Yesterday I met a Hero

Yesterday I met a hero.  I had coffee with my friend Alden Solovy who is a poet and liturgest from Jerusalem.  You can read his work on his website www.tobendlight.com.  We had this meeting set up to discuss a workshop he will lead for my temple group in Israel this summer.  But who knew that I would be meeting with a person the Haredim (the fantical religious Orthodox) in Israel called “a man of wickedness”?  Alden is not wicked at all but my hero.  IMG_2454

On Rosh Chodesh Iyar on Monday Alden helped defend the Torah at the Kotel. The Western Wall in Jerusalem. As usual on the first day of the new month Alden and many others go early in the morning with Nashot HaKotel Women of the Wall to celebrate the new month.  Nashot HaKotel, Women of the Wall led by the amazing Anat Hoffman has been working for more than 2 decades to create women’s equal prayer space at the Kotel.  The Kotel through the years has become an Orthodox synagogue. There is a mechitza, a dividing wall separating men and women worshippers and over the years the women’s side has gotten smaller and smaller.  Egalitarian prayer and women’s prayer leadership-hallmarks of Reform and Conservative Judaism isn’t allowed but Nashot HaKotel has been trying to institute that. Women led prayer including reading from a Torah scroll has been forbidden even by the Supreme Court.  But a few years ago-a Jerusalem judge ruled that women must by allowed equal access.  The Women of the Wall have been sneaking in a small mini-Torah at times.

But on Rosh Chodesh earlier in the week, a group of supportive men passed a full size Torah (one of the 100 state owned Torah scrolls at the Kotel) to the women’s side. There Nashot HaKotel danced and prayed with the Scroll.  But as the gate pass through opened several of the state-paid ushers and few Haredi men rushed the men’s group.  My friend Alden and another man Charlie Kalech who was also part of the supporters were beaten by thugs.  Both sustained injuries and rather than arresting the thugs at the Wall, Charlie was arrested.

These men and the men who supported the Women of the Wall are heros! They believe in the equality of men and women in spiritual Jewish life and became warriors for Torah.  Sometimes in civil disobedience there is violence, even when we try to live by the code of non-violence. It certainly wasn’t the Women of the Wall or their supporters that engaged in violence. They just wanted to read from and pray from and dance with the Torah.  But rather the so-called Orthodox who threw punches, and stomped on others. This kind of Jew against Jew brought our Temple down according to the Talmud.  As another great Jewish thinker, Bob Dylan said: “When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?”

But I got to have coffee with a hero yesterday. Thank you for taking a punch for Torah, justice, equality and women’s prayer.  May you heal quickly from the bruises to your body and your soul and may you never know violence again.alden on the ground

Central Conference of American Rabbis Condemns Beating of Charlie Kalech and Alden Solovy By Ushers at the Kotel in Jerusalem

Central Conference of American Rabbis

Condemns Beating of Charlie Kalech and Alden Solovy

By Ushers at the Kotel in Jerusalem

April 22, 2015

The Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR) condemns, in the strongest terms, the physical assault sustained by Charlie Kalech and Alden Solovy at the Kotel, the Western Retraining Wall of the Jerusalem Temple Mount and Judaism’s holiest site, on Monday, at the hands of men claiming to be Kotel “ushers.” The violence was an abhorrent response to a great blessing and tremendous courage. On Rosh Chodesh Iyyar, Women of the Wall gathered to pray, as they have for decades. Kalech bravely passed a Torah Scroll to the women through the mechitzah dividing the men’s and women’s sections. For the first time in over twenty years, women held, read, and danced with a full-sized Torah Scroll at the Kotel.

We are disturbed by reports that police denied the victims prompt medical attention, and by reports that the two men were not permitted to be accompanied by their attorneys or witnesses when they reported the assaults to the police. In an Orwellian turn of events, Kalech was treated as a criminal rather than as a victim, and was arrested for the “crime” of passing the Torah Scroll to the women.

We pray for the healing of our friends and heroes, Charlie Kalech, who suffered injuries to his head, and Alden Solovy, who sustained bruises to his liver and kidneys.

We demand that charges against Kalech be dropped immediately, and that charges be swiftly brought against the perpetrators of this senseless violence.

We reaffirm our support for all aims of Women of the Wall, boldly led by Anat Hoffman.

Reform Rabbis will not rest until men and women enjoy equal rights to pray and rejoice with the Torah at Judaism’s holiest site, free from threat of injury, whether physical or psychological.

