A Prayer in Memory of the Victims of September 11

Note: This prayer was first written and posted on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in 2011.

Eternal God, / Source and Creator of Life; / From the depths we have called to You / and we call to You again for courage, strength, and wisdom on this 20the year anniversary of our nation’s tragedy.

Grant us courage to confront our enemies. / Comfort those who stand alone without spouse, parent, brother, sister, or friend. / Open our hearts to them and to the children orphaned. / Enable us to love more deeply all children who suffer. / Accept with mercy our prayers of healing on behalf of the families of the victims / and on behalf of the first responders who became ill at Ground Zero and who eventually died as a consequence.

Despite the horror and tragedy of 9/11, / our country remains a shelter of peace, / a symbol of freedom / a beacon light of compassion and justice / to the downtrodden and oppressed of the world.

Strengthen the hands of our people to defend this country / and our common values of freedom and justice. / Inspire our leaders and diplomats / to act wisely and to pursue peace everywhere in the world.

May we teach our children to learn and to think, / to consider and to reason, / to be courageous in thought and in deed, / and to nurture hearts of wisdom / that they may do battle against fear, hatred and bigotry / using weapons of the spirit and loving hearts.

We offer our prayers / on behalf of our country and government, our President and judiciary, / our officials and institutions, our soldiers and citizens, / upon all who faithfully toil for the good of our country, / to preserve democracy in our land, / to advocate for civility between adversaries, / and to treat every human being as infinitely worthy and dignified / by virtue of being created b’Tzelem Elohim, in the Divine image.

Bestow upon us all the blessings of peace, / and may we live to see the day / when swords will be converted into plowshares / and nations will not learn war anymore. / Amen!

By Rabbi John L. Rosove, Senior Rabbi Emeritus, Temple Israel of Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

Posted originally in The Times of Israel – see https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-prayer-in-memory-of-the-victims-of-september-11/

A Goat and an ‘Old Almost Forgotten Dog’

When I studied the History of Art as an undergraduate, I recall a drawing (I don’t remember the artist) of a “Scapegoat” surrounded by fumes, and Aaron, the High Priest, sending it off alone into the desert. The ritual is found in the traditional scriptural reading in synagogues on Yom Kippur morning (see Leviticus 16:10, 21-22).

It was a powerful image showing how a hapless goat was believed to absorb and carry away the transgressions of an entire people thereby leaving the community relieved of its sins and guilt. This transference was affected through the hands of the High Priest that gathered and held all the people’s character flaws, destructive sinful obsessions of jealousy, envy, pride, lust, egotism, rage, revenge, cynicism, and guilt. The innocent goat was exiled to a place called Azazel (now understood to be the Kidron Valley just south of Jerusalem’s Old City walls) and is the origin of the notion of “scapegoating” a despised “other,” a phenomenon, of course, not at all based on the character of the innocent “other” but rather on the projection and transference of the community’s evil inclinations.

In the rabbinic period that formally began after the destruction of the 2nd Jerusalem Temple in 70 CE, the rabbis taught (based on the moral preaching of the biblical prophets) that greater moral, psychological, and spiritual accountability was required to effect change and bring about societal renewal. They taught that the most constructive and effective ways for the community and individuals to cope with and transcend their negative drives and emotions include a return to God, Torah, community, and self (t’shuvah), self-judgment (shifut atzmi), forgiveness (s’lichah), memory of the virtues of our forebears (zich’ronot), fasting (tzom), various other kinds of physical self-denial (hach’chashah atzmit), deeds of loving-kindness (g’milut chasadim) and simply loving others (ahavah) by virtue of the religious truth that all human beings are created in the Divine image (b’tzelem Elohim) and thus embody infinite value and worth. Those who take seriously these principles and virtuous behaviors clean the moral grime away covering the soul, heretofore existing in darkness, to shine into the world and for our people to become a light to the nations (or lagoyim – Isaiah 60:3).

