The Targum, a 1st century translation renders “closed up” into the Aramaic tmunim. Being driven by self-interest, “chokes up (matametem) the heart.” As we sort ourselves into ideological camps, “us” and “them”, we close our hearts to each other. We lose access to our collective purpose and vision. As we fall for this “us” versus “them” narrative, we shut down spaces essential to a vibrant democracy, beginning with our hearts.Read More
Rosh Hashanah celebrates the birthday of the world, yom harat olam. The moment the universe shimmered with possibility. That is why we say, “On Rosh Hashanah it is written”: the ink is still fresh. We imagine what words might fill the pages of the year ahead. But it’s so hard to stay focused on the white space of this new chapter when our vision is cluttered with headlines.Read More
When I woke up election morning, I was struck by the awful irony it was the 78th anniversary of Kristallnacht. Just 78 years earlier on the day America elected a right-wing populist to office, my grandfather Frank Shurman awoke to a world that was hiding in plain sight. Election day morning, 78 years later, many of us also woke to an America that had perhaps been more or less visible to each of us, depending on our privilege. Since Election Day I have been sitting with the images of resistance my grandfather’s story offers me as it continues to echo across time. The story he told about what happened 78 years earlier gave me an image of resistance I’ve carried with me most of my life. But recently I’ve discovered another story of resistance, one he didn’t tell me when he was alive.Read More
Over the course of the fall semester, several swastikas appeared on the college campus at which I work. When I first saw a picture of one, spray-painted on the inside of a bathroom stall in the library, I was pained by the depiction of a symbol that is inextricably bound up with the systematic murder of many of my family members.Read More
In the headlines, we see someone coming closer to an elected seat of power than he should. Trump doesn’t exist alone, but within systems and values that have lifted him frighteningly close to the highest office in our nation. Trump’s campaign is, sometimes more explicitly than other times, fueled by misogyny, anthropocentrism, capitalism and white supremacy. These systems place folks like him very close to society’s centers of power. This is, in part, because we live in a society that values self-reliance, and competition and touts bootstrap stories as heroic.Read More
Yesterday, around the world, we Jews observed Tisha B’Av, a day of grieving the historical destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, our archetypal and historical sacred center.
Two weeks earlier, Washington’s National Cathedral, “a house of prayer for all people,” became the focus of media attention when the dean called for the removal of two stained glass panels – installed 62 years ago – which depict the Confederate flag.Read More
In (and out of) synagogues, campuses, JCCs, summer camps and religious schools, people are developing opinions about hot-button issues. As a rabbi, I am painfully aware of how fraught discussions of Jewish identity, inclusion of interfaith couples, same-sex religious ceremonies, and Israel/Palestine can be. All too often, our communities erect a tense wall of silence around these issues. On many sides of the debate, people advocate for themselves on either side of this wall without the ability to truly see whomever is on the “other side.”Read More