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“By the breath of children God sustains the world.” (Talmud Bavli, Shabbat 119b)

Since May this year, 2342 children have been separated from their parents at the US/Mexico border.  Many of us have viewed the audio taken of the voices of children begging to see a parent…to call an aunt—pleas ensconced/ in tears and fears.  Others of us couldn’t watch the video because it was too painful.  A dark cloud has hovered over our land.  In a few short weeks we will be celebrating the birth of our nation—a nation founded on dreams and revolution.  Our forefathers forged a blueprint of democracy and freedom.  As a nation, there have been times when the American Dream has been eclipsed by fear and prejudice.  An opaque, black cloud has engulfed us in recent weeks.  

The decision to separate children from parents—to rip away infants from mothers—to have no tangible plan to address the basic needs of children—for care—diapers—love—was an unconscionable and inhumane act.  As human beings we know that throughout the animal kingdom—mothers protect their young—attack those whom they perceive as predators.  Human mothers (and fathers) have that same instinct---I cannot imagine the anguish of the parents who have no idea what happened to their children.  The psychological fallout from this policy is impossible to comprehend and will take its toll for decades to come.

Yesterday, a new executive order went into place ending the separation.  But the blueprint for these families is still unfinished as there are legal concerns regarding incarceration of families.  Government officials acknowledge there is no game plan to reunite the thousands of isolated children with their parents.  These children, like debris from a tornado, or strewn across our great land.  230+ children have been brought to East Harlem.  

Many of us have asked what we can do.  Here are a few suggestions to move us from despair to action.  Please know our social action committee is working to come up with a VT community response—perhaps aligning our congregations with other faith-based communities in NY.  In the meantime here are some concrete actions you/we can take:

1. The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism has provided a list of concrete steps including a list of needed clothing/personal items and a synagogue location in Texas where items to be sent.  Amazon would be the best mechanism for delivering these items.  We are also trying to discern if there is a way of getting direct aid to those children in Harlem.  If you would like to donate you can purchase the following items from Amazon, Zappos, or other online vendors of your choice and have them sent directly to: Temple Emanuel,  Rabbi Claudio Kogan 4300 North Chai Street McAllen, TX  78504

a. Disposable diapers--all sizes

b. Men's shoe sizes 7 + 8

c. Women's shoe sizes 5, 6, + 7

d. Bras 32B, 34B, + 36B

2. Tonight, June 21, T’ruah (Rabbinic call for Human Rights) has organized:  New York Jews Protest Separation of Families at Foley Square (111 Worth St.) at 6 p.m.  Participants will march together to the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) offices. 

3. A protest march is being coordinated in Washington, DC on June 30.

4. There are six proposals before Congress. Click here for details about these proposals and ways you can contact our representatives in Washington. 

Our prayers are with those who are in pain—children—parents—bystanders—our souls.

Tomorrow at Shabbat services, we will celebrate Gay Pride—its struggles and victories. Every celebration of liberation must be tempered by the reality that prejudice and victimization still plague our world and we must be instruments of justice for all those who are cast down...for the strangers in our midst.

Below is a prayer written by Alden Solovy, click here for a link to two pieces written by my colleagues:  May they be a source of solace and an inspiration for just action.

"For Children at Our Borders"

By Alden Solovy

God of mothers and fathers,

God of babies and children,

Youth and teens,

The voice of agony echoes across the land,

As children are taken from their parents,

Perverting our history as a nation of immigrants,

Perverting our values,

Perverting the ways of justice and peace.

These children

Wait in misery

To be reunited with their families

So that a few may reap the political rewards

Of their suffering

By playing tough at our borders.

Source of grace,

Creator of kindness and goodness,

You call upon us to stand in the name of justice and fairness,

To witness against this abuse of power,

To battle the systematic assault on human beings,

To speak out against their suffering.

Bless those who rise up against this horror.

Give them courage and determination.

Bless those who plead on behalf of the oppressed and the subjugated

Before the seats of power.

May the work of their hands never falter

Nor despair deter them from this holy calling.

Bless those now in bondage at the hand of the U.S. government.

Grant them shelter and solace,

Comfort and consolation,

Blessing and renewal.

Release them. Free them. Heal them from trauma.

Reunite them with their families.

Hasten the day of their reunion.

Blessed are You, God of All Being,

Who summons us to oppose violence, oppression, slavery and injustice.

 

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March for Our Lives in Washington – March 24th

The recent mass shooting in Parkland, FL, has sparked a groundswell of grassroots reaction.  Perhaps because the killings occurred at a high school and not an elementary school, the call to action has gained momentum.  High School students are savvy social media users, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students have ignited a renewed demand for stricter gun laws in our country.

Several marches have been scheduled, including the walk out that took place recently in schools across the country.

On March 24, students from Parkland will organize and participate in March for Our Lives in Washington, DC.  Other marches are being scheduled across the country.  

As many of you know, on March 23, Isabel Dunst was scheduled to be our Shabbat HaGadol guest speaker.  Liz is the chair of the Religious Action Center for the Reform Movement (RAC).  The RAC will be planning a pre-march gathering – details are being worked out.  Liz has rescheduled her time with us for April 20th, the same night our teens will present on the RAC trip in DC they recently experienced.

