Why I joined The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival

On a hot summer August day in 1966, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. stepped out of his car and was greeted by a mob of 700 angry white protesters in Marquette Park on Chicago’s southwest side. Shortly after he stepped forward to greet that mob, he was pelted with a rock on the side of the head, the force strong enough to bring him to the ground. Undeterred, Dr. King rose up and continued his nonviolent direct-action call for an end to inequality and hate.

Later that afternoon he addressed the media and recalled, “This is a terrible thing. I’ve been in many demonstrations all across the south, but I can say that I have never seen—even in Mississippi and Alabama, mobs as hostile and as hate-filled as I have seen in Chicago.”

Chicago still, to this very day remains one of the most segregated cities in America.   There is an epidemic of gun violence and the rate of poverty, hunger and homelessness is staggering: “More than one-third of Illinois residents and nearly half of Chicagoans are considered low-income or living in poverty,” and extreme poverty grew by 384% from 2000-2015.

Dr. King preached an end to racism and poverty and militarism. Today, The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, co-chaired by the Revs. William J. Barber II and Liz Theoharis continue Dr. King’s legacy and is a national movement dedicated to overcoming systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the war economy.

The Poor People’s Campaign is currently in the midst of a 40 day direct non-violent action taking place in Washington DC and in over 30 states including Illinois.  The direct-action dates to join with the Poor People’s Campaign are May 14, 21, 28and June 4, 11, 18, with a culminating event in Washington, DC on June 23.

I joined the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival because the message of direct action to end racism and poverty, ecological devastation and a war economy is compelling and it is the right thing to do.

I joined the Poor People’s Campaign because I am answering the call of the One who calls me to act concerning the poor and disenfranchised.  We read in Deuteronomy:

If there is among you a poor person of your kin, within any of the gates in your land which the Adonai your God is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor shut your hand from your poor kin, but you shall open your hand wide to them and willingly lend them sufficient for their needs, whatever their needs…You shall open your hand wide to your kin, to your poor and your needy, in your land.”(15:7-11.)

I joined the Poor Peoples Campaign because I hear Isaiah’s call which we at Congregation Beth Am and other reform synagogues read together each Yom Kippur and so I know what God requires of me:

Is this the fast that I have chosen, a day for a person to afflict their soul? Is it to bow down their head like a bulrush, and to spread out sackcloth and ashes? Would you call this a fast, and an acceptable day to the Adonai? Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh? Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Adonai shall be your rear guard. (Isaiah 58:5-8)

I joined the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival and will travel to Springfield, IL on May 28 and extend an open invitation to all and hope you will join me on the 28th and in June! 

See the Illinois Poor People’s Campaign for more info and to learn more about The Reform Movements’ commitment to meeting the urgency of now with moral leadership through congregational and community-based action, and our involvement in the Poor People’s Campaign visit, Religious Action Center.

Blessings ~

RLSB

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted in Congregation Beth Am, Hate, Love, Uncategorized | Tagged , ,

Celebration

On our last day, we went to Masada and the Dead Sea.  We rode camels and will soon have a festive dinner together on our last night in Israel 2017.  On Masada we offered mourner’s Kaddish for a dear relative of one of our participants, we gave a Hebrew name to another and we officially welcomed a member of our tour into the Household of Israel.

What an incredible pilgrimage to the Holy Land!  For most of us, visiting Israel has been on our minds and in our hearts for a very long time.  We arrived!!  We climbed mountains (and tons of stairs!), walked on 2000-year-old streets,  said prayers at the Kotel, the Western Wall, saw calm where there was once war. We learned about the complexities of a small land that so many of different beliefs, opinions, actions and traditions treasure and love with all their hearts and souls. Together we heard about the struggles for freedom.  We laughed a lot and also cried. We began each day on the bus together with the blessing Modeh/Modah Ani…Thank you God for a new day, with love and compassion You give us this day. You have with great faith in us and we have faith in You.

What a blessing this trip has been.  We are all so very grateful.

