Dec 31, 2014

Resting Atop History [a #poem]

Resting Atop History
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor


Purifying it
from all the accumulated debris,
encoded in souls and scrolls,
hidden deep within.

Dec 30, 2014

Defiant Rugelach [a #poem]

Defiant Rugelach
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I hadn't come back,
more than a decade since
the bomb.

Burned by hate,
baptised by blood and tears,
rebuilt in weeks,
memorial plaque installed in months,
Sbarros became Ma'afeh Ne'eman,
(bakery of faith)
where life and rugelach
are delicious, dammit,
and refuse to stop. 

Echoes of that horrid blast
fill my earseyesheartsoul
as I sit here once again
and defiantly enjoy my pastry.

Dec 23, 2014

J. L. Gordon St: A One-Street Poem

J. L. Gordon St: A One-Street Poem
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I wander.
Just a normal morning walk
past coffee shops and cracked pavement,
pedestrians, dogs, and bicycles.

I lift up my eyes.
"Miklat Tzibori/Public Bomb Shelter"
on a sign over an agency
for handicapped children.

I wonder:
Can any morning walk
under such a reminder
be normal?

I lift up my eyes.
A construction site
for an already-sold out
apartment building,
a crane overhead
bearing its burden.

I wonder:
Has ever before
been dreamt into reality
such a holy tool,
capable of defying
the very ground upon which it stands?

I lift up my eyes.
The ocean,
crashing as it always has,
salt and water, remnants of
all that has ever been
all that is
all that will ever be.

I wander
down still-soft pavement,
remove my shoes,
revel in soft, warm sand,
soak in glorious sunshine,
rejoice at the sounds,
of my children's laughter.

And I know:
We are the cracked pavement,
the salt and the water,
the shelter and the laughter...

Eyes. Always. Lifted. Up.

° menachemcreditor.org

Dec 21, 2014

The Streets of Tel Aviv

The Streets of Tel Aviv © Rabbi Menachem Creditor

The streets of Tel Aviv are so incredibly real. Jewish poets' names on street signs, playgrounds named for righteous gentiles, memorials for a slain leader flanked by a utility cover emblazoned with the name of a Hebrew municipality...

...a mechitza minyan housed in a local high school named for a Russian Yiddish writer (who was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto holding a copy of the Zohar), prayers led by women and gay men, a room filled with brides and grooms and and babies and scholars and melodies from a start-up minyan in New York...

As opposed to Jerusalem, whose very air is pervaded by mythic power, the amazing world of Tel Aviv is real and gritty, grounded and reflective of living Judaism defined by living Jews making day-to-day life.
I'm not sure which is holier any more. 

Dec 18, 2014

A Comment on Justice and Israeli Democracy

A Comment on Justice and Israeli Democracy
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
sparked in conversation with Yehuda Kurtzer

Of course, 'justice' is so very complicated, and democracy is, at  best, people reaching together towards a just, collective future. I defended (and continue to defend) Israel's right to defend itself militarily. I don't claim to know all of the security information the government has.

I also took public positions supporting Israeli investigations into Israel's conduct during the war, and write critically (as I did recently in reaction to Naftali Bennett's NYTimes Op-Ed and in reaction to the proposed Jewish State bill) when Israeli government officials take positions with which I disagree.

In the case of Israel's High Court invalidating Jewish converts' Jewish status based on their subsequent secular lifestyles, I believe the justices, duly appointed, made an unjust decision. Yes, it was reached through due process. But so was the US Supreme Court's terrible recent  decision to gut the Voting Rights Act.

Perhaps this is similar to how some people differentiate between p'shat (exegesis) and drash (eisegesis): 'P'shat is what I say, and drash is what you say,'  meaning: I support (and worry about) Israel's democracy, and don't always agree with what it produces.

