Same-Sex Marriage: Faith, Justice & Compassion

Chevre,

A week has passed since the Supreme Court ruled on same-sax marriage – a certain success in the extension of liberty and rights to all. An important cause for celebration.

Our B’Chavana mission states that we commit ourselves “to increase justice and compassion in the world.” We understand this to be a key element of our religious vision and commitment.

Unfortunately, too often the religious voices heard most loudly in social issues such as this are from the right: conservative Christian voices that argue that the Bible is against x, y or z. People wrongly conclude that all religious people are opposed to the extension of the civil right of marriage to gays and lesbians. Yet this is not true.

There are many liberal religious denominations – Christian, Jewish and other – whose stance and activity are progressive on social issues, including this one. Within the Jewish world the Reform, Reconstructionist, Conservative and Renewal movements have supported and worked actively to secure gay rights. There are voices within the Modern Orthodox community that are bringing the issue to the fore and searching for ways to meet the dignity of gays while doing so within a traditional framework.

To be religious does not of necessity equate with being socially conservative. There are religious people who wholeheartedly are committed to progressive social values from out of their religious faith and traditions.

Fortunately, the needs and dignity of transgender, bisexual and intersex people are now coming to the fore. Some of our media and cultural institutions have been opening these realities to societal consciousness. At the high school where I teach, I am rapidly learning about things of which I have been ignorant. We work actively to create a safe, educational and communal environment where students who are LGBTQIA can express their identity freely and where other students learn more about the realities and challenges that these students face.

On a personal note, it’s been some time since I decided that I would be happy to officiate at a same-sex wedding. I have not yet had that opportunity but I look forward to the time at which I will.

Martin Luther King Jr. often said that “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice”. I am not so sanguine, nor do I share the philosophical view of necessity that is implicit in such a statement. Rather, I believe that we, ourselves, must bend that arc towards justice in any way that we can – in our hearts, through our votes, by our actions – so that they age-old prophetic hope can be realized: “On that day God shall be one and God’s name shall be one.”

Shabbat shalom,
Marc

Financial Strength & Growth

At Sunday’s Chagiga, member Andy Jacobs shared these thoughts (via Karen Heisler):

So we’re here celebrating a year well worth celebrating.  And I have been asked to speak to our financial successes.  To be clear—this is not about asking you to donate money.  We will have an appeal at the high holidays. I encourage each of us to be as supportive as possible.

On that note, we kicked off our year with our first annual high holiday appeal.  And thanks to a well-crafted, beautifully delivered request/ask/drash by our talented wordsmith and pitchman Larry Heisler, it was a true success.  This appeal provided funding that has been critical to this year’s operations.

The real financial success of the year and… to be clear, of the last four years has been membership growth.  Four years ago, we began our journey with ten members.  Today we stand at fifty.  Membership growth has strengthened us.   It has added voices to our davening and vibrancy to our conversations.  And financially, it has enabled us to retain our gifted, courageous and beloved rabbi Marc.  Practically all of the money we contribute goes towards Marc’s salary.

To borrow from the parlance of the marketplace, having a full-time rabbi of Marc’s caliber at a modest part-time salary– let me repeat this– a full-time rabbi at a part-time salary– may be the greatest bargain any of us ever find or benefit from.  To support his family, Marc combines a modest school salary with his income from B’Chavana. 

So quintupling growth in four years is indeed a testament to what our community brings to each of us.  It also illustrates its potential relevance to others.  There are many to whom we have not yet been introduced who would benefit by meeting us and joining B’Chavana.  Our intentional, thoughtful approach to Jewish learning, prayer and spirituality is unique.  It speaks to those who want more than high holiday services and life cycle events.  There are many such people.

New members bring vibrancy and freshness to our community.  They add voices to our singing. Strong shoulders and capable hands to our tikkun olam efforts.   And they help secure the financial future of our shul.  If we are growing we are relevant.  If we are growing we will continue to foster community.  If we are growing we will be able to survive and thrive financially.  And we are growing.

Each of us can secure B’Chavana’s success without reaching beyond the limits of his or her personal means.   So I’m going to make one request today… but not for money.  It is to recognize that each of us has chosen to belong to the community we are celebrating.  Each of us is well equipped to be an emissary.  We know what has made B’Chavana a good fit for us.  We come in contact with others whose lives would be enriched by getting to know and perhaps joining our community.  Please think about this in the intentional, proactive way we try to lead the rest of our lives.  As we approach the high holidays, this is the best time of year to encourage friends and family to get to know us during summer services.  And certainly to consider worshipping with us at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

So please, remember to share our success with people you know who may be between synagogues or seeking something different than that which they’ve grown up.  Who may have educated their kids and then stopped being affiliated.  Whose lives would be enriched by being part of a community of intentional, lifelong learners.

Summer Torah

Chevre,

Along with reading the stories of Creation, Noah’s Ark and Abraham’s response to God’s call to travel, of late we’ve read of Noah’s sons acting in sexually questionable ways with their father; of Lot’s daughters getting him drunk and seducing him so as to perpetuate the human species; and of Abraham passing his wife Sarah off as his sister in order to make millions.  The next time someone goes spouting off about “family values in the Bible” keep these stories in mind.

Our Tuesday night Torah learning continues through the summer.  All are welcome; no prior knowledge is needed, nor is Hebrew.  Our group includes new learners and those who have learned before.  You can come just once, or ongoing, or once in a while.  There is no charge for members and $25/session for non-members.  We’re looking to build our group, so give it a try.

Summer dates:
July 14, 21, 28
August 11, 18, 25

Hope to see you soon.

