Here on the west coast of Canada we live in a chain of port cities. People from all over the world land here; we bring with us our languages, our foods, our clothing, our music. We bring the religious traditions that emerged from our previous ways of life. As my friend Amar Singh – a musician, a practicing Sikh and a great optimist – says, “Wherever you come from, you can find your ethnic community here to help you get started.”
I was just diagnosed with breast cancer. So, there’s that. In some ways, it’s hardly a surprise since my mother died from breast cancer and one of my sisters was diagnosed when she was 40. There are 5 women in 3 generations in my family, now including me, who have or have had breast cancer. The good news is I have every reason to believe that I will be a survivor. They caught the cancer early. The mass is small. It’s an excellent prognosis. I believe I will follow in my sister’s footsteps and have a long life ahead of me with my husband and children. Please, God, I continually pray.
Many of us are feeling buffeted by politics, angry dynamics in public discourse, and fears of what may lie ahead. In the midst of unsettling times, our congregation, like many, have been navigating these waters and asking ourselves what role a faith-based community can play in providing for the needs of our people. There is more than one answer to that question, and different communities are charting different paths. In my congregation, we’re placing the practice of kindness at the heart of our deliberations. While that might sound like a rather obvious, or even simplistic affirmation, it is, in fact, so much more.
Most of us live in a bubble – the bubble of our friends, our family, our workplace and our community. Last night, I had the opportunity to go outside of my bubble and break bread with a group of recent Syrian refugees. As a member of the New York board of Rabbis, I was invited to participate in a friendship dinner through the US Fund for UNICEF. I was part of a small group of Jewish and Christian clergy who were there to welcome these immigrants to our country.
An interesting thing happened two weeks ago.
At that moment I felt utterly violated, encroached upon. I know that it sounds like I am exaggerating but I just felt polluted, sullied. On the one hand I wanted to run away, to just get out of there, and on the other hand I didn’t want to completely own my own emotions. I just sat there, trying to look and act and feel as if nothing happened, just like everyone else in the room was looking and acting as if nothing had happened. But something had happened, something that felt terrible. My inner spirit had been desecrated.
If my Facebook feed is any indication, there’s quite a bit of discontent these days with many recent political decisions. And rather than a passive response, there’s a lot of action.
Last week, all around the country, people stayed awake late into the night and took to the streets.