December 17, 2015

As a community committed to tikkun olam, Jewish principles of justice and equality, we are gravely concerned by the increased incidence of anti-Muslim and Islamophobic rhetoric and acts of violence in our country. We are dismayed by the growing and blatant characterization of Muslims as “un-American”,  “terrorists”, and “violent”, not only because these broad representations are factually inaccurate and misleading stereotypes, but also because we know that ugly rhetoric can have dangerous consequences. We recall far too well when similar misrepresentations and hateful stereotypes became political rallying cries against Jews, and when solutions to the so-called problem of Jewish citizenry moved from political rhetoric to genocide.

 

While our local community has, thankfully, not seen hate crimes committed against Muslims as other parts of the nation have, we have seen the dissemination of Islamophobic literature in and around Burlington; we are not immune to Islamophobic vitriol, and we aim to work against it as committed Jews.

 

We stand alongside and behind our Muslim neighbors—alongside them as witnesses to our own history of persecution, and behind them as allies and supporters in the fight against anti-Muslim racism.

Ohavi Zedek Board of Directors

Senior Rabbi Joshua Chasan

Senior Rabbi Amy Joy Small

Joel M. Hoffman, PhD

Jewish Star Jack O'LanternWhen I was 11 years old, a grumpy Israeli teacher told me that good Jews don’t dress up for Halloween because it’s a Christian holiday when Christians persecuted Jews.

He couldn’t have been more wrong.

First of all, Halloween began as a Pagan holiday, not Christian. The Celtic Pagan year was divided into two halves. The first half, roughly from spring to fall, was for the world of light, and the second half was for the world of darkness. Holidays marked the transitions from each half to the other.

In spring, Beltane celebrated the spiritual beginning of light-filled summer days and the life-giving force of the sun.

By contrast, Samhain (pronounced “sow-an”), the precursor to Halloween, fell on November 1 and represented summer’s end, winter nights, and, in general, darkness. As is typical of gateways and transitions (which are known technically as “liminal” times), Samhain was regarded with suspicion and…

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This post will be the 100th posting on Raviva.org.  Somehow, that feels like a milestone.

But this blog has also reached a more significant milestone — it is moving to a new site,  hosted within the website of the new Deborah’s Palm Center for Jewish Learning and Experiences  http://www.Deborahs-Palm.org

I value all of you, my subscribers, and appreciate the conversation.

So please, check out the new Raviva home, and join me under Deborah’s Palm Tree.

http://www.deborahs-palm.org/blog/

I hope you will subscribe there.

For now, from this, Raviva’s first home, Shalom Uv’racha — Farewell and many blessings.

New posts will now be on Raviva’s new home site. I look forward to seeing you there!

Deborah's Palm Tree

Deborah’s Palm Tree

It’s Official!

Weekly classes in South Orange, NJ

Weekly classes in South Orange, NJ

is now offering Jewish wisdom in learning groups and programs in Northern New Jersey.

As I migrate the Raviva blog to my new site, here is one of the programs that Deborah’s Palm is offering — a weekly Sunday morning class “Your Jewish GPS” —  in South Orange, NJ.

Please visit:  www.Deborahs-Palm.org

The new site includes a page “Ask the Rabbi” — I’d love to hear from you!

This post was originally published on my page of the blog for Rabbis Without Borders on myjewishlearning.com:

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/rabbis-without-borders/2014/02/09/affluenza-really/

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This week’s stunning headline read “Affluenza Defense Lands Wealthy Teen in Rehab After He Kills 4 People in Drunk Driving Accident.”

The term “affluenza,” popularized in a 2001 a book,Affluenza, the All Consuming Epidemic (de Graff, Wann, and Naylor) is described as “a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.”

The headline for the “Affluenza defense” told a horrific story. It was the defense strategy for 16 year-old Ethan Couch, who killed four people and severely injured two more while driving his father’s pickup truck with more than three times the legal limit for alcohol in his blood, along with valium. Driving 70 miles an hour in a 40 MPH zone, the teen was behind the wheel after stealing beer from a store, then taking 7 passengers with him on a drunken ride. Despite the stolen beer, the speeding, the underage drinking, etc.—a long list of offenses—the teen was sentenced to just 10 years of probation and mandatory rehabilitation. The rehab ordered by the judge will cost $450,000 a year, in what seems more a punishment of his parents than a consequence for their killer child.

