Sep 24, 2015

“Alone, Together” (Yom Kippur 5776/2015)

“Alone, Together” (Yom Kippur 5776/2015)
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor


We will build this world from love.
(Ps. 99:3)

Tonight we stand humbled. We sway. We touch our own hearts and reach for each other’s. We sing. We cry. We reunite. Tonight, we heal by allowing in the pain and vulnerability and the hope – all of it.

On the one hand, Yom Kippur leads us to look within: How have I failed during the year gone by?

On the other, we speak in the collective: AshamNU, BagadNU. WE have been guilty, WE have done wrong.

And so, tonight, we are here and we are there, spanning the globe as the Gathered Jewish People, more of us together for Kol Nidrei than on any other night. We are individuals and we are community and we are a People. Tonight, we are alone together, the kind of soulful group Billy Joel once pointed to when he sang, “Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness, but it’s better than drinking alone.”

In the end, we are all here. Thank God.

Yom Kippur always finds us. Each and all, it finds us. Even if we feel lost, Yom Kippur reminds us we are not. Every note of Kol Nidrei knows how and where to find us, as we inhabit our different emotional places, gathered in one sacred physical space. The Jewish People stands alone, together, tonight. Some call that togetherness God. Some call that togetherness family. Some think the difference is an illusion.

Regardless of what any one of us does or doesn’t believe, we are here, thank God.
_____________________

What a year it has been. Ups and downs too many to count. What should a rabbi talk about tonight? The torrent of Racial Injustice revealing untended wounds in our body politic? Antisemitism rearing its ugly head time and time again in Europe, in America, and elsewhere? (Our memories might be too full of recent heartache to immediately recall the terrorist attacks and murders of Jews at the Hyper Cacher in Paris and in the main synagogue in Copenhagen, but these were just last January and February.) Perhaps we should focus tonight on the assault on women’s reproductive rights being waged in the halls of the United States congress right now? Or, perhaps we should name the tension surrounding the nuclear deal with Iran, about whose outcome no one – not in our Homeland nor here at home – can truly yet speak authoritatively, advocates on both sides still coming from places of unwavering vision and existential fear?

It’s a list too long to even generate. But. This is our world. And we are Jews in it. We are living our story as we always have: Vulnerably. Alone. Together.

So: What should we talk about tonight? I’ve been wrestling with topics ranging from the most intimate to the most global, knowing that the prioritization of any topic overshadows so many others.

But then I saw an image that made my choice for me. That, in the end, pulled it all together. That image demanded and challenged. You and I and the entire world saw that image. The one of the 3 year old boy, face down in the sand on a beach.

The name of that boy was Aylan Kurdi z”l. He was in one of two boats, carrying a total of 23 people that set off separately from the Akyarlar area of Turkey, headed to Greece, where they could have attempted to enter the European Union. But their overcrowded boat capsized, and Aylan washed up a few miles to the northeast in Turkey, not far from a beach resort. The dead included five children — among them Aylan’s 5-year-old brother — and one woman, their mother.

We looked in horror at this image. The whole world did. And then most of us looked away. How could we not? How can we endure the horror of what that image represents?

But we keep hearing numbers. We succeeded in increasing the number of Syrian refugees the United States will accept from only 10,000 to a new figure of 175,000. These are refugees seeking asylum from war ravaged Syria and Eritrea. 175,000 Images of God who are and were 3 year old children. I stood this past summer, on the border of Israel and Syria, and saw and heard bombs go off in the near distance, part of the ongoing civil war in Syria. From that vantage point in the Golan Heights, I was also able to see in Jordan a large city, Jordan’s third largest, entirely populated by Syrian refugees.

We hear other numbers. Germany announces they will accept 875,000 refugees. Germany! How intense, how impossible, to hear this with Jewish ears. This, after the unforgivable sin of murdering 6 million Jewish souls? No act will ever achieve atonement, but for a Jew today to hear of Germany taking responsibility for a homeless, persecuted people…

But then we hear more numbers. Bigger numbers. 4 million. 4 million. 4 million refugees from war-torn Syria. 4 million.

