What Race Are You?

Desert Road.

Desert Road.

What Race do you identify with?
A Marathon!

(Rimshot)

Actually, that isn’t the opening joke in my lounge act, but part of an important recent conversation.

I was asked this question in the Red Cross Blood Drive pre-screening. The inquirer, an African-American, was completing the questionnaire and asked me to identify myself by race. There was a time when I would have responded Caucasian/White. But I uncomfortably paused and then quipped Marathon. We laughed and then we skipped the question. But, I actually do not know how to answer that question anymore.

I am not ashamed of what is now called my “white privilege.” As a Jew in America, the ability to call myself Caucasian/White is on some level a sign that we made it and have gained popular acceptance. But perhaps this acceptance remains elusive. This simple gathering of data for statistical tracking purposes has become a marker of something more complicated and fraught. [Read more…]

Do You Grab Hold of the Torah on Shavuot?

Artistic Styalization of Two Hands Giving and Receiving

Hands Giving and Receiving

At Shavuot, how we receive the gift of Torah is one of the great questions posed. I found a path towards understanding in a passage of the Talmud.

One is really two and two is really four. This is not a set of alternative facts but an insight from the Talmud (BT Shabbat 2a) about the nature of things. Shavuot is the time of the giving of Torah. But in any transaction there are two components, giving and receiving; one is really two. But it doesn’t stop there.

Both giving and receiving are either active or passive. In giving, we can thrust it towards another actively, or we can be passive and open our hands for the other to take it. Similarly, in receiving, we can actively take the gift with eagerness and enthusiasm, or we can open our hands to passively receive the gift that is to be bestowed upon us. Two is really four. [Read more…]

Dayenu – A Call to Action

Dayenu!

Nachshon

Waves symbolizing the waters of the Red Sea.

“It would have been enough for us.”

This is our response to each of the many miracles we enumerate at the Seder table. Thank you, God, for doing each of these great things; if you stopped at any point along the way, that should have been enough to satisfy us.

But our response is incomplete.

[Read more…]

Hate Has no Home in Philadelphia

Philadelphia Mt. Carmel Jewish Cemetery. Photo: 6abc.

Philadelphia Mt. Carmel Jewish Cemetery. Photo: 6abc.

An anti-Semitic desecration of a cemetery has come to Philadelphia. The Mt. Carmel Cemetery in North East Philadelphia was vandalized with over 100 headstones were toppled. This is an empty act of cowardice, hatred, and stupidity. But more important than the acts of these thugs is the outpouring of love and support in our community. People joined at Mt. Carmel to witness the acts and begin the process of restoration. A vigil was held Sunday night in Narberth to express solidarity.

What you can do to demonstrate that “Hate Has no Home Here:”

Please donate what you can to aid in the cemetery restoration.

You can sign up to help clean up the cemetery. There will be a rally at Independence Mall on Thursday, March 2, at 12 pm.

Also, the Daarus Salaam Mosque in Tampa was burned this past Friday. Please make a donation to help the Islamic Society of New Tampa community rebuild.

hhnhh-sign-blue-original-curves-PRINTTogether we stand, a bit shaken but unbowed, committed to the values of love and unity that make our country great. No acts of domestic terrorism or hatred will dampen our commitment to each other and the country we love.

The Fourth Estate is not Mar-a-Lago: The Sacred Duty of the Press

The First Amendment Graphic TheRadmal.com

The First Amendment. Graphic: TheRadmal.com

The Fourth Estate (the Press) is not one of  Trump’s real estate properties. It is time for both sides to get back to work.

The Free Press has a sacred place in the American system of government. The Founders knew the extraordinary responsibility they entrusted to the Press to use their reporting as a supreme check and balance to the power of each branch of Government. The First Amendment of our Bill of Rights guarantees that this voice is exercised to preserve, protect and defend our country from the corruption that power can bring. Whether the Press fulfills this responsibility, or that the work is appreciated, is open to question. [Read more…]

Children Teach Us Something Important on the Basketball Court

I recently went to the Wells Fargo Center to watch some kids play a pickup game of basketball. It was not your typical basketball game, however, but not because the kids were playing on the home court of the Philadelphia 76ers. This was a game involving students from the Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy in Bryn Mawr and the Al Aqsa Islamic Academy in Philadelphia. It was also the bar mitzvah project of Ari Abramovitz, a middle-school student at Barrack. [Read more…]

“We Will Be Okay”: An Open Letter to Fellow Rabbis and Faith Leaders

Will we be okay? What do I tell my kids?

These are two questions that have been asked since the nation elected Donald Trump as president of the United States. The answer to the first question is yes. And we will tell our children the following: On November 8, our country elected Mr. Trump to be our next president. For many of us, he was not the person we wanted, but our nation has spoken in a way that makes this country extraordinary. We voted and we decided. Our process worked. Despite our deep disagreements, we all have a president-elect.

usflagNow it is time to find a way to move forward. We will pray our new president embraces the ideal that he is the president of all people of the United States and that the United States has unique responsibilities because it holds a unique role in the world. Whether we agree with Mr. Trump’s personal or political views, we hope for his success as the leader of our nation. At the same time, we need to embrace our important place to fight for what we believe to be right, especially given the circumstances that brought us to this place.

We have long relied on government intervention to address issues and solve problems. However, for many in America, that did not work. They felt abandoned, if not betrayed, with promises of protection broken, and a system unresponsive to their needs.

And for many others of us, we have been lulled into complacency and a false sense of security. This election is a harsh wake-up call and rouses us to action, not against the government, but aware of governments’ limitations to help the governed. It is up to us to create the change we seek, now more than ever. Voting is only the first step in a process of engagement. Showing up at local meetings, petitioning Congress and holding the new president — and every part of government — accountable must ensue. Community organizing is vital. Our aspirations and goals are in our hands. We cannot relegate them to another’s care, certainly not now. Our community groups, both religious and civic, can use this moment in our history to reinvigorate and rededicate themselves, advancing important values of dignity, equality and justice.

Yes, we will be all right. The United States of America is strong, and we, her people, are resilient. But the future is in our hands. It is our work as rabbis and other faith leaders to help guide and support the people as teachers, chaplains and champions of social justice and the values we hold dear. There is much to do, and our work has never been more important.