In Ray Bradbury’s complex allegorical tale of good and evil, Something Wicked This Way Comes (the title’s origin derives from Shakespeare’s Macbeth – Act IV, Scene I – in a phrase spoken by a witch who knows something bad is coming because there’s a tingling sensation in her thumbs), the author describes the disappearance and re-emergence of “an old almost forgotten dog,” reminiscent of the Levitical scapegoat:

“Some time every year that dog, good for many months, just ran on out into the world and didn’t come back for days and finally did limp back all burred and scrawny and odorous of swamps and dumps; he had rolled in the dirty mangers and foul dropping places of the world, simply to turn home with a funny little smile pinned to his muzzle. Dad named the dog Plato, the wilderness philosopher, for you saw by his eyes there was nothing he didn’t know. Returned, the dog would live in innocence again, tread patterns of grace, for months, then vanish, and the whole thing start over.” (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1962, pages 78-79)

Both Leviticus and Something Wicked assume the existence of a harsh, corrupt, cynical, morally-disheartening, and soul-crushing world against which humankind must cope to morally survive and renew itself. I need not detail the evidence nor the pain experienced by so many this past year. They are far too numerous to list. Much of it, of course, is human induced and consequently we bear the responsibility of our actions and inaction. The hapless scapegoat and the bruised wandering dog are concrete reminders that humankind is far from adequately evolved emotionally, psychologically, morally, and spiritually, and that we individuals, the Jewish community, and humankind have a long way to go to responsibly purge ourselves of our destructive obsessions, impulses, and actions.

The High Holidays, thankfully, arrive annually to reengage us (if we haven’t been doing so throughout the year) in the necessary inner restorative work that enables the full flowering of the virtues of humility, appreciation, generosity, justice, kindness, love, and peace. May these Ten Days of T’shuvah (return, turning) and Yom Kippur be a time of reflection, self-criticism, commitment to do better, and renewal.

G’mar chatimah tovah.

This blog was originally posted at The Times of Israelhttps://blogs.timesofisrael.com/a-goat-and-an-old-almost-forgotten-dog/

The Wisdom of 4 Sages and a Blessing for the New Year

There is much for us to think about individually and as a Jewish community this High Holiday season. Our world is in turmoil, Covid threatens too many people’s lives and health, the climate is demonstrably more and more threatening to life on earth, American political polarization, economic disparities, bigotry, and racial tensions threaten our democracy, Israel has yet to adequately address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and people everywhere are seeking wisdom to help them manage their lives and cope with the manifold challenges we face. All this inspired me to share the words of the Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai, and the Talmudic sages Ben Zoma, Rabbi Ilai, and Hillel. I hope that their words hold meaning for you.

[1] The Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai always inspires me. He wrote of the spirit of renewal, one of the central themes of the upcoming High Holiday season:

“From the place where we are right / Flowers will never grow / In the spring.”

These simple three phrases suggest that humility is essential to natural and human growth and that the other virtues are dependent upon it.

I offer three more short passages from Talmudic literature that speak of virtues cherished in Jewish tradition and worthy of our consideration as we enter into the New Year.

[2] “Ben Zoma said:

Eizeh hu chacham Who is wise? Ha-lomed mi kol adam The one who learns something from every other human being.

Eizeh hu gibor – Who is strong? Ha-kovesh et yitzro the one who subdues his/her evil inclination.

Eizeh hu ashir Who is wealthy? Ha-sameiach b’chelko The one who is satisfied with his/her portion.

Eizeh hu m’chubad Who is honored? Ha-m’chabed et ha-briyot The one who honors others.” Mishna Avot 4:1

Commentary:

Ben Zoma’s answers to his questions (Who is wise? Who is strong? Who is wealthy? Who is honored?) are the opposite of what we might expect.

Wisdom depends not on being the smartest person with the highest IQ in the room, but on developing high emotional intelligence that begins with humility so as to be able to learn something new in the interaction with every person we encounter, young or old, wise or simple, wealthy or poor, friend or foe, of high or low station.

Strength isn’t determined by physical brawn, but by our ability to control our anger, lust, craving, and desire.

Wealth is not measured by the accumulation of more and better material things, but by how satisfied we are with whatever we possess.

Honor is not attained by the striving after position, but by humility before all, and by deference and generosity towards others thus honoring who they are and openly respecting and praising their virtues and accomplishments.