° menachemcreditor.org

Dec 17, 2014

Crosswalk Minyan [ a #poem ]

Crosswalk Minyan
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Perched on this porch
God's Name
spelled in leather letters
on my arm and head
I pray with the minyan below
filling streets and crosswalks
driving buses, walking dogs.

To the prayers
their lives comprise
I say Amen.

Sitting at History's Intersection [ a #poem]

Sitting at History's Intersection
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I sit at history's intersection
gazing at my Jewish coffee and croissant,
my meal and I
baked, brewed, served, packaged
by distant sisters and brothers
born of a shared origin
destined to share a collective fate.

I am known fully
only right here,
a corner where the world, for once,
only exists in Hebrew translation.

° menachemcreditor.org

Dec 14, 2014

Black Lives Matter: A Prayer © Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Black Lives Matter: A Prayer
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Inspired by Yehudah Amichai z”l and Rabbi Rachel Barenblat
in memory of Mike Brown z"l, Eric Garner z"l, and many, many others
recited as part of a Pilgrimage of Lament
Berkeley, CA 12/14/14

Dearest God,

We stand before you because we must.

We stand before You because
truths that should be self-evident
are not so evident in our country.

And so we turn to you to breathe
ever more of Your Spirit into us
because we find we cannot breathe,
the arms of armed forces wrapped around our throats
when we call out for justice.

We call to you in defiance of
of a national system that betrays our noble ideals,
where tanks and blood fill our streets,
where every Black man, woman, and child is
twenty times likelier to be killed by police.
We shout to the Heavens with one, unified voice:
Black. Lives. Matter.

We are called by scripture to pray for the day when we will
beat swords into plowshares and study war no more,
when the surplus of war led by greed and deception
will not spill into our streets,
where swords and tanks and rubber bullets and tear gas
will be beaten thinner and thinner,
the iron of hatred vanishing forever. (Amichai)

We pray to you because,
as our prophets have taught us:
human suffering anywhere
concerns men and women everywhere.

We call to you, O God,
because Your Image
was abandoned on rainy concrete for
4 and a half hours.
We call to you, O God,
because Your Spirit
was choked out of a father who
called out 11 times’ “I can’t breathe.”

We raise our hands to you,
knowing that the work is ours to do,
black, white, Jewish, Christian, Muslim,
Hindu, atheist, young, old, gay, straight –
These are your images, battered
By those sworn to protect and serve.

We are all responsible for what happens next.

And so we pray to You,
Source of Life,
raise up our eyes
to see You in each other’s eyes,
to take risks for justice,
to bring through our unified prayer today
more Love and Compassion into the world.

Ignite us to combat the hidden prejudice
which causes police to open fire in fear,
which transforms a child in a hoodie
into a hoodlum, a person into a threat.

We pray today not for calm but for righteousness
to flow like a mighty river, until
peace fills the earth as the waters fill the sea.

Comfort the families of all who grieve.
Strengthen us to work for a world redeemed.

And we say together:

Dec 12, 2014

A Newtown El Malei: Two Years Later

A Newtown El Malei: Two Years Later
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

in memory of Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt - may their memories be a blessing.  

El Malei Rachamim, God, full of compassion, Who inhabits the Heavens, do You find comfort in the divine expanse? We, your children, have found precious little on earth this year.

We've had pure, holy souls torn from us, 26 of whom we remember today, two painful years and nearly 100 school shootings later. Your firmament may now be illuminated by their light, but we do not feel blessing in the increased heavenly glow. They were meant to shine in this world for much, much longer, held by friends and family, teachers, students, nurses... children.20 precious, young children.

Oh, how our hearts continue to break, tears unceasingly flow, as deaths far beyond those 26 have ravaged our nation, multiples of 26 every day. We are all Newtown, Adonai, because Newtown has happened in America every day since.

Today we remember the earth soaked with the blood of 26 slain people amplified by the anguish of tens of thousands more unremembered souls who have died since Dec. 14, 2012. Their names are not recited, nor their deaths adequately felt by their neighbors, their communities, nor their government.

