Rabbi's Letter

January 30, 2019
24 Shevat 5779
Parasha Mishpatim

Dear Friends,

This past weekend at the One Room Shul House, our value of our weekly study was the Jewish response to poverty. This coming Shabbat, in the Parasha of Mishpatim, we read the very meaningful sentence, NASEY V’NISHMA, which our people said to God at the moment of our first face to face meeting and it means, “ We will do and we will hear.” I couldn’t help but see a connection between what we Jews must DO in the face of the world's poverty with the words we uttered in Mishpatim.

What did it mean to say,  We will do and we will hear ? It sort of seems backwards doesn’t it? Shouldn’t we hear God’s commandments first and then DO them? The tradition says that we were so convinced of God’s true magnificent and enlightened essence that we threw our faith in the eternal ring, even before hearing God’s commandments. This is the nature of Jewish faith - we do first and debate later. When facing the reality of poverty in our world, Judaism follows the same pattern. Judaism says feed the hungry, raise up the fallen, protect the vulnerable FIRST. You can ask questions later, but it is the act of non-judgmental giving that has God’s attention. And by it, we will be judged.

How wonderful it was that our own Rena Goldwasser came into school to help us with a project of making mats for the homeless. These mats are made out of crocheted plastic strips which are cut-up plastic bags that are rolled into yearn. The mats are beautiful, functional and one small way to save the oceans from plastic bags, turning them instead into much needed mats for the homeless to sit on. 

What fun we had, after learning about our obligation to care for the poor and to reach out for them without judgment - to act first, to DO, and here we were making a mat for someone who is homeless. It was a beautiful day making a real difference for someone in need.  Enjoy the pics,
Midrash Tannaim on Numbers 28:2 
God says to Israel, “My children, whenever you give sustenance to the poor, I impute it to you as though you gave sustenance to Me.” Does God then eat and drink? No, but whenever you give food to the poor, God accounts it to you as if you gave food to God.
I wanted to let everyone know that our plans for our community wedding in May is going to have to be postponed due to the renovations of the sanctuary. I was going about my business as usual, planning the wedding and a Scholar-in-Residence weekend, when I realized that chances are high that once the renovations begin, the sanctuary may not be altogether functional. Therefore, our Bride and Groom, Pam and Barry, have happily agreed to postpone the wedding until May of 2020. So, stay tuned for further details but it might be a while!
We are planning our Purim shalach manot goodie bags and our musical Megillah for March 20th. Our First Night Passover Seder will be on April 19th. Then we will have a very special and haunting musical accompaniment with Larry Zimmerman on the piano for our Yom Ha Shoah memorial on May 2nd. Our annual Beatles' Shabbat is scheduled for Friday, May 31st, and we are working on a lot of good programming for the next few months. I hope you will join your Synagogue for all of the above.
Please help me welcome our newest Congregant, Susan Turner. From the moment she walked in the door, Susan beautifully blended in with our Synagogue family. She is new to the area and building her new life here.

We are so happy that she found us and has joined Bnai Israel to be a part of our family. Bruchim Habaim Susan!
Midrash Psalms 118:17 
When you are asked in the world to come, “What was your work?” and you answer, “I fed the hungry,” you will be told, “This is the gate of Adonai, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry.”
Next Tuesday the 5 th of February, I will be driving up to DC to join a group of Rabbis and activists from across the country who are gathering to lobby Congress to close down the remaining migrant child detention centers which are still up and running across the country. I am so inspired there are so many other Rabbis and lay Jews who feel as I do that this is an issue that no Jew, God forbid, should ever ignore. 

The immorality of this practice needs to be stopped as there are no moral justifications for such cruel abuse of the vulnerable. Judaism is clear about that.  I will be lobbying with our North Carolina representatives.  I would like to share with you the letter I got yesterday about the trip so that you know as much as you can what your Rabbi will be doing in DC next week.

Hello All, 

We are the lobbyists, my friends. Below is the list of those of us who will be lobbying together next week to end detention for all children seeking asylum. 

We are doing outreach to synagogues and other organizations in the DC area to join us. If you have affiliations in the area that might be inclined to join us for a day of lobbying, please reach out to them or link us to them. 