[3] “Rabbi Ilai says: Bishloshah devarim adam nikar: b’koso, u-v’kiso, u-v’ka-aso. V’amri lei: af b’sach’ko a person is known by three things: one’s cup, one’s wallet, and one’s anger. Some say: one’s enjoyment of life (i.e. how a person spends one’s leisure time). Talmud, Eruvim 65a

Commentary:

A person’s nature, values, and integrity are measured and observed when he/she drinks too much liquor or abuses other mind-altering substances (koso –“cup”), by one’s integrity in business and honesty in every day financial affairs, and generosity towards others (kiso –“wallet”), how one controls one’s emotions (ka-aso –anger), and some say how one spends one’s leisure time (sach’ko – fun time).

[4] “A man came before Hillel and asked to be converted. Hillel said – Da-alach s’nei l’chav’rach la ta-aveid – That which is hateful to you do not do to another – zo hi kol haTorah kulah – that is the entire Torah – v’idakh peirusha hu, zil g’mor – and the rest is its interpretation. Go study.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a

Commentary:

The so-called “Golden Rule” is a variation on three words in the central verse in the central book of the five books of Moses – Leviticus 19:18 – “V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha!” “You shall love your neighbor as you love yourself” because like him/her, “I” (the Holy Creator) created you in the Divine image.” (Genesis 1:27)

A prayer for the New Year 5782

May each of us, the people we love, all those in our friendship and collegial circles, and in our wider Jewish community be healthy and strengthened in our communal and individual resolve to grow, confront challenge, be creative, relevant, and productive on behalf of others. May our liberal Jewish and progressive Zionist values guide us in confronting injustice and hardship and in promoting human dignity and human rights. And may our people in Israel and around the world know safety and peace.

L’shanah tovah u-m’tukah – A good and sweet New Year to you all.

This blog also appears at The Times of Israelhttps://blogs.timesofisrael.com/the-wisdom-of-4-sages-and-a-blessing-for-the-new-year/

“40 Million People Rely on the Colorado River. It’s Drying Up Fast.”

In today’s NY Times “Sunday Review” cover story by Abraham Lustgarten, an environmental reporter for ProPublica, he reviews the dramatic effect of climate change on the stunning loss of water in the Colorado River and what it means in the not-too-distant future for the Western United States, agricultural production for the entire country, and meat sales in the Middle East and Asia.

Lustgarten’s article is long (2300 words) and I usually resist reading anything so hefty. But the photographs are stunning and the story is so disturbing that I read through to the end. I encourage you to do the same, but for those faint-of-heart and, like me, disinclined to read very long articles, here are Lustgarten’s salient points with suggested solutions that will take a massive reordering of society in order to address climate change on the one hand and water consumption on the other.

As we move into the High Holiday season beginning on Monday evening, September 6th, with Rosh Hashanah, we will celebrate the created world as we look inward, become more self-critical, and strive to evolve into more conscientious moral beings.

A Midrash to the Book of Ecclesiastes (8:28) clarifies our directive vis a vis the created world:

“In the hour when the Holy One, blessed be God, created the first human being, God took the person and let him/her pass before all the trees of the Garden of Eden, and said to the person: See my works, how fine and excellent they are! Now all that I have created, for you have I created it. Think upon this, and do not corrupt and desolate my world; for if you corrupt it, there is no one to set it right after you.”

What follows are Lustgarten’s most important points:

