Friday, October 28, 2011

Tonight's Sermon: or "how to cheer up an overworked rabbi"

Rabbi Yair Robinson
Congregation Beth Emeth
Parashat Noach 10/28/11

They said in seminary there’d be weeks like these. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, but at this time of year, I find myself doing more minutiae and less ‘rabbi-ing’ than I’d like. There always seem to be more programs, projects, courses, rehearsals, phone messages and visitations at this time of year, each more important than the last, and getting through them takes some measure of discipline. 

Yesterday was looking like one of those days when I got to my second appointment of the day, already running a few minutes late. 

I was meeting with a young woman, a mom and member of the congregation whose kids attend our religious school. We’d talked a few times and I knew her from Sundays and carpool, and knew her kids, but all in passing. 

She sat down and looked at her hands in a way that indicated she had something important to say and wasn’t sure how to say it. When she’d asked for an appointment she said it concerned ‘family stuff, but nothing bad’; nevertheless, I had steeled myself. 

She started by asking if I knew she wasn’t Jewish. I didn’t; in fact, I make a habit of assuming everyone in shul is Jewish unless I’m told otherwise, and anyway she had seemed awfully knowledgeable. She began talking about her upbringing in the Philadelphia region, growing up nominally Catholic but feeling disaffected from that religion, but then going to a Friend’s School for high school, where all her friends and many of her teachers were Jewish. She talked about dating Jewish boys, going to friends’ houses for Passover, and even being invited to travel to Israel, where she had her most profound spiritual experience standing before the Kotel. In due time she went to college (where she, by chance, joined a Jewish sorority), married a Jewish man, and began a Jewish family, two kids who love religious school and this place. While raising her family, she’d read books by Anita Diamant—first the Red Tent , and then Choosing a Jewish Life. She talked about the ethos she read in that book, and how it touched her very person: that we strive to do right and good in this world for the sake of this world, rather than to enter some reward at the end, and with the hope we would be remembered for blessing. 

 She looked and told me how she felt that now she was ready to convert to Judaism.
Needless to say, that half-hour appointment became an hour, and the rest of the morning’s projects got pushed off to the side. 

Despite my happy jaunts into Kabbalah and neo-Chasidism, I’m not prone to flights of fancy. I tend to view the world fairly empirically, with one exception. I am increasingly convinced that some things happen for a reason, and when one is born with a Jewish Neshoma, that neshoma, that quality of soul will out, and will drink in the Jewish experience as a parched man drinks water. At the high holidays I talked about the idea of coming and searching, and talked about how so often we feel disappointed with our search. But sometimes, sometimes we find what we didn’t even know we were looking for and fall upon it like a lifeline. 

To hear someone’s spiritual journey, and to be given the opportunity to play some small role in that journey, to bring some water to the parched lips, is a special gift. But even greater is the gift for the person who for even one brief moment sees the journey herself, and is able to see everything click into place. For that person, her heritage is secure. 

Thus it is in our Torah portion. It begins: Eilah Toldot Noach, Noach ish tzaddik, which is usually translated as “this is the story or generations of Noah”, but RASHI and the Kabbalists remind us those words could also be understood to mean “these are the chronicles—the life experiences, the stories—that lead to comfort, the comfort of the righteous”. That this isn’t the story of a person; rather, it’s a metaphor for the journey we all take toward righteousness and comfort—the comfort we bring to others and the comfort we ourselves find at last. The Zohar comments that noach, comfort, means ‘returning to the source’; and isn’t that the journey of all of us who strive for righteousness, to return to that source of Holiness, of Oneness, of Unity, that is Torah, that is Humanity, that is God?  Seen in this light, Noach isn’t just a story about some dude with a boat, but is a metaphor for all our stories, our own efforts to reach the Source. 

Art Green reminds us that the journey does not come about from moaning over our human inadequacies, nor from burdening ourselves with overwhelming guilt. Instead, it comes from a place of inner rest and peace. The path to self-transcendence begins with self-acceptance. I was given a gift this week: to witness that act take place, and be given an opportunity to participate. But it was also an opportunity for me to reflect on my own path, my own journey toward the Source. May you be so inspired as I was, and find yourselves as we move past the holidays moving toward the Source, moving toward Peace. Amen.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Why Americans Dismiss Sin - Reform Judaism

Why Americans Dismiss Sin - Reform Judaism:

"Jews and Christians, to be sure, do not understand sin in precisely the same way, but both see it as a foundational theological category. As a Jew, fresh from the jarring experience of Yom Kippur prayer, I find myself wishing that we would struggle with it more than we do -- separately in our respective traditions and collectively as partners in building a more just society."

