Feb 1, 2013

A Purposeful Beloved Community

A Note from Rabbi Creditor
A Purposeful Beloved Community
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A Purim Rhyme
Authored by Rena Dorph 
Illustrated by the Children of Netivot Shalom Preschool 

Purim is one of the most fun holidays on the Jewish calendar! Rena Dorph wrote this rhyming book at her daughter's request so that they could share the story of Purim with her Kindergarten class at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley. 
Copies will be available in the CNS office and on Amazon in 5-7 days! Click on this link to purchase the first copies through the createspace store!
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21 Shevat, 5773
Feb. 1, 2013

Dear Chevreh,

There is just too much to share. But here's a brief attempt to point to the purposefulness I believe our shul has the capacity to truly face, and a reminder that our participation can build that
capacity by drawing on the strengths, skills, and passions of our members.

I begin with gratitude. During the Berkeley MLK Breakfast last week, 

A lifetime achievement award went to Reverend Dr. Marvis Peoples of Berkeley's Liberty Hill Baptist Church, who was described by Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center as "a consistent voice of justice and integrity." The Rev. Peoples stressed that there was still much to be done to cure society's ills. "The fight has just begun. There are too many kids on the street being destroyed. Too many going uneducated. We must stand on each other's shoulders and fight to get things done." (Berkeleyside, Jan. 22)

When Reverend Peoples accepted the award, he began by thanking his church for empowering him to do what we has done over the decades of his career. I wish, at this earlier stage in mine, to do the same. Thank you to all of Netivot Shalom, Board, Staff, and members, for being the kind of community that sees the kind of Rabbinic Activism in which I'm engaged as part of the role we serve in the world, local and beyond. 
Without our community's support and friendship, I know I'd never have the strength to participate in gatherings like the PICO Network "Lifelines to Healing Campaign" this past Monday and Tuesday, at which 80 clergy of every stripe, faith, and flavor gathered at the White House to "Heal the Soul of American from Gun Violence." I was humbled to present "A Prophetic Response to Gun Violence" and then to read our collective statement at the White House and at the Press Conference later on Tuesday.

The journey to DC was a combination of inspiring and frustrating, as the path towards actually addressing Gun Violence in our country, which takes 30,000 lives each year - that's 33 gun violence deaths in the US per day - is one with deep pockets fighting to retain staggering profits at severe human costs. It is Newtown every day in Urban America, and even if we, as a shul remember the permeability of our sacred sanctuary walls, we still feel a world away from East Oakland, where a 7-year old was shot the very morning I was in the capital. But many of us are connected with Albany High School, where three students were shot last Thursday for their shoes. 

The truth is that, in a room of 80 clergy, 10 of us were white, and 9 of the 10 white clergy were rabbis. And only one rabbi had a personal story related to Gun Violence. I believe we have a lot of work to do, bridges to build, so that we can regain the social contract Jews once had in our society. Why did it take Newtown for something to (possibly) change? Because suburban America felt something akin to Urban America's daily reality. 

There is much work ahead. The world and this country are not going to change quickly. But we are a shul that believes in the power of people to improve community. Please stay tuned and stand ready for when we discover opportunities for engagement to heal our community. Some of them will take place within the sanctum of our shul's building, and the more important ones will demand we take a less comfortable "leap of action," as Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel z"l called it.  

This Shabbat is Parashat Yitro - the Shabbat of the Revelation at Sinai. It is a Torah Portion named for a non-Israelite Prophet. We received the Torah within a network of wisdom that stretches beyond the internal conversation of the Jewish People. We might, if we remain true to that open, shared, holy interfaith interactivity dedicated to bringing more justice into the world, achieve what Martin Luther King Jr. called "the beloved community," Dr. King reminded us,

"Our goal is to create a beloved community and this will require a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives."

May we be that brave. 
May every person be that blessed.
May the world experience less pain very, very soon.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Creditor