If you would like to respond to the Mayor, please write him at
Office of the MayorLouis L. Redding City/County Building800 N. French StreetWilmington, Delaware 19801
Here's a sample letter:
Dear Mayor Williams:
Jewish tradition teaches us that we must not “stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed” (Leviticus 19:16). In keeping with the insight of this teaching, and as a concerned citizen, I ask that you and the chief of police provide the information required for the state to begin releasing $1.5 million in funds that are available to expand foot patrol and vehicle policing in the city of Wilmington. I urge you to work with the state legislature, attorney-general and governor in making our beautiful city a place that is safe for all.
Name and address
Friday, December 18, 2015
Friday, November 27, 2015
A Hasidic story tells of a young man who presented his teacher with the gift of water from a spring. The teacher tasted it, smiled, and thanked the student for the sweet-tasting water. His assistant, however, tasted it and spat it out. “Why did you say it was sweet when it’s bitter?” he asked. “Ah,” said the teacher, “you only tasted the water. I tasted the gift.” (Hat tip to Rabbi Amy Scheinerman's Ten Minutes of Torah)Yesterday was a day to give thanks: thanks for what we have, for who we are, for where we are and what we do with our lives. To be sure, many of us have our challenges and struggles, but it is a moment to appreciate our gifts, whatever they may be. It is a moment to choose to be sated in our lives; to fulfill the words of Pirkei Avot: "Who is rich? The person who is satisfied with his portion." We see it reflected in our portion this week as well. Jacob, on his return home, has sent gift after gift with the intent of mollifying his brother Esau, who he imagines to still be in a rage, bent on his destruction. But when the brothers finally meet, Esau says simply, "I have enough".
The idea of 'enough' is a powerful one in our society--and on a day--of conspicuous consumption. There is a peace with 'enough', and even a joy. But let it be one we hold onto. Let's taste the gift, not just the water, and in that way, count ourselves always rich and blessed. And if we strive for more, let us strive for more opportunities to give Thanks, more opportunities to share it with others. Amen.
Tuesday, November 17, 2015
Jason Kramer is a senior in high school, a Kutz and Camp Harlam alumnus, out youth group president and an amazing teen leader. Recently he attended the URJ biennial with me and our Congregation Beth Emeth delegation. He shared this blog post on his experience.
I am a two time URJ Kutz Camp Alumni, President of my Temple Youth Group, BESTY, and have been to every single regional and North American NFTY made available to me. My entire focus at the time circulated around the youth. Engage the youth, get the youth to go to youth group events, get the youth to go to regional events, youth, youth, youth, youth. Although it was slightly overwhelming, I have never regretted any of this because I have been influenced tremendously by them. It is not because of the youth, though, that I was convinced to go to the URJ Biennial. It was because I was going to be treated as an equal.
The URJ Biennial is the most exciting five days in the reform Jewish movement. Over five thousand people came to Orlando, Florida to learn, pray, and interact with each other. Biennial is NOT a NFTY event. It is not planned by a regional board and it is not dominated by teens. We, the youth, made up about five percent of the participants at Biennial. While these all seem like put offs, these reasons are what made it so great.
Biennial had been a prevailing thought in my head since last may, when I was asked by my regional President if I would be attending. I had heard of it before and had looked into it enough to know that I would not financially be able to go, but not enough to read into what happened there. What I hadn’t realized was that the entire platform of the URJ was: Moving the Youth Forward. Literally, all of Biennial would be about ways to help the youth and increase our involvement in the URJ, not just NFTY. At the time though, I had a lot of other things on my mind and Biennial fell into the back of my head.
As the big week(end) grew closer, I started to hear questions from my friends. Would I go? Would I be there? I can’t wait to see you at Biennial! I began to do more research again. While looking for more information that might be able to convince my mom, I discovered there would be no NFTY track. There was no immediate focus on the youth (or so I thought). I knew Biennial was traditionally for adults, but in the past there had been a section for teens. Why they changed it this year was perplexing to me, but I accepted it and hoped that adults would see me as an equal not a subordinate because of my age.
During BESTY’s first youth group board meeting of the year, I started talking to my Rabbi about Biennial. Right then and there he made everything clear. Biennial this year had no aim at the teens because the Biennial Committee wanted us, the teens, to be more engaged with the greater community. No longer were we to be isolated from the adults who could learn from a new generation, and we to learn from their life experience. No longer would we truly be treated like teens, but like adults who had something valuable to offer.
This is why I ended up going to Biennial. Because as a teen, I had the same opportunities as everyone else to learn, talk, and be a part of something bigger than NFTY. I was a part of the URJ.
Tuesday, November 10, 2015
Friday, October 30, 2015
Friday, October 23, 2015
Friday, October 9, 2015
Wednesday, September 23, 2015
Tuesday, September 22, 2015
Sunday, September 13, 2015
Thank you so much, Rabbi Robinson, for giving me the opportunity to speak tonight. My Beth Emeth education began in September of 1999 when I walked into this building as a kindergartener, eager for my first day of religious school. Beth Emeth has been with me every step of the way, from my bat mitzvah in 2007 and confirmation in 2010 to my two years of cadet aiding for Mrs. Wilk’s fifth grade class prior to my graduation from Wilmington Friends in 2012. When college decision time came, I chose to head to Ann Arbor, or, as my parents would say, the frozen tundra, to attend the University of Michigan. Suddenly, I was no longer one of only three Jewish students, as I had been in my class of 66 at Friends; Michigan boasts an undergraduate Jewish population of about 4500 students. I fully embraced my newfound community, joining Alpha Epsilon Phi, a nationally Jewish sorority, getting involved in a wide variety of clubs at Hillel, and visiting Israel for the first time on a Michigan Hillel birthright trip in May of 2014. Though all of these activities have figured prominently in the formation of my college experience, perhaps the most impactful has been my involvement with the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, both within WolvPac, our group at Michigan, and on the national level. AIPAC has provided me with innumerable amazing opportunities and connections: student conferences, Policy Conferences, some of my best friends on my own campus through WolvPac and at schools across the country through the Diamond Summer Intern class of 2015, and even (I hope) an Advanced Advocacy trip to Israel this winter break.For my first three semesters in Ann Arbor, I believed that the acceptance of Jewish heritage as an integral piece of the campus culture meant that a love of Israel would also be ingrained in the student body. I was proven wrong one frigid morning in December 2013 when I awoke to a frantic text from a good friend of mine, a young man who is now our AIPAC campus liaison and a student government representative, detailing a mock eviction notice that had been slipped under his dorm room door while he slept, telling him that he had mere hours to evacuate the building before it was to be demolished and going on to connect the action to the treatment of the Palestinian people by the State of Israel. Later that day, I found out that Students Allied for Freedom and Equality or SAFE, Michigan’s arm of Students for Justice in Palestine, had placed flyers not just in my friend’s hallway or just in his dorm, but in six different dorms across campus, specifically targeting residences with large populations of impressionable freshmen. I was at once livid and heartbroken. I was angry that a group of students could spew such vitriolic hate and use it to infiltrate the one space that is supposed to be completely safe. I was sad because it did not feel new.Before I say anything else, let me back up and talk about my Friends School education. Even in the Lower School, the faculty at Friends work tirelessly to impress upon their students the importance of Quaker values like equality, community, and stewardship. My days on the hill in Alapocas were spent learning to question everything, searching for my passions and figuring out how to use them to make the world around me a better place. As a Friends alumna, I am acutely aware of the impact I can have and am a better activist for that precise reason. Unfortunately, this amazing education came with a pitfall: Peace class. The course description for the class now called Global Peace and Justice on the Friends website says that students are pushed “to analyze peace and justice in our interdependent world, to realize the power of individuals, and to learn how Quaker testimonies have influenced social change.” Much of this work is done through the examination of case studies, and one such scenario that was selected for my class was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In this particular class section, I was the only Jewish student and it seemed as though I was the only student who entered the unit with a pre-established opinion. This part of the course was taught with an unapologetically pro-Palestinian