Rabbi Denise L. Eger Rabbi Steven A. Fox

President Chief Executive

Central Conference of American Rabbis

Happy Birthday Israel

Tonight we begin the celebration of Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s 67th Independence Day.   Happy Birthday Israel! It was 67 years ago that the modern State of Israel was born. But it was really a rebirth of our ancient nation state, reborn after 2000 years!

The Declaration of Independence of the State of Israel reads: THE DECLARATION:

ERETZ-ISRAEL (the Land of Israel) was the birthplace of the Jewish people. Here their spiritual, religious and political identity was shaped. Here they first attained to statehood, created cultural values of national and universal significance and gave to the world the eternal Book of Books.

 

After being forcibly exiled from their land, the people kept faith with it throughout their Dispersion and never ceased to pray and hope for their return to it and for the restoration in it of their political freedom.

 

Impelled by this historic and traditional attachment, Jews strove in every successive generation to re-establish themselves in their ancient homeland. In recent decades they returned in their masses. Pioneers, ma’pilim (immigrants coming to Eretz-Israel in defiance of restrictive legislation) and defenders, they made deserts bloom, revived the Hebrew language, built villages and towns, and created a thriving community controlling its own economy and culture, loving peace but knowing how to defend itself, bringing the blessings of progress to all the country’s inhabitants, and aspiring towards independent nationhood.

 

In the year 5657 (1897), at the summons of the spiritual father of the Jewish State, Theodore Herzl, the First Zionist Congress convened and proclaimed the right of the Jewish people to national rebirth in its own country.

 

This right was recognized in the Balfour Declaration of the 2nd November, 1917, and re-affirmed in the Mandate of the League of Nations which, in particular, gave international sanction to the historic connection between the Jewish people and Eretz-Israel and to the right of the Jewish people to rebuild its National Home.

 

The catastrophe which recently befell the Jewish people — the massacre of millions of Jews in Europe — was another clear demonstration of the urgency of solving the problem of its homelessness by re-establishing in Eretz-Israel the Jewish State, which would open the gates of the homeland wide to every Jew and confer upon the Jewish people the status of a fully privileged member of the community of nations.

 

Survivors of the Nazi holocaust in Europe, as well as Jews from other parts of the world, continued to migrate to Eretz-Israel, undaunted by difficulties, restrictions and dangers, and never ceased to assert their right to a life of dignity, freedom and honest toil in their national homeland.

 

In the Second World War, the Jewish community of this country contributed its full share to the struggle of the freedom- and peace-loving nations against the forces of Nazi wickedness and, by the blood of its soldiers and its war effort, gained the right to be reckoned among the peoples who founded the United Nations.

 

On the 29th November, 1947, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution calling for the establishment of a Jewish State in Eretz-Israel; the General Assembly required the inhabitants of Eretz-Israel to take such steps as were necessary on their part for the implementation of that resolution. This recognition by the United Nations of the right of the Jewish people to establish their State is irrevocable.

 

This right is the natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other nations, in their own sovereign State.

 

ACCORDINGLY WE, MEMBERS OF THE PEOPLE’S COUNCIL, REPRESENTATIVES OF THE JEWISH COMMUNITY OF ERETZ-ISRAEL AND OF THE ZIONIST MOVEMENT, ARE HERE ASSEMBLED ON THE DAY OF THE TERMINATION OF THE BRITISH MANDATE OVER ERETZ-ISRAEL AND, BY VIRTUE OF OUR NATURAL AND HISTORIC RIGHT AND ON THE STRENGTH OF THE RESOLUTION OF THE UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY, HEREBY DECLARE THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JEWISH STATE IN ERETZ-ISRAEL, TO BE KNOWN AS THE STATE OF ISRAEL.

 

WE DECLARE that, with effect from the moment of the termination of the Mandate being tonight, the eve of Sabbath, the 6th Iyar, 5708 (15th May, 1948), until the establishment of the elected, regular authorities of the State in accordance with the Constitution which shall be adopted by the Elected Constituent Assembly not later than the 1st October 1948, the People’s Council shall act as a Provisional Council of State, and its executive organ, the People’s Administration, shall be the Provisional Government of the Jewish State, to be called “Israel”.

 

THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

 

THE STATE OF ISRAEL is prepared to cooperate with the agencies and representatives of the United Nations in implementing the resolution of the General Assembly of the 29th November, 1947, and will take steps to bring about the economic union of the whole of Eretz-Israel.

 

WE APPEAL to the United Nations to assist the Jewish people in the building-up of its State and to receive the State of Israel into the comity of nations.

