Jul 19, 2016

Our Blood is the Same - Be part of the Interfaith Blood Drive! July 21

Our Blood is the Same

We'd like to echo the beautiful message that Pastor Tanisha Walton, from The Way Christian Center, shared with us on Shabbat morning at shul: 
"We are in the midst of troubling times in our country and in the world. What better response is there than to unite together as people from different faiths and backgrounds? And beyond this, to donate blood together - after all, underneath this skin, we are all the same. Please join us.
Join us in the important mitzvah of donating blood on Thursday, July 21, from 12-6pm, in the Netivot Shalom social hall.
We are happy to co-sponsor this blood drive with our friends at The Way Christian Center and Pacifica Institute as part of Red Cross Interfaith Month.
There are 2 ways to help:
1. Donate blood: Sign up to donate blood at www.redcrossblood.org (use code CNS) or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Walk-ins are welcome, but appointments will be honored first, so we encourage you to sign up ahead of time. For anonymous eligibility questions, please call 1-866-236-3276.
2. Volunteer: We would also very much appreciate volunteers to help us set up, greet, and manage the canteen - sign up at www.signupgenius.com/go/4090b4fa5ac292-interfaith  
Some notes about the blood drive:
  • Please do not park at a meter, in case your blood donation takes longer than expected. Instead, park in the neighborhoods behind Netivot Shalom or The Way.
  • If you'd like to expedite the blood donation process, on the day of your appointment, fill out Rapid Pass: http://www.redcrossblood.org/rapidpass 
  • We recognize that the Red Cross currently has a discriminatory policy that imposes restrictions on gay and bisexual men wishing to donate blood that do not apply to others, and we disagree with this policy. We participate in this blood drive because the current need is great, but we do so with the hope that one day no one will face discriminatory exclusion from participating in this important mitzvah.
Questions? E-mail Hilla Abel at socialaction@netivotshalom.org.
Congregation Netivot Shalom
1316 University Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94702
510.549.9447 ext. 104

Jul 18, 2016

No Room for Hatred in America

No Room for Hatred in America
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

There will come a moment for reconciliation, but this is a moment for harsh clarity. Harsh clarity, and action.

Pastor Mark Burns gave the benediction at the #RNC tonight. There was no room for a Jew in his America, no room for a Muslim in his America, no room for an Atheist in his America. Perhaps there isn't even room for many Christians in his America. There is, in fact, No America in his America.

Melania Trump spoke at the RNC today. She outright stole Michelle Obama's speech about her husband from 8 years ago. Furthermore, as Shaun King put it so well: "What's wild is that this came on the same night where Republican Congressman Steve King said he couldn't think of any great parts of civilization created by people of color. Here we have a white woman stealing something great from a Black woman." This is worse than irony. This is theft.

There is endorsed homophobia within the GOP Platform at the RNC, and imagery generated by White Supremacists at the RNC. I'm not sure how the Republicans have allowed this to happen, and what they hope might be the future of the GOP, but those questions will have to wait. We do need a conservative voice for a robust democracy. Stephen Colbert did a great service to America today by hijacking the microphone at the RNC and responding to Trump in the most appropriate way: clownish parody.

Today, as a patriotic American Jew, I am committing to doing everything I can to not cede my country to a magnet for all this wrongness. For those who will see my active support for Hillary Clinton as partisan, I ask you to watch the video linked below. Consider how one certain Galilean Rabbi would respond to the hatred being given American airtime. And act accordingly.


Jul 17, 2016

Committed to Home: Reflections from Israel: 5 Years, 2 Years, and 1 Year Ago Today - And Today

Committed to Home: Reflections from Israel: 5 Years, 2 Years, and 1 Year Ago Today - And Today
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I. Five Years Ago

just entered yad vashem's valley of the communities, saw my ancestral community (moldova) listed, and I'm lost.  where/when is here?

staring at a boxcar with suddenly, intentionally stopped tracks that today point to (and, oy, would that they had led to) the forests of jerusalem.  no words... my heart is devastated once again.

a grandson, a dear soul, spoke of his grandparents' legacy as partizans from vilna.  when we recited the el maleh (prayer for memory), we added the words "those who fought" to the passive "those who were murdered." moved, afraid, and pulled by the commitment to act, and what must continue to mean for Jews today.

the irony (and tactile education) at yad vashem of being forced to wait in lines to watch footage of jews waiting in drastically different kinds of lines as I pass guided tours in hebrew, english, german, spanish by teen-aged guides to thousands of visitors. how can memory be translated? shared? preserved?

the transition from watching ethopian israeli soldiers training at yad vashem to visiting the fallen at har herzl cemetery is so hard to bridge.  leadership, sacrifice, and the unity of the Jewish People in the face of national trauma?  what would herzl say of israel today?  what internal/external nation-building remains?

returning from extra-ordinary home hospitality in tekoa.  troubled beyond words, trying to reconcile human warmth and the (unfathomable yet "understandable") readiness to dehumanize another type of person, based on years of violence and psychological trauma.  but isn't that the case on every side?

II. Two Years Ago

Felt the heartbeat of the stones. Delivered notes from my students. Promised I'd be back soon.

Regarding the necessity to respond militarily to Hamas' relentless attacks on Israeli civilians: The need for such horrible things is the deepest tragedy. If Hamas weren't sending a barrage of missiles into every part of Israel, there would be no "knocking on anyone's roofs" in advance of returning fire (an incredibly humane act by the IDF in the context of terrorism, which never warns in advance). Reality is never simple, but it is sometimes horrifying clear.