Friends, open your hearts. Please. Please. I know this kind of talk shuts us down. But don’t shut down tonight. Keep your eyes and your hearts open. That image of one child is not of one child – it is God’s Image abandoned by us all. It is your child. Our child. And our tears, comingling with the tide that came and went around that poor boy’s body, won’t accomplish anything. It is not about what we feel, it is about what we will do. It is not about what any one of us claims to believe; it is about what we will do.

No detached theology will save this world. Prayers that remain locked in books and sanctuaries do not help. As we read in the Midrash:

“[The Prophet Isaiah prophesized:] ‘You are My witnesses, says God, and I am God (Isaiah 43:12).’

The rabbis took this to mean that God is saying:

If you are my witnesses, I am God; if you cease to be My witnesses, I am not God.”

The prophet Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel z”l wrote on this:

“This is one of the boldest utterances in Jewish literature and is full of meaning. If there are no witnesses, there is no God to be met… For God to be present we have to be witnesses. Without the people Israel, the Bible is mere literature. Through Israel, the Bible is a voice, a demand, a challenge. (A Declaration of Conscience, 1964)”

Yom Kippur demands your open eyes. Today is not the birthday of the world. Today’s job is a lot harder. Today we look at our post-creation world, and it can be hard to keep our eyes open. Even harder to keep our hearts open. It’s going to hurt. So that’s how we’ll start: by not pretending it doesn’t hurt to actually see the world the way it is.

And looking won’t be enough. You can cry your eyes out, and nothing will change. The way we’ll stay strong enough long enough to do something about it will be by remembering the words of the ancient sage Ben Hei Hei, who taught us “Lefum Tzara Agra, according to the pain is the reward.”  If that is the case, then there is an immense reward waiting for the whole world somewhere in the future. May it be so.

You might think that the responses to these problems are in heaven, too distant to reach. But I say to us all tonight that they are not in the heavens. They are so very near to each of us. So very close. The answers are in our hearts and through our hands, if only we could be brave enough to be witnesses, to let God’s pain in and fix our broken world, piece by piece.

Let’s let some of that pain in. Don’t try to comprehend 4,000,000 refugees. Just call to mind the image of Aylan. And ask yourself this one question: Who’s child is Aylan?
__________

Follow my thoughts into what might sound, at first, like a different topic.

I share the following personal story from this past summer with my daughter’s permission:

We were waiting, with our shul group, to ascend the Temple Mount. It was my second time, having been hesitant for political, emotional, and religious reasons to ever visit that site. When planning a recent shul trip to Israel and considering a visit to the Temple Mount, Ariel Sharon’s provocative actions there were in my eyes, my recognition that the site is holy to more than only Jews was in my heart, my discomfort from being prohibited from praying on a site that is also holy to Jews seared my soul. But, when I voiced my reluctance to lead a group to the Temple Mount, my dear friend and teacher, Jared Goldfarb, who served as our guide and educator, challenged me, saying:

“Menachem, you can’t claim that this is a trip with diverse voices if you only go where you’re comfortable and where people agree with you.”

He was right. So we went.

That first visit, a few years ago, was magnificent. I remember being very apprehensive about what we’d encounter. And yes, the Waqf guards of the Islamic Trust charged with protection and maintenance of The Temple Mount, eyed my Kippah with suspicion, checked my pockets for prohibited items, like a siddur (prayerbook), all this as I carried one of my children on my back. Once we crossed the security threshold, I looked around in shock. It was peaceful and quiet, soccer balls and picnics, families and small learning circles. So very different from the tense air at the Kotel! I was confronted by a vision more beautiful than I expected, and felt blessed to just be there in admiration.