News outlets reported that a “psychologist hired as an expert by the defense testified in court that the teen was a product of affluenza and was unable to link his bad behavior with consequences due to his parents teaching him that wealth buys privilege.” An anguished man who lost his wife and daughter in the crash observed that Couch’s family’s money was able to pay for the expensive legal defense, and cover the rehab costs—and had this not been the case, the outcome surely would have been different.

They should be ashamed of themselves, all of them—everyone who defended this remorseless teenager—for defending his actions. This defense was a way of saying that he bears no blame. In fact, his facial expressions and body language all bore out an arrogant “you can’t touch me” detachment.

Should the parents be punished for raising a child with such a sense of entitlement, lacking boundaries and lessons about consequences – essentially without morals?  Maybe. If only the psychologist had tried to determine the causes for this kid’s malevolent self-absorption, perhaps the parents would bear some guilt. We know that parents can’t control the outcomes of their parenting, and some who try to do their best end up disappointed. Yet, this case does cry out for examination of the parents’ role in producing this outcome.

Shouldn’t this be an opportunity to raise a cultural conversation about parenting with boundaries and consequences—teaching our kids to have a moral compass?

Even more so, the consequences for the teen should have made a different point. If this is a child who was not taught to live with boundaries and consequences, then the court did the worst possible thing by repeating that very same pattern. Ideally, he should be taught that there are painful—and sometimes disastrous—consequences of bad judgment. Perhaps he won’t learn morality at this point, but we have a responsibility to try. And if nothing more, society should make sure he can’t hurt anyone else again.

How about a lifetime ban on his obtaining a driver’s license or purchasing or leasing any motor vehicle?

We owe it to the victims and to all of our children, to do better than this.

A recent report from the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) found that one third of American rabbis are reluctant to express their views on Israel because of intimidation and out of fear of losing their positions.

That needs to change, and so the Rabbinic Cabinet of J Street, Americans for Peace Now, and T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights co-wrote a petition calling upon all American rabbis and cantors to speak up now in support of Secretary Kerry’s mission to assist Israel and the Palestinians in resolving their conflict in a two-states for two peoples agreement that ends Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and justly resolves all issues and claims, including security, borders, settlements, Jerusalem, refugees, and water between Israelis and the Palestinians.

The petition says:

We are American Rabbis and Cantors, united in service of the Jewish people and committed to the people and the land of Israel. We have studied in Israel, and taught about Israel, visited countless times and brought members of our communities with us. We have lived in Israel and immersed ourselves in her history and culture. Many of us have family, friends, and colleagues who live there. Some of us hold Israeli citizenship. We, as a community, have dedicated ourselves to support for Israel, to her long-term security and to her future as a Jewish homeland and a democracy.

All of us believe that for Israel to have a future as a Jewish and a democratic state, living within secure, defined and recognized borders, there must be a resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

At this moment, Secretary of State John Kerry – backed by President Obama – has made heroic efforts to bring all the parties to the negotiating table. Months of negotiations are beginning to bear fruit. Secretary Kerry has taken up the challenge of the Psalmist to “seek peace and pursue it,” but he cannot bring peace on his own. “We really are at a critical point,” said Secretary Kerry “as Palestinians and Israeli leaders grapple with difficult and challenging decisions that lie ahead.”

We must now heed the call of our tradition, and loudly and clearly proclaim that it is because of our commitment to Israel that we stand up and act for the two-state solution. “For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest.”(Isaiah 62:1). And so we commit to be active supporters of those who work day in and day out to bring about a peace agreement.

The voices of those who support peace and justice must rise up above the din of doubt and denial. We pledge that we will speak from our pulpits, in our classrooms, at our camps and in our newspapers, to deliver a message of hope and faith.

We will speak of the urgency of this moment and of the necessity of communal action. We will speak up for Israel, against the occupation and for peace.

Our voices will not be silenced. Our loyalties cannot be called into question. The time now is too critical, the stakes too high. We will speak up in support of peace, heeding the words of Theodor Herzl: “If you will it, it is no dream; and if you do not will it, a dream it is and a dream it will stay.”

