May 5, 2016

Our Testimony: A Yom haShoah Message

Our Testimony: A Yom haShoah Message 
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Tonight and tomorrow we commemorate the Shoah. We seek testimony from the precious survivors in our communities, comfort from each other, answers that will not come. W e stand silent, we cry loudly, we light candles. All of this is right, all of it is wrong. 

"Lo Amut Ki Echyeh/I will not die, but rather I will live" sing the Psalms, words we just recited every day of Pesach.  In the annals of our People, tragedies beyond number have hurt us, threatened our tradition, our very existence. Despite it all we are here. We are here. Tonight and tomorrow, that is the loudest response Jews around the world offer. We are here, and we are here to stay. Our children will live. Judaism will live. 

Lo Amut:  
We will not die. 
Ki Echyeh: We will live.

There is no answer to the Shoah, no theology, no historical explanation that will suffice. We scream at and to God. But, as the great Elie Wiesel famously put it, "When others have asked me, 'Where was God during the Holocaust?' I respond 'No. Where was man?'"  Similarly, Pirkei Avot teaches us: "In a place where people are inhuman, be a human." And, as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel exhorted us: "To be only human is to be less then human." We are called to so very much on this agonizing day on our sacred calendar.

So, Chevreh, this is what I believe we are called to do:

Stand proud to be a Jew in the world.
Act as a proud Jew in the world. 

We know that the best response to the unfathomable hatred the Nazis perpetrated as others stood by is to pour out unending Love as we stand together with every other threatened People in the world. That is our testimony. Never again. 

The hope that has lasted thousands of years, to be free to be a purposeful People on Earth, to be a blessing to all who seek blessing, to channel our own suffering for the betterment of the world: that is the testimony we are called to demonstrate. 

Will it answer the agony of the Shoah? Never. Are we called to Life? Forever. That is our Eternal mitzvah: LIVE. If those precious souls who, to this day, share testimony of the horrors they face can live despite despair, we are called to no less.
May we be true bearers of this terrible lesson, proud to be Jewish, indefatigably alive, and unequivocally resolute.

To Life, Chevreh, to Life,
Rabbi Creditor

Apr 27, 2016

These Are Dark Days for America

These Are Dark Days for America
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Donald Trump laid out his vision of our country today, with the theme of "America First." It rang a bell. Here are a few dark resonances.

  • The America First Committee was the most prominent group opposing American entry into World War II. 
  • The contemporary "America First Party" includes the following in its platform: "Since the United States Supreme Court decision in the case of Roe v. Wade legalized abortion, there have been 40 million unborn babies slaughtered, laying to waste an entire generation. It is time that we end the American Holocaust. We are committed to protecting the lives of these innocent persons." and this: "The America First Party will not support any proposal that allows homosexuals into the military service of the United States of America, in any capacity," and the real doozy is this one: "The America First Party is unalterably opposed to all so-called ' hate crime ' laws whether they are federal, state, county, or municipal. The elusive element of ' hate ' as a significant factor in the commission of a particular crime is something that can best be determined by God; not by Man." 
  • The final frightening bell it rang is the (marginally) alternative history of Phillip Roth's The Plot Against America, in which Charles Lindbergh's isolationist Presidential campaign blocks FDR's reelection. (As it so happens, the real Lindbergh was a leader in the actual "America First Committee.") The New Yorker had a related piece on this about a year ago. 

I believe we are in grave danger. We dare not stand idly by. These are dark days for America, and it is larger than a blowhard clown. Hate is contagious, and bullying, xenophobia, and a toxic society are the things of nightmares. Trump's ascent is no laughing matter.

Friends, though I respect the inner Democratic Party dynamic, and want so much for the societal vision of Bernie Sanders to keep influencing both Hilary Clinton's campaign and the Democratic Party's conventional platform, it is time. The implosion of the Republican Party in the face of Trump's populism, Cruz's ridiculous ‪#‎HailCarly‬ pass today, the Kasich/Cruz too-late ‪#‎NeverTrump‬ alliance - all of this makes Roth's alternative history feel more real with each passing day. Now is the time to not just decry Trump's hate-speech. It is time to unify and work the mechanisms of our democracy to counter his hatred by getting behind Hilary Clinton, and then mobilizing to lobby her administration to fulfill much of the vision she has assimilated into her own during this campaign.

Step up. Do it because it is the necessary thing. Don't stop when this stage is done. There's untold damage being done, and, as Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav taught long ago: "If you believe you can corrupt, believe you can heal."

It's up to you.

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