Robin Williams – May His Memory Be A Blessing

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With the death of Robin Williams, the world lost a blessing. For years, he made us laugh and, goodness knows, with all the heartache out there, we need to laugh. Robin Williams brought much needed joy into our very broken world. But, sadly, we learned this week that behind his comedy, his personal life was filled with so much pain. While we knew about his struggles with addiction, most of us were not aware of his battle with depression which had to have made his attempts to live a life of sobriety even more challenging. We were also not aware that Williams was struggling with Parkinson’s Disease, which, in addition to affecting movement and speech, causes depression. How overwhelming this must have been for a man who battled mental illness while defining himself by his incredible ability to use his words and his body to make us laugh. We were also not aware that Williams was, despite his fame and success, reportedly facing significant financial troubles and was questioning his own professional accomplishments. It was all too much for Williams who took his own life this week.

While it is so tragic that a man who blessed us with laughter has taken his own life, we pray that his memory – which now includes both the laughter and the sorrow – only serves as a blessing. Of course, it is easy to see how his comedy will continue to be a blessing for generations to come. I dare anyone to watch Mrs. Doubtfire and not laugh. As for his mental, physical illnesses, financial and personal struggles, Williams’ tragic death has sadly given the world new insight into depression, addiction, Parkinson’s, debt and self-doubt. Yes, even someone as funny, talented and successful as Robin Williams can struggle with darkness. His death has filled us all with pain – but, hopefully, it will encourage us to reach out to those in our lives who are struggling with darkness and offer our support and strength. In this way, we will insure that Robin Williams’ memory only serves as a blessing.

Finding Shalom This Shabbat

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As we prepare to wish each other a Shabbat Shalom , we know that the extremely fragile “Shalom” in Israel was shattered by Hamas rockets once again being fired into Israel. We also know that President Obama has taken a stand against ISIS in Iraq, promising airstrikes against the terrorist organization that shares the same goal as Hamas: the destruction of anyone who does not embrace Islam and the establishment of a Muslim caliphate that operates according to Shari’a (Islamic law). How on earth do we wish each other a Shabbat Shalom today? How on earth can we look forward to a Shabbat of peace, contentment and joy when we are worried and heartbroken?

On Wednesday, I was honored to officiate at the funeral of an aunt of one of our members. She lead an incredibly meaningful and inspiring life. Her family and friends laughed and cried as they honored their matriarch. It was a powerful memorial to a life well lived. After the service, as I was walking to my car, I was approached by the extremely elegant, elderly cousin of the deceased. She emotionally thanked me for the service and begin searching for something in her large purse. She pulled out a Werther’s Original, handed it to me and, again, thanked me – a sweet token of appreciation from a sweet woman who was mourning the loss of her dear cousin. Such a simple gesture – but so meaningful. As she was mourning the loss of her loved one, she still took the time to find something sweet to share with me. We can learn from her.

As Shabbat begins in a few hours and we struggle to wish each other a Shabbat Shalom, I ask that you remember the Werther’s Original that I received this week. Even in the midst of all of the madness, we must dig deep into our metaphorical purse and find a Werther’s Original. Something happened this week that brought us joy. Someone made you smile. You did experience, even for a moment, beauty. As we enter Shabbat, grab hold of this moment. Feel it again. Share it with someone else. And, as you do, wish them a Shabbat Shalom and mean it.

Shabbat Shalom – I look forward to seeing many of you tonight at 7:30

Israel Through Maps

A short video I put together to answer lots of great questions I have received regarding Israel’s history and her borders.  Not the most “exciting” video – but, hopefully, informative….any questions, please let me know!

STOP THE INSANITY: SPEAK UP FOR ISRAEL

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These are incredibly trying times for Israel and the Jewish people. While I wish I could return to weekly messages that are uplifting and spiritual or that publicize exciting events coming up at Ramat Shalom, my thoughts are focused on Israel, the security of her citizens and the safety of Jews across the globe. I pray for peace, but realize that, at the same time, we need to talk about the war.

As you know, Israel is again forced to defend herself from Hamas which fires missiles into Israel and, as has now been exposed, digs tunnels into the Jewish State from which terrorists enter the land to slaughter Israelis. Hamas deliberately uses Palestinians as shields, launching attacks on Israel from crowded urban areas. Israel has no choice but to defend her people. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) works extremely hard to avoid civilian casualties – but Hamas works extremely hard to put Palestinians, especially children, in the line of fire. Why? Because the images of these dead children horrifically helps Hamas demonize Israel, makes people who do not know the facts question Israel’s actions and, worse, encourages people to hate the Jewish State and the Jewish people. As we have watched across the globe, many people act on this hate. Anti-semitic violence in on the rise. And the propaganda war against Israel is encouraging people to shout “Hitler was right!” We – the Jewish people – need you to help us all stop this insanity. We all say – “Never Again!” Now, it is time to mean it. It is time for each of us to find a way to stand up for Israel and the Jewish people. Correct friends on social media. Challenge your co-worker who speaks poorly about Israel in the office. Sit your children down and teach them about the importance of Israel. And, most importantly, spend time educating yourself about the Jewish State. I know – I say this a lot and have been preaching this a great deal over the past few weeks. This is because we really need you to stand up now. This is serious and it is time for us – American Jews – to step outside of our comfort zones and speak out strongly in support of Israel, her people and Jews around the world who are in danger.