Of course, absolutely, there must be mutual agreement between Israel and the Palestinians in whatever is worked out between them, and this includes security guarantees an “end of claims” and “end of conflict” clauses in any deal.  

Now is the time. Months of negotiations are beginning to bear fruit. Secretary Kerry has taken up the challenge of the Psalmist to “seek peace and pursue it,” but he cannot bring peace on his own.

We ask our colleagues to Join us in declaring that you will speak up for Israel, against the occupation and for peace. “For Zion’s sake, I will not be silent, and for the sake of Jerusalem I will not rest.” (Isaiah 62:1)

B’shalom,

Rabbi Jonah Geffen, Rabbinic Director, J Street
Rabbi John Friedman, National Co-Chair, J Street Rabbinic Cabinet
Rabbi John Rosove, National Co-Chair, J Street Rabbinic Cabinet
Rabbi Amy Small, National Co-Chair, J Street Rabbinic Cabinet

This post originally appeared on the blog of Rabbis Without Borders, MyJewishLearning.com

http://www.myjewishlearning.com/blog/rabbis-without-borders/2014/01/12/home/

ImageWhere is home?  Is it where you live, even if it is temporary?  Is it where you grew up?  Is it the place where your parents or grandparents and their families originated?

Home might also be a special place where the heart resides even if it isn’t our place of residence. The Jewish people have held Israel in their hearts for over three millennia.

Home could also be the place where we have grown up or come of age. At a recent event I met someone with whom I had an immediate connection — we shared the history of the same childhood home synagogue in Philadelphia. Neither of us have been there in decades, but the connection to this home bonded us.

And of course, home is where we live, if we are fortunate enough to have stable housing — something we cannot take for granted.

I’ve been ruminating on this for the last couple of weeks as various manifestations of “home” have been in my face.

I spent a week with my husband and two of our kids in the Bay area of California. We stayed in an Airbnb rental in Berkeley and experienced being paying guests in a stranger’s home — it was much more comfortable than a hotel. I wondered how it would feel to have people staying in my home who were paying consumers. We spent a day talking about whether and how we would consider being hosts, renting all or part of our house for SuperBowl weekend (since we live in NJ, not far from the stadium, where hotel rooms are scarce.)

We walked around downtown Berkeley for six days, confronted with a very present and aggressively begging homeless population. The streets are their home. We talked about how homeless people can feel invisible as the streets fill with people who avert their eyes as they pass them by.

Even with unusually frigid weather in New Jersey, it was so nice to come home.  But soon the political scandal engulfing my state caught my attention. Maybe it was the sleazy drama of it all, but something drew me into listening to a long press conference and reading endless columns of reactions and analysis.  My home, New Jersey, was being maligned. I felt protective of my home state — I wanted to tell the world about the great hiking and biking, lush farmland and gardens in my home state. Please don’t think of New Jersey as traffic and the turnpike and slimy politicians. It’s my home.

This week the Modern Language Association debated one-sided resolutions criticizing Israel, way out of proportion to rebukes to the other nations of the world, and I felt protective of my other “home.”  I am fortunate to have spent enough time in Israel to relate to the land personally; it’s not an abstract feeling of attachment.

We who are fortunate to have comfortable places to call home, with perhaps the means to share with guests, or the opportunity for multiple special places of “home,” are truly living with the blessing of holiness. Jewish tradition has many names for God, including the oft-used “hamakom“– meaning, “the place.”

The homeless people who claim their spot on the street, staying day-after-day in “their” place, are striving for the same shelter under “Divine wings.” They deserve to not be invisible; they too are created in the Divine image.

In this week’s Torah reading (Yitro),the Israelites, newly freed from slavery, had to figure out how to make a home in the wilderness. It was not easy. But thanks to Yitro, Moses’s father-in-law, they organized themselves into a representational polity that took the needs of all the people into account.

When we care for each other, as if we are guests in each others homes, we find “hamakom.” Home is where we are respected, seen, nurtured and fully alive as ourselves. It takes eyes that see and hearts that care for “home” to realized. That is the blessing we can make real in our world.

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