The flotilla is a wake up call to all who believe that “Never Again!” really means “Never Again!”.
Silence Is Not An Option Part 1
Silence Is Not An Option Part 2
The flotilla is a wake up call to all who believe that “Never Again!” really means “Never Again!”.
Silence Is Not An Option Part 1
Silence Is Not An Option Part 2
As a synagogue community, we have given countless dollars to Haiti. Some of us, like our own Dr. Steven Swirsky have even traveled to Haiti to help. Many of us (myself included!) have signed up for the I CARE I CURE Run/Walk and will do our part to find gentler treatments and cures for childhood cancers. Ramat Shalom’s Relay for Life Team is growing and funds are being raised to support the American Cancer Society. Through all of our efforts just this week alone we clearly understand how precious money can be.
As I have watched our community step up to the plate for such important causes, I noticed that other fundraising campaigns that are going on in our community, campaigns for causes that might not seem as “powerful” as the ones we have been dealing with, are not attracting as much attention. A good friend of mine is putting together a fundraiser for a local food pantry/homeless shelter. The number of hungry and homeless adults and children that they help right here in our own neighborhood is staggering. Yet most of us are unaware or choose not to pay much attention to the suffering of our own neighbors.
What I clearly saw this week is that certain causes have an “it” factor.
Helping the hungry in our own streets, supporting the needy, or lending a helping hand to someone who has not bathed in days – there is no “it” factor here. And when there is no “it” factor, for most of us, there is sadly no exciting, appealing, or touching reason to give.
Haiti has been struggling for years. It took a natural disaster of biblical proportions to give Haiti an “it” factor. What will it take for us to pay attention to those suffering in our own streets? What will be the “it” factor that gets us to open our pocket books and feed and cloth and shelter our neighbors?
As I pondered the role of the “it” factor when it comes to raising vital funds, I realized that we at Ramat Shalom have been trying for years to discover our own “it” factor. What is “it” that will get people to financially support our synagogue?
While all of these things make us special and are greatly appreciated by the vast majority of Ramat Shalomniks, most of us do not feel so inspired by these things, so moved by them that we open up our pocketbooks and support the synagogue. Most of us do pay our dues and feel that this is enough. But the reality is, dues do not cover our expenses. The generosity of a small percentage of members during the year helps us meet many of our other expenses. Prayer, a great bookkeeper and committed board members also help a great deal. With the economic downturn and more and more of our members unable to pay their dues or make additional donations to the synagogue, we, like most synagogues and other non-profit organizations, have had to tighten our belts as we help members who are struggling. Last year many staff member took significant reductions in their salaries. We have cut back the hours of some staff members and eliminated certain positions. All the while our board has worked diligently to monitor our budget and cut our spending without affecting what we offer our members. In the meantime, members continue to lose their jobs, struggle to make ends meet, or go into foreclosure. And I, along with our synagogue leadership, have spent many a late night thinking creatively about finances, studying the budget, and praying extra hard. But, this is not enough.
And so, I am asking you, what is “it” that makes Ramat Shalom so special? What is our “it” factor? And what can you do to support that “it” financially?
Ramat Shalom’s “it” factor in no way compares to the atrocities in Haiti, the dire need to raise funds for cancer research or feeding the hungry children of Broward County. This being said, “it” is our community. “It” is our children’s preschool classroom or upcoming b’nai mitzvah. “It” is Shabbat in our sanctuary. “It” is the comfort of a Ramat Shalom shivah minyan. “It” is the beautiful ark that holds your Torah Scrolls. “It” is knowing that we are here when you need us. “It” is our future. And “it” is beautiful and “it” needs your support.
For some, the idea of giving money to Ramat Shalom during a time when things are so tight, Haiti lies in ruins, and other important charities are asking for your support seems silly. But, the reality is that your spiritual home and all the “it” factors that make her up – incredible programs, services, classes and people – need your attention, commitment, and generosity right now.
So, as we begin Shabbat and prepare for another meaningful Friday night service, I am asking that you allow yourself to be moved by whatever “it” is that makes Ramat Shalom so special to you. I am asking that you help us preserve “it” and make “it” stronger” and give us the resources to carry “it” into the future and share “it” with others who need “it”.
As many of you know, I am running for “it” – doing what I can to raise the funds needed to insure that this incredible little synagogue we call home has the strength and fortitude to run strongly into the future. To support me and what you see as our “it factor” as I run the A1A Half-Marathon in honor of Ramat Shalom, please visit my fundraising page and make a donation (all funds go directly to Ramat Shalom): http://www.active.com/donate/irunwalk4ramatshalom/rabbiandrew
I thank you from the bottom of my heart for standing with me and supporting our synagogue.