  • Lake Mead, a reservoir formed by the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s, is one of the most important pieces of infrastructure on the Colorado River, supplying fresh water to Nevada, California, Arizona and Mexico. The reservoir hasn’t been full since 1983. In 2000, it began a steady decline caused by epochal drought. In 2015, the lake was just about 40 percent full.
  • For years, experts in the American West have predicted that, unless the steady overuse of water was brought under control, the Colorado River would no longer be able to support all of the 40 million people who depend on it.
  • Like the record-breaking heat waves and the ceaseless mega-fires, the decline of the Colorado River has been faster than expected. This year, even though rainfall and snowpack high up in the Rocky Mountains were at near-normal levels, the parched soils and plants stricken by intense heat absorbed much of the water, and inflows to Lake Powell were around one-fourth of their usual amount. The Colorado’s flow has already declined by nearly 20 percent, on average, from its flow throughout the 1900s, and if the current rate of warming continues, the loss could well be 50 percent by the end of this century.
  • Earlier this month, federal officials declared an emergency water shortage on the Colorado River for the first time.
  • The Colorado River provides water for the people of seven states, 29 federally recognized tribes and northern Mexico, and its water is used to grow everything from the carrots stacked on supermarket shelves in New Jersey to the beef in a hamburger served at a Massachusetts diner. The power generated by its two biggest dams — the Hoover and Glen Canyon — is marketed across an electricity grid that reaches from Arizona to Wyoming.
  • The Census Bureau released numbers showing that, even as the drought worsened over recent decades, hundreds of thousands more people have moved to the regions that depend on the Colorado.
  • Phoenix expanded more over the past 10 years than any other large American city, while smaller urban areas across Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California each ranked among the fastest-growing places in the country. The river’s water supports roughly 15 million more people today than it did when Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992.
  • Since about 70 percent of water delivered from the Colorado River goes to growing crops, not to people in cities, the next step will likely be to demand large-scale reductions for farmers and ranchers across millions of acres of land.
  • California’s enormous share of the river, which it uses to irrigate crops across the Imperial Valley and for Los Angeles and other cities, will be in the cross hairs when negotiations over a diminished Colorado begin again.
  • New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and Wyoming will most likely also face pressure to use less water.
  • With the building of the Hoover Dam to collect and store river water, and the development of the Colorado’s plumbing system of canals and pipelines to deliver it, the West was able to open a savings account to fund its extraordinary economic growth. Over the years since, those states have overdrawn the river’s average deposits.
  • Leaders in Western states have allowed wasteful practices to continue that add to the material threat facing the region. A majority of the water used by farms goes to growing nonessential crops like alfalfa and other grasses that feed cattle for meat production. Much of those grasses are also exported to feed animals in the Middle East and Asia.

Water usage data suggests that if Americans avoid meat one day each week they could save an amount of water equivalent to the entire flow of the Colorado each year, more than enough water to alleviate the region’s shortages.

  • Ranchers often take their maximum allocation of water each year, even if just to spill it on the ground, for fear that, if they don’t, they could lose the right to take that water in the future.
  • About 10 percent of the river’s recent total flow evaporates off the sprawling surfaces of large reservoirs as they bake in the sun. Last year, evaporative losses from Lake Mead and Lake Powell alone added up to almost a million acre feet of water — or nearly twice what Arizona will be forced to give up now as a result of this month’s shortage declaration. These losses are increasing as the climate warms.

What to do about this?

  • Over the years, Western states and tribes have agreed on voluntary cuts, which defused much of the political chaos that would otherwise have resulted from this month’s shortage declaration, but they remain disparate and self-interested parties hoping they can miraculously agree on a way to manage the river without truly changing their ways.
  • For all their wishful thinking, climate science suggests there is no future in the region that does not include serious disruptions to its economy, growth trajectory, and perhaps even quality of life.
  • The uncomfortable truth is that difficult and unpopular decisions are now unavoidable.
  • The laws that determine who gets water in the West, and how much of it, are based on the principle of “beneficial use” — generally the idea that resources should further economic advancement.
  • But whose economic advancement?
  • Do we support the farmers in Arizona who grow alfalfa to feed cows in the United Arab Emirates?
  • Or do we ensure the survival of the Colorado River, which supports some 8 percent of the nation’s G.D.P.?
  • Water levels in Lake Mead could drop by another 40 vertical feet by the middle 2023, ultimately reaching just 1,026 feet above sea level — an elevation that further threatens Lake Mead’s hydroelectric power generation for about 1.3 million people in Arizona, California and Nevada. At 895 feet, the reservoir would become what’s called a “dead pool”; water would no longer be able to flow downstream.
  • Fantastical and expensive solutions that have previously been dismissed by the federal government — like the desalinization of seawater, towing icebergs from the Arctic, or pumping water from the Mississippi River through a pipeline — are likely to be seriously considered.
  • None of this, however, will be enough to solve the problem unless it’s accompanied by serious efforts to lower carbon dioxide emissions, which are ultimately responsible for driving changes to the climate.

