Lessons from a Dog

Chevre,

I’ve resisted writing this blog for some time. It’s too easy, too trite to write about animals.

But when we thought last week that our dog, Carly, was dying of cancer I felt more of the urge to share these thoughts with you.

There are two lessons that Carly reminds me of each day – lessons that are important ones for me.

The first comes from her eagerness to meet the day. As soon as she hears my alarm she is up and ready to go, tail wagging, eyes looking to me to take her downstairs. She is happy to be alive and her manner evinces the attitude that today is a day like no other perhaps, even, the first day of creation. She is ready to play, to run the yard full speed, to take care of business – and my job is to let her do that.

As for me, I hear the alarm and curse silently to myself. I’m not ready to get up, I’m happy here in bed, it’s warm and comfortable and all that awaits me is cold and the challenges of my work. But I drag myself out of bed and downstairs and as she strains eagerly while I try to open the door I am reminded that each day is a gift and that I am better off when I approach it with joy and gratitude.

And I thank her for reminding me.

The second lesson comes from her wholeheartedness. There is nothing that Carly does half-way. She runs full throttle, barks at Sprite next door with full voice and stares down – for thirty minutes or more without flinching – the squirrel that she’s treed. She eats eagerly and she sleeps contentedly. When we’re preparing avocados or eating chicken at the table, she is there with complete focus and attention, waiting for the piece that never comes.

As for me, I am able to maintain my focus often, but equally as often I am distracted by other thoughts, other needs, other priorities. It is rare that I am able to achieve wholeheartedness. Sometimes when I see her sitting patiently at complete attention, I am reminded of the importance of being in one place at one time and committing my whole self to whatever it is that is before me: grading papers, planning services, talking with Susan.

We thought that Carly was dying of cancer. She may yet be; as I write this, we still await the final pathology – but it looks like it was something else altogether, something which the surgery already resolved. We were ready to put her down, to relieve her of whatever misery might be coming her way.

But our son, Benj, who loves Carly wholeheartedly insisted on the surgery that, it turns out, saved her life. And so, perhaps, by him I’m reminded of another lesson: the lesson of love and loyalty and commitment and steadfastness in the face of challenge and sorrow, the faith that says perhaps all is not as it seems to be and that tomorrow might be better. The lesson of hope.

L’shalom,
Marc

REMINDER – Shabbat Services on Saturday

REMINDER:

Our next Shabbat services will be this Saturday, February 13 at the home of Rachel and Sarah Levin and Richard Herman in Northbrook.

For the more traditional part of the Jewish community, decision-making is somewhat straightforward: Jewish practice is determined by Jewish tradition, the halakha, as it is interpreted by the rabbis.  But for those of us in the liberal part of the community, decision-making is not at all that easy.  How do we make our Jewish decisions?  What values do we utilize in reaching conclusions?  How do we balance the claims of our tradition with the challenges of our modern age with our own personal conscience?

Recently, Rabbi Eugene B. Borowitz died at 92.  Gene, z”l, was the leading liberal Jewish theologian of his generation.  He was a teacher of mine as he was a teacher to so many other Jewish leaders through his work at HUC-JIR.  One of the gifts he bequeathed us through his thinking was a thoughtful guide to making Jewish decisions as a liberal, modern Jew: thoughtfully, intentionally.

This Shabbat morning Rabbi Belgrad will introduce Borowitz’ thinking to us by sharing several criteria that Gene thought essential to making a good, Jewish decision, with the hope that these will help us in living our lives b’chavana, with intention.

Our usual schedule will apply:

9:30 AM – arrive and schmooze
10:00 AM – Tiiflot Shabbat Services
12:30 PM  – Potluck Oneg Luncheon

Please RSVP using the Perfect Potluck link: http://www.perfectpotluck.com/meals.php?t=XKTH4868

Rachel, Sarah and Richard’s home is at 3613 Radcliffe Dr, Northbrook, Il 60062   [view map]

Please call Rachel at 847-602-1549 with any questions you may have.

See you there!

Black & White in America

Chevre,

I want to remind you of our special program on Sunday afternoon, Feb. 28.  Karen and Andy Jacobs will welcome us into their home in the city for a conversation about racism and race relations in our country.  The program is open to members of B’Chavana and friends, so please feel free to invite anyone interested.

