Monday, September 25, 2017

A Rosh Hashanah Visitation

In the early morning hours of Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Schwartz welcomed a visitor in our Adas Emuno garden, as he later related at the start of services. Here is the photograph he took, standing just a few feet away:








A six-point buck was truly an auspicious omen for the start of the new year. As Rabbi Schwartz noted, six points on his antlers for the six points of the Star of David, and the six lamps of the menorah. 

And so we join together with our newfound friend to say, Shana Tova!


Sunday, September 24, 2017

Rabbi Schwartz's Sermon for Rosh Hashanah Morning 5778




OUR COUNTRY



ROSH HASHANAH 5778


RABBI BARRY L. SCHWARTZ



This summer a new chapter in an old debate erupted in the American Jewish community.

Rabbi David Wolpe of Temple Sinai in Los Angles, among the best known congregational rabbis in the country, published a column, Why I Keep Politics off the Pulpit. In it he says that he is "endlessly besieged by requests to take on this or that political or social issue." He remarks that, “with each new presidential administration the pressure grows greater." Rabbi Wolpe then explains why he avoids talking about politics from the pulpit. He concludes, “don’t tie your Torah to this week’s headlines. We are better, bigger and deeper than that.”

The reaction was fast and furious, in defense of Rabbi Wolpe and opposed to Rabbi Wolpe. The most talked about rebuttal was from Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, our movement. He begins, “There are few colleagues for whom I have more respect than Rabbi David Wolpe.… I count him as both a teacher and a friend. Which is why I was struck by… [his] recent op-ed… How could someone who is usually so right be so wrong on something so important?”

Rabbi Jacobs entitled his piece, A Politics Free Pulpit is an Empty Pulpit. He distinguishes between partisanship and politics. While maintaining that the former has no place in the pulpit, he argues that the latter is indispensable. According to Jacobs we have both the right and responsibility to speak out on the moral issues of our day. So whereas Wolpe claims that, “what you may not do, if you are intellectually honest, is say the Torah points in only one political direction,” Jacobs counters that “although once can certainly love Torah and follow different political paths, one cannot claim to be a lover of Torah and nor care about how our society treats those in need, the weak, the vulnerable, the stranger and the oppressed.”

Jacobs continues, “the Judaism that I believe in does not limit Torah lessons to the parchment of our… scrolls… The Judaism that I live compels me to use those lessons to understand the most urgent challenges we face." He goes on to quote Rabbi Stephen Wise, perhaps the most influential rabbi of the early 20th century, who said, “the pulpit of the synagogue is charged with the responsibility of… prophetic memories and prophetic aspirations… pledged to… truth- speaking under freedom… a most solemn and inescapable duty. I could not with self-respect remain silent.”

Indeed, we studied Rabbi Wise in our History of Reform Judaism course at our Shabbat morning Torah study this past year. In 1905 Wise turned down the most prestigious pulpit in the country, Temple Emanu-El of New York, over the issue of freedom of the pulpit. He wrote a scathing letter to the chairman of the synagogue board, the famed industrialist Louis Marshall: “Dear Sir: If your letter of December first be expressive of the thoughts of the trustees of Temple Emanu-el, I beg to say that no self-respecting minister of religion, in my opinion, could consider a call to a pulpit which, in the language of your communication, shall always be subject to, and under the control, of, the board of trustees.” Wise went on to establish the Free Synagogue of NY, and spoke out on the great issues of the day. In 1919 he took on the steel industry, siding with the striking workers. A group of prominent trustees and members connected to the industry were outraged. They withdrew their building pledges and many resigned. Wise later recalled that “the ideal of pulpit freedom was put to the test, and the ideal was sustained. But the [new] building was lost.”

I don’t think it is hard for you to guess where I stand on this debate. Stephen Wise is one of my heroes for the moral courage he showed in his generation, like Rabbi David Einhorn showed in his generation, when he spoke out so strongly against slavery and for abolition that he was forced to flee his pulpit in Baltimore. More recently another of my heroes, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel spoke out for Civil Rights and against the Vietnam War, and so did my own rabbi Michael Robinson, in Croton-on-Hudson, NY.