Wonderful Op-Ed from Eric Yoffie (and when the outgoing head of the Reform Movement--the poster child of Liberal Religion--talks about sin, it's time to listen). Even for those who don't agree (and I'm sure y'all will be legion) this provides wonderful food for thought as we transition from the High Holidays to the rest of the year...

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Thoughts and Texts on Gilad Shalit's Freedom

This will appear on "The Rabbi Speaks" this coming Sunday and be part of tomorrow night's sermon: 

Rabbi Yair Robinson
Congregation Beth Emeth

Gilad Shalit is home.

After five grueling, terrible years, and two wars, Gilad Shalit, a 25 year-old sergeant in Israel’s defense forces, was returned by the terrorist organization Hamas, who kidnapped him in 2005. In exchange, Israel has freed over a thousand individuals, militants and terrorists who planned and executed attacks on civilians.

It’s hard for us as Americans to fully appreciate why this is so important for Israel, why one soldier’s life might be worth the lives of so many others, why Israel would be willing to negotiate with terrorists to secure the freedom of a single sergeant. Those of us who grew up living through the 1980s and the kidnappings and hostage-takings in Lebanon, and remembering the tough language used by the government of the time, refusing to negotiate the release of even one individual with Hezbollah and other militant organizations, may especially feel that somehow Israel behaved inappropriately, or at least indiscreetly, letting murderers go free.

The first thing we need to remember is the role the military plays in the lives of Israelis, and the role Israeli life plays in the military. Nearly every individual, when he or she turns 18, enters the military to serve a minimum 3-year term, and all serve some form of reserve duty well into their 40s. This means that every parent, every girlfriend or boyfriend, every sibling, has had the experience of seeing someone they love dress in uniform and go off, always knowing that they may never be seen alive again. Israel is a small country—barely 7 and a half million, five and a half are Jewish—so any loss has a tremendous ripple-effect. In the same way that the loss of an American soldier in Iraq or Afghanistan has a profound effect on a single town or county here in the US,  the loss of a single young man or woman in Israel is felt by all. That soldier could be anyone’s child, and so Gilad Shalit became EVERYONE’s child. And to have so few moments of contact—the Red Cross was denied access to him throughout his captivity—meant that everyone in Israel was living through their worst nightmares alongside Gilad’s parents.

Jewish tradition is informative as well. Throughout the middle-ages, prominent Jews and sometimes whole communities were taken captive by local royalty, who would ransom them as hostages to raise money, not unlike what we hear about in South America. One would expect that this would create a culture hardened against the plight of such captives, inured to the experience. This is not the case. Maimonides, the 11th century Physician and Scholar, writes in his Mishneh Torah, his great legal code:

Hilchot Matnot Aniyim 8:12 

The ransoming of captives takes precedence over the feeding and clothing of the poor. Indeed there is no religious duty more meritorious than the ransoming of captives, for not only is the captive included in the generality of the hungry, the thirsty, and the naked, but his very life is in jeopardy. He who turns his eyes away from ransoming him, transgresses the commandments: You shalt not harden your heart, nor shut your hand (Deut. 15:7), Neither shall you stand idly by the blood of your neighbor (Lev. 19:16), and He shall not rule with rigor over him in your sight (Lev. 25:53). Moreover, he nullifies the commandments: You shall surely open your hand unto him (Deut. 15:8), That your brother may live with you (Lev. 25:36), You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18), Deliver them that are drawn unto death (Prov. 24:11), and many similar admonitions. To sum up, there is no religious duty greater (Mitzvah Rabba) than the ransoming of captives

And Joseph Caro’s Shulchan Aruch of the 17th century adds:

The Shulchan Aruch (YD 252:3)

...And even if money was collected to build a synagogue, and they have already purchased the wood and stones needed, and set them aside for the building, (so that it is forbidden to use these building materials for any other purposes), it is still permissible to sell them in order to free captives. And he concludes by stating: Every moment that one delays in freeing captives, in cases where it is possible to expedite their freedom, is considered to be tantamount to murder.