Dear God, Justice feels dreadfully far. Even memory seems near impossible. We so willingly forget, avert our glance, click another link, ignore the consequence of our own neglect.

And that is why we call to You today, God. You alone understand, because You are comprised of all that pain. Holy Tears of loss stream down Your hidden face, which is of necessity Infinite, as our crying - and therefore Yours - is without end.

So we pray to You, Heavenly Mother, Our Father our King, Protector, Peace-bringer, Judge, God of Peace, Comforter, Ruler - we call out to You today using every name we know: PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, take the blinders from our eyes, so that we might learn to cry Your Holy Tears.

Only when we let Your Sacred Pain into our human guts, writhe as it purifies our hearts, and then finally turn our acursed weapons into plowshares with our bare hands, only then will we deserve to have been made in Your Image.

We know that day will only come when we ourselves make our world a place where black children and white children are all remembered by their children and their children's children - after having lived long, blessed lives. When we remember the children behind bars, the children beneath the ground, and see each and every one as the child we are commanded to love. Only then, God... only then.

Adonai, do not bind us by death into Your Eternal Bond of Life. We have far too much living to do first. 

God, grant us the courage, wisdom and endurance to change our world into a safer, saner place, the world You dreamt of, a world where Your Portion is one we extend each other through unending, unfailing, unconditional human concern.


Dec 7, 2014

No Rest for the Righteous

No Rest for the Righteous
A Dvar Torah for AJWS Global Justice Fellows’ Commencement - SF
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

We need only look into the Torah portions we read last week and in the week to come for past echoes of our currently troubled world. We may also find, waiting in our sacred texts, hints of the way forward.

Parshat VaYishlach to parshat VaYeshev, from wrestling matches between men and angels, from gender based violence in the rape of Dinah, to a tentative reconciliation of between warring parts of a family represented by Jacob and Esau… from the transformative encounter of people with the Divine and the degradation of human trafficking when brothers would sell one another for silver coins.

Limping, wrestling… woundedness, vulnerability.

And we remember all this in a current context, here in the United States and in the world, where grassroots activism is so often confronted by corruption and greed, callousness that manifests as a readiness to see “the other” as “less than,” where biblical patriarchy seems to have evolved only somewhat into shows of military force on neighborhood streets and weaponry is wielded to suppress minority groups, where justice is far from realized on a daily basis.

How can we breathe in a world where the words “I can’t breathe” are met by human indifference? How can we transform our world into one in which authority relearns that it must earn the people’s trust, where protest is no longer confused for anarchy and criminality, where extending human rights is actually furthered by those with power?

Let’s call to mind, embed in our hearts, and commit with our bodies the words our limping ancestor Jacob offers his long-estranged brother. Remember that their relationship, which reaches a tentative reconciliation comes after lifetimes of hurt and deceit perpetrated by Jacob at Esau. The Torah might want us to see the stealing of birthright that Jacob commits as desirable, but it is clear from the text that he took it. Esau’s hurt spans decades, and until we see how the reunion goes, it is intense and frightening. It is rooted in a tragic misperception that God’s love and human blessings are of limited quantity. Esau runs toward Jacob, and the brothers fall on each other’s shoulders and weep. Hear what Jacob says. Let’s even imagine saying it to each other, specifically those who look at all different from you.

Ki Al Kein Ra’iti Fanecha Kriot Pnei Elohim vaTirtzeini – for to see your face is like seeing the face of God. (Gen. 33:10)”

To those who might wonder the sincerity of Jacob’s words, remember that he himself stood with God by a heavenly ladder years before and wrestled with God face-to-face in a wrestling match the previous night. He knows what it is to encounter God.

Jacob’s words remind us of our obligation to see the Divine in each and every human face, those that look different, those who we’ve harmed, those who frighten us.