So, when organizing this last summer’s Israel trip, I felt more comfortable making that same decision. And my daughter Ariel, recently Bat Mitzvah’ed, joined us, this time not on my back. I was so excited to share with her and with our group the peace of that space, the grandeur of the architecture, the power of encountering another sacred narrative just inches from our own more-familiar one.

We neared the security checkpoint. But the rules had changed: No Jewish symbols allowed. Ariel’s Magen David (Jewish Star) necklace had to be tucked into her shirt. Now Jews were also not allowed to wear a kippah, so I took mine off and wore a hat instead. And now Jews weren’t allowed to sit down anywhere on the Temple Mount. Given the tensions at the site, sometimes exacerbated by a small group of extremist Jewish activists, I swallowed my own discomfort and led the group forward. We found a spot to stand in the shade, and I shared with them my pride that back at Netivot Shalom, that very night, we were hosting our Turkish Muslim sisters and brothers as they have sounded the call to prayer for the holy month of Ramadan in our sanctuary these last 8 years. I was proud to remind us of our commitment as a shul to also being a sacred home for our Christian sisters and brothers from the church across the street to hold Easter services these last 8 years, and that it was actually a lesson we could learn from Islam’s construction of the Temple Mount itself, since the Dome of the Rock was intentionally not created as a mosque, as a Muslim prayer space, out of respect for Judaism’s and Christianity’s religious roots in that space. That’s why the Al Aqsa Mosque is also built atop the Temple Mount, so that the new Muslim prayer space would not erase other faith’s connections to the place.

As I shared these teachings, my daughter was leaning her head on my shoulder. I felt that warmth and was proud to be sharing this holy space and a vision of inter-religious respect with her. Suddenly, a Waqf guard ran toward us, shouting “NO touching! No touching!” I looked, in shock, and explained “this is my daughter.” “No touching!” I wasn’t going to let go of her. I looked at the guard, and said quietly and firmly, “This is my daughter.” He eventually walked away, and Ariel and I broke into tears, holding each other, our group standing in shock. A moment later, as we tried to regain our emotional momentum and work our way to the path leading away from the Temple Mount, another Waqf guard ran at our group, shouting “No Touching!” My daughter’s tears on me, I looked at him, and said “This is my daughter. You’re making her cry.” As her body shook, the Magen David necklace came out from under her shirt, and the guard’s eyes widened, and he shouted, “How did you get that Jewish symbol up here?!” I looked at Jared, and we began to leave more quickly. We left that space, which didn’t feel so holy any more, followed by a growing, angry group of Waqf guards. We were shaken to our core, to say the least.

I ask you, and wish I could ask those guards in some safe way: Who’s child is Ariel?

______________________

One last experience, an inadequate attempt to weave together these ideas and perhaps also the suggest ion for the beginning of a response:

We are blessed, as Netivot Shalom, to have many members wielding beauty in the world. One person who grew up in this community, Rebecca Bardach, made Aliyah with her family years ago, and now serves as Director of Resource Development & Strategy for Hand in Hand, Yad b’Yad, the Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel. Hand in Hand is a system of bilingual Jewish-Arab schools in Israel and, through this, is building a shared society.

Less than a year ago, Jewish arsonists burned the first grade classroom at Yad b’Yad in Jerusalem. On that floor, children's books were burned. A first grade classroom for Jewish and Arab children. So, this summer, Netivot Shalom members joined Rebecca in that room, whose fire scars are now invisible, covered instead with delightful finger-paint in Arabic and Hebrew. But we know those scars are there. We sat in that classroom, on the children’s seats, as witnesses, and we committed as a shul to raising one scholarship for one Arab student and one scholarship for one Jewish student every year. There is no room for hate. This is a place of great hope. Of heart. Of blessing. If you’d like to help us with that commitment, please contact me very soon through the shul office.

Who’s children are these first graders?

We know the answers to these questions: they are our children. 3 year old Aylan, 13 year old Ariel and first grade Arab and Jewish children and each of us, just slightly older children, one teeming mass of vulnerable children – we are all here, we are all children, we are all each other’s.

