Transgender Day of Remembrance

Today is Transgender Day of Remembrance.  Nov. 20.   For the last 18 years this day has been dedicated to the memory of all those transgender men and women who have been murdered because they were hated.  Many transgender people have experienced violence and hatred directly.  Many are victims of society’s misunderstanding of their lives.

I learned long ago that God loves everyone.

In Jewish tradition the Mishnah in Sanhedrin teaches us:

“…to declare the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be God, for one stamps out many coins with one die, and they are all alike, but the King, the King of kings, the Holy One, blessed be God, stamped each person with the seal of Adam, and not one of them is like his or her fellow.”

Though we are all human beings each person is unique created from the original human being ADAM–not a man’s name in the Torah but a word that means human.  For the very first human creature was created both male and female. (See Genesis 1:27)

So God created mankind in his own image,
 in the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.

Our Rabbis taught that the first human being was Both Male and Female and it was only in the second creation story in Genesis chapter 2 that humanity became two separate beings.

On this Transgender day of Remembrance we mourn for the lives destroyed by hatred and violence.  And we remember we each came from the first human being –both male and female.

The busy little ant and the synagogue

A busy little ant traveled days and distances in search of treasures that might benefit all in the colony. One day while out foraging the ant found a big piece of straw and thought it could come in handy. Though the ant struggled under the size and weight of the load on its back it was sure that this bounty was necessary as it journeyed toward home.

Part of its travel occurred on a large expanse of cement. The smooth concrete was much easier to walk on especially with the straw weighing down its every move. The ant still did not know what purpose the piece of straw would serve until it reached a crack in the concrete that was impossible to cross.

The ant positioned the straw across the chasm and walked over it to the other side. What was once a heavy burden had become a bridge.

The ant couldn’t have continued on its journey without the benefit of that piece of straw. The sacrifice, the struggle, and heavy lifting yielded the best reward. (Bits & Pieces, Feb. 2014, Ragan Communications)

Today often those who work in synagogues and those who lead them, rabbis, cantors and most especially lay leaders often feel like that busy little ant struggling and doing the heavy lifting.  Board members sacrifice time, expertise, and financial resources to uplift the Jewish community and the synagogue community.  It can feel like thankless work. More often criticized than praised by fellow congregants, many board members are looking for ways to sustain Jewish community throughout North America.  Some claim the future of the synagogue is bleak. I disagree. I believe the future of the Jewish community rests and relies upon strong congregations and synagogues.

The synagogue is still the central home of the Jewish people. Even those who are not affiliated recognize that their neighborhood shul, synagogue, or temple carries the traditions of our people forward even if they themselves do not partake.  The synagogue must be strengthened one piece of straw at a time if necessary.

So for all who toil in sustaining synagogues, clergy, administrators, teachers, and most especially lay leaders thank you. When together we lift the piece of straw and utilize it to continue our journey–then we know we have our best reward.

L.A. Panel Features Prominent Pro-LGBT Religious Figures |


Here is an article from the Advocate about the Panel I was on discussing Religion and LGBTQ Equality.  It was a very provocative and profound event.


L.A. Panel Features Prominent Pro-LGBT Religious Figures |

Today and Every Day.

Around the world Armistice Day/ Remembrance Day/Veteran’s Day is observed today, November 11.  In the countries of the British Commonwealth everyone wears Red Poppies to remember the end of the War to End all Wars–World War I. A reminder of the poppies that grew on the battlefields of Europe. This year is 100 years since the start of World War I.  A beautiful tribute was created at the Tower of London of 1000’s of red ceramic poppies to mark those who died in service of their country.

In the United States this same day is Veteran’s Day.  It is a day to salute and thank all those who have served our country in one of the branches of the Armed Services: Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, Merchant Marines, or Navy. Memorial Day in May is the United States’ Day to honor and remember those who died in service to our nation.

