Speaking on the Journey to Justice

These were my comments at the NAACP Rally at the beginning of the Journey for Justice. This is a 40 day+ march from Selma, Alabama to Washington, D.C.  The Central Conference of American Rabbis is partnering with the NAACP and other African American Civil Rights groups to call attention to the systemic racism in our society.  The Journey for Justice is focusing on restoring the Civil Rights Voting Act, jobs and education, the scourge of mass incarceration, police brutality and equality and liberty for all Americans.

Good morning. I am here on our holiest day of the week the Sabbath  representing the over 2300 Reform Rabbis of the Central Conference of American Rabbis.  As President of the oldest and largest rabbinical organization in N. America, we who have come to pray and walk alongside our brothers and sisters commit not only to talking the talk of justice and righteousness but walking the walk. More than 150 rabbis from all over our country will join in this journey each day. We will be carrying with us a sacred scroll of Torah, the five Books of Moses that inspires our commitment to justice and equality and liberty.

As Rabbis of the CCAR, We pledge this day to stand with and work with and learn from you To renew the historic Jewish – African American relationships and coalition that once worked together with ease. This is a new beginning.

We Rabbis pledge to work with you end the culture of racism in our country. We pledge to work wholeheartedly to end mass incarceration in our country We pledge to work tirelessly with you  to give every child the education she deserves, we pledge to work to root out gun violence in every neighborhood and to fight for economic justice for every person and to secure voting rights for every American citizens.

God of all bless those who March today and for the next 40 days.  May our feet be swift, our dedication to your ideals of Tzedek u mishpat righteousness and justice be strong and lift us on Eagles wings as you once did for the children of Israel so that we can bring about the glorious day when all shall eat at the table of liberty and the true Promise of America.

#justice summer #tzedeksummer @NAACP @cornellwbrooks

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.

Anat Hoffman arrested again

My friend and colleague Anat Hoffman director of the Israel Religious Action Center and one of the founder of Women of the Wall (www.womenofthewall.org.il) was arrested last night at a Rosh Chodesh celebration with the Hadassah Women from around the world. The women of Hadassah are in Israel celebrating their 100 year anniversary of this wonderful Jewish women’s organization known for its philanthropy  in the United States and in Israel.   Anat has been arrested at the Kotel before.  The Women of the Wall group gathers each Rosh Chodesh at the Western Wall for a morning service to celebrate the new month. This half holy day associated with women is a time for women of all denominations to come together to pray and read Torah.  But they are not allowed to read the Torah in the Kotel Plaza area.  The Rosh Chodesh group continues to point out the inequities at the Wall.  Men have most of the area near the wall for prayer and meditation and reflection and the women’s section is small. An Israeli Supreme Court ruling said that they could gather but this group had to read Torah in a different section near the southern part of the wall.  Not in the main prayer place.  They also arrest members of the group and detain them for wearing a tallit which is common among women in Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist Judaism.  Tallito have to wrapped around like a scarf not in the traditional manner of wearing a prayer shawl.

Anat was arrested for reciting the Shema-the prayer that unifies the Jewish people world wide.  She was detained overnight and although a familiar site to the police who guard and protect the wall was evidently treated very poorly by the police.  Now is our time to strengthen our support for Women of the Wall and the values of equality-even in Israel.   We must stand for our place and our Jewish ideals too.

Take some time to donate. To visit their website.  And the next time  you are in Israel at Rosh Chodesh go and take part in the service.  Men stand on the men’s side near the divider to protect the group of women praying from flying objects on the men’s side over the Mechitza and pray together with the women and then all proceed with the Torah to the site for reading of the Torah.  This is for equality for all people and all who believe that the Holy Sites of Judaism should be open and available to all Jews.

The Rolling Tide Toward Equality

What a week!  The march of progress toward full equality for LGBT folks continues and this week saw some important gains.   Of course the much heralded decision of the the 9th Circuit Federal Appeals Court that stuck down Prop 8 is one of the most significant decisions for LGBT equality that has come at a federal level. .Judge Reinhardt’s beautifully and thoroughly written decision will provide continuing armor against the anti-marriage forces as they try to force their theology into our Constitution.  

But we also saw a vote to legalize marriage for gay men and lesbians in Washington State.  Now Gov. Gregoire SIGN THAT BILL!!!! And do it quickly.  I know you said you would sign it by Valentine’s Day but why wait?  Let them get married on Valentine’s Day!!!  The anti-marriage forces in Washington State are foaming at the mouth and seeking signatures to overturn the legislature already. So a battle looms there. We will have to work but the tide keeps rolling

In Minnesota, the Rabbinical Assembly of Minnesota came out strongly opposed to their anti-marriage amendment there and rabbis of North Carolina are organizing against their anti-marriage Amendment called Amendment One.  Rabbi Fred Guttman of Greensboro, N.C. ( the starting point of the lunch counter sit-in during the African-American civil rights struggle) spoke eloquently at their City Council against Amendment One helping convince that City Council to oppose it! Rabbis in Raleigh and across the state are addressing their congregants and their representatives to work for equality for LGBT folks.   

So it has been a good week for justice. It has been a good week for equality. Let’s keep it going!

Enter the Conversation Tonight.

Don’t forget tonight is the night we welcome Jay Michaelson author and activist to Kol Ami.  We will engage in a conversation about his new book, “God Vs Gays: The Religious Case for Equality.  The program begins at 7 pm at 1200 N. La Brea and it is free!  Moderated by Dr. Joel Kushner of the Institute for Judaism and Sexual Orientation of Hebrew Union College, it is sure to be an important evening for all who care about spiritual advancement of LGBT rights.

Jay has an amazing bio for such a young man, he is a contributing writer for the Forward and editor of the hipster magazine Zeek.  He is the founding director of Nehirim which produces Jewish LGBT spirituality retreats nationwide.

I know you will want to hear him. The evening is co-sponsored not only by Kol Ami and IJSO but also JQInternational, MCC/LA, The LGBT Commission of the Episcopal Diocese, Nehirim, The Forward, GLADD, California Men’s Gathering (CMG) and Beacon Publishing.

There is a reception after and books for sale!                                  

DADT DEAD-Let’s play Taps

Oh my goodness. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the heinous military policy that dehumanized some of our country’s finest soldiers simply because they were gay men or lesbians is DEAD!  The Judge ordered an injunction that would stop the military from enforcing the policy.  This injunction came from Judge Virginia Phillips, the same judge that ruled DADT unconstitutional.  She even ordered in her ruling today that all cases that are in process must cease!.

This case was brought forward by Log Cabin Republicans. Their attorney Dan Woods still warned military members who are gay and lesbian to keep quiet.  It isn’t known if the Administration will appeal.

DADT is unjust, unfair, and UNAMERICAN.

The United States of America is fighting for liberty and justice for all around the world.  How on earth can we discriminate against our own?

Sexual Orientation is not the bar to service.  Our military men and women are professionals and professional behavior is to be demanded.  But that should include gay and lesbian service people. AND THERE IS NO GOOD REASON IT SHOULDN’T.

Brava to Judge Phillips for your courage.  And to our brave military men and women as well!