And then we come to opening of this week’s Torah portion, in which we read that “Jacob settled in the land where his ancestors dwelled,” which prompts many questions for commentators, such as why the words “settled (vayeshev)” and “dwelled (megurei)” occur in the same verse. Rashi, the most famous of all commentators, suggests that:

“Jacob has had a hard life. He wished for more stability, to just rest, after all the heavy work of his life. But that’s not how it is for righteous people, for people who pursue justice. It is enough that they catch a glimpse of the world to come. There is no rest for the righteous.” (adapted)

Our AJWS San Francisco Global Justice Fellow Global know this lesson well, and are bringing this message wherever they go, amplified by this extraordinary experience which we celebrate today.

And so, in their honor, and in solidarity with the many images of God around our fragile planet who we call to mind as our teachers and partners in the holy work of Tikkun Olam, healing the world, we pray:

Nishmat Kol Chai – Soul of All that Lives,

Remind us to use our voices, our means, our bodies in service of the world.

Open our eyes to see You in every human being. Open our hearts to remember that dignity is not ours to grant but to recognize.

May we be worthy of the work ahead, knowing that our commitment to Tzedek, to Justice, means that we will never truly feel settled, and that unsettledness is a sacred state of being we are called to embrace, as we limp forward into a more hopeful future.

Please, God,

·        help us figure out where to look. It's hard to know where not to look when so many people are suffering in so many places. Help us realize that it is Your Breath that feels so tight in our lungs when the world writhes.
·        give us the strength to keep feeling alive in our souls. Empathy can be exhausting, and we can feel shut down by the weight of the world, a burden we are blessed to share.
·        Remind us of our holy power to feel fiercely and act in solidarity with every one of Your infinite human reflections, locally and globally.

May we be part of a world reborn, where human rights are realized and poverty is forgotten.

And, as Mahatma Ghandi himself once prayed, we ask You, O God,

“…abode of happiness and peace, ocean of mercy, friend of the poor, destroyer of the pangs of want, everlasting, whole, unending, beginningless, perfect, ancient of days, refuge of people, beloved of the heart, and guardian and mainstay of life, grant us peace in our time.”


Dec 1, 2014

This Year in Jerusalem!

This Year in Jerusalem!
open to Netivot Shalom members and others!

9 Kislev, 5775
December 1, 2014
Dear Chevreh,

I am just thrilled invite you to join me on a trip to Israel this June! 

The Netivot Shalom Israel Trip, open to CNS members and others, will be a powerful experience, with the opportunity learn more about life in Israel, visit sacred sites, meet with peace-makers and security experts, to make new and closer friends, and to breathe in the reality that is Israel, something much deeper and far richer than headlines and classes can convey.

We have done everything in our power to make the trip as affordable as possible, and richer as an experience than many. Please click the link on the left for the itinerary, costs, and registration. So far, 11 people have signed up, and we're looking to complete the registration process as soon as possible, so as prepare for the trip as a group during the months ahead.

If I can be of help to you as you consider participating in this magnificent opportunity, please let me know. Daniel in the Netivot Shalom office will be available to help us find a time to connect in person or via phone/skype - his email is office@netivotshalom.org.

As those who have journeyed to Israel can attest, this experience of a lifetime is one we get to share in our homeland, and when we return. I hope to share it with you.

This Year in Jerusalem!rabbi creditor
Rabbi Creditor

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org
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Nov 24, 2014

Davening in a Grove (#poem)

Davening in a Grove
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor
inspired by Rabbi Arthur Green

davening in a grove
trees and souls reaching
up and in
for light, for love

all of being
One now many
remembering our shared origins

in this paradise of a grove
it's hard to remember
which way is East

Nov 20, 2014

A Comment on President Obama's Executive Actions on Immigration

A Comment on President Obama's Executive Actions on Immigration
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I've held back from publicly voicing my assessment of the President, but (from my distant perspective) his executive performance has seemed so inconsistent. I have never wavered in my respect for the office, nor my personal admiration for his obvious noble spirit. Tonight, by publicly airing that nobility on behalf of immigrants (among whom, in recent American history, all of my ancestors would have been counted); by acknowledging the broken-ness of our political parties; by taking responsible executive action (and by testing those encoded limits for all the right reasons) - for all of these reasons, he re-became the President I voted for.