This world is meant to be a place of great hope. Of heart. Of blessing.

From the intense urgency of every screaming headline,
it would seem like there isn't enough of anything to go around:
Water.
Land.
Food.
Love.

But we know that isn't true.
There is enough.
We have enough.

We just haven't decided to share well,
to truly expect goodness of each other.

This world and every beating heart on its blessed face
ache to be reborn, to be loved, to be shared.

We have enough.
We have more than enough.
Water.
Land.
Food.
Love.
________________

What is it to be a human being? We are our stories. As Oliver Sacks z”l taught us:

“If we wish to know about a man, we ask 'what is his story--his real, inmost story?'--for each of us is a biography, a story. Each of us is a singular narrative, which is constructed, continually, unconsciously, by, through, and in us--through our perceptions, our feelings, our thoughts, our actions; and, not least, our discourse, our spoken narrations. Biologically, physiologically, we are not so different from each other; historically, as narratives--we are each of us unique.” (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat and Other Clinical Tales)


We can’t respond to the number 4 million, each of which is a unique story. But we know what it is to be a stranger, to have our narrative be treated as alien by others. The Torah includes the exhortation to do right by strangers, to care for the vulnerable – because we were strangers in a strange land. To quote the complicated Science Fiction author Robert Heinlein, we “grok.” We know. We intuit. We’ve been there.

The problem is, it’s been a while. And we forget what it is to have our own children’s futures unsure. That’s not completely true. We American Jews can sometimes forget. Just spend one 10 minute period in a bomb shelter in Ashkelon, Sderot, Tel Aviv, Haifa, and you’ll remember. But woe to us if we let Jewish vulnerability, here or in Israel, erase Torah’s demand to bear witness to God’s Image in every person. The Torah’s commend to be fair to the stranger because we were strangers in Egypt is actually another way of saying: if everyone is a stranger, there is no such thing.

Which is why it’s so hard to look at Aylan. Because he’s your son. He was worthy of dignity. He was worthy of life. Every person is.

Friends, what am I asking you to do? The hardest thing there is to do: open your eyes and don’t hide from the pain. See it. Then do something about it. Get involved. Support groups like HIAS (HIAS.org) who are leading the Jewish effort to respond to the Global Refugee crisis. Support Hand in Hand’s work to remind us – not just our children – that we belong to each other. Choose a corner of the world where your soul can make a difference, and go there even and especially if it hurts – lean yourself into that, because that’s where your work awaits.

Hear the voices of those who call out for help, and remember that ours is not to complete the work, as long as we take it on. Our collective power to do good in this fragile world is nothing less than Godly.

But hear this not as affirmation. We’ll have enough time to rest once we fix this world. These next 25 hours of Yom Kippur will be meaningless if we let their message stay in this room.

Bear witness to your sisters and brothers, Muslim, Jewish, Israeli, Syrian, Black, White, Christian, old and young this Yom Kippur. If we don't, we have no right to expect forgiveness. We don’t have to agree about ANYTHING to be kind to each other. Being kind, sharing love in this world is not dependent upon anything.

So we pray, with hearts that are full and open and wounded and strong and pulsing and ready:

May this be a year in which we demonstrate moral courage through our deeds.

May we take seriously our own power and cultivate our own faith – and the faith of others – in this world.

May it be the kind of year that cracks us all wide open, so that we can build this world better than before, lifting as much of the blessed burden as we're able.

Gmar Chatimah Tovah – May you be written and sealed for life this year.

Amen.



Sep 21, 2015

The European Refugee Crisis and Syria Explained

I'm begging you to watch this video about the 4 million Syrian Refugees who are your sisters and brothers. Seriously. Please watch it. It's not long. It's a mitzvah. A Big one.

You'll understand how this started, what's happening, and what you - YOU - are called to do. Please. Please, watch. Then make a significant gift to HIAS, whose important work with refugees is driven by Jewish values. THEN: share this video with everyone you know. Twice. 