For our own organization I need to know:

1) if you will be lobbying all three days, if not which days you will be there
2) who your US representative is (which district)
3) your cell phone number
4) whether you have accommodations in DC or would like to be included in the AirBnbs that Bruce will be reserving tomorrow. About 10 people have already been in touch with Bruce about this; if you are one of these rest assured that he has your name.
5) any questions that you would like answered before we meet.

We represent a dozen states with many duplications. As soon as I hear from you, we will sort out who will meet with who. We will match constituents with their reps and then go from there with assignments. I know that Tom Cartwright already plans to meet with Sen. Portman early Wednesday morning. If you have an appointment, please let me know.

Here is the schedule to date:

2/6 – 8:30 a.m - meet together at Longworth 1540-A spot for greeting, orientation and lobby packets – plan to hit offices for meetings with legislators and/or staffers and packet drop offs
2/7 – same as above, except meet at Rayburn 2456.  A press conference is planned for 11:00 (location TBD), and we will want all hands on board to be there to enjoy that.
2/8 – finish up lobbying with final legislators/staffers and deliver final packets, plan to finish by 11:30. There may be a noon protest in front of HHS, planning is underway.
Looking forward to hearing from you and working with you all very soon.
Peggy Slater
Here are your fellow lobbyists. 
Memorandum to Congress re Central American Minors and Budget Negotiations

This memorandum briefly reviews key provisions in the 2019 Secure Border Act that dramatically impact the rights of migrant children and explains why these provisions should not be part of any budget resolution negotiated by Congress and the White House. Adopting the Secure Border Act's provisions on immigrant children would lead to the persecution, torture, and possibly the death of Central American minors who seek asylum in the United States. It would also violate the law of the land.

A long-term spending bill should prohibit funds being used to (1) forcibly separate children and their parents, (2) terminate the rights children now possess under the Flores settlement, and (3) deny asylum to children who possess valid claims under U.S. and binding international laws. 

Over the past year immigrant children have increasingly become targets of the Administration's anti-immigrant campaign. Thousands of children have been forcibly separated from their parents (many still not reunited with their mothers and fathers), thousands have been held in cages (the children call them "dog cages"), at least two minors in U.S. custody recently died, and the number of detained unaccompanied minors has skyrocketed to 15,000, not because of a new influx but because the Administration now unreasonably delays releasing them to parents or relatives living in the U.S. Among other tactics that delay and prevent the release of detained children, the ORR informs parents and relatives seeking children's release that they will be turned over to ICE for possible arrest and deportation. 
We urge the House and Senate negotiators concerned with the humane treatment of children to insure that the spending bill negotiated in the coming weeks prohibits funds being used to (1) forcibly separate children from their parents, (2) terminate the Flores settlement, or (3) deny asylum to any child who possesses a valid claim under U.S. law and the United Nations Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees.

Please know that these days away are counted as part of my allotted time off. 
Rabbi Shelom of Karlin (18th Century) 
If you want to raise a person from mud and filth, do not think it is enough to keep standing on top and reaching a helping hand down to the person. You must go all the way down yourself, down into mud and filth. Then take hold of the person with strong hands and pull the person and yourself out into the light.
I hope to see you all at the Smiths on Sunday evening the 3 rd of February, for the Mens Club Super Bowl Party at 6PM.

 (GO LA RAMS!!!!!) Sorry, it slipped!

Please RSVP, All are welcome!

Judaism is known for it’s emphasis on DOING. We caution against allowing our own judgments to take over and to turn our hearts away from doing the right thing for those in need. We believe that God is watching not the actions of the vulnerable but OUR actions. Do we make ourselves into god and try to rationalize whether we should help or not? Whether they deserve it or not? Whether they shouldn’t be more like us or not? Our tradition compels us to care passionately about the physical needs of others and to care passionately about the spiritual state of our own souls. The state of the souls of those in need of food or care are NOT our business, that business belongs to God. The state of our own spiritual character, now that does indeed belong to us.
באהבה ושלום

Shabbat Shalom to all!
הרב אלישבע בת דוד ודבורה
Rabbi Julie Kozlow
(910) 762-1117 ~ B'nai Israel phone