Here is some material to help:

Tomorrow night, there will be a protest against Israel in downtown Fort Lauderdale. There was a similar protest on July 20th in Miami. Please, watch some of the footage from July’s protest and see that right here in South Florida, openly on our streets, Hamas is seen as the hero and Israel is cursed.  The insanity, the lies and the hate are right here in our own neighborhoods! We can’t ignore this.

Today, you will probably hear about the Israeli attack on a school in Gaza. You will hear about the tremendous number of casualties in Gaza. You will hear Israel be accused of committing “war crimes” and “genocide”. Given this, I ask that you watch this clip from CBS featuring Israel’s Ambassador speaking out about claims Israel attacked a school last week AND this clip from FOX  of the Ambassador discussing yesterday’s attack.Also, as you see the video of UNWRA spokesperson, Chris Gunness crying in Gaza, please know that while it is heartbreaking that people in Gaza are being killed, just two weeks ago, Israel asked the UN to suspend Mr. Gunness because because of his blatant anti-Israel bias and support of Hamas.  Please, share this information.

Finally, I encourage you to read this article from the Times of Israel which asks: is the war with Hamas a “watershed moment” for Jews living outside of Israel? The article highlights how Jews across the globe, including South Florida, have been affected by the situation in Israel.

If you watched and read the material that I shared, I thank you! Now, please, share this information with others. I know this is not easy. But – “Never Again!” We are obligated to speak the truth and do our part to stop the insanity.

This is my last Friday night “off” for the summer. I look forward to getting back on the bimah next week and seeing many of you at services. I thank Mike Richmond and Jim Kraut for filling in for Cantor Debbie and me this evening.

May this truly be a Shabbat Shalom.

Remembering Max Steinberg z”l

Please join me for an Israel Advocacy Workshop – Wednesday July 30, 7:30pm
It is more important than ever to get the facts, understand what is going on and learn how to speak up for Israel with family and friends and on social media. You don’t need to know anything about Israel – you simply need to want to do your part to help support the Jewish State. The workshop is free, however participants are urged to make a donation to one the special Israel campaigns being organized by Federation, Friends of the IDFJewish National Fund or One Family Together.

RSVP required by noon on Wednesday July 30 to barbara@ramatshalom.org

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This week, I share with you the heartbreaking words of my good friend, Rabbi Mark Blazer. Mark and I began began rabbinical school together in Los Angeles. He was the best man at our wedding. He and his family live in Southern California where he serves as the Rabbi of Temple Beth Ami. Many of you met him recently as Mark is also the founder of The Albert Einstein Academy – a charter school which will be opening a new school in Broward.

Nine years ago I was Max’s rabbi as he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah with his younger brother Jake. I had the chance to be with him as he took on more responsibility as a young Jewish man. He read from Parshat Devarim, the portion where Moses prepares the Jewish people as they make their entrance into the Promised Land. A new generation finally ready to take on the mantle of living in Israel.

I can’t tell you how proud I was to learn that Max Steinberg was living in Israel a few years later, as a 22 year old, inspired by a Birthright trip. After his visit he decided immediately to return and serve in the IDF.

He had no family there, and did not consider himself religiously observant. But a spark was lit by his time in Israel, and he found a new direction and passion just by being there.

Tragically, I learned about Max’s transformation, his love for Israel, the same time I learned of his death. Max was one of the first military casualties in Gaza two days ago.

He had volunteered for an army combat unit because he wanted to serve with every fiber of his being. And he made it into the Golani Brigade, one of Israel’s elite units.

I asked Max’s mom Evie whether he had ever fired a gun before he went to Israel, and she said she didn’t think he had. He must have had some natural proficiency (combined with his love of the Call of Duty video game) because she told me he was the top marksman in his unit.

When he first went into Gaza his armored vehicle was in an accident with another vehicle, and Max was shaken up. Some of his friends more so. He could have been sent back for medical reasons, but he wanted to go back in. He told his parents this was where he had to be. That was the last conversation they ever had.

I spoke to Max’s mom Monday morning, just before she and the family boarded a flight to Israel. They decided, as a family, to bury Max in Israel. A land where he should have celebrated a wedding, and started a family. A place where he should have lived. Instead, today he was laid there to rest, and now lives in each of us.

As Max is now bound up with the Eternal, may he always be an inspiration to us.

Rabbi Mark Blazer

JOIN ME – Support Israeli children and families in danger now!

Please join me in supporting One Family  as they provide a safe haven to Israeli children and families at this time.  This is a perfect opportunity for those who chose not to send their children to Israel right now – protect our children who are there.

Visit: http://www.onefamilytogether.org/operation-protective-edge-can-help/

Thank You!!!