Our starting point will be the recent best-seller by Ta-Nehisi Coates, Between the World and Me, in which the black journalist addresses a series of letters to his son.  In those letters he shares not only his personal experiences growing up in Baltimore and living in New York but conclusions that he has drawn about the racism that is endemic to American culture – a racism that is as much about how we see ourselves as “white” as it is about thinking of others as “black”.

For more from Ta-Nehisi Coates, you can access this NPR report titled: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Police Brutality, The Confederate Flag and Forgiveness: Ta-Nehisi Coates on Police Brutality, The Confederate Flag and Forgiveness.

We will augment the book with the article “White Debt”by the white writer Eula Biss, a teacher at Northwestern, in which she discusses her perception of what it means to live as a white person in America.  We’ll  ask participants to read these both in advance.  A couple of short reflections on the material will begin the program and then we’ll have an open discussion.

3:00   Arrival, snacks, schmooze
3:30   Presentations by Rabbi Belgrad and the Jacobs, followed by open dialogue.
5:00   Conclusion

Karen and Andy will provide snacks, so there is no potluck link this time.  Please let Karen know of your attendance so that she can plan accordingly: kbagel@me.com.  The address is: 4926 N. Hoyne Avenue, Chicago.  Their home phone is: (773) 754-8880.

Because we’ve added this to the calendar, we’ll not meet for tefilot the day before, Feb. 27. Please mark that change on your calendar.

L’shalom,
Marc

Upcoming Shabbat – Saturday, February 13

Chevre:

This past Friday night gave us the opportunity for serious reflection and dialogue about awareness and gratitude.  As we shared exercises that made us aware of a myriad number of things of which we are usually unaware, we discovered that we are enmeshed in a voluminous web of interconnections.  That discovery helped us to realize our interdependence with one another and the vast debt of gratitude that we owe for the things we have.  If you’re interested in seeing the video that we used as a prompt, click here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=3&v=0EjB7rB3sWc.

Likewise, we were happily able to welcome guests into our community to share in the joy and learning. Many thanks to Karen and Larry Heisler for opening their beautiful home once again.  As always, it provided a perfect setting for our singing and learning.

Our next Shabbat services will be this Saturday, February 13 at the home of Rachel and Sarah Levin and Richard Herman in Northbrook.

For the more traditional part of the Jewish community, decision-making is somewhat straightforward: Jewish practice is determined by Jewish tradition, the halakha, as it is interpreted by the rabbis.  But for those of us in the liberal part of the community, decision-making is not at all that easy.  How do we make our Jewish decisions?  What values do we utilize in reaching conclusions?  How do we balance the claims of our tradition with the challenges of our modern age with our own personal conscience?

Recently, Rabbi Eugene B. Borowitz died at 92.  Gene, z”l, was the leading liberal Jewish theologian of his generation.  He was a teacher of mine as he was a teacher to so many other Jewish leaders through his work at HUC-JIR.  One of the gifts he bequeathed us through his thinking was a thoughtful guide to making Jewish decisions as a liberal, modern Jew: thoughtfully, intentionally.

This Shabbat morning Rabbi Belgrad will introduce Borowitz’ thinking to us by sharing several criteria that Gene thought essential to making a good, Jewish decision, with the hope that these will help us in living our lives b’chavana, with intention.

Our usual schedule will apply:

9:30 AM – arrive and schmooze
10:00 AM – Tiiflot Shabbat Services
12:30 PM  – Potluck Oneg Luncheon

Please RSVP using the Perfect Potluck link: http://www.perfectpotluck.com/meals.php?t=XKTH4868

Rachel, Sarah and Richard’s home is at 3613 Radcliffe Dr, Northbrook, Il 60062   [view map]

Please call Rachel at 847-602-1549 with any questions you may have.

See you there!