I am running the Fort Lauderdale A1A Half-Marathon on February 21st. I am doing it in honor of my incredible synagogue, Ramat Shalom. This is the second year in a row that I am doing this. Last year I raised $5,000 that went directly to help with synagogue programming. I want to raise $5,000 again this year. If you are a member of the synagogue or someone who enjoys this blog, I ask you to consider making a small donation in support of my race and, more importantly, in support of the best little synagogue there is! I thank you for your support and am glad you are part of the BlogShalom community. CLICK HERE TO MAKE A DONATION!!!
Last week, as I encouraged us all to appreciate the blessings that came with the unusual cold weather, I wrote the following: “Unlike other geographical regions of our country, we don’t really have to worry about the ground suddenly shaking beneath us.” Needless to say, the fact that I wrote these words just days before the earthquake in Haiti, has left me feeling a bit unsettled. Obviously, Haiti is not a part of the U.S. – but it is only about 680 miles away from Miami. Atlanta, in our closest neighboring state, is about 660 miles away from Miami. While I don’t think we need to be overly concerned about earthquakes here in South Florida, this week’s quake and the total and complete devastation of a nation have hit close to home. This is not a tragedy taking place on the other side of the world – or even on the other side of our own country. This nightmare is unfolding off our shores and many here in South Florida, including members of our extended Ramat Shalom family are directly affected.
On a much larger and deadlier scale than our cold weather, Haiti’s earthquake is another, much more powerful reminder that there are forces out there that are simply beyond our control. But when the world spins out of control – that is when we – humanity, God’s partners – need to step up and do our best to heal what has been broken. Now is the time. This afternoon, I had the opportunity to speak with a few people who have managed to be in direct contact with their family/friends in Haiti. What I have heard from them is that what we see on the news is “good”. The reality is, Haiti is in ruins. Even Haiti’s wealthiest citizens have lost everything, including loved ones. At the present time, the money the wealthy citizens have means nothing as there is not even food and water to purchase. Looting is a terrible problem. Emergency food and water delivery has been slowed because of fears of violence. In addition, international aid organizations are trying to determine how to distribute food and water to millions of survivors.
One of the people I spoke with had miraculously managed to get a relative (who was severely injured after being stuck under a collapsed building for seven hours) on a non-medical charter flight from Haiti to Fort Lauderdale. As the relative was suffering from blood loss, dangerous fractures and puncture wounds, and trauma – a medical flight would have been ideal – but this flight was the only way to get him here quickly. Because it was a non-medical flight, there were no arrangements made for an ambulance to transport the injured person to a local trauma center. After a few phone calls, I managed to make arrangements with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office to have an ambulance waiting in the terminal. As I type this, I am waiting to get confirmation from the BSO that the injured individual has been picked up. This experience has allowed me to get a glimpse into just how chaotic the situation is.
I also spoke to my colleague, Rabbi Alan Tuffs of Temple Beth-El in Hollywood. His congregation, along with a Hollywood church, supports a Haitian orphanage. While he and his community had to wait three days to get the news, it appears that the children and the staff of the orphanage are okay. Rabbi Tuffs did see the orphanage’s ambulance on CNN. Sadly, it is being used to transport only dead bodies. Rabbi Tuffs and those actively involved in the orphanage are putting together the RALLY FOR HAITI DISASTER RELIEF this Sunday at 1:30PM in Hollywood’s ARTS PARK. All funds raised at the rally will be sent directly to Haiti.
As it is time for us to act, the question is: what can we do? Haitians need food and water immediately. However, shipping to Haiti is bad during good times. We need to rely on the international aid groups to get supplies to the survivors. They need money to purchase these supplies and Haitians themselves need money – as this will give them the ability to purchase food and water which will undoubtedly be in short supply for some time. As for the cost of this food and water, South Floridians know all to well about price gouging after natural disasters.
At this time, none of the aid organizations are asking for food, water, clothing, or any other items that would need to be shipped. There are many organizations that are collecting funds, including, as I shared with you the Jewish Federation of Broward, American Jewish World Service, and the American Red Cross. I have heard excellent things about rapper Wyclef Jean’s organization Yele Haiti: http://www.yele.org. You can also give money to various Haitian organizations, including the orphanage that Rabbi Tuff’s works with, at the rally on Sunday.
In addition to money, the people of Haiti and those putting their lives on the line to save the survivors need our prayers. Do not underestimate the power of prayer at moments like this. Join us tonight at 8:00PM. Our tzedakah box will be in the front lobby. You may drop off checks made out to “Yele Haiti” or the charity of your choice before services and we will mail them for you.
[URGENT!!! PLEASE SEE LINK WHICH DISCOVERED AFTER THIS POST WAS PUBLISHED: http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/wireStory?id=9577218]
May the people of Haiti feel the love and support of the world during these dark and frightening nights. I hope to see you later.
