In recent weeks I delivered a series of sermons on “learning” … Last week was what WE must learn. This week we had entitled, “Let’s Learn.” So with the coming of the High Holy Days, today you’re not going to believe how much you’re going to learn! You’re going to learn why Jewish kings were anointed by a spring; why we eat carrots on Rosh Hashanah and our challah is made round; what are the two stripes on the flag of Israel and why we beat our breasts on Yom Kippur. We are also going to learn whether Donald Trump should wear a tallit and if Colin Kaepernick should sit while the flag is displayed and the national anthem is played. So buckle your seat belts … here we go! READ MORE
It is said that one picture is worth a thousand words. Well, here was a picture that spoke to millions. It was a picture that we all saw and it couldn’t help but touch our hearts. You may not know the name of the person in the picture, but you know who he is … and you know what has happened. It was a picture of Omran Daqneesh, five years old, after he was pulled out of a building hit by an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria on August 17. Omran lived with his parents and three siblings in a rebel-held neighborhood in Syria, which on August 17 was bombed by either Russian or Syrian forces. He was pulled from the rubble and put on a seat in the back of an ambulance where the picture was taken. Part of his head was covered in blood, his legs were bruised, his thick hair was filled with smoke and dust. And he just sat there … the ambulance was not moving … it would not move until it filled with more children … and he just sat there all alone. Peggy Noonan, writing in the Wall Street Journal, pointed out that he wasn’t even crying. Children would naturally cry under such circumstances; a cry would bring attention and comfort. But what Omran has learned over the past five years is that, if you’re living in Syria, no one brings comfort and attention. You are all alone. READ MORE
I have spoken about Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. Both share something in common: more than half of America dislikes them. This week I speak of someone that the majority of American people genuinely respect and admire. For us, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has given her people – the Jewish people – nothing but nachas … genuine Yiddishe nachas. She was the first Jewish woman appointed to the Supreme Court of the U.S. and she publicly takes pride in her Jewish upbringing and background. Shortly after her appointment she addressed the American Jewish Committee and said, “I am a judge, born, raised and proud of being a Jew. The demand for justice runs through the entirety of the Jewish tradition.”
But, Ruth Bader Ginsburg has not only been a source of pride to the Jewish people, she has also been a source of pride to the American people. She’s acknowledged as having been at the forefront of women’s rights for equality. Indeed, she is so iconic that Tumblr has a site entitled: “Notorious RBG,” and now there is a book bearing that name as well. READ MORE
For us as American Jews, we have been hit with a double whammy. First, there was the terror attack at the Sarona Market in Tel Aviv, killing four people. I have been to the Sarona Market … it’s new and it’s beautiful and just the right atmosphere to enjoy a leisurely evening. But the terrorists didn’t see it that way.
And then, just a few days later all of us as Americans were crushed and devastated by the terrorist attack at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. It is a place where people can go and be themselves and enjoy themselves. But the terrorist did not see it that way.
The terrorists, separated by thousands of miles, did see everything the same way … through the eyes of Radical Islam. President Obama seems to be the only one unable to say it, but everyone knows it. READ MORE
June has arrived and you know what that means! In the American calendar every month is equal, but some have special connotations associated with them … January is the beginning of the New Year, April is tax day, September is back to school. And June? Well, June used to be associated with graduations but you can’t help but notice that many colleges and universities now have their graduations earlier, maybe even March or April. You spend $40,000 a year to get your child educated and he/she goes to school for 3 and a half months! But June has another connotation, and that one is still with us. June … the month for marriage! READ MORE
We have all been captivated, mesmerized, disgusted… call it what you want… by the Presidential nomination process we are in the midst of. During the lifetime of most of us, we have never experienced something quite like this–so divisive, so accusatory and sometimes downright malicious. One can think of so many names of prominent Americans who many–if not most of us–would find appealing, from Biden and Bloomberg to Ryan and Warren. And yet, it still seems to be coming down to two people–Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump–who have one thing in common: people don’t like them! According to a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, more than half of American voters have unfavorable views about them! Donald Trump has a 65% unfavorable view and just 24% favorable. And Hillary Clinton is doing a little better, but not by much. She has a 56% unfavorable rating and a 32% favorable rating. These unfavorable ratings are the highest in the history of the poll asking this question. So, you have to wonder: how did they get to be the people’s choice? That’s for some other time. But for me the question today is: is there anything nice to say about the two of them? Yes, it’s true, I didn’t live through eight years of Barack Obama to face a choice between Clinton and Trump! And there is still time before November for things to change. But for now, our tradition teaches that we should judge everyone on the scale of merit. So what merits can I find in the two of them? I think I have found the answer and it has nothing to do with politics. It has everything to do with why we have come here today to recite Yizkor. READ MORE
It started when I was 16 years old … the summer of 1960 was one I shall never forget. It was a summer I spent in bed. It had just been discovered that I had rheumatic fever, and after three weeks in the hospital I spent the rest of the summer in bed. To help keep me occupied my mother sent my brother, Saul, to buy a record player and some records for me. Saul bought the record player … but the records he bought were music he liked–not me! I still remember their names: Cavalleria Rusticana, Turandot and La Boheme. Given no choice, I listened to them over and over again and have a love of opera to this very day!
There is something else that happened that summer that instilled a love in me to this very day. The summer of 1960 was the summer of the Republican and Democratic conventions that nominated Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy. I watched every minute of those conventions and I’ve had a love of politics ever since! READ MORE