You Can Help: Emergency Situation @ Deerfield Township Food Pantry

Chevre,

I received this news a few days ago from Congregation BJBE: that the Deerfield Township Food Pantry has suffered significant flood damage as a result of the weather and they have reached out with a request for help.  Pastor Suzan Hawkinson of the Presbyterian Church of Deerfield has sent the letter below to the interfaith community with directions on how we can help and support the Food Pantry at this difficult time:

Partners in the Faith Community of Deerfield,

 Yesterday afternoon Alyson Fieger, the Deerfield Township Supervisor came in with this news–the Township building, home of the food pantry, has been inundated by a flood of sewer water that entered their building and rose to the sink counter level.  Hazmat folks were sent in to provide clean up, but the building is uninhabitable at present. It is not expected to be back in service until at earliest, the beginning of March.  Along with the loss of office space to conduct business, thousands of pounds of food and dry goods were destroyed.

 Alyson and her team are making provisions for the ongoing work of the Township, but there is immediate need of help to feed the elderly and other folks in our Village who rely upon the township for food assistance.  Because there is no place at present to store food, what is needed in the emergency short-term is any denomination of donation for the Township to purchase gift cards for grocery and drugstore purchasing. 

We will be collecting donations of cash and gift cards at BJBE through this week.  Please bring your donations to the BJBE Main Office (1201 Lake Cook Rd, Deerfield, 60015).

Let’s add our strength to others who will be pitching in to help.

Shavua tov,
Marc

Thoughtful Article on Rebuilding Gaza

Chevre,

Rather than writing myself today, I thought I would share with you the interesting and thoughtful article below by Mitchel Hochberg.  You’ll see his credentials at the bottom of the article but, more important, he is the son of our members Renee and Wayne.  Kol ha-kavod to them for his accomplishment.

L’shalom,
Marc

DONORS GROWING WEARY OF RECONSTRUCTING GAZA

By Mitchel Hochberg
Jerusalem Review
February 2, 2016

View this item on our website:
http://washin.st/1SDCaWg

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The promise of renewed conflict between Israel and Hamas has made donors shy away from funding the large-scale projects and new housing developments needed to improve and not simply manage living conditions in Gaza.

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The three Israel-Hamas wars in the last seven years have destroyed billions of dollars of infrastructure and housing in Gaza. Hamas launches rockets into Israel to burnish its credentials for violent resistance in the eyes of its public, and Israel retaliates to manage an unacceptable security situation. Some Israelis refer to these wars as efforts to “mow the grass” and prevent Hamas’s terror infrastructure from developing. Yet, while regularly mowing down Hamas’s capabilities, Israel also has set back development and humanitarian efforts.

Despite the risks, many donors recognize that their efforts must continue for humanitarian reasons. Yet ongoing tensions between Hamas and Israel and the promise of future conflict likely make them hesitant to continue providing aid. At the very least, these groups probably would want guarantees — from Hamas and Israel — to avoid targeting projects or using them for cover in the future.

After the last 2014 Gaza War, donor countries promised more than $3.5 billion of humanitarian and development aid, but according to an August 2015 World Bank report, only 35% of promised funds have been delivered. Western donors, including the United States, European Union, and Japan, have given the most aid and almost met their full pledges. Qatar and Turkey, both Hamas supporters, have fulfilled 10% and 29% of their pledges, still high absolute totals, respectively. Finally, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait — aligned against Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood more broadly — have all given less than 13% of their pledges. Egypt did not pledge aid to Gaza and instead has undermined the Gaza economy by closing the Rafah crossing and destroying smuggling tunnels along the Egyptian-Gazan border.

For the Middle Eastern countries, the decision to send aid to Gaza results from political competition. Hamas’s backers eagerly help the group improve living conditions in Gaza to aid an ally and increase its legitimacy, while opposing countries, cautious about bolstering Hamas, limit funds and disburse them through proxies and international organizations such as the United Nations.

Humanitarian concerns rank foremost for Western donors, which helps explain their speedy and full delivery of aid, but several countries have questioned the wisdom of spending more money on projects that Israel later destroys. European diplomats in particular have expressed concern about the destruction of their Gazan — and West Bank — projects and have even debated asking Israel for compensation for destroyed humanitarian efforts. European officials perceive Israeli intransigence as the main obstacle to resolving the conflict and they fear Western aid may unintentionally prolong the Israeli occupation by defraying the costs of occupation. Given that the European Commission estimates that Israel destroyed 29.4 million Euros of European Union and EU member state-funded projects in the West Bank and Gaza from May 2001 to October 2011, it is unsurprising that a Western diplomat reported “considerable donor fatigue” from watching “infrastructure projects that we have contributed to” be destroyed.