bent and I received minimal, if any, support from my teacher in discussions where I was usually the only pro-Israel voice. I was shocked that a person who preached acceptance and diversity of opinions could make me feel so silenced, and the discovery of the eviction notice years later brought the same sense of panic that I felt at age fifteen.The better part of two years has passed since the mock evictions and activity at Michigan surrounding the conflict has not slowed down for one moment. In March 2014, SAFE put forward a resolution to our Central Student Government calling for the University to divest from companies doing business with Israel like General Electric and Caterpillar in line with the International Boycott, Divest, and Sanction Movement. At the first meeting, supporters of the resolution interrupted the assembly and wielded verbal barbs so fierce that another one of my male friends felt it was necessary to shield my face with his arm as we walked out of the room. After the resolution was tabled, another review meeting was set for the next week. My parents were concerned enough about the state of affairs that my dad asked me not to walk anywhere on campus alone. This time, thousands of students lined up for a meeting that eventually took six hours. I spoke and was specifically called out for cultural appropriation because I referenced Bayard Rustin, a gay African-American Quaker who taught Martin Luther King Jr. about non-violent action and who was also an ardent supporter of the State of Israel. The resolution did not pass. In the wake of Operation Protective Edge, the conflict rose to an even higher profile on campus as we returned to school last fall. First semester featured SAFE’s Palestinian Awareness Week, complete with a mock checkpoint at the central point of campus. When SAFE brought BDS back to campus this past spring, we were much more prepared. This time, I was on the leadership team of Wolverines for Peace, a group formed by executive board members from four of Michigan’s largest pro-Israel student organizations in order to galvanize the anti-divestment community. We launched a massive social media campaign in the weeks leading up to the student government hearing, including a comprehensive web page modeled on sites from Northwestern and Stanford, a collective Facebook and Twitter reach of over 900 people, and over a thousand signatures on our open letter, which rejected absolute blame, recognized the universal right to self-determination, and called for dialogue among student groups on campus. Over the course of a five-hour meeting, SAFE decried our efforts as disingenuous, called us bigots, and flat-out rejected any suggestion that they sit down and talk with us. The resolution still did not pass.Our fight is not over. SAFE has promised to bring BDS resolutions to student government every year until one passes. Luckily, I, along with thousands of AIPAC-trained campus activists across the country, understand the importance of being proactive rather than reactive. Through events like our Wolverines for Israel conference, for which we brought in experts on the political climate of the region from Michigan and from other schools, and Birthday Bash, a Yom HaAtzmaut celebration in the middle of campus complete with music, falafel, and birthday cake, we run a campaign that strictly highlights the positive aspects of Israel rather than focusing on any Palestinian faults. Drawing from AIPAC’s Campus Creed, we in WolvPac know that people engage other people much better than any speaker ever could and that genuine relationships with the student leaders of today create sustainable access and influence as we all move into adult life. This spring saw the election or re-election of eight student government representatives and an executive slate who we had previously identified as members of the pro-Israel community. When tasked in June with the creation of a leadership statement in opposition to an unfavorable nuclear deal with Iran, our team of four Michigan students interning at AIPAC was able to contact hundreds of leaders and emerge in less than a week with over forty signatures; though that number does not seem particularly high, it is important to note that ten signatories are student government representatives in addition to signatures from the current and immediate past student government presidents and the current vice president. The issue at hand was and is highly controversial, and our ability to garner visible support from such a large number of leaders was greatly aided by the pre-existing relationships we have worked to maintain.There is no doubt in my mind that students today have the desire and the capacity to affect major change. We are more connected to the world around us than any previous generation and therefore we have an outsize commitment to bettering that world. In a recent lobbying meeting with Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan’s twelfth district, she turned to me and my friend specifically to tell us that “young people are 25% of today and 100% of tomorrow.” For my fellow students, there