply because of his race. And I was saddened when our President finally spoke out but neglected to denounce, by name, the emboldened perpetrators of hate.

In response, TSTI member Marian Raab organized a demonstration in Maplewood last night. There was little more than a day to put the rally together yet hundreds of people turned out for it. I, along with my colleague Pastor Valencia Norman, was invited to speak. Here is what I said last night:

Ellie Wiesel, Professor, Political activist, nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor taught,

We must

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My Shabbat Message for August 4th, 2017

Dear Friends, 

Last night I had the privilege of speaking during the special "South Orange Transgender Flag Raising." While specifically in response to the announcement last week that transgender persons will no longer be permitted to serve in the US Military in any capacity, the event was also an opportunity to see and celebrate the incredible diversity in our two towns. 

Here is what I shared last night: 

I am honored to be here this evening representing the South Orange-Maplewood Clergy Association. Now, more than ever, it is important for us to stand together and make our voices heard. 

We are here this evening to state unequivocally that we, the residents of South Orange and Maplewood, reject the politics of exclusion. We denounce the hateful rhetoric coming from too many in our nation. And we will not tolerate anyone using our nation's laws to undermine the advances we have made

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Reform Movement Assails Policy Banning Transgender People from Serving in U.S. Military

This is yet another reason I am proud to serve as a rabbi in the Reform Movement…

July 26, 2017

WASHINGTON — In response to President Donald J. Trump’s announcement that transgender people will be banned from serving in the United States military, Barbara Weinstein, Director of the Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism, issued the following statement on behalf of the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, and wider Reform Movement:

We are outraged by the President’s announcement this morning banning transgender servicemembers from the military. Thousands of transgender and gender non-conforming people currently serve in the United States Armed Forces; they are committed to the defense and well-being of our nation. This discriminatory ban is an insult to their service, a rejection of their commitment to our nation, and a step backward in our country’s progress toward full equality for LGBTQ people.
Our Jewish

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Shabbat June 9, 2017

Dear Friends,

Moses did not have it easy. God elected him to redeem the Israelites from Egyptian slavery. After some hesitation Moses accepted the task. He quickly found it far more challenging than expected. Not only did he have to contend with Pharaoh’s recalcitrance but he also found himself trying to create community surrounded by Israelites who, at times, seemed more practiced at complaining than anything else. Even long after they had crossed the Sea of Reeds, the Israelites’ whining continued unabated. Central to their complaints was that the manna God sent from the heavens each day wasn’t satisfying. The situation then went from bad to worse. Moses discovered that not only were the Israelites unhappy, but his brother Aaron and his sister Miriam were speaking against him as well.

Clearly the Israelites were unable to appreciate all they had. They did not understand gratitude. They constantly lost perspective. In …

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My Shabbat Message for April 28, 2017

Dear Friends,

This week’s Shabbat Message is a bit different than most. The reason for this, in part, is that I am not the author of it. More than that, it is because this Shabbat Message is more an invitation than anything else. You see, next Friday, May 5, Shabbat evening services will take place at 7:30pm in the Bass Sanctuary building. We will worship using Mishkan Tefillah, the prayerbook TSTI adopted more than a decade ago. The voices of our Cantors will lead the singing of songs and prayers. But throughout the service we will pause from our prayers and listen to our graduating High School seniors as they share some of their thoughts and insights. You should be there. You really should. Because, when one listens to these amazing young adults, one cannot help but be inspired and feel a deep sense of optimism for the future of …

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