May we remember our sisters and brothers this Yom Kippur. If we don't, we have no right to expect forgiveness.


- menachem

Sep 20, 2015

Enough [a #poem]

Enough

Rabbi Menachem Creditor

From the intense urgency of every screaming headline,
it would seem like there isn't enough of anything to go around:
Water.
Land.
Food.
Love.

But we know that isn't true.
There is enough.
We have enough.

We just haven't decided to share well,
to truly expect goodness of each other.

This world and every beating heart on its blessed face
ache to be reborn, to be loved, to be shared.

We have enough.
We have more than enough.
Water.
Land.
Food.
Love.

Sep 17, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Petition to Stop DOJ Funding Corporate Gun Lobby

Good Morning,

I am not sure if you are aware but the DOJ labeled the entire community of Newtown "Victims of 12/14" therefore we are truly disappointed that the DOJ made a decision to give our tax dollars to NSSF, a Newtown-based corporate gun lobby who has fought any and all sensible gun laws.  

Thank you to Ladd Everett from CSGV for creating this petition on moments notice.  Please help by signing and sharing our petition. 
http://csgv.org/action/cancel-2-4-million-grant-gun-lobby/

Best Regards,
Po Murray
Chairman, Newtown Action Alliance & The Newtown Foundation

web_slide_3 Print

Sign up for e-mail action alerts: 
http://newtownaction.org/newsletter-signup/
Twitter: @newtownaction

For Immediate Release

September 17, 2015

Media Contacts:

John Kelley


Petition Campaign Calls on Department of Justice
to Stop Funding the Corporate Gun Lobby

Gun violence prevention groups launch effort highlighting radical record of Newtown-based NSSF


Newtown, CT—Two gun violence prevention groups, the Newtown Action Alliance and Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, have launched a petition campaign calling on the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to cancel a planned $2.4 million grant to the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) and spare tax payers the expense.

On September 10, 2015, the Newtown-headquartered NSSF announced that it had received a two-year grant from DOJ to produce Project ChildSafe Safety Kits, which the organization distributes to law enforcement agencies around the country. The kits include a cable-style gun lock and a brochure detailing gun safety procedures.

The program has been beset with problems from the start.  After hundreds of thousands of its gun locks were recalled for being too fragile and flimsy, NSSF lost federal funding for Project ChildSafe in 2009. Obliged to fund the program on its own, NSSF scaled it back significantly, leading to complaints from police departments.

In addition, NSSF actively lobbies against any and all reforms that would prevent children from gaining unauthorized access to firearms, to include Child Access Prevention laws and regulations that would require parents to store firearms safely in homes with children. NSSF has also supported lowering the age at which Americans can purchase firearms and carry them in public.

Ladd Everitt, Director of Communications for the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence, stated, “Unsafe storage of firearms is a major public health issue in our nation. While we fully support programs aimed at reducing gun fatalities and injuries, we do not believe that tax payer dollars should be used to fund the corporate gun lobby. Project ChildSafe has a terrible track record and the NSSF’s lobbying activity makes it clear they have no intention of protecting our children if it means limiting industry profit.”

Po Murray, Chairman of the Newtown Action Alliance, added, “As we approach the third anniversary of the horrific and senseless shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, we deserve more from our government. We call on Americans to sign our petition and demand that DOJ stop funding an organization that promotes a lethal Any Gun, Anywhere, Anytime agenda. It is inconceivable that DOJ can’t find a more appropriate recipient for this grant if they are truly interested in reducing gun violence.”

The two groups plan to deliver their petition directly to DOJ at the agency’s headquarters in the coming weeks.
###

The Newtown Action Alliance is a grassroots organization formed after the tragic shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  It works to make America’s children, families, and all citizens safer through legislative and cultural change that will reduce gun violence in our nation.

The Coalition to Stop Gun Violence (CSGV) seeks to secure freedom from gun violence through research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy.