We have already received inquiries as to what our congregation may be doing.  It is my intention to be in Washington for the March.  I am planning on renting a van and if we have 6-7 people going it will be cost efficient.  

I realize, as with previous marches, some will choose to go to Washington and others will participate in a NYC march.  

If you think you would be going to DC, please email Emily Hacker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..  Since I will be in Israel until 3/13 Emily is helping to coordinate.  In time, the RAC will need to know numbers so they can find an appropriate location to gather close to the starting point of the march.  In August, for the 1000 Ministers March, we gathered at the Mandarin Oriental, for speeches and song.  I believe the RAC gathering will have similar components plus a brief Shabbat worship service.  

If you think you might be interested in the NYC march, let me know as well.    

L’shalom

Rabbi Deborah Hirsch 

 

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Friday, February 9th--How will you welcome in Shabbat??

February is a month dedicated to Jewish Disability Awareness & Inclusion.  For The Village Temple, we have dedicated ourselves to a full year of deepening our understanding of visible and invisible disabilities.  As part of the UJA congregational cohort on disabilities, we are striving to make our sanctuary, prayer books and general facility more welcoming to people with disabilities.  

 

Each year The Village Temple dedicates a Kabbalat Shabbat service to deepening our disabilities awareness.  

 

Tonight we will welcome Xian Horn--a joyful, half- Asian, half-Jews woman with cerebral palsy.  Xian is teacher, speaker, advocate and blogger. Xian has run vocational workshops for the Mayor's Office, she has spoken at the UN and serves as a member of the selection committee for the ReelAbilities Film Festival.  Most recently Xian spearheads Changeblazer, Inc--working with organization looking to diversify and aid the underserved--especially those with disabilities.  

 

This past year Xian was named one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century by Women's eNews.

 

PLEASE JOIN US TONIGHT AT 6:45 AND WELCOME XIAN INTO OUR TEMPLE FAMILY.

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Highlights of 2017 URJ Biennial

I just returned from an amazing Biennial Convention of the Union for Reform Judaism and was Joined by Alex Tansky and Carole Rivel.  it was an incredible gathering of 5500+ from Reform Jewish communities in North America and around the world.  Music-- inspiring.  Speakers-- engaging and challenging. Workshops--informative  Services --uplifting.  Community--strengthened.  Attached are clips featuring new social justice pieces by Julie Silver and Peri Smilow.  Comments from Senator Elizabeth Warren and Rev. Dr. William J. Barber.  Friday night song session with not so Jewish music (Jewish music also present). 

Senator Elizabeth Warren

Rev. Dr. William J. Barber

Pictures of one Havdallah gathering featuring our music teacher/song leader Rose Snitz--Jewish rock radio stage--with Carole Rivel on piano--our congregation featured with the hundreds of others on the convention center pillars.  AND there was much, much more.  

Shabbat Singalong

Nava Tehila

Sanctuary by Julie Silver

I hope you enjoy these clips.  Check out URJ Blog for full stream of plenary sessions/services!  Join me at the next Biennial in Chicago, Dec. 11-15, 2019.  

Havdallah with Rose Snitz 

 

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The 1000 Ministers March

Monday, I spent the day in Washington D.C., with 3000 clergy (and some lay leaders) of all faiths.  It was The 1000 Ministers March, attended by 3000 people.  300 Reform rabbis and lay people were part of the marchers.  Although some man think the March was a response to Charlottesville, in fact, the Rev. Al Sharpton, founder and president of the National Action Network, organized the March months before that tragic Saturday.  The March was scheduled for August 28—an historic date., for it was on August 28, 1963 that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. delivered his , now famous, I have a dream speech.  The date of his speech was rooted in another historical moment.  It was on August 28, 1955 (the year after I was born) that 14 year-old Emmett Till, was murdered by two white men in Money, MS.  His crime—he flirted with a white cashier.  His death, like Stonewall, ignited the Civil Rights Movement.  His death was a wake-up call to the black community.  

In 1983, I went to Washington for the 20th Anniversary March of Dr. King’s speech.  It was a powerful experience, and yet, very different from Monday’s gathering.  The primary issue in 1983 was Civil Rights for the black community.  It focused on how far Civil Rights still had to go to reach real equality for America’s African American community.  In contrast, Monday’s March focused on a plethora of issues spanning from Black Lives Matter to GLBTQ inclusion, to antisemitism , to poverty, to bigotry….and on and on.  Jews and Blacks stood united in common cause and vision.   Surely in past years I had concerns/issues with Rev. Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson (I am from Chicago with a long memory of his positions); and yet, I had the overwhelming feeling that as we enter into the unchartered waters of 2017 and beyond, there is a profound need for racial and religious unity.  Monday’s March was not about politics—it was about theology.  It resonated with a call of moral justice.  Quoting numerous religious sources, speaker after speaker raised up one theme, core to the upcoming High Holy Days:  teshuvah—turning from bigotry and racial bias and turning toward repentance, justice, love, protecting the stranger.  The call to action is one of religious partnership—galvanizing the forces of mainstream religious leaders from all sectors of the religious world in America.  In the months ahead, even as we will strive to deepen ties within our temple community, we will also reach out to build alliances with those who cherish the same rights and values we hold precious, as human beings created in God’s image—and as a Jewish community.

L’shalom,

Rabbi Hirsch

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