Saturday, March 17, 2018
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Source of wisdom,
Revealer of truth,
Beacon of integrity,
Inspire us to tread a path of honesty and good intentions.
Open our eyes to see when enthusiasm and creativity
Have right action and sound policy as their purpose.
Remind us that when our disagreements are for your sake,
And in the service of goodness and communal fortitude,
There can be holiness in dialogue and discourse
In compromise and partnership,
In caution and progress
That can all move us towards resolution.
Help us overcome fear and misunderstanding
And to foster avenues of communication that will engender
A sense of honor among us.
May we conduct ourselves here and out in the community in such a way
That cooperation and a desire for peace
Will foster unity among people who come from many backgrounds
And who hold many different viewpoints.
Blessed are You, Eternal One, whose Oneness pervades creations
And makes us mindful that we, too, are one.
Friday, March 9, 2018
Thursday, March 1, 2018
For the last year, I have participated in an interfaith discussion group that, for several months, focused on issues and concerns related to Jewish identity and history. I joined the group in early 2017 to lead a study of Dr. Jonathan Sarna’s book, American Judaism: A History. The most chilling paragraph in the book commented on the conditions a century ago that led to the passage of the 1924 Immigration Act. After so many Jewish immigrants had successfully integrated themselves into life in America, there was not acceptance in all corners of society. Here is that passage: “Immigration restrictions that sought to restore the nation's ethnic mix to its nineteenth-century white Protestant character also aimed directly (though by no means exclusively) at Jews. The House Committee on Immigration received a report prepared by Wilbur J. Carr, the director of the Consular Service, and approved by the secretary of state, that described Jews who desired to migrate to the United States as being, among other things, ‘undesirable,’ ‘of low physical and mental standards,’ ‘filthy,’ ‘un-American,’ and ‘often dangerous in their habits.’ Resulting legislation - the 1924 Immigration Act - never mentioned Jews, and it restricted other "undesirable" immigrants like Italians and Slavs no less stringently, while Asians were barred entirely. ‘Chauvinistic nationalism is rampant,’ Louis Marshall, the foremost American can Jewish leader of his day, recognized. ‘The hatred of everything foreign has become an obsession.’”
The Pesach Haggadah states that “in every generation, we are obligated to see ourselves as if WE were freed from [slavery in] Egypt.” Jewish arrivals in the United States were grateful to live in a land where a wide range of freedoms are realized and practiced. There are also echoes of prejudicial expressions from that previous time that do, in our own day, emerge and re-emerge to remind us that certain negative perspectives, unfortunately, do not totally disappear.
Pesach’s arrival in the spring can inspire us to renew our hopes for triumphs in the struggle for freedom against hatred and bigotry. The symbols of the Seder bring to life the promise of redemption, which can result from our faith in God and from our partnership with one another.
Emma Lazarus once said, “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” May her words, and the prayers and songs of our Passover celebration, lead us to continue the quest for liberty for all humanity.
Rabbi Larry Karol
What I learn from the Shabbat Morning Prayers - column for Temple Beth-El Las Cruces Adelante Newsletter for March 2018
On Sunday, February 11, 2018, over 160 people gathered at Temple Beth-El of Las Cruces to hear a speech and a voice echoing down to us from the past.
On March 12, 1961, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke at Temple Emanuel in Worcester, Massachusetts. Rabbi Joseph Klein of Temple Emanuel introduced Dr. King that night. Following his retirement from Temple Emanuel in 1977, Rabbi Klein made his way to Las Cruces to serve Temple Beth-El until 1984.
Before he left town to return to the northeast, he presented Temple Beth-El member Frances Williams with a cassette tape copy of a recording of the King speech. Eventually, KRWG was given the opportunity to enhance the audio.
Rabbi Klein’s granddaughter Laura contacted Temple Beth-El a few days before our program to let us know that the family had the original reel-to-reel tapes of the talk and the question-and-answer session following.
Temple Beth-El and the Dona Ana County Branch of the NAACP co-sponsored this gathering.
The NMSU Gospel Choir presented music to begin and end the event, and a local panel set a context for King’s talk and responded to King’s words,
Many of us who heard the speech on February 11 were impressed with its resonance for today, not only in the realm of race relations, but for other societal issues as well.
Dr. King noted how people might approach the situation in 1961 with optimism, pessimism and realism, recognizing how the United States had come a long, long way in treating African-Americans with dignity and equality, after the Brown v. Board school desegregation decision by the Supreme Court in 1954, and the registration of 1.3 million African- Americans in the South (but that was out of 5 million possible voters).
This paragraph touched us all, as we, in our time, all too often fail to engage in respectful conversation: “For too often in the South, we find ourselves seeking to live in monologue rather than dialogue. No greater tragedy can befall a community than this tragedy of seeking to live in monologue. Men hate each other often because they fear each other. They fear each other because they don’t know each other and they don’t know each other because they can’t communicate with each other. They can’t communicate with each other because they are separated from each other. And so that is a real challenge of this hour for the people of good will in the white South to rise up and take over the leadership and open the channels of communication and thereby make for a smooth and peaceful transition.”
And, finally, Dr. King called on people to be willing to be maladjusted “to the evils of discrimination...to religious bigotry...to economic conditions that will take necessities from the many to give luxuries to the few.” He concluded, “it may well be [that] the salvation of our world lies in the hand of the maladjusted.”
One of the songs presented by the NMSU Gospel Choir at the beginning of the program was of my own creation, based on Psalm 133, verse 1: “How good and how pleasant it is when we sit together.” The lyrics continued: “Are we destined to live in a world divided? We still can see clearly what makes us united. When we feel the ties that bind us, love and understanding will find us.”
On that day, hearing Dr. King’s voice, we realized that we still share that hope for understanding and unity.
Tuesday, February 27, 2018
And I decided, today, I still wasn’t done. I was perusing through the Mishkan T’filah for Gatherings prayerbook from the Central Conference of American Rabbis and found an alternative version of the Priestly Blessing. What intrigued me about this text was that it came from the Community Rule of the Dead Sea Scrolls. These ancient documents from a Jewish sect that existed over 2000 years ago include interpretations specific for that community. The familiar three lines that begin with the phrase “May God bless you and keep you” were embellished in this version, translated by scholar Nahum Glatzer:
MAY GOD BLESS YOU with all good
and keep you from all evil.
May God enlighten your heart with immortal wisdom
and grace you with eternal knowledge.
May God lift up merciful countenance upon you for eternal peace.
The text offered a unique opportunity to use basically the same melody for both the Hebrew and English. This one I wanted to be gentle and peaceful, due to the last word of the blessing.
The line that led me to want to create a melody for this blessing was the second statement: “and keep you from all evil.” On February 27, the day before Purim, the specter of evil, in the person of Haman in the book of Esther, loomed large for me. We need protection from those who hate without cause, those who spread untrue accusations, and those who seek to dehumanize others. In the book of Esther, Haman sought the death of the Jews. Declarations of bigotry intended to take away people’s humanity can cause their “social death,” where people oust them from the human community for no reason other than someone telling them that they should take that approach. We have seen this all too often. We need words of blessing to take us in a different direction. Hopefully, this prayer front he Dead Sea Scrolls offers that opportunity.