L’shalom,
Marc

Chagiga: New Year’s in July

Chevre,

What a glorious day on which to celebrate our last year’s successes.  Thanks to Karen and Larry for hosting us in their beautiful home and for bringing such beautiful weather.

As always, our celebration was a communal effort.  We’re grateful to Karen for planning the program so thoughtfully; to Larry for sharing his spiritual journey and for writing a new version of “B’Chavana Pie”; to Stew, Steve and Randi for joining in on singing it; and to Beth and Mark for producing such a joyous and inspiring slide show of the high points of our past year.  It reminded us of what a great year it’s been, of the special community that we’ve built, and of the many things for which we have to be thankful.

The leadership Va’ad (team) and I are beginning the process of planning for the year to come.  We’ll continue many of our special programs – e.g.,  Kallah, Purim, Mitzvah Day, Torah learning – while looking to add new opportunities for growth, learning and making a difference in the world.  We’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, our next gathering will be on Friday night the 10th.  More details will follow soon.

L’shalom,
Marc

Reminder: Sunday Chagiga / New Year’s in June

One last reminder to sign up for this Sunday’s B’Chavana chagiga / summer festival!  We’ll celebrate this past year’s accomplishments and kick off the exciting year ahead.

When: Sunday, June 28, 2015
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Where: the home of Karen & Larry Heisler / 1080 WhigamRoad / Riverwoods

Attire: casual

Music: if you’re musically inclined, please bring your instrument

RSVP: via perfect potluck website  http://www.PerfectPotluck.com/meals.php?t=MGCK7121

Please call or email Karen Heisler with any questions – 847.814.1095 or karen.heisler@ubs.com.

See you then!

Celebrate New Year’s in June!

Calling all fans of B’Chavana!

It’s the end of B’Chavana’s fiscal year and we’re having a chagiga / summer festival!

You’re invited to join us to celebrate this past year’s accomplishments and kick off the exciting year ahead.

When: Sunday, June 28, 2015
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Where: the home of Karen & Larry Heisler / 1080 WhigamRoad / Riverwoods

Attire: casual

Music: if you’re musically inclined, please bring your instrument

RSVP: via perfect potluck website  http://www.PerfectPotluck.com/meals.php?t=MGCK7121

Please call or email Karen Heisler with any questions – 847.814.1095 or karen.heisler@ubs.com.

Shabbat shalom.

Charleston and Its Implications for B’Chavana

Outrage.  Anger.  Sorrow.  Compassion.  Frustration.

Anything but despair.  We may not despair of progress – all the while keeping in mind that there will not be change and our society will not progress without us, without our best effort.  Edmund Burke wrote: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men (sic) to do nothing.”  It is time for us to take stock of ourselves: what have we done?  What will we do?  Are we part of the solution and, if not, are we then part of the problem?

The murders in Charleston are stunning.  9  members of Emanuel A.M.E. Church were killed.  All of the others terrorized.  They were there that night to pray and learn in their sacred tradition – just as we learn Torah and davven when we’re together.   The community, likewise, has been traumatized.

The impact and implications of this will take time to unfold.  Fortunately, Charleston has remained calm and there are significant relationships between the religious communities and their leaders.  Rabbi Stephanie Alexander of Kahal Kadosh Beth Elohim and the Rev. Pinckney had worked together and spoken in each other’s pulpit.  These relationships should help the community both to come to terms with this event and to address the issues related to it.

Let’s be clear.  This was an evil act.  It was not senseless  – there is discernible meaning and purpose.  The murderer sought deliberately to kill black people and, apparently, to incite racial violence.  It was the doing of a sick man; sick not in the sense of mental illness but of moral disease.  And if it is a moral disease and others share that illness, as we know they do, then something can and must be done to remedy that illness.

Our members Nancy & Steve Feinberg have a home just a few blocks from the church.   Nancy writes: “The shooter demonstrates a level of ignorance and blatant hatred that is impossible to comprehend. The racist attitude is “baked in” to many cultures as evidenced by the fact that SC Capitol still flies the confederate flag and has not even lowered it to half mast.  

We can rant and lament this slaughter, but the most positive outcome would be that each and every person who is horrified by this weeks events reach out to others in kindness and solidarity and take a stand on gun control issues and mental health help for those who need it.

We can only hope that their tragic deaths bring about some action on the gun control issue. Their kindness to include him in their bible study session and the betrayal of that kindness has to net some inspiration for us all.”

We mourn and send condolences to families of the Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney and the others who were killed.  And we must do more.

This horror speaks against the core values of this country: that all men (sic) are created equal, due the opportunity to pursue happiness and whose religious freedom and practice are guaranteed.

This horror speaks against our values as Jews and against our mission as B’Chavana, which commits us to acting to increase social justice.  That commitment is underpinned, in part, by our own Jewish experience of violence and persecution as well as by the values of our tradition as we understand them today.

What can we do?  The twin issues are racism and gun violence.  I believe that our B’Chavana community must take action on one or both of these problems.  That action must be concrete, measurable and realizable.  We are a small community but as we proved with Mitzvah Day we wield great power when we organize ourselves to accomplish something important.  I invite you to think hard about potential actions that we might take and to share them here on our site.  In the coming weeks, I hope that our leadership va’ad (team) will transform those suggestions into a specific plan.

In the meantime, the Mayor’s office has established a fund for the congregation and related needs; if it is not yet opened it should be open sometime later today; I encourage you to donate:  http://www.motheremanuelhopefund.com.

Racial relations and the safety and freedom of black (and other minorities) have come so far – and we have yet so far to go.  This Shabbat, as we reflect on our blessings, let’s find room in our hearts for a renewed commitment to correcting injustice in any way that we can.

And let’s offer a prayer for the church and the city.

Shabbat shalom,
Marc