Thursday, March 28, 2013

Remarks at Las Cruces Marriage Equality Rally - March 28, 2013

Why am I here? 
·   I directly faced the picketing of the Westboro Baptist Church for 15 years in Topeka - they even had a sign with my name on it - - that is only part of why I am here.
·   My national movement, the Union for Reform Judaism, at its December 2011 convention, honored Attorneys Ted Olson and David Boise for arguing against Proposition 8 in Federal District court in California – but that is only part of why I am here.
·   My Rabbi’s conference voted to acknowledge and assist rabbis performing same gender ceremonies 13 years ago - but that is only part of why I am here.
·    I am here because this is the week of Passover on the Jewish calendar.  The unleavened bread or MATZAH that members of my community eat this week is a symbol of a people hurriedly going out to freedom.  
·    I am here because of freedom - freedom from prejudice, freedom from discrimination, and freedom FOR people to encourage their neighbors to see the divine image in everyone, and to, once and for, understand the diversity within creation.   
·    I am here because of love.   This Sabbath is when we read in our Temples and synagogues from the Song of Songs, a biblical book all about love - including these verses from Chapter 8: Let me be a seal upon your heart, like the seal upon  your hand; vast floods cannot quench love, nor rivers drown it.
·    Marriage equality would recognize the KDUSHAH- holiness and AHAVAH - love - in all committed relationships and familiese, all of them a part of creation, all of them blessed by a God who loves each of us and loves diversity.
·    Finally, I am here because one of the highlights of my rabbinate was officiating three years ago at the marriage of two women in New Hampshire. That day we signed their legal state marriage certificate, which I mailed in the next day.  That was a taste of freedom that I  would want for any couple - and, I am here, because I, as a rabbi, want to see more people have that freedom to proudly, openly and joyfully celebrate their love and commitment.
May the vision we are espousing today be like a seal upon our hearts and a sign upon our hands, hands that are joined together in love and in a desire for freedom for everyone. 

A Passover Prayer for 5773

We pray for freedom for all who are not yet free
We pray for strength to face the challenges before us
We pray for hope that will continue to inspire us to reach for our goals and dreams
We pray for a world where justice and compassion, together, will lead us all to peace. 

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Crafting Community - Comments from Temple Beth-El, Las Cruces, NM members and others - March 8, 2013

What are the ingredients that go into making a community?
  • Trust is important, being able to trust those around us in order to work together.    I also think face to face contact is very important - actually engaging in conversations and tasks together.   I think it is easy to forget this with all the technology we have.
  • place, purposes, open minds and hearts
  • a shared belief/willingness to identify ourselves as part of something bigger than ourselves
  • I think honesty and trust are two important ingredients for making a community.  Without  them there is only argument and divisiveness.
  • sense of fellowship, a sense of purpose, binding together toward a common goal, consideration of those who make up the community of what their concerns are and addressing them, listening to members of the community and providing assistance whenever and wherever possible, being there for community members especially in time of need, having a sense of reliance that members of the community will be there and band together as a force of one when required.  
  • Moses had it, David had it, Solomon had it.  It's called leadership.  The Israelites lost their focus when they left Egypt and didn't get it back until Moses came back from Sinai and reminded them of the reasons G-d had liberated them, and gave them focus on what the mission was and what they had to do.  They were kept together by Moses' leadership.  Leaders must listen, sometimes make hard choices, which should benefit the community as a whole and not just the few,  But they should be respectful of the minority voices and respond their concerns as well.  Without leadership organizations become dysfunctional are in disarray and may die.  Leaders keep their eye on the ball, remember what their mission is and always keep focused on the bottom line.  
  •  I think a community should be based primarily on "good will". The desire to do good with out reward. Community is NOT barter, " I'll do this good deed and I expect you to do a good deed for me."
  •  diversity of people, viewpoints, compassion and respect for others, vision, goals 
  • Generosity of spirit, recognizing that honor comes from honoring others, selfless giving.
  • positive thinking people, good leaders, a structure to gather, activities thru education or social.
  • mutual respect and forebearance, genuine care and compassion, forgiveness of self and one another, eating laughing, joking with one another, breaking bread for Shabbat and otherwise. 