17 Jewish Thinkers and Leaders in Israel and North America Offer HH Reflections

The J Street Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet (representing 1000 North American Rabbis and Cantors) invited 17 thought leaders including Israeli journalists, hosts and commentators of “The Promised Podcast” (TLV1), leaders of Israeli peace NGOs, American Jewish academics, Israeli and North American rabbis, cantors, rabbinic students, and cantorial students, to respond to the question – “What do you wish for Israel in the New Year.” The following individuals offered their thoughts:

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson – Bradley Burston – Noah Efron – Sarina Elenbogen-Siegel – Rafi Ellenson – Don Futterman – Cantor Evan Kent – Rabbi Sandra Lawson – Rabbi Andrea C. London – Rabbi Michael Marmur – Max Antman – Jessica Montell – Rabbi John L. Rosove – Chemi Shalev – Sam Sussman – Rabbi David Teutsch – Sarah Tuttle-Singer

I hope you will find meaning in these offerings and share them with your friends.

L’shanah tovah!

See – https://jstreet.org/j-street-high-holiday-reflections-5782/#.YSZb7tNKhhF

Vote “NO” on the Recall of Governor Newsom

The California Recall election of Governor Newsom is an attempt by California “Trump” Republicans (a large number, but far too few to actually be able win the Governor’s office in a regular election) to take over the Governorship by means other than the regular 4-year election, scheduled in only one year.

This Recall Vote is costing the California tax-payer a whopping $276 million, money that instead could have helped reduce college debt, or given young families a child tax credit, or assisted homeless Californians, or given support to the food insecure among whom are many children, or given raises to fire-fighters, or done a hundred other important things to help strengthen the social safety net in this era of Covid, climate change, and economic hardship.

The expenditure of such a large amount of money is completely unnecessary and ought to be defeated handily by every reasonable voter and certainly by California Democrats. If we don’t like Governor Newsom, then wait a year and vote for another candidate in the regular primary election season.

This ridiculous Recall Election is just more of the disheartening Republican “Trump-style” election voter-suppression politics that could be won by a Republican reactionary if Democrats and Independents do not vote in the numbers relative to our voting strength throughout the state.

Here are four things to do with your mail-in ballot:

  1. VOTE “NO” on the recall effort;
  2. DO NOT VOTE FOR ANY ALTERNATIVE CANDIDATE even if you vote “NO” on the recall generally;
  3. Send in your ballot ASAP;
  4. Tell all your voting-age family and friends through social media to VOTE NO. There is no guarantee that Democrats will win this election despite our massive demographic edge unless we actually vote.

Sitting out this election is not an option!

A Must-Listen – “The Promised Podcast”

I have written before on why I love “The Promised Podcast” out of Tel Aviv each week broadcast on TLV1, and today I double-down on why I hope you will download the App and listen especially to this week’s episode called the “Ash, Dust & Compassion” Edition.

Each week three very smart, articulate, and thoughtful American olim to Israel including host Noah Efron (teacher of science at Bar Ilan University), and commentators Allison Kaplan Sommer (a regular Haaretz journalist covering the American Jewish community), Don Futterman (Director of the Moriah Fund and a leader in turning around under-performing low income Israeli elementary schools), Ohad Zeltzer-Zubida (a literature critic for Haaretz), and  Miriam Herschlag (the opinion and blogs editor at The Times of Israel) reflect on three of the most important issues confronting Israel in any particular week.

I remember thinking to myself years ago that I needed to read Tom Friedman in the NY Times each week in order to know how to think about matters large and small confronting America, Israel, and the Middle East. I now listen to “The Promised Podcast” for the same enlightenment concerning Israeli affairs.

Today’s program was an extraordinary experience as a listener. For the first time I can remember (I’ve been listening for years weekly), Noah took the entire podcast time to reflect on the significance of the 40th anniversary of the first song appearing in Israel on the theme of the Holocaust. Noah is a superb writer and today he was illuminating on the meaning and significance of the Shoah for survivors who came to Israel in the early years after the liberation and Israelis in those years, the intermediate years initiated in part by Menachem Begin when he was elected Prime Minister in 1977, and the growing division in Israeli society on how to respond to the call “Never Again” especially vis a vis Israel’s relationship with the Arab world and the Palestinian people and leadership.

Noah interweaves his commentary and narrative with the words of survivors during the Eichmann trial and since, and in the themes expressed in Israeli popular music (of which he is an expert) beginning with Hannah Senesh’s “Eili Eili” and through to contemporary Israeli popular and rock.

