Posts

The New Idolatry

I want to tell  you a story about a long-time friend of my parents.  I will refer to him as Joe.  They have known each other for many decades.  Practically grew up together.  He’s in his eighties now.  He has survived lots of health crises, including many years of respiratory problems, Type 2 Diabetes, and triple bypass surgery.  Several years ago, my family was visiting with his family.  We had a wonderful time all together.  We ate  out at different restaurants a few times. And Joe loved a good meal.  Time and again, he ordered truly, decadent meals:  grilled cheese done to perfection for lunch. Deep fried chicken for dinner.  Lasagna another night.  For breakfast he ordered gooey cinnamon buns heaping with cream-cheese icing.  And when he got the most amazing donuts for us all, and then ate half the box, followed later by cheese fries, I finally felt the need to say something to good old Joe.

“Hey, Joe,” I said.  “I really hope I’m not out of line here, but you know all these wonder…

Seeking the Good

I remember when I first started working at Adas Israel.  I can’t begin to describe the honor it was to be offered this job; what a joy and a thrill it was to come to work as the new Senior Rabbi of Adas Israel Congregation, one of the great flagship synagogues of American Judaism!  The spiritual home of world leaders, thinkers, and influencers doing extraordinary things for this country and for the world.   
My first year here was a dizzying array of Adas in Your Neighborhood receptions, meetings with leaders and minyanim and parents and countless interest groups.  I recall realizing very early on that to be the rabbi of a synagogue like this is also to be part politician.  I began to joke that at times, I felt like the mayor of a small city!  
I distinctly remember concluding a meeting one morning, maybe a week into the job--the fifth of the day and it wasn’t even noon yet--and each meeting was more fraught and high stakes with synagogue and staff politics than the last.  I looked at m…

The Deadliest Poison: When Anti-Semitism Infects Liberalism

This past summer, the national Black Lives Matter movement released an official platform outlining several of its policy proposals in its efforts to end the war on black people in this country.  Among its proposals, it used the platform as an opportunity to attack Israel, calling it an “apartheid state.” The platform also stated “The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people.”  Last January, at the annual National Gay and Lesbian Creating Change Conference in Chicago, a pro-Israel reception was initially shut down by the conference organizers, bowing to pressure from anti-Israel groups.  When the reception eventually got the green light, their event was stormed by an angry mob trying to shut down the Jewish and Israeli event following their Friday night Kabbalat Shabbat services.  Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum, the rabbi of the LGBT congregation Beit Simchat Torah in NY, and an …

Seeing but Not Seeing: Our Implicit Ignorance

This past summer, I got a call from Judy Heumann.  If you don't know Judy, you should.   Judy is an Adas member, and an internationally renowned disabilities rights activist who has changed the face of disabilities rights in this country and beyond through her work with the World Bank, the State Department, and other organizations.  Judy heard some of my teachings on Judaism’s call to lift up the cause of the disabled.  She heard me teach about the central Jewish value of empathy and compassion as essential ingredients of justice for all those who have been marginalized in our community.   When she called, I expected it to be a call with her thanking me for raising awareness of these issues.  But her call wasn’t what I expected.  She was appreciative of my efforts, of course.  But she had a request of me: she wanted me to sit in a room full of people with disabilities, and just listen to them and their stories. Sure, I said.  But I didn’t really grasp why this meeting was impo…