All of them were inspired by the prophets of ancient Israel, who understood that religion and politics are inseparable; that ethics is the essence of piety, not ritual; that truth must confront power.







All of this is prelude to the point I make now. If what is happening in Washington now is the number one subject on my mind (and maybe yours); if what is happening to our country has been on my mind non-stop since November; if I cringe at the news night after night after night… how can I not talk about what is going on… from the pulpit, here at the High Holidays? Where do I begin?

I will take just one issue: healthcare. You will remember that is was the primary issue in the country… before Charlottesville.

National health insurance is considered a right, not a privilege, in first world countries around the world.

Here, the hard-won mandate to cover all in need, this summer’s debacle notwithstanding, is under constant threat of being repealed but not replaced.

Let’s not forget that at least 23 million Americans may yet lose their health care.

Let’s not forget that hundreds of thousands of the working poor may yet see their Medicaid program disappear.

Let’s not forget that hundreds of thousands of the elderly may yet see their Medicare program premiums skyrocket.

Let’s not forget that hundreds of thousands of the disabled may yet see their benefit slashed.

Many experts say that medical debt will surge. Untreated conditions will surge. Bankruptcy will surge. Extreme poverty will surge. The Nobel prize winning economist Paul Krugman calls the proposed repeal and the new budget lethal, and its effect, “apocalyptic.”

Paul Krugman puts it starkly: “Losing health care is a nightmare… tens of millions… [may] soon find themselves living this nightmare.”

What is happening? Who are we?

Look at what we have seen during and after this election.

I call this sad and cruel time, “the closing of the American heart.”

Make no mistake about it: the so called “America First” narrative is in reality an “America Divided” narrative.

As National Book Award Winner George Packer acerbically notes, “America First is the conviction that the country has lost its traditional identity because of contamination and weakness—the contamination of others, foreigners, immigrants, Muslims; the weakness of elites who have no allegiance to the country because they’ve been globalized.”

“This narrative,” Packer continues, “has contempt for democratic norms and liberal values, and it has an autocratic character. It personalizes power, routinizes corruption and destabilizes the very idea of objective truth.”

Is giving tax breaks to the rich while breaking the backs of the poor “America First”?

Is sowing fear among our immigrant population while quashing their entrepreneurial spirit “America First”?

Is blaming “both sides” for injustice while implying a repugnant moral equivalency between racists and those protesting racism “America First”?




* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 



In American Covenant, his magisterial new study of civil religion in America, historian Philip Gorski notes how the Book of Exodus inspired our founding fathers. It speaks, of course, of the revolt against tyranny, the traverse of the wilderness, the making of a covenant, and the journey on to the Promised Land.

The Exodus saga inspired John Winthrop and Roger Williams. It inspired Benjamin Franklin, who wanted to depict Moses on the Great Seal of the United States. It inspired Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. It inspired Martin Luther King Jr. It should inspire us anew.

At its heart and essence, the Torah is a prophetic narrative. All stand equal before God. All stand at the Mountain. All pledge loyalty to the covenant and to each other. As we will read on Yom Kippur, “You stand this day, all of you, before the Lord your God, your tribal heads, your elders and your officials, all the men of Israel, your children, your wives, even the stranger within your camp, from woodchopper to water drawer, to enter into the covenant"(Deut. 29:9-10).

A true American Covenant ethic, in contrast to a pseudo America First manifesto, promotes unity, not division. It promotes equality, not inequity. It promotes compassion, not cruelty.

A true American Covenant ethic does not build walls, but opens gates. It is not a fortress but a beacon. It cares for the widow, the orphan, the poor and the stranger… because it feels commanded to do so.

A true American Covenant faces out, like Lady Liberty.

And in the words of Emma Lazurus’ famous poem at her base, “From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome.”

This is our country.

This is our Promised Land.

This is the place where we reject division and defamation.

This is the place where say no to collusion and confusion.

This is the place where we speak truth to power.