Every English-speaking Jew (and others who wish to understand Israel today) would profit by listening each week to The Promised Podcast. It is that good.

“Israel is Broadway – the Diaspora is Off-Broadway” – Rabbi Richard Hirsch z’l

Few people I have known in my life have had more of an influence on my thinking and focus as a Jew, rabbi and Zionist than Rabbi Richard G. Hirsch (1926-2021) who passed away on August 17, 2021. An extraordinary human being is not hyperbole when speaking of him. We can credit Rabbi Hirsch with instilling strength in the Israeli Reform movement and around the world, with building significant Reform institutions in the United States and Israel, and with inspiring thousands upon thousands of people over his more than seven decades of Jewish and Zionist activism and leadership.

I first met “Dick,” as all his friends knew him, in the summer of 1973 in the Library of the Hebrew Union College in Jerusalem. Rabbi David Forman, of blessed memory, then the Assistant Dean of Students for the 1st year Reform Rabbinic Program in Israel, gathered my class together to meet Rabbi Hirsch. I quickly knew, as I sat listening to him, that I was in the presence of a great man.

Already at that time, Dick had established the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, D.C., inspired Kivie Kaplan, a wealthy friend to donate an old four-story embassy building on Massachusetts Avenue in which Dick set up shop and drew in other Jewish organizations to pursue their work on behalf of human rights and civil rights. He befriended virtually everyone of consequence in the nation’s capital including President Lyndon Johnson, then Israeli Ambassador Yitzhak Rabin, every significant interfaith leader including Dr. Martin Luther King who he gave office space in the RAC building whenever he came to DC.

A provocateur by nature, quoting frequently in Hebrew and English from the Biblical Prophets and Rabbis of the Talmud, Dick recognized that the Babylon-Jerusalem mythology of Jewish history in which wealth, power, and prestige was invested primarily in Jewish communities outside the Land of Israel had to change. Dick sought to transform that historic mythology into what he called the “Broadway-Off-Broadway metaphor” in which Israel became central to the survival and well-being of the Jewish people and the Diaspora communities, though important, were satellites circling the central planet of Jerusalem and the Jewish State.

As President of the World Union for Progressive Judaism representing the Reform movement worldwide, Dick moved the international headquarters of our movement from New York to Jerusalem, and he raised the money necessary to purchase the land next to the Hebrew Union College on King David Street and build the international center of Reform Judaism there. He justified his efforts saying that for Reform Judaism to be an historic movement it had to have its center in the Jewish State.

Born in Cleveland, Ohio in 1926, Dick loved the Hebrew language from the time he was a boy and set his mind to become a fluent Hebrew speaker. He entered the Hebrew Union College at a time when the first-year program was not based in Jerusalem. So, he went on his own and studied at the Hebrew University.

One summer he directed an American Jewish summer camp and met his beloved wife Bella who had come from Israel to teach and work with the staff and children. Bella was born in the former Soviet Union. They quickly fell in love and married. Within three and a half years they had four children. Recognizing that without Israel there would be no future for the Jewish people, he and Bella made aliyah in 1972 to live and make a contribution to the Jewish State.

In Israel, Dick set about pursuing the fulfillment of three goals, all of which he achieved: to move the international headquarters of the World Movement for Progressive Judaism to the heart of Israel in Jerusalem, to affiliate the Reform movement with the national institutions of the Jewish people (i.e. the Jewish Agency for Israel, the World Zionist Organization, and the Jewish National Fund), and to “root ourselves in the soil of the Jewish people and in the soul of the Jewish people” by creating facts on the ground.

Dick had a lot of help in Israel and among his friends internationally in pursuit of these goals, but he was the motivating force, the intellectual spark, the charismatic initiator, and the irrepressible creative builder. Today the Israeli Reform movement has an expansive campus on King David Street near the famed King David Hotel, has ordained more than 120 Israeli rabbis, has built two kibbutzim, close to fifty synagogue centers throughout Israel, the Leo Baeck School of Haifa, the Israel Religious Action Center in Jerusalem, pre-Army educational and social justice programs for post-Israeli high school students, and countless Kindergartens and schools strategically placed throughout the State.

