It's been a couple of weeks since the last Shabbat-O-Gram and so much has been happening. Here at Beth El, we hosted nearly 200 for the Shabbat Across America dinner and then over 350 for the Klezmer-style service that followed. It just keeps getting better and better. This Friday evening, we'll be back in the lobby for our "normal" service (normal meaning our typically, wonderful, musical celebration of Shabbat). This Shabbat we celebrate with Matthew Kobliner and family as he becomes Bar Mitzvah. Mazal tov, Matt!
Also, take a moment to sign up for TBE's showing of the acclaimed film, "Race to Nowhere," on March 30 at 7. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE TICKETS. A panel of experts will discuss it afterwards. Don't forget our Purim celebrations next weekend (the one for kids is on Sunday morning this year, complete with carnival, and the one for adults is Sat. night). And, with Passover around the corner, if you are interested in coming to a TBE Second Seder, we need to know this week! Contact our office.
So what's been happening in the world?
On college campuses this was a challenging week for Israel advocacy, the infamous "Apartheid Week" a notorious reflection of Jimmy Carter's Big Lie about Israel. I have the chance on Thursday evening to discuss this and other topics up at Brown, where I'll be the guest rabbi at their weekly "Thursday Night Torah" session. The process of delegitimizing Israel has gained traction recently, in large part because of the brilliant shift of strategy by the Palestinians themselves - at least the leadership on the West Bank. They have decided to toss aside terrorism and look to isolate Israel through non violent resistance and international pressure. As a supporter of Israel, I'll gladly take that tradeoff. For one thing it forces Israel to redouble its efforts to discover the language of accommodation. Thus far, they haven't been very good at that - as Gary Rosenblatt writes this week: When Israel Becomes A Source Of Embarrassment.
It's on college campuses where delegitimatization has been met most innovatively, not with counter threats, but with an even greater voice of kindness and outreach. At Brown, a group of Israel supporters has dubbed this week "Israel-Palestinian Peace Week." You can't imagine how frustrated that makes Israel's detractors, including this op-ed writer. On Wednesday, the rebuttal to that op-ed was written by none other than my son Ethan: Hammerman '13: The Mission and Purpose of Israeli-Palestinian Peace Week. It really is a brilliant response (if I must say so myself), and precisely the one that is needed.
In the New Middle East, where ballots now matter more than bullets (Libya notwithstanding), authority will depend more than ever on the power of persuasion, and Israel's standing will rise or fall according to its ability to convince voters in places like Cairo that it really wants peace. So it's a good exercise to try out that message of accommodation in the highly charged atmosphere of American college campuses. See also, Report from Netanya: Jan Gaines at the Gaza Border- a new letter from Jan.
Speaking of highly charged locations, the established Jewish community has commented very little about the standoff in Madison, Wisconsin. Here is a plea I received fromthe rabbis who actually live there.
One hundred years ago, 146 innocent workers, mostly women, died in the tragic fire that changed everything.Read about the Triangle Fire and see a list of the victims' names by clicking here. I recalled the historic events at services this past Friday night. Read my comments here.
What do you do if your loved one's DNR order is ignored and the doctors actually revive him? Is it unethical to save a life? That's this week's Hammerman on Ethics quandary: Live or Let Die?
With the Oscars still fresh in our minds, I asked the question last Shabbat, Is Natalie Portman the Next Sandy Koufax? OK, so she's having a kid out of wedlock and the father is not Jewish, but she's promised to bring him up Jewish! But the big picture is that Natalie Portman has become a genuine American Jewish hero, and last week clinched it, between her Oscar and her staunch defense of Jewish pride in the face of an anti-Semitic attack. Read all about it in this parsha packet. See also Jewish Talent Shines at Oscars.
And speaking of the Oscars, you may have noticed that the winner in the documentary category, Strangers No More, featured the children of migrant workers who attend Bialik-Rogozin School in South Tel Aviv, where Jews, Muslims and Christians from many nations learn together and become Israelis. Attention to the issue of children of migrant workers and refugees in Israel could not come at a more important time. Currently, 400 children who know no other home than Israel may soon be deported from the country. You can help to prevent this.
And see this short animated gem that's been making the rounds: Almonds and Wine. In this tale of an arranged marriage, a young couple flee the threat of war in Eastern Europe by establishing a new life together in Canada, handing down their traditions to the generations that follow
Finally, Purim is coming next weekend! Click here to see Over 60 Purim Videos including the Shalom Sesame version of the Purim story. It's a child-friendly version, where no one gets killed. Haman simply wants to "send the Jews away." While cleaned up for kids, the use of the euphemism is almost eerie in the echoes of Holocaust era euphemisms. Our Shabbat-O-Gram Purim section also includes these classics, from the archives, The Envelope, Please! (Purim Movie recommendations), Photos from last Purim, Latke vs Hamentaschen Debate, The Best Purim Parodies and Jewish Jokes, Purim Pics 2009, More Purim Spoofs, and Lessons of an Ever-Dying People, Purim Parodies from Sh'ma, Meshugene Men (by the Shushan Channel) and Miracle Days: Special Purims in Jewish History.
Plus, there's Purim - the "Real" Story (and I'll be talking about the Book of Esther on Sunday morning at 10:45). And, in honor of March Madness, my all-time favorite, The Evil Doers' Final Four
Also this week, see "OUTSIDE/INSIDE" Early Childhood Director Ronnie Brockman's blog about children at play, and I'm proud to add three more b'ar/bat mitzvah divrei Torah to our growing library:
- TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Rachel Wolff on Pekuday
- TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Michale Zielinski on Rosh Hodesh Adar II
- TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Tyler Zielinski on Rosh Hodesh Adar II
Finally, are you, like me, someone who has difficulty imagining God as the "Old Man in the Sky?" Do the prayers of the siddur not connect with your view of the universe? Do you have trouble reconciling the Creation story with what we know about fossils and Carbon 14 dating? Click here for a lecture by Rabbi Arthur Green, also available for downloading on iTunes or here. It's called A Creation Theology for a Post-Darwinian Age.
That catches us up. Whew!
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Adar 2!
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman