Baruch Atah Adonai Eloheinu Melech Haolam
I am grateful to have the opportunity to serve you for
another three years. Rhonda and I
are happy to continue to be your partners in making Temple Beth-El a place
where we can fulfill our Temple mission “to learn, celebrate, serve and grow
together.” I thank Rhonda for her
wisdom, support, and her sharing of her talents yet again. I thank our son Adam at a distance
for his unsurprising wisdom, which will stand him in good stead as the eventual
spouse of a rabbi. I mention Juli
Schnur, Adam’s fiancée, for the first time in an Annual Message, knowing she
will read these words online and begin to see the impact she will have on our
family and, by extension, this congregation. I am grateful to Temple president Dee Cook, to board
members, to committee chairs and members, to the Mensch Club, Sisterhood and
BETY, and to everyone who stands up to be counted. The more we put into our commitment as fellow travelers on
this Jewish and communal journey, the more we will gain for our own growth and
for the ever-increasing spirit and passion of our community. So let us continue to praise God, who
keeps us alive, sustains us, and brings us to new seasons of connection, hope,
joy and love.
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Friday, May 16, 2014
Eternal Spirit of the Universe,
Source of our wisdom and talents,
You are the defender of the stranger, the fatherless,
the widow and the worker.
You have taught us to treat one another with care and respect.
You have directed us to find dignity in ourselves and in our work.
But you have reminded us that dignity on the inside
must be matched with dignity on the outside.
We thank you for employers who see the individuality of every one of their employees.
We pray for stores and corporations that fail to see how workers make their profits possible.
We thank You for the restaurant owner who bails a worker in distress out of jail.
We pray for the boss who refuses to let an employee attend a family funeral.
We thank You for the determination of a single parent who works two or even three jobs to cover household expenses and care for his or her children.
We pray for the store manager who fires a worker for holding down more than one job, which that employee took as a matter of survival.
We thank You for companies that pay for skills training to help workers grow and advance.
We pray for employers who are unable to see in the people who work for them a special spark of creativity right before their eyes that could bring them great benefit if they would only give them a chance to shine.
We thank You for workplaces that generate a true feeling of community, support and concern.
We pray for those employers who create work environments that intentionally keep employees in competition with one another.
We thank You for those business owners who reward the dedication and commitment of faithful and loyal staff members with a living wage, bonuses and benefits.
We pray for those who devalue work and worker alike by claiming that some jobs are inferior to others.
We learn from this saying of the rabbis of the Talmud that we all deserve respect and to be treated with dignity.
“I am a creature of God and my neighbor is also part of creation;
my work is in the city and his work is in the field
I rise early to my work and he rises early to his.
As he cannot excel in my work, so I cannot excel in his work.
But you may be tempted to say, 'I do great things and he small things!'
We have learned that it matters not whether it seems that one does much or little,
That is the type of city and community I want to live in,
one that values every person and his or her work
and one that provides the means for every individual
and every family to live without the fear
of hunger or homelessness due to low wages.
These are ancient teachings in which we believe.
Our hearts will not be hardened.
Our voices will continue to be heard.
Our hands will continue to be open to reach for each other
in love, dignity and respect!
Creator and Sustainer of us all,
We ask you now for strength, for help, and for hope
And may your Oneness inspire our oneness and unity. Amen
*Original text – “directs his/her heart to heaven
Friday, May 9, 2014
|A replica of the Liberty Bell in Jerusalem's Liberty Bell Park |
(Gan Pa'amon HaDror) which was founded in 1976.
Thursday, May 1, 2014
On the Shabbat evening before we hosted our first Jewish Food and Folk Festival, I asked congregants gathered for that service to list, from their perspective, aspects of Judaism about which our neighbors should know. Before a day when we shared the sights, tastes and sounds of Judaism with such enthusiasm, I wanted to get a sense of which intangible values are central to our heritage. This is an impressive list!
- Personal responsibility.
- We are still here!
- Judaism is not just Christianity without Jesus.
- We are not one monolithic block that all think and act alike.
- Torah is the most important thing and everything else is commentary. The values of the Torah are the guideposts of our lives.
- We try to be a moral and ethical people.
- We believe in one God.
- A direct and personal experience and relationship with God is available to all of us regardless of social standing or background.
- With our prayerbook in both Hebrew and English, we reaffirm that Hebrew, the language of our ancestors, has meaning and significance for us.
- Acceptance of other peoples views: we believe that it's everyone's right to believe what they want, and we want that same consideration.
- Working for peace for all peoples and standing up for the oppressed are central to our faith.
- Tikkun olam--repairing the world.
- Advocating for justice: tzedek and tzedakah.
- Shabbat has kept the Jewish people. The values of the Sabbath – rest, consideration, joy and reverence for creation - are central to Judaism.
- Tikkun midot--repairing oneself.
- We were once slaves in Egypt, but now we're free.
- It's important to make distinctions between what is proper and not proper, right and wrong, and secular and holy
The murders at Village Shalom and the Jewish Community Center of Overland Park, Kansas on April 13 put some of these values to the test. A memorial service at the JCC on April 17 brought together a cross-section of the Kansas City interfaith community to offer prayers and words of comfort, reassurance and hope. The fact that none of the victims—Reat Griffin Underwood, William Lewis Corporon, and Terri LaManno—were Jewish demonstrates the reality that we know so well in Las Cruces. No faith community is an island. We all live together. Residents in a city should seek to strengthen ties with each other across any “definitions” of identity that might have a potential to create division. We sing often the words of Psalm 133:1: “How good and how pleasant it is when people dwell together in unity.” We have the opportunity, every day, to strengthen and deepen that sense of interconnectedness.
On Sunday, April 20, as we continued our Passover celebration and the Christian world observed Easter, I shared this thought on my Facebook profile: “Redemption...deliverance...freedom. These themes suffuse this day with meaning for many people around the world. May we work together throughout the year with these values as our goal.”
Those principles, along with peace, constitute a thread running through every Shabbat and holiday worship service. And with Israel Independence Day approaching, we continue to look for progress along the path to reconciliation within Israel, between various ideological sub-communities, and between Israel and her neighbors. Our impromptu summary of central Jewish tenets can and should serve as a guide in the relationships we develop and maintain throughout our lives.
Shalom, which we usually translate as peace, can also mean “wholeness” or “completeness.” When we say or sing “Oseh Shalom,” that prayer reminds us that the tranquility and growth within creation can be ours if we work in harmony with one another. May the teachings of our tradition continue to guide us towards that ultimate destination.