Every two or three years over the course of my congregational rabbinate, I brought my congregants to Israel to learn and meet Israelis and people across the political and religious spectrum. Dick was one person I wanted my people especially to meet. The hour he spent with us each time is still remembered by everyone who sat at his feet and hung on his every word. A gifted story-teller who weaved classic Biblical and Talmudic text as well as Zionist thinkers and historical figures into his remarks, Dick linked effortlessly his personal story within the greater story of the Jewish people.

Dick was the author of two books, both of which are worth reading: From the Hill to the Mount – A Reform Zionist Quest (Gefen Publ.: Jerusalem, 2000) and For the Sake of Zion – Reform Zionism: A Personal Mission (URJ Press: New York, 2011).

I loved Dick. He was one of my most important Zionist mentors. I love his son, Rabbi Ammi Hirsch of the Stephen S. Wise Free Synagogue in Manhattan. Dick loved that Ammi and I are dear friends and whenever I spoke with Dick not only did he remind me how much he appreciated Ammi’s and my friendship, but that we Reform Rabbis have a sacred and solemn duty to the Jewish people to teach and motivate our communities to understand that Progressive Zionism is the social justice movement of the Jewish people, that to be a Zionist is not some narrow tribal cultish avocation, but rather the expression of our people’s unique mission to be purveyors of meaning and justice as well as advocates for a safe, strong, and secure Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.

Dick was a friend to so many of us. He fought the good fight always, and he will be remembered not only by his family as a patriarch par excellence, but for the movement he inspired, the institutions he created and built, and the thousands he touched.

Eich naflu hagiborim – How the Mighty has fallen.

Zichrono livracha – May the memory of this righteous and great man be remembered for a blessing.

This blog is also posted at The Times of Israel – https://blogs.timesofisrael.com/israel-is-broadway-the-diaspora-is-off-broadway-rabbi-richard-hirsch-zl/

Here is a talk that Dick delivered in 2016 – worth watching – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q6AsMvUBV-E

“Opinion: Hey, Democrats, in case you missed it: Your team’s doing a great job”

 Opinion by Eugene Robinson – Columnist  – August 12, 2021

“It’s time to entertain the possibility that President Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually know what they’re doing and are really good at their jobs.”

Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post never gilds the lily. If you are feeling deflated as this new strain of the Delta Variant surges and our kids and grand-kids prepare to return to school without yet being vaccinated, or if you are shaking your head in exasperation at the posturing and political pressures being exerted by both the moderates in the Democratic Party and Progressive Democrats, or wondering how a $3.5 trillion package (or even a reduced compromise package) is going to gain 50 Democratic votes in the Senate in a reconciliation bill and then pass in the House with only a few more Dems than Republicans, or fearful of the increasingly destructive capability of the climate crisis everywhere, or furious about the refusal of some Democrats to eliminate the filibuster in the Senate, or feeling worried that the country is being thrust backwards into the era of Jim Crow, or feeling powerless in the face of the other maladies facing America and the world – some perspective that Eugene Robinson offers is a welcome respite.

One other thing I would add to Robinson’s applause lines for Biden, Schumer, and Pelosi is that they seem strategically to be tackling one huge matter at a time but working on all of them simultaneously. Word is, for example, that Schumer has a committee working on a new voting rights package that can gain 100% of the Senate Democrats and that there may be a way that the most conservative Democrats will agree to side-step the filibuster on matters that deal specifically with the threat to American democracy that voter suppression poses in federal elections.

Weariness affects us all, and after five years of dealing daily with Trump’s malignant narcissism and right-wing irrationality, the January 6 insurrection, and that forty to fifty million Americans may well accept a fascistic coup against American democracy, it’s understandable that so many of us may feel deflated, exhausted, and desirous of turning away from active political engagement. Thankfully, the Democratic leadership is working hard and I, for one, trust them as I do so many people working at the state and local level to preserve the best of America.

The $3.5 trillion package really is too big to fail as is the Infrastructure Bill that just passed the Senate, and the free unencumbered right to vote is far too important not to take decisive action.

That said – read what Eugene Robinson writes.

CCAR PRESS ANNOUNCES RELEASE OF “BECAUSE MY SOUL LONGS FOR YOU: INTEGRATING THEOLOGY INTO OUR LIVES”

A collection of twenty diverse essays by leading Reform rabbis, educators, and thinkers that highlight their personal encounters with God in everyday life.

