Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, CEO, The Rabbinical Assembly
Margo Gold, President, USCJ
Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO, USCJ
The kindling of light is synonymous with our holy days, Shabbat and holidays. In our home, like many, it is a ritual where our whole family gathers around the candles. We light them, place our hands over eyes, and together, we say the blessing. It is hard to articulate how I feel after I open my eyes to see the lights in front of me, and my loving family surrounding me. It is a mixture of gratitude, warmth, hope, but most of all, Shalom. I see different colors - white, yellow, blue, and red.
Shalom does not just mean peace, but a sense of being whole. In fact, the reason we light Shabbat candles every week is because of Shalom Bayit, peace in the home. The original reason was quite practical - we could not light candles on Shabbat, so we light them before Shabbat begins in order to have lights at our Shabbat meal on Friday evening. This prevents us from bumping into one another, but also, it shields us from the fears that come with darkness.
As we look upon these lights, we realize that we are beginning of a dream on earth that is Shabbat, as the rabbis of the Talmud teach us, it is 1/60th of the world to come, a taste of paradise. Our heavenly experience ends with the Havdallah ceremony which literally means separation. We end Shabbat with light, just as we began, as we light the Havdallah candle, at least two wicks together to create a larger flame. We smell spices that act as holy smelling salts to prepare us for the week ahead.
Last Saturday night, I emerged from the world to come to the world as it is, and it was shocking, brutal, and almost unbelievable.
I woke up to images of swastikas on red flags and Confederate flags flown by armed men. I woke up to the video of a terrorist attack as a young woman, Heather Heyer, was murdered by a car ramming and hearing the news of the two police officers, State Trooper H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates, who were killed in a helicopter accident during the weekend.
And then I saw the videos of white supremacist carrying Tikki torches repeating the phrase, "Jews will not replace us." I read the account of Shabbat in Charlottesville from Congregation Beth Israel. Here is an excerpt from the president of the congregation:
"For half an hour, three men dressed in fatigues and armed with semi-automatic rifles stood across the street from the temple. Had they tried to enter, I don't know what I could have done to stop them, but I couldn't take my eyes off them, either. Perhaps the presence of our armed guard deterred them. Perhaps their presence was just a coincidence, and I'm paranoid. I don't know. Several times, parades of Nazis passed our building, shouting, "There's the synagogue!" followed by chants of "Seig Heil" and other anti-Semitic language. Some carried flags with swastikas and other Nazi symbols. A guy in a white polo shirt walked by the synagogue a few times, arousing suspicion. Was he casing the building, or trying to build up courage to commit a crime? We didn't know. Later, I noticed that the man accused in the automobile terror attack wore the same polo shirt as the man who kept walking by our synagogue; apparently it's the uniform of a white supremacist group. Even now, that gives me a chill. When services ended, my heart broke as I advised congregants that it would be safer to leave the temple through the back entrance rather than through the front, and to please go in groups.
This is 2017 in the United States of America."
Fire can warm us and bring us peace on Friday night, and fire can be a source of hate and destruction as we saw on Friday night in Charlottesville.
When we open our eyes, what do we see? What type of America are we seeing today?
I have received many messages from congregants asking for guidance, for some wisdom as to what to do, where do we go from here?
I would like to offer the following:
Gather together in community for prayer and song this Shabbat. The theme of this Shabbat, parashat Re'eh, will be seeing. Our parashah opens with a stark contrast of sides. Moses says, "Re'eh/See, this day I set before you blessing and curse: blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God that I enjoin upon you this day; and curse..."
On Friday night, we will gather for a sweet and soulful Friday night service in our Living Room minyan. The spiritual question will focus on sight - what are the blessings we see around us? How do we cope when we see curse in front of us?
On Shabbat morning, I'll be giving a dvar torah/sermon which will deal with the events of the week and how the wisdom of our Torah can help guide us to see the paths in front of us.
After services, I will be leading an impromptu learning session titled Human Dignity in a Time of Crisis, and I will leave plenty of time for discussion and sharing.
For those who are away and would like to do something at their own table, I offer the following program - #TogetherattheTable
I have much more to say on this issue, and I invite you to come to hear my thoughts this Shabbat.
May this Shabbat bring peace here, to Charlottesville, to those who are mourning in Spain, and around the world.
Rabbi David Baum
Please join us for an interfaith candlelight vigil on Monday, August 21 at 8 pm at Sanborn Square Park in downtown Boca Raton. We, as citizens of this city, this state and this nation know that we can model behaviors of respect and tolerance for all.
A Statement on Charlottesville by the Boca Raton Interfaith Clergy Association
As religious leaders of Boca Raton representing churches, synagogues and mosques, we come together with respect for each other: for the values we share and for the differences we honor. We recognize that this is a challenging time in the life of our nation.
In Charlottesville we witnessed the violence and hatred expressed and perpetrated by Neo- Nazis, klansmen, white supremacists and white nationalists. And we join together to condemn their ideologies and the dangers these groups represent to an open, respectful, democratic, free and pluralistic society. We also mourn the deaths of Heather Heyer, State Trooper H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke Bates. We extend our prayers and condolences to their loved ones.
