Carolyn is Baptist. She always will be. And she comes to my synagogue regularly.
This past year marked the 50th anniversary of one of the most important documents of the 20th century. It has profoundly shaped the contours of human relations since its publication in 1965. The Second Vatican Council in the work Nostra Aetate set forth a new paradigm in interfaith dialogue between Catholicism and other religions, particularly Judaism. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks remarking on the 50th anniversary of the document in our current global context of inter-religious strife and violence wrote:
I wasn’t in the crowd at the Lincoln Memorial when Dr. Martin Luther King gave his great oration, and I am not old enough to have been at Woodstock, but I’ve been to rock concerts and to political actions where I have felt powerfully connected to all present, our gathering feeling like a profound expression of brother and sisterhood. I have felt love for everyone in the room at a poignant wedding and even in the context of the elementary school assemblies of my daughters or in the sea of parents at their college graduations.
The Jewish day school I attended for grade school and middle school was affiliated with the Conservative movement of Judaism. It was a member of the Solomon Schechter Day School Network, its headmaster was a Conservative rabbi, its curriculum was based on Conservative Jewish principles, and the rules that governed the school (e.g., kashrut [dietary laws]) were predicated on Conservative Jewish doctrine. The vast majority of the approximately 500 students that made up the school were from families affiliated with Conservative synagogues. Only a couple handfuls of my peers at the Metro Detroit school came from Reform or Orthodox homes.
“People from the United Church of Canada like to hug,” said my friend B.
Jews are a People of the Book; Jews also are a People of the Song. In fear, poverty, war and exile, song packed light and eased the way. This spiritual secret is encoded in Jewish spiritual DNA: we can sing our way through. Even for those of us who wouldn’t describe ourselves as singers, the ancient secret of song is ours to rediscover and reclaim in modern life.
I have a new favorite TV show: “Once Upon a Time.” I’m late to the game — it’s currently in its fifth season, and I’m working my way through Season Two on Netflix. The basic premise, for those who haven’t seen it, is that the wicked stepmother of Snow White (Regina), determined that Snow and her prince should never find happiness together, casts a spell on the entire kingdom (which contains every fairytale character you’ve ever heard of and some you haven’t) and transports them to a sleepy town (that previously didn’t exist) in current-day Maine. I love the show for many reasons — it weaves flashbacks to the fairyland characters and their stories with the roles they play in contemporary Maine. And many of the fairy tales that you thought you knew and loved are given incredibly creative twists — it is midrash for fairytales!
This year Tu Bishvat begins at sundown on January 24, 2016. May the holiday be a catalyst in bringing your best intentions to fruition.
“Lift up voices and let freedom from oppression ring!
“When the reception goes down, the volume goes up.” These were the sage words of one of my honored teachers some years ago in a lesson about communicating with loved ones. I imagine it’s easy for most of us to resonate with the message that when we don’t feel heard, we might become frustrated, raise our voices and even act out. Then, even though the flow of words might continue – even with increasing force – pretty much all communication ceases. How much better we can communicate when instead of raising the volume, we choose to “tune in.” But that’s pretty difficult to do in the moment of passion and hurt feelings.