Dec 30, 2020

#RecitingTheLetterFromBirmingham - You're invited!

Friends,


You're invited to join a special effort. Here's the basic info: at 1pm Eastern on MLK Day, individuals, families, and communities will all go "live" on whatever social media platform they choose and recite the letter, either in part or the whole thing. this isn't a class about The Letter - it's ritualizing Dr King's words as we do the Scroll of Esther or Lamentations. Most important for eventually linking all the different recitations is the use of the hashtag #RecitingTheLetterFromBirmingham.

You're invited to join the group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/871268763702932

Here is the "about" for the group, framing the ritual. I'm also pasting at the bottom of this post the 28 graphics of the entire Letter created for optional sharing on social media as part of your individual recitation.

Blessings, and as Dr. King challenged us, may we be infused by the "light of human conscience" in our work in and for the world.

Love,
Menachem

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On April 16, 1963, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote his famous "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," which was addressed to Birmingham's local white clergy, including at least one rabbi, who had been critical of King's organizing tactics. The Letter, now an important part of American Scripture, passionately expressed King's visions of a just society and contained the now-ubiquitous verse, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

The Jewish community marks time through ritual. On the Ninth of Av (and Purim, Yom Kippur, Shavuot and Pesach), we recite from biblical scrolls that capture the emotions and historical consciousness of a specific moment. In 2003, an attempt to do the same for the Holocaust resulted in the new Shoah Scroll. So too has there been effort to include Israel's Declaration of Independence as a sixth scroll in the Jewish canon. In an American context, approaches like that of Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (Reconstructionist), Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (Reform) to Jewishly sanctify American moments are joined by the more recent efforts by Rabbi Irwin Kula and Dr. Vanessa Ochs to sanctify everyday moments.

Given a renewal of Jewish attention to the ongoing work of Civil Rights, many Jewish leaders will "go live" on social media this Martin Luther King Jr Day at 1pm (Eastern) to recite portions of The Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Families can read together, schools and organizations can create multi-person Zoom meetings to be streamed live, and individuals can read portions on their own. And, while this will be a grassroots effort without requiring a centralized producer, please use the hashtag #RecitingTheLetterFromBirmingham for future searches. In addition, a Facebook group "Reciting the Letter from a Birmingham Jail" has already been created as a repository for locating and resharing all the created videos.

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Broadcast #200! #Shehechiyanu

As I shared in today's 200th (!!!) broadcast, the Talmud teaches that "Just as fire does not ignite in a lone stick of wood by itself, so too, matters of Torah are not fulfillable by a person who studies by herself. (Taanit 7a)" We are Torah together, and the world we seek to build from love is only going to happen when we show up together. And for 200 weekday mornings in a row at 9am, people from around the world have shown up to create a Morning Torah community on the UJA-Federation of New York Facebook page. Thanks to the miracles of technology, people have joined in from Saudia Arabia, Holland, England, Canada, Israel, from California and Illinois, Florida - even New York. I've been overwhelmed many moments, brought to tears, witnessing and sharing my heart with so many loving souls. 


I especially want to thank my UJA colleagues and family for supporting this idea from its early beginnings a million years ago in March, when the idea of a live broadcast was a new experiment. Mark & Eric, thank you for your trust and love.

Thank you to my holy wife Neshama, for being the home for my heart as I broadcast daily from my heart in our home. Thank you to my precious Abbah, Rabbi Gary Creditor, and my precious Emah, Ruby Eisenberg-Creditor, for showing up on my screen so many mornings. Thank you to the thousands of friends, new and old, who join us to create a more hopeful day, every day. 

And thank You, Holy One, for the gift of today. We know You are calling us to do better right now, better than we've been doing for each other so far. We're in. This world must be (re)built by Love. Our love. We're ready.

Dec 26, 2020

With Eyes and Souls Wide Open: A Rabbinic Comment on "Soul"

With Eyes and Souls Wide Open: A Rabbinic Comment on "Soul"
Rabbi Menachem Creditor

It is possible, especially during these strange times, to feel dislocated from life itself. Too much screen-time. Too little touch. Too much news. As the poet William Wordsworth once put it: "The world is too much with us; late and soon..."

But what would it feel like to share a bagel or receive a lollipop? How would it feel to catch a twirling leaf or to allow rushing gusts of air from a subway grating make the edges of your clothing dance? To gather once again with friends, noticing the shapes of their unmasked mouths as you share your hearts? To taste something delicious and delight in its flavor? To close your eyes and receive the sun's ample light?

If you're looking for a deep, artful reminder of personal meaning (I was), and are ready to appreciate a truly dazzling portrayal of (re)discovery of life itself, Disney/Pixar's newest offering, "Soul," will be a gift you'll be glad you gave yourself. It might even wake your soul up again.

As the great wisdom teacher Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught us, it is not simply the beauty of a thing that inspires; it is also (and most importantly) the experience of the beauty:


“Radical amazement has a wider scope than any other act of man. While any act of perception or cognition has as its object a selected segment of reality, radical amazement refers to all of reality; not only to what we see, but also to the very act of seeing as well as to our own selves, to the selves that see and are amazed at their ability to see.” (Heschel)

What is it to see the sky so intently that you cry? To reach your hands to the person on the screen before you and truly feel their hands reaching out in response? To tend to a world in need with a broken and determined heart? What is it to remember to look up from the headlines and feel the sun on your cheek? It is to be alive.

Has there ever been a better time to reflect on these questions? Better: Is it ever the wrong time to ask?

Who knows what possibilities might present themselves when you next open your door? With eyes and souls wide open to what lies ahead, let’s feel deeply, reach to each other with intention, and live more fiercely than ever.

Dec 1, 2020

Three years ago today, I flew from California to New York to interview to become the Rabbi and Scholar in Residence for UJA-Federation of New York. Three years later, I am still overwhelmed by the privilege of serving our holy community in this way. May we be blessed to come together and do untold good for others. Today is #GivingTuesday. Please consider supporting this vital work by making a gift to support our work in the world: https://www.ujafedny.org/givingtuesday

 Three years ago today, I flew from California to New York to interview to become the Rabbi and Scholar in Residence for UJA-Federation of New York. Three years later, I am still overwhelmed by the privilege of serving our holy community in this way. May we be blessed to come together and do untold good for others. Today is #GivingTuesday. Please consider supporting this vital work by making a gift to support our work in the world: https://www.ujafedny.org/givingtuesday