In the last century, we witnessed the extraordinary evil and destruction that white-supremacy and Nazi ideology can wreak. Nearly half a million Americans gave their lives in World War II to counter totalitarian fascism, and thousands more have given their lives to fight against those who do not hold dear the rights and freedoms that form our society's bedrock.
The United States of America is founded on the principle that all are created equal, endowed by our Creator with inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Those rights are for all Americans with no exceptions or exclusions. We are saddened by the lack of clear moral leadership in our nation. As Elie Wiesel wrote, "And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever, wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe."
We hold as an article of faith that every human life is created in the divine image, and is of infinite and equal value. Therefore, we condemn the rise of racist and bigoted ideology. We encourage government leaders and law enforcement to pursue justice, to stand against hate crimes and to protect the rights of every individual. We encourage our parents and teachers to lead by crying out against expressions of racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, misogyny and homophobia. We must stand with the vulnerable against those who seek to persecute and intimidate.
As leaders of different faiths working respectfully for the common good of our community and all people, we ask everyone to join us in condemning hatred and violence. Please also join us for an interfaith candlelight vigil on Monday, August 21 at 8 pm at Sanborn Square Park in downtown Boca Raton. We, as citizens of this city, this state and this nation know that we can model behaviors of respect and tolerance for all.We are called to stand together as people of faith and as patriotic Americans.
Rabbi David Steinhardt, Bnai Torah Congregation
Rev. Andrew Sherman, St. Gregory's Episcopal Church
Fathi Khalfi, Imam, Islamic Center of Boca Raton
Bassem Alhalabi, President, Islamic Center of Boca Raton
Rev. Tom Tift, First United Methodist Church
Rev. Benjamin Thomas, St. Gregory's Episcopal Church
Rabbi Craig H. Ezring, Temple Beth Israel
Rev. Bill Mitchell, Boca Raton Community Church
Rabbi Jessica Spitalnic Brockman, Temple Beth El
Rabbi Greg Weisman, Temple Beth El
Rev. Dr. Richard B. Barbour, Advent Lutheran Church
Rabbi David Baum, Congregation Shaarei Kodesh
Rabbi Robert Silvers, Congregation B'nai Israel
Rabbi Dan Levin, Temple Beth El
Rev. Rachel DeLaune, First United Methodist Church
Rev. Marcus Zillman, II, First United Methodist Church
Rev. Michael McGraw, St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church
Rabbi David Englander, Bnai Torah Congregation
Rabbi Rony Keller, Congregation B'nai Israel
Rabbi Allison Cohen, Congregation B'nai Israel
It is hard to put into words how many of us feel following a weekend in which we witnessed white supremacists and neo-nazis marching openly in America, leaving violence and tragedy in their wake.
Regardless of where we each stand politically, we can ALL agree: hatred, bigotry, and violence cannot be tolerated in our communities. When our values are threatened in this way, we raise our voices and rise up-not just in opposition but in unity.
In this spirit, we're coming together this Friday, August 18th, to mobilize a grassroots movement of Shabbat dinners across the country dedicated to celebrating diversity, equality, and inclusion in the face of fear, division, and hate.
We invite you to join us by gathering people in your communities and networks for a Together at the Table dinner to engage in constructive dialogue with a plurality of perspectives, to address deep, painful divides in our communities, and to consider the role we can play in strengthening civil discourse and society.
Share the Movement #TogetherattheTable
Use the hashtag #togetheratthetable to post on social media, share with the community, and spread the movement.
Conservative Movement Statement on Violent Demonstrations in Charlottesville, VA
Monday August 14, 2017
In the aftermath of violent demonstrations by white supremacists and their sympathizers in Charlottesville, Virginia, resulting in 3 deaths and many injuries, the Rabbinical Assembly and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism issued the following statement:
The Rabbinical Assembly is shocked and horrified by the violent demonstrations of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and their sympathizers in Charlottesville, Virginia this past Saturday which resulted directly in the deaths of one civilian and two state police officers and in many other serious injuries. We applaud the swift and effective actions of Mayor Mike Signer of Charlottesville and Gov. Terry McAuliffe of Virginia, as well as their appropriate condemnations of the bigotry, antisemitism and hatred that inspired the rally itself. Many leaders have taken the indispensable step of naming the dangerous philosophies and movements that united these demonstrators. These events have been rightly labeled as incidents of domestic terror by both Democrats and Republicans.
We call upon United States officials including President Donald Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions to condemn neo-Nazi, white supremacist and alt-right movements by name. The repeated failure to do so by top U.S. officials has fueled their growth and poses an imminent threat to all Americans as Saturday's violent rallies showed. History has demonstrated that where a country's leaders fail to condemn these philosophies, violence and hatred can quickly and exponentially consume the fabric of civil society. Our leaders must act now. Let us continue to pray for and to work for the day when all shall "sit under his/her vine and fig tree and none shall make them afraid."
Rabbi Philip Scheim, President, The Rabbinical Assembly
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, CEO, The Rabbinical Assembly
Margo Gold, President, USCJ
Rabbi Steven Wernick, CEO, USCJ
Follow me on Twitter @rabbidavidbaum
Congregation Shaarei Kodesh