 

WE APPEAL — in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months — to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.

 

WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.

 

WE APPEAL to the Jewish people throughout the Diaspora to rally round the Jews of Eretz-Israel in the tasks of immigration and upbuilding and to stand by them in the great struggle for the realization of the age-old dream — the redemption of Israel.

 

PLACING OUR TRUST IN THE ALMIGHTY, WE AFFIX OUR SIGNATURES TO THIS PROCLAMATION AT THIS SESSION OF THE PROVISIONAL COUNCIL OF STATE, ON THE SOIL OF THE HOMELAND, IN THE CITY OF TEL-AVIV, ON THIS SABBATH EVE

THE 5TH DAY OF IYAR, 5708 – 14TH MAY,1948.

 The Declaration was signed by 26 people including David Ben Gurion, Rachel Cohen, Golda Meir, Rabbi  Kalman Kahana, Abraham Katznelson, Moshe Shertok, Moshe Shapira among others.

Noticeable is that from the very beginning of the modern State of Israel they were willing to accept the partition plan of the United Nations from 29th Nov, 1947 which called for a division of the land into two nations, Jordan and Israel.  Further the new nation state already under attack by its Arab neighbors, extended a hand in peace to the Arabs who lived there and to all the neighboring peoples. Unfortunately, the partition plan was rejected by Arab leaders and the Arab nations  and neighbor states immediately declared war on Israel.
For 67 years Israel has defended its borders from her enemies and still tries to live up to its ideals.  As Israel celebrates another birthday, we pray for peace and prosperity of all its citizens.  We pray for the safety of Israel and her neighbors and that soon peace will break out everywhere.

In 8 days the voting for the WZO elections closes.  Please vote here for ARZA. This is the way we Jews outside of Israel can shape the state of Israel with our values of equality, liberty and to push Israel toward peace rather than isolation and theocratic control that some would prefer.  This is our chance on Israel’s birthday to help bring about a more democratic and an Israel that is welcoming to all the Jewish people.   Happy Birthday Israel.  Long may the blue and white wave!

 

Israel flag

The Glow of the Ner Tamid

20 You shall further instruct the Israelites to bring you clear oil of beaten olives for lighting, for kindling lamps regularly. 21 Aaron and his sons shall set them up in the Tent of Meeting, outside the curtain which is over [the Ark of] the Pact, [to burn] from evening to morning before the Lord. It shall be a due from the Israelites for all time, throughout the ages.

This is from the beginning of this Shabbat’s Torah portion Tetzaveh.  Leviticus 27:20.   The Israelites have been instructed to build the Mishkan, the dwelling place for God in the desert.  They have been instructed to build the Tent, the altar, and the Golden Menorah.  In this week’s portion we are given the instructions for the clothing for the High Priests and as well as the instructions for their anointing ceremony.  But this opening verse literally illumines the Holy Meeting Place of God.  With the pure olive oil given by the Israelites -the ner tamid, the lamps will shine continually, Today the Ner Tamid in the synagogue, the Eternal Light signifies God’s Holy Eternal Presence.  And then too, in the tabernacle it was the same.  This regularly kindled lamp burned with the sweet olive oil provided by the people.  God’s symbolic Presence was the transformation of the kindling fuel into the flames of Divinity. When we kindle light today–whether by the beautiful Sabbath candles, Havdalah wicks, or Chanukah Menorah or the Eternal Light in the Sanctuary we are reminded of this warmth of God’s embrace, the light of the Holy Presence in our midst, the glow of family and friendships.  May they burn ever brightly.

God is in the Building.

This week’s Torah portion is parshat Terumah. One of my very favorite Torah portions.  It is important because God instructs Moses to tell the Israelites to build the Tabernacle in the desert. This would become the place God would dwell.  But the Torah portion is very interesting because we assume we are building God’s home on earth.  But the Hebrew tells another story.  It tells us that God will dwell in our midst.  Not in it.  Thus the very project of building together. Of creating together is the place where the Divine dwells.  Not really in the Tabernacle.  This should teach us an important lesson that in our world we find God in the midst of action and creation.  We find God when we cooperate and collaborate together in a larger design, in building something that stand for goodness and holiness.

Perhaps this should be our approach to our world.  When we build a world filled with love as my friend and teacher Rabbi Menachem Creditor sings, Olam Chesed Yibaneh, this is really what God wants of us.  This is the example in this week’s Torah portion. We ought to strive for this together.