Dear Congregants and Friends:
We know what he has said. We know what he has done. We have seen evidence of his low-brow tastes, his moral failures and his unethical behavior; but we do not yet know what he will do as President.
He has taken opposite positions on the same issues. He has behaved as a cheat, a misogynist, a racist, and a bigot. He has stoked extremism and anti-Semitism. He plays badly in the sandbox and thinks nothing of kicking sand in the face of others. He shows little or no empathy. He demonstrates a self-centeredness that none of us would permit in our own children.
He lacks dignity and grace, and his pronouncements about matters domestic and foreign have worried experts on both sides of the aisle as well as past presidents from both political parties, past presidential candidates, and people far more learned and experienced than him in matters of government, policy and international relations.
He is a climate change denier, a skeptic of science, and a creator of his own facts.
But – he will now be our President, as difficult as that is to imagine for so many of us. The American people have spoken and voted, though our country is as polarized as at any time in my life time, and it is our duty as citizens to accept the decision of the majority of the American people.
Will he make America and the world unsafe or safe? With the nuclear codes in hand, will he be reckless or cautious? What will he do to undermine or support Israel’s security and our people’s place in the Middle East? Will he cause the reversal of Roe v Wade, cancel the Affordable Care Act and strip health insurance from twenty million people who have benefited while casting those of us with pre-existing conditions into the wilderness with no health insurance.
All these questions, and so many more, have yet to be answered. We do not know who he will appoint to his cabinet, or who his advisors will be. We are, at this point, groping in the dark about virtually everything. Yes, we have a strong constitutional system of government with many checks and balances – but will they hold now that there is only political party that controls all aspects of the federal government?
Like most of you, I would imagine, I am fearful about more than I can say.
What do we do?
As Jews we traditionally have turned to each other and recommitted ourselves to one another in times of uncertainty and stress. We have sought our people’s inner strength and our ancient wisdom, and we have taken faith in our capacity to adapt to whatever challenges we encounter, and thereby thrived as a people.
This is a time to turn to all peoples of faith and decency, and link our arms and hearts with theirs.
It’s a time for us Americans to remember what it is that really makes America great – not to fall victim to hostile and defensive rhetoric and bromides that pit us against each other – but to affirm the love that is at the heart of the Judeo-Christian-Muslim traditions.
This is the time to remember that we are each other’s brothers and sisters, that we have to remain openhearted and steadfast in our principles, that it is our duty to continue to perform acts of tzedakah (justice) and hesed (loving-kindness) no matter what.
We are an empathetic and compassionate people. Since the time of the Exodus from Egypt we Jews have known the heart of the stranger and we have identified with the marginalized and unsupported. We know that they are us and we are them, and we all need each other.
We Jews are something else as well – we are a sanctifying people who have striven always to bring God’s light into the world, to act as healers and repairers of all that which is wrong and unjust and cruel.
We Jews are always stronger in community than we are alone. I therefore invite you, young and old, children and the aged, Jew and non-Jew, to come to synagogue this Friday evening and join in celebrating Shabbat together.
Kabbalat Shabbat services at Temple Israel of Hollywood will begin at 6:30 pm. Do arrive a bit earlier so we can greet one another. We will sing together, pray and reflect together, and take joy in each other. I will share additional thoughts and reflections.
Speaking very personally – I need you, our community, as do my colleagues Rabbi Michelle Missaghieh, Rabbi Jocee Hudson, our Cantorial Soloist Shelly Fox, and our accompanist Michael Alfera. Please come.
Chazak v’eimatz – May we be strong together and thereby strengthen one another.
Rabbi John Rosove