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Rabbi's Week in Review - 10/16/2023

10/16/2023 06:09:32 PM


I write this amidst the exhaustion that has come during the most emotional time in my rabbinate.  I’m still feeling emotions of fear and sadness in the pit of my stomach from the horrific and brutal violence and emotional harm inflicted on our Jewish people in Israel just a little over one week ago. I will continue to feel emotionally troubled, as I know, from the time of writing this blog until it is published later in the week, there is an uncertain future for so many innocent people who had no voice in what Hamas did to us or who will endure the impact of Israel’s response.

Last Friday night at our Congregation Kol Ami Shabbat Shulchan, we shared feelings in this troubling and critical moment for our people and for the millions of Palestinians. We shared thoughts knowing what we don’t know — that the future is uncertain. With that uncertainty came feelings of being troubled, and feelings of helplessness to change the trajectory of what is to come to Israelis and Palestinians.

In striving to maintain our humanity, and while affirming the need to stand up for our Jewish people, our Shabbos Seudah, our festive Shabbat dinner, was prepared by Yahia Kamal, the Palestinian chef-owner of Baba’s Pantry. Baba, in Arabic, is a reference to a father/grandfather/wise man. Baba is how Yahia Kamal is referred to by his kids and grandkids.

He not only is a tireless worker, cheerfully caring for his customers, but also was the first presenter at our Kol Ami Jewish cooking series, co-chaired by Brad Ordo and Fay Balk. He refused to take money for his time or even for the food he brought for all of us, including his purchase of kosher chicken. He is every bit the mensch. 

His restaurant was named one of the top new restaurants by Bon Appétit. While eating his wonderful food, including what he insisted upon providing to me free of charge, I inquired about the welfare of his family. While his side of the family, living in the West Bank, was safe for now, his wife’s family lives in Gaza, and their welfare was unknown at the time.

In the past week, I have been to multiple events strongly standing up for the rights and survival of our Jewish people against a torrent of hate and violence. I have dined in and brought food to our Jewish community from a Palestinian chef, been supported by Christian clergy during this troubling time, and met with my Clergy Organizing Advisory Board from Faith In Action, the group that evening consisting of myself, one other rabbi and three Muslims.  

As I felt the pain and sadness from innocent Jewish people again being targeted for violence, murder and other atrocities, I felt the love of many, including Palestinians, who are considered by some in our community to be our enemy. While I think all this is due to a failure and a callous disregard for life by the leadership of Hamas (and other terrorist organizations and state sponsors who seek our annihilation) and by the Netanyahu government — disregard for the lives and welfare of those they deem our enemies, and their own people — my focus right now is not on the politics.

Rather, my focus is on how we hold on to our humanity. How do we uphold the humanity and dignity of our own people and not lose sight of the humanity and dignity of those who are seen as being on the other side of the conflict. In sharing our feelings of despair, while not having any grand solutions to offer, I did relate that, during the many times when the world is in a state of insanity and inhumanity, I seek out the many good people who are working for a better world — both Jews and those outside our community.

During this terrible time, let us strive for what is humane, to connect with the many good people who work toward a path to a better world. Let us be beacons of hope at a time when despair seeks to overtake us. As G-d’s partners in the ongoing story of our Jewish people and the story of our world, that is our responsibility, even during the most difficult moments.  

As we are instructed by the Prophet Isaiah, let us be an Or L’Goyim, a light to the nations.

Mon, December 11 2023 28 Kislev 5784