This is the place where we say, “Dissent is patriotic.”

This is the place where we say, “Hate has no home here.”

This is the place where we sing, “My country, tis of thee, sweet land of liberty.”
 

This is our country!






Saturday, September 23, 2017

Rabbi Schwartz's Rosh Hashanah Prayer 5778



ROSH HASHANAH PRAYER 5778

Rabbi Barry L. Schwartz


Eloheinu, velohei avotenu

Our God, God of all generations:

Help us to thoughtfully reflect on the year just past, and to courageously embrace this year, 5778, just born.

Let us begin by remembering what is so often forgotten in the glare of the news of the day: the pain of human suffering by war and terrorism; poverty and natural disaster continues to plague us in staggering numbers, often in lonely parts of the world.

A famine of epic dimension is quietly but devastatingly unfolding in Eastern Africa, wrought by nature but exacerbated by political strife.

Floods have killed thousands and displaced hundreds of thousands in India, Nepal, and Bangladesh.

Yet the end of this Jewish year has slammed home the reality that none are free of the threat of natural calamity, and our hearts go out to all the sufferers of Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma… and Hurricane Maria as we speak… and the Mexico earthquake the week before last, and the Mexico earthquake just yesterday.

Concerning the disasters entirely of our own hand⏤the images of desperate men, women and children trapped in the killing fields of Syria and Iraq continue to haunt us.

The images of refugees still streaming to Europe, and drowning in the sea while trying, continue to haunt us.

Let us not rest easy; as Jews, we know too well what it means when the gates are closed. 


Open the gates of compassion.

In the world of geo-politics our relations with North Korea, Iran, Russia and China remain troubled and dangerous.

In our beloved Israel we marked the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War knowing that the Occupation exacts a heavy toll and the path to peace is stalled.

Open the gates of peace.

Here at home this past year witnessed a momentous election. Xenophobic impulses troubled our election and now they trouble our national policy.

After Ferguson, after Staten Island, after Baltimore, after Charleston, after Dallas, after Baton Rouge… then came Charlottesville.

Open the gates of brotherhood.

This year since the election has witnessed stormy and vitriolic debate on health care and on immigration.

Open for us the gates of basic human kindness and understanding worthy of our great nation. Let us remember the famous declaration of our first president to the Hebrew congregation in Newport, Rhode Island that, “happily, the Government of the United States, [which] gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.”

Our God, Source of all life and blessing, at this New Year of hope and possibility may we find common purpose to do Your will; to rise to our greatest potential; to reflect our creation in Your image… and to walk with You, forward, to peace and purpose.


Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shana Tova!

On behalf of Congregation Adas Emuno
We wish you and yours
A happy and healthy new year!








May 5778 be a good year for you
For everyone in every nation
 And for all of planet Earth
On this day
The birthday of the world! 



Sunday, September 10, 2017

A Spiel in September

As we prepare for our autumal holiday season, we can take a moment to look back at this past spring's Purim spiel, performed on March 11, 2017.

The title of this year's Purim spiel is The Festival of Lots, and it is an original work. Any other congregations or Jewish groups out there who are interested in using it for their next Purim celebration, you can contact us via email: adasemuno at gmail.com.

The video recording is available on YouTube and right here on our congregational blog. Be warned that this is not a professionally produced video, just raw footage, with concomitant technical difficulties. And this is strictly an amateur performance, but we hope you'll agree it's one that has a lot of heart and soul.





Our last two Purims spiels can also be screened here on our blog, via the following posts from days gone by: A Purim Spiel Before Hanukkah (for last year's performance of Shalom Shushan), and A Summer Purim Spiel and A Winter Purim Spiel (for the two performances of The Schnook of Esther).  

The scripts of these two are available online for all to read via the following link: Shalom Shushan and The Schnook of Esther. Congregations and other groups can read it first, and are on the honor system regarding donations to our social action fund if they decide to use it. The script for The Festival of Lots will be made available online in the near future.