So we see that we as Jews have taken captivity very seriously, and see any effort to ransom captives, to redeem those hidden away from the view of the world unjustly, as entirely meritorious, and to not do so makes one complicit in the death of the hostage.

Of course, there are issues of realpolitik involved: does this strengthen the hands of Hamas, weaken the peace process, or somehow show Israel to be soft when it lives in a tough neighborhood? To respond to that, I return to the words of Golda Meir, prime minister of Israel at the time of the Yom Kippur War: Golda Meir said, "The only way to eliminate war is to love our children more than we hate our enemies." The redemption of Gilad Shalit proves that we—and Israel—love our children more than we hate. And to do so takes great strength indeed, strength that may lead to peace, or not, but at least for now leads to wholeness. 

Baruch Matir Asurim: blessed is the one who redeems captives. Amen.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Yom Kippur Morning Sermon 5772

I first noticed it in the eyes, wide and alert, not with joy, but anticipation, and not a little bit of fear, and old, like the city they were watching. These were the eyes of the soldier on duty in the Old City of Jerusalem, on my last visit back to Israel. It was the first time that the soldiers weren’t adults to me, weren’t these majestic lions, but kids, youths no older than 18, 19, or 20. Where to my American eyes they should have been wearing basketball jerseys and ball caps, they were wearing flak jackets and helmets. Where the American teenager would be playing on their mobile phone texting with friends, they’re handling their M-16 and radio (and texting with friends). Where our kids are worrying about which college is the right fit for them, or what they should post to facebook, these kids are worrying about their friends’ lives, worrying about what their parents will feel if something should happen to them.

We are not used to the idea of discomfort at that level being brought close to home. We are unaccustomed to that level of sacrifice. We are certainly not used to the idea of sending off our youngest generation, never mind our own children, into harms’ way. And think of the sacrifices, no less small, that our own children, boys and girls of eighteen or nineteen or twenty are making, returning from foreign wars to years of psychological or physical therapy, or to be buried.

To many of us, that burden is too much to bear, too much to give. As a culture, we are taught not to think of what we should give up, but what we should get, what benefit, what pleasure we should derive from a thing. We are focused on happiness, on having fun, on enjoying ourselves. We all buy into that notion in one way, shape or form. We justify our purchases, no matter how petty, or our behavior no matter how erratic, with the phrase “well, if it makes us happy, why not?” If that car makes us happy, does it matter its gas mileage? If that outfit makes us happy, does it matter how appropriate or inappropriate it is? This is America, after all, and no one can tell us what to do or not do. I find myself using the same language; how many b’nai mitzvah have I told to go onto this bimah and have fun. Not have a spiritual or meaningful experience, not do a good job, or even do their best, but get up here and have fun.

I wonder whether we are really meant to be happy, whether happiness is our greatest and most important tool of measuring how meaningful our lives are. Think of how many American children are prescribed mood-altering substances despite the paucity of research on what long-term effect this has on children, and the studies showing that too many children are over-prescribed these medications. Think more of the ever-encroaching marketing efforts to us and to our children. Will your child really be happy unless she has Dora the Explorer episodes on DVD? Or Dora cereal? What about Dora underwear? Will you really be happy unless you have the body you’ve always wanted (and haven’t you always wanted six-pack abs? Or shoulders you could lay a bridge over?). Everything is there, that constant drone reminding us to be ‘happy’. And yet, happiness seems to get us in more trouble than it’s worth.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote:” The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate; to have it make some difference that you have lived, and lived well”. I wonder if he was right; our lives are not, should not be about merely sating our appetites, our desires, about pursuing fun and happiness with disregard to all else. Rather, our lives should be filled with sacrifice; doing what is right, what is good, what is necessary, what is essential, what is thoughtful. We are meant to use our lives to do that which gives meaning above and beyond simple fulfillment.

There are, of course, justifications for our sense of fun as happiness, as part of the American way. How much does it hurt someone, after all, if I’m having fun? Isn’t having fun better advice, especially to our all-too-competitive kids, than to go out there and murder their opposition, be it in the classroom or on the playing field? And really, it’s in the Constitution: Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

All this is true, and there is certainly nothing wrong with having fun: and this is a thin-lipped New Englander talking. Nevertheless, I look at these kids coming back from Afghanistan and other places, look at the families of kids who are never coming home, and I wonder: why is it that we only ask sacrifice of the Other: our poor, and our young? Why is it that we look our noses down at those who do sacrifice of themselves, thinking of them as suckers, as fools who couldn’t be clever enough to avoid that hazard, who ‘bought the hype’? Look at the way the words ‘shared sacrifice’ have been treated in the political arena, almost cynically, with a sneer befitting Billy Idol attached to the words. This is equally true in synagogue life: we in leadership spend so much time trying to make the synagogue experience easy and fun, that perhaps we forget to make it meaningful and challenging as well.