Sep 11, 2015

May We Know Each Other: A 9/11 Prayer

May We Know Each Other: A 9/11 Prayer
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

As a New Yorker on that day, alongside countless others in the face of horror, I remember the kindness that pervaded everyone's beings. We knew each other that day, through the pain. That kindness that poured from so many no-longer-strangers... May we share it again with no prompt in the name of those we lost - and what we, as a world, lost that day. Blessings of love and healing to the whole world today. May we know each other.

Sep 9, 2015

"Today" -- A Rosh HaShannah Prayer to End Gun Violence

"Today" -- A Rosh HaShannah Prayer to End Gun Violence
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Dear God,
God, we stand waiting for a world,
this world,
our world
to be reborn. 

It's not a statement we make lightly;
it is a statement of need

This world needs rebirthing.
Our hearts need deep healing.
Our lives need rebuilding
after all the pointless deaths
we've endured this past year. 

Dear God,
Guns and violence have destroyed
tens of thousands of lives
in America this year.
Tens of thousands. 

We call to You, Adonai,
and beg that you stand
in Din, in Judgment,
of our carelessness
and our callousness at the senseless,
avoidable loss of many human lives. 

We call to you, Adonai,
to infuse our souls
with Chesed, Your Love,
so that we really start to cry out
from the pain our nation has endured
for far too long. 

May we be inspired by You
and act to save many, many lives this coming year.
We know that only then
will we be worthy of a world reborn.
Hayom, Today,
we remember Your command to choose life
is not a given in Your broken world
but rather a demand
upon us all.

Hayom, Today,
we sing louder than weapons:
Those who sow in tears,
will reap, will reap in joy.[Psalm 126:5]

God, May we merit to see You
in each other's eyes
and sanctify Your Name
by standing together
by rising up again,
this time rebuilding Your World
by saving each other's.

Amen.

A Jewish Response to the current refugee crisis in Europe

A Jewish Response to the current refugee crisis in Europe
From Ruth Messinger,  President of American Jewish World Service

Dear Colleagues,

As people who work for an organization with a big heart and a powerful commitment to the dignity and rights of every person, we are deeply hurt to witness the terrible suffering of Syrian and other refugees who are being allowed to enter some European countries and kept out of others. The images are too close for comfort to those of many of our ancestors who suffered terribly in Europe just 70 years ago. 

American Jewish World Service (AJWS) is highly skilled at aiding refugees in the developing world, including those fleeing persecution and poverty or being forcefully deported from their homes, much like the Dominicans of Haitian descent in the Dominican Republic and the Rohingya Muslims in Burma. For the current refugee crisis unfolding in Europe, we believe we must rely on others who have expertise working on that continent to respond to this crisis.

As we won’t be raising funds to address this refugee crisis directly, we are asking all of you who receive calls and emails from those who wish to donate to efforts to support refugees in Europe to give to one of the following organizations: 
·         The Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, of which we are a member, is collecting donations and will be making quality grants. This is a trusted coalition, and we can recommend donating to it without hesitation.
·         HIAS, which is also a member of the Jewish Coalition for Disaster Relief, is responding both with aid and a call to action to demand that our government do more to welcome refugees here in the United States.
·         Human Rights Watch, who is working with Syrian Refugees in Central Asia and Europe to document efforts to block access to asylum and deprive asylum seekers of rights to a fair hearing of refugee claims, among other important work.
·         International Medical Corps, who is setting up mobile medical units to provide primary healthcare, treat respiratory infections and provide surgical care to refugees in the region and throughout Europe. 
We believe that encouraging others to donate to these organizations is the most productive and constructive course of action we can recommend.

I thank all of you for providing this counsel to anyone who asks and for caring as much as you do.

In this coming New Year, I wish for a world with no refugees and a safe home for every person on this earth.