are going to be older people who will try to delegitimize us and the things we care about and the work that we do simply because we are young. More often than not, our biggest hurdle is finding people and organizations who believe in and are willing to support our passions, no matter how big or crazy our ideas seem. AIPAC has an entire department dedicated to the engagement of high school and college students that they call Leadership Development because they believe so firmly in young people as the future of pro-Israel advocacy. Hillel International dedicates all of its resources to building campus Jewish communities that serve the needs of every student. This covers the entire spectrum of Jewish life on campus, from the kids who only go for High Holiday services to the ones like me, who actively seek out a judgment-free pro-Israel community and whose siblings have asked them if they, in fact, live in the Hillel building. In the weeks leading up to the most recent divestment vote, I sat in over ten hours a week of meetings that sometimes stretched late into the night but that were always attended by at least one member of the Michigan Hillel staff. Rather than completely shaping the campaign for us, they guided us through the entire process, providing advice on how best to articulate our viewpoint, emotional encouragement when the battle felt unwinnable, and even financial support for such necessary items as web hosting and pizza. I cannot stress enough the importance of the work that Hillels across the country do on their respective campuses, and I encourage any adults concerned about the state of Jewish life on campuses to contribute to the solution and strongly consider supporting Hillel. Whether you choose your child or grandchild’s school, your alma mater, or even a local school like University of Delaware, you are empowering students like me and enabling us to stand up for ourselves and for a world in which we want to live.Michigan Hillel is housed in a beautiful facility, and on its walls are three plaques listing names of donors who contributed to the construction of the current building. Across the top is the most famous quotation from the foundation’s namesake, Rabbi Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?” We, the young people, the inheritors of the world, the generation that wants to see peace in our lifetime and is ready to work for it, will stand together for ourselves and for each other. We are ready now.
Friday, September 4, 2015
Thursday, September 3, 2015
by Yehuda Amichai
In the spring.
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
House once stood.
Sunday, August 30, 2015
When Rabbi DovBer of Lubavitch was a young man, he lived in the same house as his father, Rabbi Schneur Zalman. Rabbi DovBer and his family lived in the ground floor apartment, and Rabbi Schneur Zalman lived on the second floor.
One night, while Rabbi DovBer was deeply engrossed in his studies, his youngest child fell out of his cradle. Rabbi DovBer heard nothing. But Rabbi Schneur Zalman, who was also immersed in study in his room on the second floor, heard the infant's cries. The Rebbe came downstairs, lifted the infant from the floor, soothed his tears, replaced him in the cradle, and rocked him to sleep. Rabbi DovBer remained oblivious throughout it all.
Later, Rabbi Schneur Zalman admonished his son: "No matter how lofty your involvements, you must never fail to hear the cry of a child."
Friday, August 28, 2015
Always look for the good
Joy is not incidental to your spiritual quest;
it is vital.
For so it is written (Isaiah 55:12): "You will go out through joy,
and be led forth in peace."
Focus on the good in yourself;
take joy in what is good,
and you will be led forth from inner darkness.
(From Likkutei Mohoran).
Thursday, August 27, 2015
"We are moral creatures; we are vulnerable creatures; vulnerability wins. This is the realest thing anyone will ever tell us in ritual."
Hoffman, Lawrence A., Ph.D.. Who by Fire, Who by Water: Un'taneh Tokef (Prayers of Awe) (p. 163). Kindle Edition.
Forgiveness is a moral and vulnerable action. It is moral in that it releases the Other from further obligation. To forgive someone is to tell them that they have paid in full the debt they owe us on account of the pain they caused. It recognizes and celebrates the act of accountability on the part of the Other.
(In this case the Other can also be the Self; that is, the aspect of the self that, having done harm, is alienated from the Self, and requires forgiveness to be reunited).
It is also a vulnerable act. This we understand intuitively. To not forgive is to armor the self in righteousness and indignation. But forgiveness, that means laying the pain bare, exposing the self to further possible harm, it means releasing the hold over the Other. And, dare I say it? We open ourselves up to our own role in whatever hurt we experience.
The time to forgive is not Yom Kippur. The time is now. The liturgy of the holidays reminds us that it is the moral thing to do, even as it exposes our vulnerability. The question is whether we are strong enough to be both.
