Sim Shalom Announces Daniela Taitel and Heidi Raker Have Joined Its Board of Directors
(PRWeb August 04, 2015)
Read the full story at http://www.prweb.com/releases/2015/07/prweb12847460.htm
By Rabbi Fred Guttman
Adapted from a speech given on September 3, 2015 at a rally for voting rights in Raleigh, NC.
At this time of the year, Jewish people throughout the world hear the sounds of the rams horn or what we call the shofar. In ancient times, the shofar was used to announce the coming of the Sabbath and the beginning of a new lunar month. It was also used by guards on city walls to announce that the city was under attack.
The most famous story in the Bible of a ram’s horn or a shofar occurs in the battle of Jericho wherein, on the seventh day, they marched around seven times and then blew the shofar. According to the text, the walls came tumbling down.
At this time of the year, Jews hear the sounds of the shofar to encourage us to examine our deeds and to work on our relationships to ourselves, to others and to God.
Today, however, the verse that I think is most important concerning the usage of this wonderfully ancient instrument in Jewish tradition is the one from Leviticus 25
9 Then have the trumpet sounded everywhere on the tenth day of the seventh month; on the Day of Atonement sound the trumpet throughout your land. 10 Consecrate the fiftieth year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants.
These immortal words, “Proclaim liberty throughout the land” are written on the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia.
First the Shofar was sounded, and then liberty and freedom were proclaimed!
So fifty years after Selma, we are sounding the shofar to call for liberty throughout our land. We are sounding the shofar to call for a permanent fix to the Voting Rights Act and to make sure that states such as Alabama Georgia and North Carolina are covered by the Voting rights Act.
Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King and people of all faiths marched across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma Alabama demanding voting rights for all Americans. One of those who marched with him was Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. When he came home from Selma in 1965, Rabbi Heschel wrote: “For many of us the march from Selma to Montgomery was about protest and prayer. Legs are not lips and walking is not kneeling. And yet our legs uttered songs. Even without words, our march was worship. I felt my legs were praying.”
Today our legs have been praying in this state, a state which plagued by the most extreme anti-voting rights act in the nation. Today, we are here to proclaim at this time, North Carolina is our Selma.
Fifty years ago in Selma, we march because we were in pursuit of justice. Fifty years later in Raleigh North Carolina we march because we are in pursuit of justice, and we will be in pursuit of justice until liberty is proclaimed throughout the land!
Yes today, we are sounding the Rams Horn. We are sounding the shofar for liberty. Our legs have marched and prayed from Selma Alabama to this place, and we will continue to march to the gateways of power in Washington DC.
And there we will proclaim liberty, and we will do so because we believe that every single one of us counts. We will proclaim liberty because we believe that every single one of us is created in God’s image. We will do so because it does not matter if one is tall or short, whether one has lots of hair or, like me, is follically challenged and wears a yarmulke to cover a bald spot.
We will do so because when it comes to voting rights, it does not matter if one is Atheist, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu or Jew.
We will do so because when it comes to voting rights, it does not matter if one is straight or gay or black or white or whether one is rich or poor, an elderly person or a student.
We will proclaim liberty in this land because we believe that every person, being created in God’s image, counts. We will proclaim liberty because we acknowledge that every single person who is a citizen of the United States of America deserves to be able to vote and to have their vote count.
Turn to your neighbor now and say the following.
“Neighbor — We call upon the Congress and the President — Fix the Voting Rights Act -– Now!”
“Proclaiming liberty throughout the land! – SOUND THE SHOFAR”
Image courtesy of NAACP NC.
Dr. Devi Prasad Shetty, a heart surgeon in India, runs a network of for-profit hospitals that perform world-class operations at a small fraction of what they would cost in the U.S. He is driven by his belief that even the most sophisticated surgery should be available to the world’s poorest people, and he says that “if a solution is not affordable, it is not a solution. It’s pointless if we talk about huge developments in cardiac surgery or a brain operation or complex cancer surgery if [the] common man cannot afford it.”
As congregational leaders, you may find that the month of Elul and the High Holidays fly by in a whirl of logistical details – arranging for tickets, ensuring enough chairs, assigning aliyot, planning the community’s break-the-fast – necessary to ensure meaningful worship for members and visitors alike. That is indeed holy work.
In your role, it is all too easy to get caught up in the “to-do mode.” Often, we fail to devote adequate time and attention to cheshbon ha’nefesh (accounting of the soul) – the act of taking stock of the spiritual health of both ourselves as individuals and our congregations.
Adult education sessions, board discussions, and/or Selichot programming and worship are among the varied ways you and your fellow lay and professional leaders can perform this communal stock-taking. These practices can help to identify community-wide qualities to celebrate, as well as challenges for which the congregation might wish to explore improvements or solutions to implement in the coming year.