Note: The following is the press release for a wonderful new volume of personal reflections about the experience of God and the holy. I was one of the contributors and was asked as well to read through the entire volume during the editing process to offer thoughts and suggestions. I was inspired and moved by these articles, and I urge those of you interested in the variety of doors into the holy and the experience of God to purchase this book, especially now in the month of Elul before the High Holidays.

New York, NY – August 2021 – CCAR Press, a division of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, is honored to announce its newest publication, Because My Soul Longs for You: Integrating Theology into Our Lives. The book is co-edited by Rabbi Edwin C. Goldberg of Congregation Beth Shalom in The Woodlands, Texas, and Rabbi Elaine S. Zecher of Temple Israel in Boston. It includes an introduction by Rabbi Joseph A. Skloot, PhD, the Rabbi Aaron D. Panken Assistant Professor of Modern Jewish Intellectual History at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in New York.

Because My Soul Longs for You responds to one of the most enduring human questions: Where can we find God in our lives? The book’s answer is that holiness can be found in everyday experiences. Contributors discuss how they welcome the Divine presence into their lives in ways that both align with and depart from the traditional ideas of how to encounter God. Among others, the authors explore moments of connection that arise from praying, studying Jewish texts, writing poetry, cooking food, playing music, taking part in acts of service, engaging in physical activity, meditating, and developing interpersonal relationships.


“Instead of asking ‘Do you believe in God?’ Rabbis Zecher and Goldberg ask the more fruitful ‘How do you experience God?’” said Rabbi Angela Buchdahl, Senior Rabbi of New York City’s Central Synagogue. “Their book compiles the transformative experiences of twenty souls who share their encounter with the Divine. Through their stories, we access new language for understanding how we might discover God in our lives, and perhaps realize that God has been with us all along.”


The anthology brings together a diverse group of rabbis and teachers. Among them are Rabbi Anne Brenner, LCSW, a professor at the Academy for Jewish Religion in California and a psychotherapist; Rabbi Rebecca L. Dubowe, the world’s first female Deaf rabbi; Ilana Kurshan, a teacher at the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem and the author of the award-winning memoir If All the Seas Were Ink; Rabbi Hara Person, Chief Executive of the Central Conference of American Rabbis; and Rabbi John L. Rosove, Senior Rabbi Emeritus of Temple Israel of Hollywood and national co-chair of JStreet’s Rabbinic and Cantorial Cabinet.

“This book is not only phenomenal, it is also phenomenological—it relates to the ways in which God is experienced rather than simply conceptualized,” said Rabbi Dr. Michael Marmur, Associate Professor and former Provost at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, Jerusalem. “These highly reflective and courageous essays evoke the biblical image of a graceful animal thirsting for water at the brook. So the soul longs for God, experienced in various life situations and described with both beauty and honesty. Because My Soul Longs for You places the soul where it belongs—in the lives and experiences of persons.”


“We think of prayer and study as ways to engage with God, but what about cooking, writing, and making art? Where can we find spirituality in the midst of fear, grief, and conflict? This book brings together some of today’s most creative Jewish minds to answer these questions and many more,” said Rafael Chaiken, Director of CCAR Press. “We hope it will encourage readers to find personal practices that strengthen their own connection to God.”


Because My Soul Longs for You: Integrating Theology into Our Lives is available on CCARPress.org.

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About Reform Judaism Publishing and CCAR Press: CCAR Press is the official publisher of the Reform Movement and a division of the Central Conference of American Rabbis. Since 1889, the Central Conference of American Rabbis has been a center for lifelong rabbinic learning, professional development, and publishing for the 2,300 rabbis who serve more than 1.5 million Reform Jews throughout North America, Israel, and the world. CCAR Press publishes liturgical resources and texts on Jewish practice that serve its member rabbis, the Reform Movement, and the Jewish community as a whole. CCAR Press, through its trade imprint Reform Judaism Publishing (RJP), is the steward of the Reform Movement’s sacred texts, including its Torah Commentaries and prayerbooks. In addition to books, CCAR Press publishes CCAR Journal: The Reform Jewish Quarterly, and a wide-range of electronic resources, including e-books, apps, and Visual T’filah.