Tag Archives: Interreligious/Interfaith Affairs

The Boston Marathon Bombings: Lessons from Passover

This piece was originally published on Sojourners blog in partnership with Shoulder to Shoulder on April 14, 2014.

My first marathon ever — 2003 in New York City — did not go according to plan. On the positive side, I would never have guessed that P. Diddy would be running the same marathon and at the same pace for much of it, providing an entertaining entourage to distract me from my exhaustion. On the negative side, my name, which I had taped to my tank top so the crowds could give me much-needed encouragement, quickly peeled off, and I was anonymous in the crowd. My plan had been to run that last mile to the mantra “you can do anything” or “you are power,” but instead, my legs barely moving and my husband and close friend no longer by my side, I chanted dejectedly to myself: “Never again, never again.” Read more…

At Passover, Reflecting on the Relationship Between Blacks and Jews

As two communities that have historically struggled for freedom side by side and share a common history of slavery and oppression, it is appropriate that we reflect upon the relationship between American Jews and African Americans during this Passover season.

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Seder Plate

Freedom to Wander, Freedom to Believe: Religious Freedom on Passover

It is probably a safe assumption that Passover is most likely to be associated with freedom. As we move through the Seder, we reflect on our ancestors’ fight for freedom and those around the world today who are not free.

What is interesting to me, though, is that the Torah is not translated for the words “freedom” or “free.” Moses does not go before Pharaoh and ask for freedom, rather he asks for his people to be let go. And, I think this is a subtle and important distinction. There is something particular about being released from oppression, compared to assuming the rights to live according to your own beliefs and views. They are hopefully complementary actions.

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Reflections on the Civil Rights Pilgrimage

By Rabbi Fred Guttman

In the beginning of March, I, along with some thirty Congressmen and Senators, was privileged to be a participant in the Congressional Faith and Politics Civil Rights Pilgrimage to Mississippi and Alabama. Beginning in Jackson Mississippi, we commemorated the fiftieth anniversary of the “Freedom Summer,” a summer when more than 900 Caucasians joined African Americans from all over the United States to come to Mississippi and Alabama in order to register African American voters. The Pilgrimage would end in Selma Alabama with a recreation of the famous voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery. This march took place forty nine years ago.

In Jackson, we went to the home of the assassinated civil rights hero, Medgar Evers, and heard remembrance from his widow, Myrlie. On the trip, I also met David Goodman, whose brother Andrew was killed in 1964 along with another Jew, Michael Schwerner and an African American, James Earl Chaney. In the chapel at Tougaloo College, I chanted the El Male Rachameem prayer for the four murdered activists which was quite a moving experience! Read more…

Rabbi Rick Jacobs Responds to Harsh Critique of Zionism

Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the President of the Union for Reform Judaism, published a piece yesterday in response to “Zionism Unsettled,” a recent publication produced by the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA).  “Zionism Unsettled” is a congregational study guide which asserts that cause of the conflict between Israel and Palestinians is the “pathology” of Zionism. Publication of the piece, which uses language befitting Israel’s harshest critics, has created a rift between Presbyterians and Jews in advance of the June conference of the Presbyterian Church at which the denominational body will vote on whether to divest from companies doing business with Israel.

Rabbi Jacobs’ piece addresses two issues discussed in “Zionism Unsettled”: the relationships of religious denominations and Israel and the relationship between different religious groups.

In response to the publication’s harsh narrative of the history of Israel and its inhabitants, Rabbi Jacobs wrote: Read more…

The Fast That I Desire: Honoring Esther, Seeking Justice

By Rabbi Seth Limmer

Our world has not been perfect for quite a long time.

In every age, our people have struggled to act in ways that can bring our world as-it-is ever closer to the world we know needs to be.  Two thousand years ago, when facing ravaging drought, plaguing disease, or devastating pestilence, our ancestors would abstain from food and drink.  We read of their reasoning in the Talmud: a fast day is decreed to petition God for compassion and the removal of calamity (Palestinian Talmud, Taanit 4a.  The title of the tractate, Taanit, is the word for “Fast”).   The hope of old was that the community’s choice to deprive itself of basic necessities would arouse Divine Compassion, and change the future for the better.

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International Religious Freedom: Learning from Esther

Hamentaschen, costumes and mishloach manot, oh my!  We are just a few days away from celebrating the holiday of Purim, which means gathering in our synagogues for Purim schpiels and carnivals.  Purim is a fun holiday for kids and grown-ups alike, and connects to many of the social justice themes we care about as Reform Jews, including the death penalty, women’s rights and anti-Semitism.  Another social justice value that is ever-present in the story of Purim is the importance of religious freedom. Read more…