 

 

Posted in Congregation Beth Am, Gratitude, Israel, Uncategorized

Out of Darkness

On the short bus ride to Yad VaShem (The Jewish People’s living memorial to the Holocaust), Lana asked us to imagine a room that would fit 100 people, then think of a space that holds 500 people, a 1000 people and maybe you have even been to a football game where 150,000 were in attendance, keep going and see if you can imagine a space that would hold 1,000,000 and then 6 million.  It is mind-boggling, right?  Our tour of Yad Vashem was certainly filled with darkness but on today’s tour I did not only feel the darkness of such a painful period of our history.  I felt our history.  Lana Zilberman shared with us facts about the Holocaust but more than that, our tour was about the people–the mothers, fathers, grandmas, grandpas, sons, daughters who LIVED a life before it was cut short. We were reminded that if it were not for the decision of our ancestors to leave their homes to come to a new land, our lives would have been very different.  Perhaps it would have been us we were memorializing today.  Yad VaShem ends on a note of hope and light and sends us off with the clear message that we are responsible for each other and “never again” means nothing if we don’t do our share or even more than our share of working to end hatred and prejudice.

After lunch, we went the Hertzl museum (which was fantastic) and toured Mt. Hertzl, visiting the graves of Hertzl, the founder of world Zionist movement, Golda Meir, Yitzchak Rabin, Shimon Peres and other founding fathers and mothers of the State of Israel and we lit a yahrzeit/memorial candle at the graves of fallen soldiers.

It was a rough day. It was an inspiring day.

My son at Hertz’s tomb:Hertzl's Tomb

 

Posted in Anti Semitism, Congregation Beth Am, Israel, Uncategorized

Shabbat

Shavua Tov! Just landing from a truly wonderful Shabbat and pre-Shabbat tour.  Friday morning we went to the Ayalon Institute near Rehovot.  The website explains it best: “Next to the Rehovot Science Park, on Kibbutz Hill, stands the Ayalon Institute, which tells one of the fascinating and mysterious stories in the history of the struggle for the establishment of the State of Israel. Here, beneath the ground, and right under the nose of the British, a factory was created for the production of 9mm bullets for the Sten submachine gun, which was the personal weapon of Palmach fighters. The factory lay eight metres below the ground and was the size of a tennis court. The task was assigned to the members of the Scouts A group, who were joined by others, a total of 45 young men and women. The site operated under complete secrecy from 1945 until 1948, a period in which over four million bullets were produced.”  Amazing!!

Then we headed to Machne Yehuda–the fruit, vegetable, nuts, halva, and anything else you want or need  market and where Nathan was happy to have a chance to put on Tefillin.  Lucy was proud to tell this Hasidic gentleman that she had her Bat mitzvah with her brother but does not want to wear tefillin….

After lunch at the very crowded market we made our way back to the hotel and then off to share Shabbat with a reform congregation, Kamatz. Our tour guide Lana is on the Board of Director’s and her congregation and Rabbi Alona Nir warmly welcomed us into their beautiful sacred home.  They are a special community, and I loved praying with them.  They explain on their website:

“A Reform Jewish presence is crucial for the future of Israel. Between a fully secular Israel completely detached from its religious roots and values, and an uncompromising Halachic state, lies a middle ground, a third way- an Israel rooted in the prophetic Jewish values of social justice, equal rights, compassion, pluralism, and tolerance. This is our Jewish and Zionist vision.
Our egalitarian, upbeat and joyous services create the sacred moments necessary to balance the tensions inherent in Israeli life and offer you, our friends and partners from around the world, a home away from home whenever you are visiting Israel.”  I hope you will visit them.
IMG_0682Lana introducing us to her community.
Dinner was back at the hotel with two lone soldiers (IDF soldiers who do not have family in Israel) and then to sleep.  Today was spent with dear Israeli friends whom I have known for close to 35 years!  And finally, tonight was another fun evening.  We walked to downtown Jerusalem and on Ben Yehuda Street ran into two of Beth Am’s finest, Simon, now a rabbi who is also visiting Israel and Erin a 1st-year HUC student living in Jerusalem for the year.  Pride and Joy!!  And still, we met others we know too.  It has been a wonderful two days.  Feeling so fortunate.
Shavua Tov! To a good week!
Posted in Israel, Uncategorized

