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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.    


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.



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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.


Rabbi Hirsch

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Tragedy At Charlottesville

In the Talmud we are taught: Whoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if s/he destroyed an entire world. And whoever saves a life, it is considered as if s/he saved an entire world. (Mishneh Sanhedrin)

Shabbat-a day of rest and renewal, remembering the beauty and wonder of creation-was shattered-it's world was destroyed this past weekend as white nationalists, neo-Nazis and alt-right members clashed with anti-protestors in Charlottesville, VA.  Protest is a cornerstone of American history; it is woven into the fabric of our American identity.  In recent decades we can name numerous seminal moments when American voices were raised in protest: Civil Rights, anti-nuclear weapons, Gay Rights, Kent State, Women's Choice, Viet Nam, Occupy Wall Street, Israel and Palestinian rights. Even when we disagree with the reason for a particular protest, our Constitution defends the right to protest.  Forty years ago, neo-Nazi leader Frank Collins won in court the constitutional right to march with a band of brown-shirt neo-Nazis through Skokie, IL, home to 8000-9000 Holocaust survivors.  The march venue ultimately was moved from Skokie to Chicago.

On Saturday, Heather M. Heyer's world was destroyed and her family and friends are trying to pick up the broken fragments of their hearts and lives.  Her death was not the result of out-of-control violence emerging from face-to-face protest/counter-protest.  James Alex Field, in an act of alleged terrorismdrove his car into the crowd of counter-protesters to cause injury and death.   Like those who masterminded the bombings in Oklahoma City, (if found guilty) James Alex Field's act was one of homegrown, domestic terrorism.  White supremacists that applaud his actions and justify his deadly rampage are supporters of terrorism.  He and they must be condemned. 

A second world was destroyed in recent days as well:  America as a protector of all its citizens. Our president's refusal to condemn by name those whose philosophy espouse white supremacist rhetoric-those who strive to cleanse America of racial minorities and Jews-does not make America great again.   Statements 'from the white house' are not equal to direct statements from the president. His generic words of condemnation of both sides of the Charlottesville protest have served to vindicate white supremacists both in Charlottesville and across our nation.  The permission to hate that was unleashed during the presidential campaign has given way to acting on that hatred and not being held accountable. Democrats and Republicans alike have implored-demanded the President be specific in his condemnations.  Would the president heed the calls of Senator Cory Gardner's (R. CO) tweet: "Mr. President, we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism." And Mark Rubio tweet, there was "nothing patriotic about Nazis, the KKK or White Supremacists.  It's the direct opposite of what America seeks to be."

On Saturday, Heather Heyer's life (and the lives of 2 officers and those wounded) was destroyed, but, her soul will not be destroyed.  We must keep her soul alive.  We cannot stay silent when words of hatred are transformed to acts of violence.  Heather Heyer was a champion for justice.  We must carry her torch of love and justice.  As she posted on her Facebook Page words echoed after the election, "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

We must pay attention!  We must be outraged!  We must protect the lives and rights of those Americans most vulnerable to demonic hate. 

And as our teacher Hillel taught, V'lo achshav Ai Matai-And if not now, when?

May Heather's memory be for blessing.  May we be inspired by her passion.


Rabbi Deborah A. Hirsch

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