Alternatively, why do we think of those who sacrifice as saints, improbably unattainably and impossibly good, able to give of their time and energy in a way that no person could do and maintain a career or family? I think of Danny Siegel‘s mitzvah heroes, people who seemingly spend all their spare time working to get every heroin addict into treatment, every foster child with AIDS into a home, every inner-city child to graduate high school. We look at them and say, one way or the other, “I could never do that!” Why is it that we never say, or rarely say, ‘that is what I should do’?

A few years ago, shortly after Israel’s cease fire with Lebanon, I was talking to a young woman. She had advocated for Israel in college, worked for an anti-discrimination agency, and after all her experiences, talked about a great weariness; she was tired of fighting the good fight, tired of what our African-American brothers and sisters call ‘the struggle’. She wanted no more demands for apologia, no more well-meaning lectures about how anti-Israel is not synonymous with anti-Semitism, no more spirited conversations at housewarming parties, trying to convince the other of Israel’s legitimacy while balancing the Jewish values of human rights.  I think perhaps that is what ails us, this sense that we’ve done it already. A hundred times we’ve called our congressman, we’ve rallied, we’ve raised money, we’ve fought the pitched battles in classroom and at water cooler. Let it be someone else’s turn to fight; now it’s my turn to enjoy myself, to have fun.

There is a story of two Jews, a religious Jew and a secular Jew, weeping at the Western Wall in Jerusalem. A bystander asks each why he is weeping. The religious Jew says his weeping comes from the sacrifices and travails the Jews have suffered throughout the ages. The secular Jew explains that he weeps because he does not know what to weep for. I fear, very soon we will have no longer any connection between our own actions and the state of the world, no connection between our tradition and its demands upon us and what makes us feel good, no connection between our people here and in the land of Israel. We will, in our pursuit of fun, in our escape from the struggle, begin to alienate ourselves from our communities and each other and our tradition, more and more convinced that if it does not directly convenience or benefit us—me—in that moment, then it is worthless, and our children will not even know what they miss.

The truth of the matter is, there is no rest for the weary, there is no option for it to be someone else’s turn, for ‘someone else’ will take up the task too late. When Joseph Darby was confronted with pictures of torture and humiliation conducted by his comrades at Abu Ghraib, he did not wait for someone else to report the violations, did not wait for someone else to take their turn. He answered the call, he did the right thing, knowing that he would lose friends, that he would receive death threats, that he would be considered a traitor. Yet if you ask him today if it was worth it, whether he would do it again, he would give an unequivocal yes, that he made ‘the right decision and it had to be made.’

My friends, if Joseph Darby can give up his career to do the right thing, can’t we give up a few hours of our time a week to devote to something other than me and mine? My friends, shouldn’t it be time that we start asking ourselves “what more can I do?” Shouldn’t it be time to put aside our pursuit of what is fun, to put aside questions of what is most convenient, or easiest, or cheapest, or looks the best, but to ask, ‘what is most meaningful?’ To ask: what more can I do? What more can I give of my wealth—and my person, myself, my time, my being—for the betterment of my community, my people? Is it too much to ask of ourselves to go to Israel even when it doesn’t look picture-perfect, when our children go and put their lives on the line, when we are willing to go to celebrate in paradises that hide the slums their staffs come from? Is it too much to ask of ourselves to donate our time to volunteer—really volunteer—to prepare books on tape for the blind, to tutor, to visit the sick and the elderly, to go to a shiva house of a complete stranger, to give up our fifth Sunday to help feed the homeless with Sisterhood or Brotherhood—rather than just give a dollar and wear a bracelet that makes us feel like we’ve done something? Is it too much to ask that we observe more than just one mitzvah day, one Tikkun Olam day a year?