Sincerely,
Ruth


Ruth W. Messinger, President
American Jewish World Service
45 West 36th Street, New York NY  10018

Sep 6, 2015

Learning to Pray [a #poem]

Learning to Pray [a #poem
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor 

I had no idea
what any of this held. 
Oh, I've said, recited, taught,
but never understood.
Now I know.

The words are redundant,
I had thought,
melodies exchangeable.
But they're not.
Now I know.

An attuned heart, wounded enough to hear, strong enough to endure - and the raw sounds raw souls produce - all these are essential for opening one's whole self enough for God to find a home. Now I know.

Sep 1, 2015

From @CNSBerkeley: The Men's Shelter Dinner Report


From Netivot Shalom:
The Men's Shelter Dinner Report 
chesed gif   
Men's Shelter Report, August 2, 2015
 
With coaching from Hilla, Dani developed a lovely, new dinner menu:  cilantro-lime rice, homemade baked tortilla chips, burrito bowls, green salad, dessert.  "Burrito bowls, burrito bowls," I muttered while shopping at Smart and Final in San Pablo and at Monterey Market.  What could those be?  Whatever they were, they sure took a lot of fresh vegetables! 
 
With some timely help from residents, I unloaded my little car about 4:30 PM.  There are four prep areas in the Shelter kitchen and by habit and long-time convention they are areas for preparing the entrĂ©e, the salad, the dessert and the drinks.  The food got sorted out onto the appropriate prep area and awaited the arrival of our first shift volunteers.  Yonit headed straight for the salad area 'cause that's her specialty.  A flurry of washing and chopping assorted lettuces, cucumbers, olives, radishes, green onions and in twenty-five minutes or so two large trays of salad were ready.  In the meantime, Dani was orchestrating the grilling of peppers, onions, and zucchini while the rice started bubbling on the stove.  Stacks of corn tortillas were cut-up, brushed very lightly with olive oil, and placed on trays ready for baking.  CJ and Adam helped shred the chicken (thank you Whole Foods Gilman Street for your donation) and cut up the tofu and set them to warming while the black beans began to bubble in their cauldron.  The cantelope was peeled and sliced and placed onto dessert plates along with a "smidgen" or possibly a "scosh" of a yummy garbanzo-based cookie-like sorta-brownie made by Dani, and room on the side for ice cream.  Kobi, Casey, Gina, Sofie, and Noa arrived and helped get the buffet table set up.  Dani's plan was for the men to create their own burrito bowl selecting from rice, beans, cheese, grilled vegetables, chicken or tofu, and salsa followed by salad, tortilla chips, and iced tea.  The guys really liked having a broad choice of what went into their bowl and came back for seconds.  Way, way too much stuff in hand for the men to also pick up dessert so Noa delivered the dessert to each resident.  The personal service and the ice cream was definitely a hit.  While Noa and Kobi helped with ice tea and dessert, Gina and Sofie set up their respective instruments (cello and violin) and began to play.  The emotional temperature of the room settled down.  The men were moved by the beautiful music and the generosity with which it was shared. 
 
In the meantime, the quotidian tasks called out.  Casey graciously answered and was in the kitchen washing and scrubbing a prodigious quantity of pots and pans.  When you see Casey, Kobi, Adam, CJ, Hilla, Yonit, Dani, Gina, Sofie, and Noa be sure to acknowledge and thank them for their contributions. 
 
Along with other organizations and individuals, CNS has committed to providing for, preparing, and serving dinners for the sixty resident men at the Berkeley Men's Shelter.  We do this the first Sunday of every month.  The men count on us and we have come to count on participating in this mitzvah.  You can too!  In fact we'd love it if you would join in the effort.  There are so many tasks involved in putting on the dinner:  planning, shopping, shlepping, chopping, slicing, lifting, scrubbing, peeling, serving, laughing, and, yes, playing musical instruments.  Even donating funds to help support the purchase of food for the dinner is welcome.  Just this month, the folks who organized the Kiddush to honor Milt and Marge donated money towards the Shelter Dinner.