My Prayer today and Everyday

I just came from Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Interfaith Prayer Breakfast at the official LA Mayor’s residence, Getty House.  It is a beautiful grand home with a beautiful back yard and rose bushes and flowers and native Southern California planting.  But the colorful garb of the attendees today really made the back yard burst with beautiful hues.  Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus, Jews of all stripes, Episcopalians, Catholics, Presbyterians, Humanists, Religious Science, Kabbalists, Wiccans, Quakers, Buddhists of many different streams, African-Methodists, Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Mormons, Adventists, Scientologists, Asian church leaders, Assembly of God ministers, Armenian Orthodox, Russian Orthodox, Greek Orthodox, Maronite Christian, Evangelicals, Native American religion all were together this morning.  All dressed in a variety of robes, and mantels, collars, and kippot.

Los Angeles is truly a remarkable city.  This is the most diverse city in the world with more of the world’s religions and faith traditions represented here than anywhere.  In the over 35 years I have lived in Los Angeles, I have met so many different kind of people; some from every nation and heritage.  Representatives of many different faith groups were together today and prayed together today not only for our Mayor and his family, but our City of Angels, our State, our Nation and the world.

We all had a moment to rise and offer a prayer that began with ” I pray that…. ”

We were inspired by a message of hope and prayer from a African-American Christian pastor, a groundbreaking young Muslim woman leader, and a rabbi.  They each spoke from different traditions but their common message was about the dignity of humanity and how we must see the divine in each human being.  That was Mayor Garcetti’s prayer as well.

If we can spend an hour and a half here in Los Angeles, praying together and linking our hands with our common bonds, imagine what could be done if we exported that same spirit around the world.  That is my prayer for today and everyday.

Where there is love, there is Justice

This was the sermon I delivered at the Multi-Faith Prayer Service in Washington, DC on Sunday April 26 for for Unite for Marriage.  It was delivered at the National City Christian Church.

Where there is love there is Justice. We gather here in this sacred place for seeking many things. We seek strength from one another as our lives are under scrutiny once again by the nation’s highest court. We fill our hearts with love for one another. We prayerfully seek God’s holy presence by our side. You O Holy one did not you make us also in your image? Everyday our humanity is questioned. Our humanity is daily threatened by so much pain and violence, an assault on personhood.  Our dignity is daily threatened by words and deeds across this nation as LGBT people seek to live and love in peace.  This night before our case is presented in the earthly court we appeal to Divine Justice in Your Heavenly Court, God.  We know that love and justice flows from You. You taught us with your words and deeds. You advised us to pursue justice vociferously. Tzedek Tzedek tirdof, Justice justice you shall pursue. And we have lived your words.  This LGBTQ movement for equality has been on the move. State by state. Conversation by conversation, lawsuit by lawsuit, wins and losses at the ballot box. But we have kept moving forward. Pursue justice You told us and that what we all have done and worked for activist, lawyers, and the everyday people who just wanted to marry their partner whether they were together 5 months, 5 years or 50 years  Tuesday the Supreme Court can bring about a full measure of Your justice God by extending marriage equality throughout this land. The time for love is now. The time for justice is now. For where there is love there is justice.

A teacher took a group of high school seniors on a nature hike. They walked along the winding trail of a steep hillside until they reached an area that looked out over a lush valley. The rocky hill behind them stood in stark contrast to the terraced slopes before them on which olive trees and grapevines were planted.

“Isn’t it remarkable,” said the teacher, “that right on the other side of this hill is a rocky slope that leads down to a muddy river. But on this side is a fertile valley where things are blossoming

“The same sun shines on both sides of this hill and the same clouds bring rain to this whole area. Yet, most of the growth is happening over here,” the teacher said, pointing to the valley before them.

The students looked about and nodded silent.

“I want you to think about this,” the teacher continued.  “At one time the valley wasn’t so lush and green. It was rocky and the landscape looked the same as the hill behind us.

“But with vision and hard work, the rocks were removed, the ground terraced, the soil prepared, trees and vines were planted. Lovingly the ground was nurtured. And after a while things took root and began to grow. For where there is love, there is growth.

“This valley is what your life can become,” the teacher said.  “Until now, everything you’ve learned, experienced has brought you to the place where the rocks have been cleared away. You will grow more.

In a few weeks you will graduate, the teacher told the seniors and then it will be up to you to build the terraces and plant the seeds that will develop throughout your lives. You will have the responsibility to love the land, to nurture it and help it grow.

“No work, no planting”, the teacher commented as he pointed to the rocky hillside behind them, “you’ll end up with a lot of obstacles to negotiate around.

“A plan and hard work will yield a fruitful growth, the teacher said pointing to the valley below. “it will take even more hard work to maintain this kind of growth , but which would you rather your life resemble.  (Bits and Pieces, Ragan Communications).

No matter the decision of the court win or lose, we will as a community need to maintain the growth and justice that we have sought. In either case we must love more-for where there is love there is justice. Even if we have a successful outcome in June and marriage bells ring across the land our work to bring justice and equality will not be over. There are still rocky cliffs in our way. We need full employment protection and protections in housing and education.  We need to adopt our children without hurdles and have access to the health care.

Our work for justice will continue no matter the outcome in June.

Through prophet Micah We were instructed: What does God require of you? Only Do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with Your God.  This is what we have done in the courts and at the ballot box and in our daily lives. We have sought to uplift equality and liberty for LGBT people. And tonight we seek, God, Your Loving Presence. Walk with us! Share Your bounty and abundant love with all those who seek to create a world where human dignity is lifted on high. For where there Your love is, there is justice. Teach us to do as You have instructed us despite our neighbors’ objections. To love them as ourselves. Spreading Your message of unending love. Ahavat Olam. Eternal love  for Your creations

We gather here tonight to inspire each other and to send a message loud and clear to everyone in this nation. That people of faith stand with the LGBT community. This is not religion against queer people but rather a revolution has occurred and I am proud to be a part of this. At the core of my religious faith is the eternal promise of justice for all.  Not for some but a vision that one day all people of good will and good faith and no faith shall sing in one voice an anthem of peace and liberty.  And we cannot gather tonight only 35 miles from Baltimore when there are others who lack equality and justice. Our community has known police brutality. After all the Stonewall riots were a response in 1969 to continued police harassment. And there will be no justice and equality until all are at the table

In Jewish tradition we teach that the Sabbath is a foretaste of the world to Come. A messianic time of peace for all people. It is not  limited to just some folks but is available to everyone. The Sabbath is a model of how the world might be. A world where we aren’t rushed or preoccupied with work. A world where poverty and violence are gone. A world where someone always has your back. A world where children go to bed at night with warm full bellies, safe and secure knowing they are loved. The Sabbath is the taste of the ideal where we can rest from our labors and enjoy the true gift of freedom and taste God’s abundance bounty and give thanks for that bounty. Our gathering tonight is a similar taste of that world. To help us imagine a world where LGBT people are always safe from violence. A world where we can taste the bounty of our love and equality. A world where there is no poverty of the body or the spirit. A world whether you pray to Jesus or Allah, Krishna or meditate on the energy of life can join in peaceful communion. A world where everyone’s got your back. A world where police protect the innocent rather than murder them. A world where the Supreme Court avoids politics and truly seeks justice and equality for all of Americas citizens including extending civil marriage equality throughout this nation.  For where there is love, there is justice.

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