A Divided City

A call for a day of rage, a tekes/graduation ceremony for tons of Israeli soldiers, a walk on a 2000-year-old sidewalk, a stop to get free WiFi and a toasted cheese bagel. Women standing on chairs, peering over to the men’s section to see a Bar Mitzvah, a reform Bat Mitzvah nearby at Davidson’s arch, melodies, drumming, clapping all merging as one.   An Arab selling bagela, a Jewish orthodox elderly woman wailing while holding on to the wall.  An old Armenian monk sitting on the steps of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. We stood today in a section of the Old City that is holy for four religions. The very same spot!!!

Connection, fear, bewilderment, awe, tears, prayers, disbelief, faith… Jerusalem…the City of Peace is hardly a city of peace.

Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem. And then go and work for it.

Today…a most remarkable day.

Blessings from Jerusalem.

Posted in Israel, Uncategorized

Liberating Judaism

“When we fight against the monopoly, we are actually liberating Judaism for all Israelis and since this is the fastest growing Jewish community on the Planet, it is a worthwhile fight.”  Anat Hoffman speaking to our Beth Am Tour this evening. Anat Hoffman

After a beautiful morning looking at hundreds of thousands of cranes and over 400 bird species at the Hula Nature Reserve–a most important wet habitat in the Middle East. Our Docent taught us that birds fly south – not for the weather, but when the days get shorter… they are seeking light, which means food for them.  This amazing bird sanctuary and habitat is the only rest stop for them until they finish migration in Africa.  The birds are searching for the Light!  IMG_0564

Light–in Psalm 26 we read, “For with you is the source of light, in your light do we see light.”  We search for the light too–a symbol holiness, warmth, goodness, even happiness.  Yet we don’t have to go very far, for there are sparks of holiness within us.  God’s light is contained within.

After the Hula Valley, we stopped for lunch, spent some time at Capernaum, a Christian Holy site.  On the way to Jerusalem, we learned a bit about the history of the city post-1948 and began a discussion on geo-politics which I know will continue for the next several days and beyond!

As we entered Jerusalem, Lana played a recording of the song Yerushaliem Shel Zahav–Jerusalem of Gold by Naomi Shemer and I was so very moved.  No matter how many times I have been here, no matter how complex a city this is, when I enter Jerusalem, there is an instantaneous feeling of connection–to the ancestors, to the history, and to the Holy One.

The lecture by Anat Hoffman was important and very moving.  I will be speaking and be writing more about what we learned in the days and weeks to come.

This was another very good day.

Blessings from Jerusalem.

Posted in Israel

40 Miles From Damascus

What a difference two years makes.  Standing only 40 miles away from Damascus, we looked out from the Golan Heights into Syria.  Today, the U.N Guards were looking at their cell phones and only occasionally into their high powered telescope pointing towards the 4th largest city in Syria.  When last here we were witness to a brutal, full-scale siege in the Syrian civil war.  Standing on the very same platform today, we saw only beautiful landscape and heard nothing but the sound of the tour guide’s voice.  Gabi remarked two years ago that she knew if people did survive the siege, they would never have their homes to return to and most likely become refugees and be bounced about unwanted by anybody.

Lana, our guide, did speak about the refugee population and their horrific situation.  We shared that Congregation Beth Am has adopted a Syrian refugee family and it has changed the lives of a few Beth Am families who work closest with them.  There is a GoFundMe page for the Alatrash Family and we are making a great effort to help ensure their self-sufficiency in the next year.  We were inspired to help this family and we will be exploring more about the refugee crisis in the future.  We have to be part of the solution! 

Before the Golan was a small hike at the Tel Dan Nature Reserve, then lunch and a visit to beautiful Safed/Tzafat, where we learned about Kabbalah while sitting in the Caro Synagogue,  did some shopping and then dinner back at Kibbutz Goshrim.

What a great day inspiring me to work harder for immigration rights and to also help take care of the Alatrash Family as much as I possibly can.  If you are able to help, please learn more about them here.

Blessings from the North

   

Posted in Israel