But we must not forget to take care of ourselves spiritually, too, just as we do physically. Undertaking the sacred endeavor to bring yourself to a place of personal spiritual readiness for the High Holidays, as well as to continue that assessment throughout the Days of Awe, is a demanding and equally important task, especially as a congregational leader.
Marge Piercy writes eloquently about cheshbon ha’ nefesh in her poem “Coming up on September,” which says, in part:
The New Year is a great door
that stands across the evening and Yom
Kippur is the second door. Between them
are song and silence, stone and clay pot
to be filled from within myself.
I will find there both ripeness and rot,
what I have done and undone,
what I must let go with the waning days
and what I must take in. With the last
tomatoes, we harvest the fruit of our lives.
Just as ripe tomatoes are associated with late summer, pomegranates – rich in Jewish symbolism – often are linked to Rosh HaShanah, and incorporated into families’ holiday celebrations, particularly among the Sephardim. Images of pomegranates adorned the high priests’ robes in Temple times, as well as columns in King Solomon’s temple. In addition, the Hebrew word for pomegranate is rimon, which is the same as for the crowns that decorate many Torah scrolls, which contain our people’s story and guide our actions throughout the year. Today, the fruit’s many seeds are a sign of our hopes for abundant blessings and mitzvot in our midst during the new year.
As you continue to prepare your congregations and yourselves for the High Holiday season, may you take to heart the words of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook – “The old shall be renewed and the new shall be made holy” – finding meaning, fulfillment, renewal, and holiness in each of the important endeavors associated with the High Holiday season.
Having a pomegranate on our Rosh HaShanah tables might be something brand new for some of us, signaling that our spiritual growth can arise from both ancient and contemporary sources. Inspired by Rav Kook’s teaching will we be ready to consecrate new liturgical practices, new machzorim (High Holiday prayer books), new clergy and new congregational experiments – while at the very same moment finding new meaning in the familiar practices that might otherwise be performed by rote?
Just as the pomegranate overflows with seeds, may 5776, too, find you, your loved ones, and your congregational family overflowing with blessings, mitzvot, and the joys of Jewish living.
Shanah tovah um’tukah!
Today’s congregations face a wide range of changing demographics. Many communities are experiencing a geographic shift, as older adults age in place, families move into new suburban areas, and younger Jews flock to revitalized downtown areas.
As a result, members of local Jewish communities are often in completely disparate locations, providing synagogues with both an opportunity and a challenge: With limited resources spread in more directions than ever, how can congregations experiment with new models of engagement to draw in their target audiences?
Three Reform congregations received URJ Belin Awards or honorable mentions for the ways they’re “meeting people where they are” – creatively adapting their engagement strategies in response to local community needs, thereby enabling their congregations to successfully meet and engage people where they live and work.
- Targeting young adults in urban areas: Congregation Sinai in Milwaukee, WI, recognized that in their Jewish community, as in so many others, young adults are increasingly moving into downtown areas, geographically removed from suburban synagogues. Through a new initiative, Sinai in the City, the congregation hosts Shabbat and holiday events in various downtown venues, providing a welcoming, low-barrier Jewish experience for city-dwelling young adults under age 40.
- Engaging families with young children: North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, IL, created Strollers, Stories, and Celebrations after learning that a critical time to connect families with Jewish networks and organizations is when children are under the age of 2. Seeking to engage both affiliated and unaffiliated families – including grandparents – the congregation began organizing monthly gatherings, both in the synagogue and in other venues families naturally visit, such as a local bookstore. This initiative offers opportunities for families to explore Jewish life through programs around Shabbat and holidays, form friendships with others, and continue learning through books or music they bring home from the event.
- Taking on suburban sprawl: Congregation Har HaShem in Boulder, CO, developed Neighborhood Groups to help congregants feel connected within their sprawling congregational community. By training “neighborhood captains” who plan events that bring members together in their local area for shared activities – a Shabbat dinner, a sukkah party, hamantaschen baking, a weekend picnic in a local park, or a social action initiative – the congregation fosters small-group friendships and connections within the large congregational family. Building on these gatherings, the neighborhood groups also come together to support one another in times of both sadness and celebration.
By creatively meeting and engaging people where they are, congregations can foster relationships and connections among people that not only bring meaning to their lives, but also transform the individuals and the community as a whole.
The URJ’s Belin Outreach and Membership Awards – funded through the generosity of David Belin, z”l – are presented to up to 16 congregations for initiatives that demonstrate the concept of audacious hospitality by actively welcoming and integrating those new to Judaism, creating relationship-based engagement models, or engaging and retaining members with innovative practices. This post is one in a series highlighting Belin Award-winning programs and the principles that guided their development.
To learn more about audacious hospitality strategies and tools, attend the Union for Reform Judaism’s Biennial 2015, from November 4-8 in Orlando, FL. With 5,000 attendees from around the world, the Biennial is the largest Jewish gathering in North America. Learn more and register at urj.org/biennial.