What skills are needed for those who are creating and leading the community?
  • Have a vision and get people involved in building a common project.
  • personal convictions, openness to those of others, sense of humor
  • the ability to listen, to be diplomatic and fair and  and to consider what's best for the survival of the community. 
  • Those responsible need the honesty part but also, I think, reliability and strength of character.
  • Flexibility; creativity; patience/tolerance; compassion; perseverance; comradery;
  • Two things...listening is clearly the first. The second is responding with your audience in mind.  When I left University teaching I gave a final talk on the one word that captured what I had learned during 40 years of leadership.  The word I chose was "audience".
  • Leaders who can engage and involve members into actions of and within the community. A leader who can guide a group with minimal direct action.
  • Creating landmarks of familiarity from past experiences and fashioning new modes of understanding together, while reminding everyone that being part of a community means sharing social and spiritual space equally.
  • Ability to communicate with all stakeholders, willing to do the work, willingness to be proactive, "keep your eyes on the prize/goal"
  • enthusiasm, creativity, willingness to assist in the gathering place
  • Skills needed: sensitivity, careful and responsive listening, folks with different gifts who have a genuine willingness to pool them together, and love (to name a few),

What is the role of community members in sustaining the community?
  • Commitment to the common goal, commitment to togetherness. Showing up! 
  • Sustained involvement in discussions and decisions
  • to bring our talents or what we're capable of at a certain time and to share in times of joy and sadness with other community members so we are a community not just a group of individuals.
  • Community members should be able to rely on the leaders but also contribute their individual skills.  They should apply their skill set to bettering life for others.  Their skill might be education or building, cooking or organizing.  Everyone has something to contribute for the good of all.  The leaders should welcome and value these contributions.
  • Working together toward a common goal and purpose for the good of the whoie and not just a few.  Leaders should guide the community members in meeting their purpose and take an active role in guiding them in sustaining the community.  A leader may not necessary do things right, but always does the right thing.  A leader also must be a mediator and work for compromise, i. el, give a little to get a little.
  • Flexibility; creativity; patience/tolerance; compassion; perseverance; comradery;
  • Some how "less selfish" springs to mind, 
  • Willingness to become involved.
  •    Doing the work, provide resources - financial, spiritual, emotional,  recognition of leaders and other participants
  • Willing to assist regardless of personal schedules, financial support, ideas to help in financial support, sponsorship of ideas, to PARTICIPATE
  • Sustaining a community involves members being present and supportive for one another and compassionate towards one another, while giving any criticism constructively, helpfully and in private.
  • I think community is fragile. It must be nurtured and folks need to keep at it. . . .

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Prayer for homeowners facing foreclosure - March 6, 2013

Eternal One, you have given us an opportunity to live in this world and, hopefully, to thrive and enjoy our families, our communities and our homes. Help us to see that it is through compassionate policies and open hearts that we can best support each other in times of joy and challenge. May those who enable aspiring homeowners to buy their homes do so in a way that will be sustainable and flexible rather than constraining and punitive. May homeowners now in difficult positions in their lives due to unforeseen challenges find a friend in government and banks, rather than a source of anxiety or a signal of failure. May empathy and kindness ever guide us in our approach to each other as fellow community members and as human deserving of respect.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

A table set for freedom - Article in Temple Beth-El Las Cruces Adelante Newsletter - March, 2013

A table is set.
  Beneath an ornate and festive cloth, a thin, unusual slice of bread awaits to be tasted once again.
  Two candles stand tall, waiting to be kindled, serving as beacons along a path towards liberation.
  A decorative plate creates holy space for signs of our hopeful celebration. It is a gathering-place for a small community of symbols that make an ancient story come alive once again.
   One element in that holiday still-life is a remnant of sacrifices that once were a regular part of our heritage, with, in this case, a saving purpose.
   Two items remind us of the season of the year that has just begun, one a miniature tree of life that will be covered with tears, the other declaring that life’s renewal is an ever-present possibility.
   The ingredients of a soon-to-be-fashioned annual appetizer signify how bitterness and sweetness are both a part of life and growth, and how our hard work in our daily routines need not ever enslave us.
   Glasses or cups set in their proper places will receive a touch of joy several times during the evening to come. They will teach us, at one important moment when we slowly diminish their contents, that we are commanded to consider the demise of both friend and foe as tragedy and a cause for concern and mourning.
    One cup stands alone, different from all the others, keeping its contents throughout the evening, yet thought to be shared with an invisible wayfarer who embodies our highest hopes for a peaceful future.
   The book at each setting is the road map for a journey that begins with oppression and culminates in hard-earned freedom.  Its words still are familiar after so many generations.
   There are questions intended to assure that the lessons of the night are fully understood by all who are present. There are blessings for the many items on the table, giving each one its role in a story of redemption.
   There are ancient words explained in light of centuries of pain and pride, of life and learning.
   There are scores of melodies accompanying texts that echo from one household to the next, still serving as harmony even if the tunes are completely different.
   There is a tale within this “book of telling” of a father, a child, a young goat, and a cycle of tragedy and violence that, in real life, we must try to bring to an end, so that goodness and godliness will triumph over hatred and death.
    Mostly, there are faces of participants around the table from all generations, carrying with them the histories of their origins, bringing their contribution to a circle of fellowship which we always strive to extend to all humankind.
    May this Passover be our time to pray for goodness, healing and liberty in our own lives and to seek cooperation, understanding and peace in our nation and throughout the world.