Sunday, June 17, 2018
It's the law? When our standards may not be SO absolute.... - another reflection on current approaches to immigration laws
I didn’t point it out to him, but I should have, that 55 is not an absolute. During the years 1973-1987, when oil prices skyrocketed due to the whims of OPEC, the speed limit was 55, but the rule of thumb for drivers, especially on long trips, was that you could drive up to 62 mph and likely not be charged with speeding.
That changes these days based on local authorities, especially when driving on a 2-lane road that runs through a small town where there is a quick change from 55 mph to, say, 30 mph. If you are traveling at 40 mph after passing the “reduce speed to 30 mph” sign, you are, technically, breaking the law. Otherwise, there may be 5 mph leeway above a set speed limit.
How many of us drive exactly 55 mph in a 55 mph zone? Or 65? Or 70?
I am sure that some of the very people talking about the need for “zero tolerance” in regards to immigration do not stick to the EXACT speed limit, and might exceed it accordingly. These may be two different arenas of law, but I don’t see the comparison as invidious at all. It is about consistency, moral and legal.
Consequently, I have little tolerance for zero-tolerance, unless it is zero-tolerance towards hatred and fear driving national policies. Sometimes the rules are their as targets, not as absolutes, to be enforced reasonably.
In 1940, the United States Congress passed the Alien Registration Act (also known as the Smith Act). This image is from my grandmother’s copy of the document. The rest of the form with her information was filled out, apparently, by my dad (I recognize the handwriting), in preparation for a trip to the post office for an interview. Anna Wolf Karol had arrived in the United States through Ellis Island in 1904, brought to this country to join relatives already in Kansas City . Her cousin Freda Itzkowitz (Shalinsky) may have come at the same time, and her mother Lena appears to have come a couple of years later, all likely from Poland.
Anna did not become a citizen until 1941. It is likely that this change in 1940 in American policy, which, if you read the document, changed her status from resident immigrant to potential subversive/pariah, spurred her on to naturalize. That happened on September 22, 1941.
I share this because it shows that an arbitrary policy change can turn someone from being a treasured community member to a near-criminal. And the fact that Japanese-Americans were likely identified because of this act (and then put in internment camps) is maddening to me.
I am grateful that my immigrant grandmother was able to come to this country at a time when there were NO QUOTAS and, by and large, immigrants were WELCOME. It was her journey that made new generations of Karols possible. Thanks, Bubby.
Friday, June 15, 2018
Korach, Dathan and Abiram
They are certainly not remembered for good
From the perspective of the Torah
Or from the viewpoint of the leader of the Israelites, Moses,
Or from the standpoint of most commentators.
Korach was a Levite who was dissatisfied that his family
was not eligible for the inner circle or priesthood.
Dathan and Abiram objected to Moses’ civil authority, wondering what made him so special to be their leader .
Moses responded to each challenge
With humility, but also with firmness.
There could only be one set of established priests,
and those, like Korach, who had supporting roles in the offering up of sacrifices
Were still as holy as they claimed to be.
The rebels, however, sought to be more than they were, and their motive seemed to have been to gain prestige and power.
They likely hoped to gain followers among the restless Israelites, many of whom had not stopped complaining.
Korach, Dathan and Abiram hoped to take advantage of the mounting disappointment
that the people had not yet reached their destination under Moses’ guidance.
What is clear to some of us who read this tale now is that prestige and power may seem glamorous and affirming of one’s ego if a person can win a major position of leadership.
Leadership, though, carries with it authority AND responsibility.
It is about making decisions. It is about caring for the people one leads.
It is about providing security. It is about preserving peace.
It is about committing oneself to truth and honesty
It is about engendering kindness where community members support each other from the depth of their hearts.
It is about establishing justice and fairness through thoughtful decisions of trusted magistrates
It is about offering sustenance for body, through food and shelter.
It is about presenting to the people a message of hope, even when immediate obstacles may make success seem out of reach.
It is about rejecting cruelty, hatred and vindictiveness as a basis for policies towards people of any age.
It is about seeing strangers and foreigners as allies and friends, when they show respect, seek rapprochement or sincerely ask for assistance
And it is about causing divisions among the people to melt away, allowing a shared sense of purpose and even love to result in an overflow of goodness and unity.
These are aspects of leadership that Korach, Dathan and Abiram did not take into account because they were thinking only of themselves.
So as we choose our leaders, and as we evaluate those already in positions of leadership,
May we wisely consider how we can present either support or, when warranted, strong challenges
That reflect the values that WE believe should be at the center of our lives
In our community, our nation, and our world.
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
A Volunteer’s Prayer - June 5, 2018 (revised) - for the Jewish Federation of Greater El Paso Volunteer of the Year Awards
A Volunteer’s Prayer (By Larry Karol - revised on June 5, 2018)
Eternal One, Creator and Sustainer of all life,
help me to serve
with a sense of selflessness and a generosity of spirit.
Teach me that even the small tasks that I do can be great
and that every time I step forward,
I am seeking to raise myself to a higher place
as I join others in creating and shaping a sacred community.
Help me to see that healing comes
from the patience and forgiveness
that I offer to others and to myself,
and that warmth is generated when I willingly extend an open hand
to a newcomer who seeks a sense of belonging
or to a member who hopes to deepen
his or her commitment to our heritage.
Remind me that, as I serve, I set an example
of what our community can and should be:
a place that reflects the best values of our tradition,
including unity, equality, cooperation, mutual respect,
compassion, and humility.
Enable me to understand that what I do is for Your sake,
that the reward for my volunteerism
is the overwhelming feeling of connection that I derive from giving.
Instill in me a sense of gratitude. for the opportunity to give.
Imbue in me a desire to show others how grateful I am
that they, also, have been willing to serve, to give, to help,
and to create lasting partnerships and friendships among members of all ages.
Grant me the wisdom to see
that I need to be present in many ways for my fellow community members
in times of sorrow, offering support and hope.
Give me the insight to foster a sense of celebration and joy
when we mark life’s milestones
and when our collaboration yields new ideas,
ongoing successes and growth.
May I join with my community to create a culture of honor
which will always highlight how the intangible gifts
that each of us can bring to our community
will make others want to join us along our common journey.
L’chayim – to life – for all of us as we seek the One
who keeps us alive, who sustains us, and who brings us
to each new chance to serve and share.