(To those for whom every issue is one issue, I'll add: I remain concerned about our administration's apparent readiness to negotiate with Iran. Nuclear capacity is an obvious existential threat to Israel. I take the Israeli government at their word that we will act if necessary and the American government's public declarations that Israel is inherently empowered to act in its own interests for the security of its citizens. The necessity of adding this demonstrates the complicated dance of progressive American citizens who are Zionists. But, since I've wandered into this topic, I'll meander back by pointing out that international terrorism - very real in Israeli and in America, and too long conflated with illegal immigration to the United States - is not always part of a society's internal process. In other words: A progressive Israel and a progressive American likely agree that terrorism is a bad thing and that treating hopeful citizens with dignity is a good thing.)

More than 1,000 clergy urge Congress to pass the VRAA!!!

Dear Chevreh,

I am thrilled to share with you the final copy of the interfaith clergy letter in support of the Voting Rights Amendment Act, which was coordinated by Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice signed by more than 1,000 faith leaders from all 50 states and DC and more than two dozen religious denominations

I ask you to please consider sharing this email (and the social media links below) with your networks. This morning, we shared the letter with every Congressional office and, to amplify the faith leaders’ voices, Bend the Arc has placed a full page ad about the letter today in Roll Call which you can view here. Roll Call also picked up an op-ed I was humbled to co-create with Bend the Arc CEO Stosh Cotler, which you can read here: “After a Rainstorm of Voter Disenfranchisement in 2014, Congress Must Restore the Voting Rights Act”

The letter is attached and is also available alongside the ad and op-ed here: www.bendthearc.us/clergyforthevote

We hope you will share the letter, ad and/or op-ed far and wide—to that end, here are some sample tweets:
1000+ faith leaders from 2 dozen religious denominations,all 50 states & DC write Congress in support of a #VRA4Today http://goo.gl/bdHnem

1000+ clergy to Congress in @rollcall ad: When someone is denied their vote, they are denied their voice  #VRA4Today http://goo.gl/bdHnem

“After a Rainstorm of Voter Disenfranchisement in 2014, Congress Must Restore the Voting Rights Act” #VRA4Today http://goo.gl/bdHnem

Thanks again, friends. This has been a dark week - let's bring some light into the world.

Kol tuv,

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com!

Nov 18, 2014

hoping in between sobs [#poem]

hoping in between sobs [#poem]
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

crying singing.
hands on the eastern wall of my shul,
touching every shul,
images of bloody tallitot haunt me
as I teach hatikvah to
a new generation of
irrational hopeful Jews
(just don't let them see me cry)
begging the cosmos for peace,
knowing it's irrational
demanding it anyway
(in between sobs, of course)

Nov 13, 2014

Sunday Morning at 10am: “What's Really Happening On (and Under) the Ground in Jerusalem?”

“What's Really Happening
On (and Under) the Ground in Jerusalem?”

Sunday Morning (Nov. 16) 10am
Congregation Netivot Shalom Sanctuary
1316 University Ave, Berkeley, CA
Free and Open to the Public 

CNS Scholar-InResidence Jared Goldfarb will deliver his final talk at Netivot Shalom, entitled “What's Really Happening On (and Under) the Ground in Jerusalem?” Explore the politics of archaeology with one of Jerusalem's most experienced and sought-after guides. Discuss what is involved in exploring the many-layered past of the holy city.

