Who By Fire and Who By Water

as we prepare for the High Holy Days, this prayer from last year is still, sadly, relevant In the morning it is written and in the evening it is sealed:  Who shall die jogging  Who shall die relaxing in their home Who shall die seeking help after a car crash  Who shall die holding aContinue reading “Who By Fire and Who By Water”

Letter from Portland

First published in JewThink On the day I write this, we have witnessed 60 days of daily demonstrations in the streets of downtown Portland Oregon. After the murder of George Floyd by police, it was awe-inspiring to see myriads of thousands rise up across the US. Horrified by the blatant injustice, peaceful crowds in PortlandContinue reading “Letter from Portland”

Amidst Tragedy, a Vision of the Possible

It begins on the 9th of Av, if we are willing and able to answer the summons A time of national self-assessment for the Jewish people We are counting our way through the Three Weeks – and now the Nine Days – leading to Tisha B’Av. Tisha B’Av, which translates to “the 9th day ofContinue reading “Amidst Tragedy, a Vision of the Possible”

The Torah of Protest: Til The World Be Perfected

“You have been told what is good, and what HaShem requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with the holy.” Micah 6.8 On the day I write this, we have witnessed 50 days of daily protests in the streets of downtown Portland Oregon. After the murder of George FloydContinue reading “The Torah of Protest: Til The World Be Perfected”

Shabbat Naso: Lift Every Face

We have passed thirteen weeks of social isolation now; a most disconsolate tally, longer than our Sefirat haOmer count and much more uncertain. We try to remain patient, and struggle to contain our fears of contagion into vessels of reasonable size. Shabbat comes again, once more without the chance of seeing our Torah in ourContinue reading “Shabbat Naso: Lift Every Face”

Upon receiving the Emily Georges Gottfried 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Human Rights Commission of the City of Portland. 

A parable from Hasidic Judaism: Once upon a time, the king’s star gazer saw that the grain harvested that year was tainted. Anyone who would eat from it would go mad. “What can we do?” said the king. “It is not possible to destroy the crop, for we do not have enough grain stored toContinue reading “Upon receiving the Emily Georges Gottfried 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Human Rights Commission of the City of Portland. “

Shabbat VaYeshev: Minority Status

Hanukkah begins on Sunday December 2 at sundown. We always find it in proximity to the parashat hashavua which we study this week, VaYeshev. The word means “he returned” but we might also read it as “here we go again.” One month after the massacre of our fellow Jews joined in Shabbat prayer in Pittsburgh,Continue reading “Shabbat VaYeshev: Minority Status”

Rosh HaShanah 5778 – the Shofar’s call: Get Woke

 Shanah Tovah!   Tomorrow we will gather to experience one of the most important spiritual moments of this day that we call Rosh HaShanah, the New Year. That experience is the sounding of the Shofar. Although it may not seem to us to be the ultimate purpose of our sacred gathering, the sounding of theContinue reading “Rosh HaShanah 5778 – the Shofar’s call: Get Woke”

Kol Nidre: thanking the Movement for Black Lives

Why I have to thank the Movement for Black Lives for helping me to clarify my Jewish identity. Once upon a time, years ago during a visit to London, I took a tour to a town called Salisbury where I actually got to see a copy of the Magna Carta. I love historical artifacts, and soContinue reading “Kol Nidre: thanking the Movement for Black Lives”

Shabbat Hazon and erev Tisha B’Av: a Shabbat of Vision

This is a Shabbat of vision, and of the center falling apart. Although it would be easier, more poetic, to see a vision rising from destruction, life these days is not so lyrical. Rather, on this Shabbat, the last before Tisha B’Av, the vision we contemplate is of destruction, misery and death: עַל מֶה תֻכּוּContinue reading “Shabbat Hazon and erev Tisha B’Av: a Shabbat of Vision”