A guy sees an ant lying on the sidewalk, its legs pointed toward the sky. He says, “what’re you doing, little ant?” The ant says, “I heard the sky was falling, so I’m here to stop it.” The man laughs and says, “And what good do you think you’re going to do with those tiny little legs?” The ant shrugs and says, “Eh, I do what I can.” As much as we may feel that we are no bigger than ants, and have as much influence on the world around us, we must remember what the ant says, and do what we can. For what we can do is transformative. Arik Einstein wrote years ago: Ani v’atah nishaneh et haolam. Amru et ze kodem lifanai, ze lo mishaneh”: You and I will change the world. Others have said it before, but it doesn’t matter, for you and I will change the world.

That is why I am calling upon all of us to more fully engage in volunteerism this year. In other synagogues, a High Holiday appeal means asking for more money. While I certainly won’t turn away whatever wealth you may find it in yourselves to generously give to this community, instead I’m asking for your wisdom and work, for your time and effort, for you to be fully present here at the congregation in meaningful and challenging work. Why Beth Emeth? Why not some charitable organization or the JCC or the Kutz home or a club like Kiwanis or Rotary (and by the way, all of those are very good things). For a few reasons: because you have to start somewhere, and despite what Tom Friedman says, the world is still a big place and it’s hard to figure out where to start. This year, we’re partnering with Hanover Presbyterian (among others) to look into how we can better care for our neighbors and our fellows in Delaware and beyond. Because this is your community, a place filled with people who know you and love you and want to share in work but also want to share in your life; where the work of our hands and hearts is spiritual work no different from prayer or Torah Study. Because a synagogue isn’t just a house of prayer or education: it’s a house of community work as well, a public house, an assembly of folks looking to shape the world.

So, before you leave today, look to the handout before you. Look to the opportunities to share of yourself and grow and affect real change in the world around you.

It was the sages of the Chasidim who said: when I say I can’t do everything, let it not be in order to do nothing. Let it be, instead, merely a recognition that I don’t have to do everything, that other people too will do their part to right wrongs, just as they—and I—will try not to add to the wrongs we see done each day.

It is time to be through with saying “I can’t do everything” in order to do nothing. It is time to engage in meaningful work, to pursue the meaningful life: For the sake of our children that they may learn to pursue peace and justice; For the sake of our world, that we will have left it better than when we received it; for the sake of ourselves, that we may answer the question asked of us when our days are ended, that we may look ourselves in the eye every day, knowing that ours is a meaningful life, and lived well.

Erev Yom Kippur Sermon 5772

Before the law sits a gatekeeper. To this gatekeeper comes a man from the country who asks to gain entry into the law. But the gatekeeper says that he cannot grant him entry at the moment. The man thinks about it and then asks if he will be allowed to come in sometime later on. “It is possible,” says the gatekeeper, “but not now.” The gate to the law stands open, as always, and the gatekeeper walks to the side, so the man bends over in order to see through the gate into the inside. When the gatekeeper notices that, he laughs and says: “If it tempts you so much, try going inside in spite of my prohibition. But take note. I am powerful. And I am only the most lowly gatekeeper. But from room to room stand gatekeepers, each more powerful than the other. I cannot endure even one glimpse of the third.” The man from the country has not expected such difficulties: the law should always be accessible for everyone, he thinks, but as he now looks more closely at the gatekeeper in his fur coat, at his large pointed nose and his long, thin, black Tartar’s beard, he decides that it would be better to wait until he gets permission to go inside. The gatekeeper gives him a stool and allows him to sit down at the side in front of the gate. There he sits for days and years. He makes many attempts to be let in, and he wears the gatekeeper out with his requests. The gatekeeper often interrogates him briefly, questioning him about his homeland and many other things, but they are indifferent questions, the kind great men put, and at the end he always tells him once more that he cannot let him inside yet. The man, who has equipped himself with many things for his journey, spends everything, no matter how valuable, to win over the gatekeeper. The latter takes it all but, as he does so, says, “I am taking this only so that you do not think you have failed to do anything.” During the many years the man observes the gatekeeper almost continuously. He forgets the other gatekeepers, and this first one seems to him the only obstacle for entry into the law. He curses the unlucky circumstance, in the first years thoughtlessly and out loud; later, as he grows old, he only mumbles to himself. ..Finally his eyesight grows weak, and he does not know whether things are really darker around him or whether his eyes are merely deceiving him. But he recognizes now in the darkness an illumination which breaks inextinguishably out of the gateway to the law. Now he no longer has much time to live. Before his death he gathers in his head all his experiences of the entire time up into one question which he has not yet put to the gatekeeper. He waves to him, since he can no longer lift up his stiffening body. The gatekeeper has to bend way down to him, for the great difference has changed things considerably to the disadvantage of the man. “What do you still want to know now?” asks the gatekeeper. “You are insatiable.” “Everyone strives after the law,” says the man, “so how is it that in these many years no one except me has requested entry?” The gatekeeper sees that the man is already dying and, in order to reach his diminishing sense of hearing, he shouts at him, “Here no one else can gain entry, since this entrance was assigned only to you. I’m going to close it now.”