Please consider making a donation as I run the A1A Half Marathon in honor of my synagogue, Ramat Shalom. Donations are being accepted here: http://www.active.com/donate/irunwalk4ramatshalom/rabbiandrew. Your generosity will be appreciated and will help keep this blog and everything else we do at Ramat Shalom strong. Thank you in advance for your support.
Today we stop to honor our veterans – those who have stood up to protect and defend our nation. Yesterday, we were invited into the military world as the soldiers and the families of Fort Hood gathered together to mourn the loss of 13 men and women who were murdered by a fellow soldier who, as we are learning, embraced the extremist views of radical Islam. As we witnessed the memorial service on the television, radio, or internet we were reminded of the dangers our soldiers face every day. Before last week’s attack, we could not imagine that our troops would be in danger here in the U.S. But, we now know that they face enemies even at home. From the words and images that were broadcast to us from yesterday’s service, it is evident that this new reality seems to bring the men and women of our military closer and, in turn, makes them stronger, more determined.
During yesterday’s memorial service, a powerful verse from Isaiah was read: “Then I heard the voice of God saying, ‘Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?’ And I said, ‘Here am I. Send me!’” (Isaiah 6:8) At the end of the service, the powerful roll call took place. The names of soldiers were called out. Those present called out that they were “here”. When the names of the murdered soldiers were called out – there was silence. But, in that silence, you could almost hear the voice of another soldier, standing up and reciting words similar to those of Isaiah: “Here am I! Send me! Send me in their place! It will be my honor!”
The soldiers of Fort Hood and the men and women of our military who are spread out all over the world are continuing the bravery, selflessness, and honor that epitomize the members of our armed forces. Many of you have served in the military or have loved ones who served. Today, we thank each of you, all of our veterans, for all that you have given to make our country stronger.
Veterans’ Day has become a day off from school and a day for sales and bargains. Hopefully, the tragedy at Fort Hood has forced us to refocus and reconsider what this day is all about. Those who put everything on the line to preserve all that we hold dear deserve our thanks and praise. Take the time today to reach out to a veteran and thank him or her. If they can say “Send me!” the least we can do is say “Thank you!”.
6 November 2009 19/ Cheshvan 5770
Once upon a time, there was a very pious Rabbi who was known for his incredible ability to immerse himself in Torah study. When he opened the Torah and learned from it nothing could interrupt him. And no one dared to disturb him.
Except for one person.
It was his infant grandson who started to cry while the great Rabbi studied. Without hesitation, without any anger, the Rabbi closed the Torah he was studying and rushed to the baby.
While all of this was going on, the child’s father, the Rabbi’s son, was also busy studying Torah. So busy that he failed to hear the cries of his son.
Later that day, the Rabbi had a talk with his son. “No matter how involved one is in an endeavor,” the Rabbi said to his son, “however lofty it may be, one must never fail to hear and respond to one in need. Never!”
In this week’s Torah portion, Abraham is sitting in his tent, recuperating from major surgery. He had just circumcised himself. Imagine how uncomfortable he was! As he sat in his tent, the Torah tells us that God paid a visit to Abraham, appearing before him in the middle of the desert. Quite the honor – getting a visit from God! But, Abraham was a holy man who appreciated God. He was worthy of such a visit.
During the visit something odd happens. Abraham lifts his eyes and sees three men coming to his tent. He runs to them and bows to the ground. He offers them water, a place to rest, food.
Now, some of you know that these three men were actually angels who came with a very important message, but, the fact is, Abraham did not know this. He just assumed they were three men wandering the desert.
Given this, you might say: “Abraham, you’ve got some chutzpah – some nerve! You were being visited by God and you stood up, left God, and ran to three people who you had never met? Abraham you totally insulted God!?”
However, the Talmud, the great book of Jewish law, interprets Abraham’s actions very differently: it says “greater than receiving God is the mitzvah of receiving others.” In other words, it was right for Abraham to leave God hanging in order to feed a bunch of strangers.
Maimonides, the great medieval Jewish philosopher, finds it remarkable that as Abraham is communing with God – he was still capable of seeing the three strangers. In the same way, even in the midst of intense study, the great Rabbi was still able to hear the cry of his grandson. Abraham, in pain from circumcision, communing with God, did not lose the ability to be aware of others.
In our world today, we need more people like the great Rabbi and like our patriarch, Abraham. We know of too many stories of people who have allowed desire, greed, and wants to drive them to commit terrible crimes against others. The selflessness of Abraham and the Rabbi are not simply traits that we should admire. They are traits that we must make our own.
Rabbi Andrew Jacobs