The pandemic has exhausted me. At the same time, the plagues within our own country continue to punch me in the gut.
Another mass shooting this morning.
Another report of a young black or brown person killed by a police officer.
Targets on the backs of Asian Americans.
“Do not stand idly by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.” Leviticus 19:16
An escalating crisis on the border with Mexico.
“You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress them, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” Exodus 22:20
59% of Jewish Americans feel less safe than we did a decade ago.
“Rabbi Hillel used to say: If I am not for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, then when?” Pirkei Avot 1:14
We Jews are known as the Children of Israel, the descendants of Jacob, the one who wrestled with God and won. Too many of us have lost touch with our ancestral spirit that empowered us to wrestle a force as powerful as the Divine.
To my fellow Jews, the streets of our country are calling out to us to live the values of our tradition, to not turn our backs on the violence, fear and pain that rocks our country day in and day out, violence, fear and pain that none of us is immune to. If you feel differently, I remind you of the nightmares that targeted our own communities in Parkland and in Pittsburgh. As the uncle of a police officer, the husband of a police chaplain and the rabbi to members of law enforcement, I also feel it is important to remind us all that the there are many good members of law enforcement who are struggling to come to terms with the violence, fear and pain that has been inflicted on our communities, in part, by the actions of some of their colleagues.
I am not asking you to take to the streets and demonstrate, although for some that is their way to respond. If that is your path, please do your part to ensure that demonstrations are peaceful. We don’t need any more destruction. I am charging each of us with using this Shabbat to determine how you will respond. What do the three Jewish teachings cited above mean to you? These teachings lie at the foundation of Judaism. How we respond to them, what they inspire us to do, define our Judaism more than synagogue attendance, whether or not we keep kosher or how much we know about Jewish history. Share these teachings with your family and friends. Talk about them. Allow these teachings to determine your response to our national violence, fear and pain. This is what we Jews need to do. It is not a choice. It is a moral obligation.
If you are looking for a place to start, I encourage you to visit the ADL’s website. The ADL is the Jewish voice on all of the challenges we are required to confront as American Jews. The organization has and continues to be a vital partner, providing me and Ramat Shalom not only with essential resources but also support as we have wrestled with our own anti-Semitic incidents. As always, I am here if you have any questions as you determine your next steps.

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