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
He Sleeps in a StormA farmer needs a new foreman. He advertises all over the place, but no one applies for the job. Finally, one day, a man shows up. He has no resume, no letter of reference. When the farmer asks him about his skills, he replies that people often say “he sleeps in a storm.” Well, this doesn’t sound very encouraging, but the farmer is desperate so he hires him. Some time later, there is a big storm. The wind is roaring, the rain is pelting down, there is thunder and lightning. The farmer is frightened. He looks for the foreman, but the foreman is sound asleep. The farmer is furious and he runs out to the barn. In the barn, the animals are safe with plenty of food and it is warm and secure. Not a single animal is frightened by the storm. The farmer runs to his fields and sees that the bales of hay have all been covered with tarp and are tied down securely. Everything he checks is safe, secure and solid. Then he finally understood. The foreman sleeps well in a storm because every night before he goes to bed, he makes sure that everything he has done that day is finished, wrapped up, safe and secure. May we all strive each night to “sleep in a storm.”As we approach the holidays and begin to think about 'trust', it's often with the idea that we should be more trusting--in God, in ourselves, in each other. And that is a noble goal. But trust is different than faith. I have faith in God, faith that the people around me are interested in doing what is right and are doing the best that they can. But trust is earned. For me to trust, I need to see not only intent but action. To sleep in a storm, I need to know that everything has been taken care of, is safe and secure.
(From "Toldot --Telling Stories: A Collection Compiled by AVODAH 2010" URJ Camp Newman with the assistance of Abra Greenspan)
Who did you learn to trust this year? And whose trust do you need to (re-)earn?
Monday, August 24, 2015
The Place Where We Are Right
by Yehuda Amichai
From the place where we are right Flowers will never grow
In the spring.
The place where we are right
Is hard and trampled
Like a yard.
But doubts and loves
Dig up the world
Like a mole, a plow.
And a whisper will be heard in the place Where the ruined
House once stood.
(Thanks to Rabbi Michael Latz for reminding me of this poem).
It would be interesting if, on every day of Elul leading up to Rosh Hashanah, we had to look at ourselves for a full ten minutes. Every day. Not in the same way we take selfies, which are effervescent and fluid, nor in the way we look in the mirror, which distorts the image. Nor even looking at a static picture of ourselves, but really, truly look at ourselves for a full 10 minutes every day.
It could be the opposite of our mourning practice, where we refrain from looking at our reflection. It could be a celebration of the self--not vanity, but the real self, so often contorted and masked. It could also be a "Dorian Grey" moment as we, in true introspection, finally see ourselves for who we are: our flaws and our joys.
Take a look at yourself today. I mean, really look at yourself. What do you see?
Sunday, August 23, 2015
דברים כא׃יח Deuteronomy 21:18
כי־יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה איננו שמע בקול אביו ובקול אמו ויסרו אתו ולא ישמע אליהם׃
If a man has a stubborn and rebellious son, who will not obey the voice of his father, or the voice of his mother, and who, when they have chastened him, will not listen to them...
When we read this passage from this week's Torah portion and the passages that follow, we tend to dwell--with horror--on the punishment for the rebellious child: death. Public death. How could parents willingly submit their child, no matter how poorly behaved, to die? The rabbis of the Talmud twist themselves in knots trying to First mitigate, then nullify, this bit of Torah, and we as progressive moderns might be inclined to dismiss it.
But Elul gives us a chance to read this text metaphorically. Are we not, so often, rebellious? Rebellious against God, against our best selves, against the truth of our experience? I don't mean here being punk rock or iconoclastic, but rather those moments when we know we're doing harm, we know we're being hurtful, we know we need to change course, and we proceed along our path of destruction anyway. We chastise ourselves (perhaps friends and trusted mentors get in on the action too) and we dig in our heals and keep on keeping on. Doesn't this feel like the "death of the soul" the Mahzor speaks of? Do we not, in failing to hear or heed the needs of others--or even our own needs--leading ourselves to a kind of all-too public demise: of our relationships, of our regard for ourselves?
As literal Halakah, we should find this text appalling; and we should remember the consequences when we fail to hear "Mother's" and "Father's" voices--the still, small Voice within, the Voice of judgment without--that otherwise guide us.