Thus wrote the great Jewish writer Franz Kafka, but it is a story familiar to all of us. How often have we been kept out, found the gate and the gatekeeper blocking our path, excluded and alienated for no reason we can fathom, except here we are, the entranced barred. And this is  especially true of our Jewishness, our personal spirituality, our connection to God and each other, a thing we glimpse in darkness, barely illuminated, but blocked, it so often seems, by so many guards, the next more intimidating than the last. Questions of authenticity, of legitimacy, of value, of commitment come flooding toward us. Some are indifferent questions, questions about dues and congregational culture and youth groups and programs. Some are costly questions indeed, about identity, about dedication and obligation, about intermarriage and access, about what we want to teach our children, and how we want to see ourselves.

And still. We sit on our stool and curse our luck, and never wonder why we never see anyone else try to enter. We never look to move past our gatekeepers, our questions, because sometimes those gatekeepers, the most powerful gatekeepers, are the ones we put up ourselves. We deny ourselves the opportunities for intimacy, for real, meaningful connection; we fear making a mistake, or exposing ourselves, so we keep our connections on the surface. Or we put the onus entirely on others, then call them ‘unfriendly’ and ‘unwelcoming’ when they don’t live up to our expectations. Rabbi Elie Kaufner shares a story of going to onegs and playing a little game, standing just outside a conversation and waiting to see how long the people talking would acknowledge him. How often have we felt like the interloper in such settings, but as Kaufner points out, the barrier was not them, but him. What would have happened, he wonders, if he had introduced himself to the people talking, and joined their conversation?

What would happen if we would give ourselves fully to one another—to our spouse or partner, to our children or parents, to the people standing near us—rather than go through life standing just outside each others’ circle, fearful of what might happen?

[move away from the podium] there is nothing that frightens me more as a rabbi than this [gesture], the space between us, that seemingly endless chasm where we can pretend somehow that we’re not engaged, not praying together, not really present in each others’ midst, and when I collapse that space [move forward] many in this room recoil, as if I’m violating some kind of trust. There is too much space here, too much opportunity to disconnect, and as a rabbi, a Jew, a friend, I want nothing more than to create that closeness, to get rid of this space!

[return to podium]. So here we stand, on the holiest day of the year, and we are already preparing our gatekeepers—the ones that keep us out of synagogue, the one that keeps us from each other. Or, we could make a promise to eliminate that gatekeeper once and for all, and to bask in the light of Torah, the light of prayer, the light of intimacy, the light of each others’ holiness. Let’s not let the moment pass! Let’s not let our gatekeepers close the door! Let’s strive for that closeness, that relationship with one another that is rooted in holiness, and let’s start now. I invite you to open yourselves up and participate in a ritual. Hold the hand of the person next to you, or lock arms, or place an arm around the other—even if that person is a stranger to you! Even if that person is someone you have never met in your travels in this world! Take hold of the person next to you, and say these words with me:

I pray in this new year
Include me
Invite me in
Allow me to make space for you
May I be supported by those around me
May I be a strength to those who need me
May I let others see the real me
May I see what is real and holy in you.
May our words be true. Amen 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Press Release: Monument to Fallen Jewish Chaplains visits Wilmington DE

Rabbi Yair Robinson
Congregation Beth Emeth
300 W. Lea Blvd Wilmington DE 19802

Monument to Fallen Jewish Chaplains Visits Wilmington DE
on the Road to Arlington National Cemetery

The community is welcome to a service as the memorial to fallen Jewish military chaplains visits Congregation Beth Emeth on Tuesday, October 18, 2011 at 7pm.

The memorial will be passing through Wilmington on its way to Arlington.  Delaware is one of only 10 states where the memorial will stop prior to its formal dedication on October 24th at Arlington National Cemetery.