Friday, September 8, 2017

What to Expect at the High Holidays

from the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:





From the desk of …                    
 Rabbi Barry Schwartz
    






WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE HIGH HOLIDAYS





Even though most of us have attended many a High Holiday service over the years, it doesn’t mean that we have the big picture of “what-happens-when” during the Days of Awe.

Here’s a little schematic that lists highlights of each service:


Rosh Hashanah Eve
  • Introducing the High Holiday’s distinctive melodies and prayers.
  • Rabbi offers Davar Torah on one of the key Holiday prayers.

Rosh Hashanah Morning
  • Full service, Torah reading (Genesis), and sounding of the Shofar.
  • Rabbi offers sermon on contemporary theme.

Rosh Hashanah Afternoon
  • Children’s Service with lively music, storytelling, shofar.
  • Tashlich (“Casting Away”) ceremony at New Overpeck Park.

Yom Kippur Evening
  • Instrumental (cello) and vocal rendition of the Kol Nidrei.
  • Rabbi offers sermon on spiritual theme.

Yom Kippur Morning
  • Full service, Torah Reading (Deuteronomy) and Haftarah (Isaiah), and annual appeal.
  • Rabbi offers sermon on contemporary or spiritual theme.

Yom Kippur Afternoon
  • Children’s Service with lively music, storytelling, shofar.
  • Afternoon service with Torah reading (Leviticus) and Haftarah (Jonah).
  • Yizkor (Memorial Service).
  • Neilah (Concluding Service).
  • Break-the-fast.

We hope you attend early and often. I especially encourage you to bring family or friends that might not ordinarily attend. Consider giving a gift of a ticket to someone you care about. With the participation of our Cantor, our accompanist, our Board, and all our Torah and Haftarah readers and prayer readers... the Holidays are a true family affair. We welcome you to our family of families! 


Thursday, September 7, 2017

Fall Out For Social Action!

From the pages of Kadima, the newsletter of Congregation Adas Emuno:


 

A Report from Annette DeMarco
Social Action Committee Chairperson




 



Hello to All!

Before discussing the up and coming programs being planned by the Social Action Committee, a sincere thank you needs to go out to everyone who brought in food during our "children friendly" summer food collection. It was most appreciated. We now return to a general food collection. Also, please remember to pick up your grocery bag with the Center for Food Action's list of most needed foods at the Rosh Hashanah service, and return (filled!), if possible, by Yom Kippur. Of course, donations are accepted after that, as well.

9-11, National Day of Service & Remembrance: Help the Center for Food Action to pack up week-end snacks for children in need. Two locations: Englewood Field Club (1 PM-3 PM or 3:30-5:30) or Lincoln Tech School in Mahwah (3:30-5:30]. $45 per person to participate; children under 10 are free. Register at cfanj.org or call 201-529-2029, ext. 27. Perfect bar/bat mitzvah project!

Saturday, September 16th, 8 PM Join fellow congregants for an evening out where a social event meets social action! Come listen to some soulful, folk music in a small, intimate setting. Performers choose an organization which will receive 50% of the proceeds. It all happens at the Ethical Brew in Teaneck. Please watch for emails or check with Virginia Gitter or me. Hope to see you there!

Social Action Committee Meeting Monday, October 16, 7:30 PM in the Social Hall. Please join us as we plan the year with new and "repeat" programming!

IMPORTANT⏤We will once again be cooking for and serving at the shelter in Hackensack on Sunday, November 5th. This is one of those "all hands on deck" programs, as we will be cooking for somewhere around 150 people. Won't you please plan to help cook and to deliver your food to the shelter? We will also need about 10 servers. Details will follow as the date comes closer, including timing and menu. Thank you, in advance!

Look for info regarding our new knitting group, coming soon!


VOLUNTEER OPPORTUNITY SUGGESTIONS



  • Bergen County Protect & Rescue Foundation⏤Advertised as a true no-kill animal shelter. Located in Cliffside Park. Volunteers under 18 need to be accompanied by a parent/legal guardian. Go to BCRESCUES.ORG or call 201 945-00649.

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy new year!!

Regards,
Annette

acheryl21 at gmail.com