As our troops are still embattled and serving throughout the world keeping peace, we salute those who continue to soldier on whether at home or abroad. Whether helping fight Ebola in West Africa or on the DMZ in Korea, on a submarine deep in the ocean or behind a computer in North Dakota,. We honor you today whether you served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf War I or II, Iraq, Afghanistan, Grenada, or aiding those in the Philippines after a typhoon or Haiti after an earthquake; whether you are a field medic, or  you are in the infantry; whether you fly a plane, a space shuttle, a drone, a helicopter or drive a jeep.We honor you whether you are an enlisted woman or an officer, on an aircraft carrier or service ship, We honor you today whether you are in the JAG corp or Army Band, or you serve as a chaplain uplifting the spirits and holding the hands of our service men and women.  We honor you whether you are or were a computer repair technician or a mechanic, a paratrooper, or ski patrol, Navy Seal, Green Beret, or a cadet at West Point.  Thank you whether you served overseas or right here at home, or have served in the reserve on Veteran’s Day we say thank you for your dedication to our American ideals of freedom and liberty and peace.  You serve and have served to make a more peaceful world.  Thank you for your dedication and service.  Today and every day.

poppies at tower of lOndon


Kristallnacht Remembrances

This coming weekend we will remember Kristallnacht—Nov 9 will be the 76th anniversary of that terrible night in 1938 that was really the beginning of the end for German Jewry.  The “Night of Broken Glass” was a pogrom against the Jewish community perpetrated by Nazis.  Hundreds of businesses, synagogues, Jewish community institutions were vandalized, burned and many destroyed in a two day rampage throughout Germany and Austria. More than 30,000 Jews were arrested and sent to concentration camps during those two days.  At services Friday night we will remember this day of terror.

This summer in Berlin as I walked its many streets and met Jewish leaders of the community I saw the rebuilding of Jewish life.  They have taken the remnants of the broken lives and broken glass and are rebuilding a significant Jewish community.  I saw the places where synagogues and Jewish schools once stood prior to 1938 and saw the photos of beautiful faces of the people who perished. I carefully read the stumbling blocks encased in the sidewalks to commemorate the Jews who used to live in the buildings I passed by.

Especially as the Jews of Europe are still under siege by different forces today, it is important for all of us to pause and remember that it wasn’t so long ago that a freely elected government of a so-called civilized society turned against our people. Today we must be cautious as well.

Anti-Semitism continues to rear its head as the voices of Anti-Israel hatred blur the lines.  The BDS Movement, Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement which tries to paint Israel as an apartheid state consistently tries to blur the lines between protesting Israel and its policy’s and blatant Anti-Semitism.  College campuses are rife with the BDS movement.

This week, the Union representing the Teaching Assistants, Graduate school researchers and proctors of the UC system is set to vote against Israel and support the BDS movement.  Student workers of the UC system are not just pro-Palestinian of which there is nothing wrong.  But the BDS movement is both Anti-Israel and Anti-Semitic and filled with misrepresentations and outright lies. They have likened the situation in Israel and Palestine to South Africa in its Apartheid days which is not the truth. If you have anyone in your circle of friends or family is a member of the UAW 2865, (yes, teacher assistants in the UC system are members of United Auto Workers) please urge a no vote on resolution.

Why be concerned?  Because these kinds of votes and these kinds of lies told by some become the basis for an attitude of hatred aimed not just at Israel but the Jewish community.  We saw what happened only 76 years ago.  Let’s not repeat the mistakes of the past.


Missouri and Kansas

Today another step forward in the march toward Marriage Equality as a court in Missouri struck down the marriage ban there.  St. Louis county is poised to begin issuing licenses!  The Show Me state is showing the rolling tide of equality in the mid-west-as Kansas also welcomed Marriage Equality this week.   It is ironic that even as Republicans took over both chambers of Congress, the marriage equality train continues on track toward all 50 states.  Not all Republicans oppose marriage equality and a few ran with a platform including their support for marriage equality.  But we must continue to strengthen marriage equality and most importantly –pass an employment non-discrimination act in this country.  You can get married in 35 states and the District of Columbia but you can get fired from your job in many of those states still!  This doesn’t make sense.

So even with a new Republican controlled Congress–let’s continue to work on job security and equality for LGBT individuals and continue our activism on marriage equality.  Let Freedom Ring.