In the US, slavery and segregation meant that Blacks and whites lived as ‘2 peoples’ where whites prevailed over Blacks. While laws have been passed to remove barriers to equal justice, centuries of racial subordination and discrimination do not end just because laws are passed to prohibit them. There is still much work to be done to ensure that all persons have their civil rights and that, unlike the blessing Isaac conferred on Esau, they can live freely wherever they wish to reside. We can help affect change through participation in any number of social action and social justice initiatives.
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On the recent WRJ Civil Rights Journey (CRJ), the theme of legacy was repeated over and over. As our tour guide, Billy Planer wrapped up our powerful five-day experience, he asked this poignant legacy question, ‘How will you live your life so that when you die, you have a legacy of justice for the next generation to remember you by?’
Right now, women have opportunities to make a difference in every aspect of life: in our families, communities, country, and the world. Perhaps, it is not our obligation to finish this work, but it is our responsibility to act, participate, stand strong, and work together within the various opportunities to repair our world. It would appear that a major effort must continue to ensure the rights and opportunities of all women and hope that G-d listens and guides us as we do the work of Women of Reform Judaism and other groups who share our values, visions and goals.
Perhaps my greatest journey has been, and continues to be, my spiritual one. It is not a destination, but a mindset. To be one with God and my loved ones. Today, it is my life’s purpose. I think of the faith I have in God, after being a non-practicing Conservative Jew for more than twenty years, all spurred on by the beauty of Reform Judaism where inclusivity - and even individuality - are at its very core. WRJ has also played a big part in my spiritual journey. No matter where I journey in ‘WRJ-land,” I am home.
Wow! We are back to Parashat B’reishit, back to the beginning. We have just celebrated Rosh HaShanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and finally Simchat Torah. The holidays have given us a chance to renew ourselves and commit to changes in our lives. Restarting our Torah reading allows us to come to the text with new eyes and perhaps a new commitment.
I love the rituals and prayers of Shabbat – the Shabbat candles, the smell of challah baking that permeates my house, closing my eyes and imagining the words of the Shema swirling around me like a giant tallit. Why does the Hashkiveinu appeal to me so much? On Sunday night, after Erev Rosh Hashana services, I took my glass of wine outside and looked up at the stars, determined to find an answer to my question. As I gazed at that beautiful blanket of stars, I understood why that prayer is so meaningful to me.
Parents provide lessons for their children and for good or bad, we are role models for our children. It behooves us to remember that our relationships are what’s most important. The memories we leave for our loved ones allow us to live on and not be forgotten. But how is it that we want to be remembered? At the end of life, we must continue to create joy in the moment and to find ways to enjoy what we now have. Moses’ words illustrate that we need a meaningful relationship with our loved ones, even though we know that relationship must end with death.
For thirty-one chapters in Deuteronomy, Moses has told the Israelites how to act. He has explained what God wants and has guided the Israelites, so their lives may be blessed. But now Moses is preparing to say goodbye. God told Moses to ascend Mount Nebo, where he would see the Promised Land and die. After 120 years, how will Moses – Moshe Rabbeinu – our greatest teacher, our revered prophet, address the Israelites?
The phrase, “Be Strong and Resolute,” is found in v. 6 and v.23. This dictum is a powerful one and sometimes hard to maintain. I have found this especially true when it seems that almost every day, there is an assault on who I am as a Jewish woman, as well as my professional role as a sexuality educator and therapist. For over 35 years, my life’s work has been devoted to helping people understand the complexity of sexuality. My goal is to help people heal and, in so doing, contribute to repairing the world.
As I enter the High Holy Days, it is a time each year for self-reflection. What are the good deeds I’ve done this year? Have I been a good person to those around me? What lessons have I learned from my mistakes? Whom have I hurt with my words or actions? Have I kept my personal commitments as a Jew to my friends, family, and community? Have I lived “Jewishly” according to God’s commandments?