Congregation Beth Emeth, one of the many local Dignity Memorial providers, is proud to sponsor the new memorial to fallen Jewish military chaplains.

On Tuesday, October 18th at 7pm , the memorial will be on display and commemorated with a special service featuring Rear Admiral (ret.) Rabbi Harold L. Robinson, former Deputy Chief of Chaplains for Reserve Matters for the US Navy, and current Director of the Jewish Welfare Board-Jewish Chaplains Council.

The monument will be formally dedicated on October 24 at Arlington National Cemetery.
The campaign to erect the Jewish chaplain’s memorial, initiated by Ken Kraetzer and jointly led by JWB Jewish Chaplains Council and Jewish Federations of North America, has taken several years to reach its successful conclusion and involved the concerted effort of many community organizations, including the Sons of the American Legion and Brooklyn Wall of Remembrance. The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate passed legislation permitting the construction of the new monument, which will be placed on Chaplains Hill next to similar memorials dedicated to Catholic, Protestant and World War I chaplains.

The October 24 ceremony at the Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington National Cemetery is open to the public and everyone is encouraged to attend. “We hope people from all over the country come to the dedication at Arlington,” said Rabbi Harold Robinson, director of JWB Jewish Chaplains Council. “This is an extraordinary event for the Jewish community, and for anyone who is concerned that proper respect be paid to chaplains who died while on active duty. The American military chaplains’ corps is unique in its dedication and commitment to the diversity of religious expression in our armed forces.”

Before its formal dedication, the new monument will be displayed at different venues, allowing people who may not be able to visit Arlington to view it. The tour, sponsored by the Dignity Memorial® network of funeral providers, will travel over 3,000 miles and include stops in 10 states; South Carolina, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Delaware, Maryland and Washington, D.C. National Funeral Home and Cemetery in Falls Church, Virginia, a local Dignity Memorial provider will break ground, lay the foundation, install the nearly 4,000 lbs. granite monument and install the solid bronze plaque prior to the dedication ceremony.

The day’s events on October 24 will begin with a wreath laying at the Tomb of the Unknowns at 11:15 a.m. The Tomb of the Unknowns is located next to the Memorial Amphitheater. Full details are at

More than 250 American chaplains of all faiths have died while on active duty in the U. S. Armed Forces. In 1926, the chaplains who served in World War I erected the first Chaplains Monument at Arlington National Cemetery, dedicated to the memory of their 23 colleagues who gave their lives in that conflict. In 1981, a separate monument was erected to memorialize 134 Protestant chaplains who died in World Wars I and II. Eight years later, a similar memorial to 83 Catholic chaplains who died in World War II, Korea and Vietnam was consecrated on Chaplains Hill. Now, through the efforts of many individuals and organizations of all faiths, a memorial to the 14 Jewish chaplains who died while on active duty will stand alongside those of their Protestant and Catholic brethren.

The 14 Jewish chaplains include: (World War II) Rabbi Alexander Goode, Rabbi Herman L. Rosen, Rabbi Henry Goody, Rabbi Samuel D. Hurwitz, Rabbi Louis Werfel, Rabbi Irving Tepper, Rabbi Nachman S. Arnoff, Rabbi Frank Goldenberg; (Cold War Era) Rabbi Solomon Rosen, Rabbi Samuel Rosen; (Vietnam/S.E. Asia) Rabbi Meir Engel, Rabbi Joseph Hoenig, Rabbi Morton H. Singer and Rabbi David Sobel.


In Preparation « Frume Sarah's World

From Rebecca Schorr's blog; a wonderful reminder of what real tshuvah looks like.

G'mar Chatimah tovah folks!

In Preparation « Frume Sarah's World:

"To all those I might have slighted, offended, or upset during the year 5771,

Please let me know. Really.

I cannot give a blanket apology for unknown sins/transgressions/mistakes. For in doing so, I am unable to correct my behaviour in the future. And I would be unable to make a direct confession to God. Or an apology to you.

True repentance cannot be done on a Facebook status or in a 140-character 9or less) Tweet. It is a process that requires us to turn and face those whom we have wronged. To face ourselves. And to face the Holy One.

Please grant me the opportunity to say, “I have wronged you and I am sorry.”

G’mar Chatimah Tovah (May you be sealed [in the Book of Life] for good),
Frume Sarah"

'via Blog this'