Nov 10, 2014

a quiet minyan [#poem]

a quiet minyan
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

power quietly coursing
through this quiet minyan
suddenly I am aware

wind itself a whisper
loss and life and love
all mixed in fragrant air

nowhere else calls
for in this fleeting moment
everywhere, everything, everyone
is right here

° menachemcreditor.org

Nov 1, 2014

go [ #poem ]

© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

knowing not
what is next
nor what is now
nor what really ever was


from your place,
from your familiar,
from your known,
from your very heart


to yourself,
that might be

Oct 29, 2014

IMPORTANT: Holiday Food Drive

Dear Friends,

Each year, we have participated in the Alameda County Community Food Bank Holiday Food Drive, stuffing envelopes in order to provide healthy food and hope to families facing hunger during the holiday season. Last year we raised over $5,000. We aim to at least match that communal gift this year to the ACCFB. (We're saving the cost of postage, hoping this email campaign will accomplish the same or more good for less.)

1 in 5 Alameda County residents now receives help from Alameda County Community Food Bank (up from 1 in 6 in 2010). And while donating non-perishable goods into the barrels is a good gesture, the ACCFB can stretch every $1 you donate into $6 worth of food, accomplishing far more for less. And so this is how we are asking you to make your urgently-needed gift this year. Please click on this link: accfb.org/dinner, SELECT "NETIVOT SHALOM," and make a gift. $35 feeds 8 people, $50 feeds 12, and $75 feeds 18. Please fulfill our Jewish mandate to be engaged positively in the world. Hunger is a reality we face, there is something we can do about that, and therefore we must.

Please click here to do your part to end hunger in our community: accfb.org/dinner.

Kol Tuv,
Rabbi Creditor 

Oct 13, 2014

Ferguson is not Gaza

Ferguson is not Gaza
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

dedicated in love and awe to Pastor Michael McBride and Rabbi Susan Talve

Ferguson is not Gaza.

The conflation of Palestinian suffering with racism against African Americans is inaccurate and offensive. One dare not compare the suffering of Gazans with African Americans, lest we forget that, through self-determination, the Palestinian residents of Gaza elected Hamas, a murderous group bent on Israel's destruction, as their leaders. Hamas chose to use resources designated for construction to instead burrow under Israel with the intent to murder Jews.

To compare the plight of the Palestinians, whose leaders in Gaza have robbed them of dignity, with African Americans, whose leaders are channeling deep and righteous historic indignation into constructive demands for dignity and liberation is worse than wrong - it is an insult. Furthermore, it ignores the moral responsibility Hamas bears for subjugating 1.8 million Palestinians in Gaza to their murderous mission.

Palestinians should learn from the non-violent protests taking place in Ferguson. Were Palestinian liberation efforts to utilize non-violence, there would be no effective barrier stopping a Palestinian State from being created side by side with Israel as its supportive Jewish neighbor in the very near future.

The racism embedded in American society is an unholy affront to black and brown and white (etc...) people. So too does the sin of terrorism deny Palestinians from leading themselves to national self-determination and human dignity. The notion that Israel has the obligation to not react when assaulted is a perversion of the Christian principle of "turning the other cheek." So too is the notion that Palestinians are victims of Israeli racism a moral mistake and an erasure of the moral consequences for their own actions.

Justice demands that we hear the cries of the blood of our sisters and brothers that has saturated earth and pavement, near and far. To hear their cries is to be called to respond, and our broken hearts have known enough pain to realize that the paths forward demand careful thinking, brave action, and indefatigable moral sensibility. Every human being is created in the image of God, but no two people's or People's stories are the same, and therefore no two situations are the same. Our unique identities and narratives contain the basis of our own much-needed redemption songs. Jews cannot claim to "know" the plight of African Americans, despite the wedded-ness of our own liberation story from Egypt. We stand together, but we know that our interwoven lives require a recognition of independent dignity. So too must Palestinians claim their own way forward, perhaps gleaning from the current moment in Ferguson (and Hong Kong) alternatives to violence.

Mike Brown's martyrdom was not the result of an act of terrorism and Ferguson's liberation from racism is not Gaza's road to peace.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org netivotshalom.org
To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com!

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