Though aid continues to flow, donor wariness has impacted the ability of international organizations to continue raising funds for large development projects and expanded humanitarian work. As Robert Piper, the United Nation’s Deputy Special Coordinator (UNDSC) for the Middle East Peace Process, notes, “[The] possibility that work completed now, could be destroyed later in the event of renewed conflict…makes it more difficult to obtain funding — for the reconstruction of totally destroyed homes, as well as large-scale development projects.”

Piper contrasts ongoing humanitarian work — repairing homes, disbursing food, maintaining educational infrastructure — with bigger efforts such as building new homes, building a 161kv power line for a desalination plant, and converting Gaza’s power plant to natural gas. Donors are abandoning such large-scale projects that seek to invest in the future of Gaza for fears of another conflict. Piper also noted that these same donors limit these projects due to concerns about empowering Hamas and granting the Islamist group construction materials, which could be used to build weapons. In Piper’s view, Palestinian reconciliation that would give the non-violent, Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority a greater role could reassure donors and increase aid.

However, the specter of future war may not discourage donors, but spur them to invest in measures that decrease the chances of conflict. According to Mike Herzog, a retired Israeli brigadier general and fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, donors are “actually motivated to do more to…delay the next round.” In other words, donations that improve Gaza’s quality of life may alter Hamas’s strategic calculus from seeking legitimacy through conflict, to seeking legitimacy through economic prosperity.

Further, Israel has demonstrated willingness to work with the international community in developing Gaza. According to Herzog, Israel does consider the presence of foreign investments when making its targeting decisions and Israel has never cut off water or electricity supplies to Gaza during conflict. Thus, investments in desalination plants or electricity grids have a high chance of lasting through conflict. Herzog holds that investors could work with Israel and Hamas to obtain commitments not to target or militarily use projects before starting constructions. Nevertheless, guaranteeing the safety of an air or seaport would be harder given Israeli concerns on their use for smuggling in military materials.

Yet, guaranteeing any project against Israeli targeting is unlikely. Even if Hamas and Israel both agreed to respect a no-go zone around a desalination plant, Palestinian factions could launch rockets near the site and trigger and Israeli retaliation. The absence of a political deal or even ceasefire between Israel and Hamas also shakes donor confidence. Between this donor wariness and competing urgent priorities, including the civil war in Syria, Western donors and major international organizations remain unlikely to undertake major projects.

Donors continue to fund Gaza’s reconstruction for humanitarian political reasons. Still, the promise of renewed conflict between Israel and Hamas leads donors to shy away from funding the large-scale projects and new housing developments needed to improve and not simply manage living conditions in Gaza. Donor wariness alone does not explain this behavior — the lack of Palestinian reconciliation, competing priorities, and regional politics all matter as well — but without hope of tangible progress, donors will remain hesitant to invest in a failing a project.

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Mitchel Hochberg is a research associate at The Washington Institute and a master’s candidate in Georgetown University’s Security Studies Program.

Shabbat Reminder – TOMORROW

REMINDER ANNOUNCEMENT:

Our next Shabbat Service is this Friday Evening at the home of Larry and Karen Heisler, 1080 Whigam Road, Riverwoods, IL 60015   [view map]

Our topic will be:

“Practicing Gratitude: A Healthy and Responsible Way to Navigate the World”

We, by and large, live more comfortably than most people in the world today – in fact, more than most people in human history.  Are we aware of that?  How often?  How do we live with it?  Does it impose responsibilities?

Our program this Friday night will sensitize us to the importance of gratitude – acknowledging it, feeling it, expressing it, acting on it.  After a brief trigger video we’ll utilize worksheets and dialogue to explore and integrate this important spiritual value and practice into our lives.

Our usual schedule will be in place;

6:00 PM – arrive, wine-cheese-schmooze
6:45 PM – Kaballat Shabbat Service
7:30 PM – Dinner
8:30 PM – Learning and Discussion

Please RSVP through the Perfect Potluck Link:  http://www.perfectpotluck.com/meals.php?t=MXSJ2583

If you have questions, please call Karen at 847-814-1095.

See you there!