A Prayer for Right Now: Dear God, Source of Life, May every human being on earth live without fear. May my family be safe tonight. May both prayers, O God, be fulfilled in the same moment, a moment that lasts for all eternity. Amen.

Clinging to hope, crying and trying not to lose my grip from the wetness of all our tears. May we see glimmers of hope here, there, and beyond any borders, soon and in our days. Amen.

I pray to the Oneness that Binds Creation to itself, and name that Oneness "God." There are infinite names for that Force that leads the world through Love. Sharing the Name for that Oneness is a delight, and no claim borne of Love lessens my experience of the One whose Name is Love.

III. One Year Ago

With Women of the Wall: Haredim yelling curses at us at the start of the month when we mourn the destruction of the temple - for gratuitous hatred. Irony? We don't need internal enemies, we'll just self destruct as a people.

More #AIPAC #RabbisInIsrael experiences than I can name in these scant pre-Shabbes moments. Two images demonstrate the diverse and passionate ideas and people we are meeting. In the last 2 hours we met with Dani Dayan, immediate past chair of the YESHA Council and Yariv Oppenheimer, General Director of Peace Now. Dizzying, and demanding demonstrations of the dignity of difference. #MyZionism

IV: Today

Flying home from home, feeling the weight of history, the despair of history, the power of history. Reeling from testimony from inspiring Jewish and Arab thought leaders, exhausted by non-stop learning, grateful for a stunning Shabbat in Jerusalem. Hearing the wisdom of rabbis and Israeli LGBTQ leaders, Palestinian visionary builders, respectful Knesset opponents, civil rights activists...

Just heard that hours after I took leave from my colleagues, a terrorist was stopped in Jerusalem before being able to murder with a bomb. On the same block they shared a falafel and delightful Saturday night together.

Just days ago, I promised the Western Wall stone I've now visited 28 times, a stone whose devotees include those who don't call me rabbi, that I'm coming home again soon.

Heart in the East, body heading West, committed to hope, committed to my Home.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
menachemcreditor.org ▶netivotshalom.org

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Jul 14, 2016

Red Flow #poem

Red Flow
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Sacred Blue and Bloody Red,
Divine flow captured
in earthly art.
But today,
Heaven feels so very far away,
so very far. Again. So far.

Our determination to save lives
so beset, so often.
Red over Blue.

Nice, Baton Rouge, Dallas, Minneapolis, Oakland, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Orlando, Chicago,
black, white, Arab, Jew, American, Muslim, Gay, Straight...

Has Heaven always been so far? Has it always been this way? How can we talk, breathe, dream, parent... live when the world is in such pain? How do we endure? Where is God today?

Might and Mercy,
Compassion and Judgment,
Splendor, and Foundation...
aspects, masks of the Divine,
tensions of a cosmic system,
manifest in this dimension...

Red and blue. Red.


Maybe it's always been this way...
Maybe it used to be more hidden,
The madness of God's universe,
Divine images erasing each other
red, red, red...

Once upon a time,
this secret knowledge was
reserved for the few,
the burden of knowing what was real
carefully transmitted.

Now we all know what is real,
God's Red Flow visible to everyone.

The task? Keep your crying eyes open, see God's Face everywhere, sense God's Red Flow hidden deep within in every person, be God's Aching Heart in the world.

Grief now. Action now. Cultivate Hope. Love each other.

Emphasize Mercy, Compassion, Splendor. Render judgment on violence. Be mighty for, not at, one another.

We will see tomorrow.

#poetry #poetcommunity #life #inspiration #poem #mourning
#grief #comfort #chagall #marcchagall #kabbalah #god #mystic #nice #bastilleday

Jul 12, 2016

Jerusalem at 6am #poem

Jerusalem at 6am
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

I. The Cyclist of King David St.

Thinning, cropped hair,
dark skin over Eastern European features,
he passes me by,
rolling downhill,
inscrutable expression on his face.

Is it my tallis and tefillin bag? My American sandals? Perhaps it's that he noticed me noticing him.

Maybe he's just a man enjoying his morning ride, and being in Israel fills my eyes with Jewish meaning.

II. Davening in a Secret Garden

Definitely not pink.
Glowing, growing all around.

Strings from my tallis
dangle and sway,
suspended over newly-placed
Jerusalem stone.

I choose to daven
just yards from the Old City.
It's more colorful here.

III. Almost Home
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Almost there, I tell myself.
Just over that next hill,
and I'll be home,
safe and sound.

Walking is good, I tell myself.
Wandering is exploring,
the chance to take in new surroundings,
learn, adapt, and respond.

I'm so busy convincing myself the road ahead is clear and safe, I trip over a rusty metal plate in the sidewalk, reminding me where to place any bomb I might see.

Jul 1, 2016

A Note from Camp Ramah, a Heart in Israel

from Rabbi Creditor:
A Note from Camp Ramah, a Heart in Israel

July 1, 2016 | 25 Sivan, 5766
Dear Chevreh, 

I stand on the beach, surrounded by children and staff of Camp Ramah. We all sway tothe rhythm of our singing and the ocean waves, just yards away. The havdallah candles placed in the sand reflect the joy in our eyes, the smell of the spices mix with the sweet smell of the ocean... I have spent the last two weeks in heaven, as part of our brand new Camp Ramah in Northern California. We have created nothing short of a miracle here. Outdoor adventures, ocean explorations, and performing arts, each track of this new camp meeting each child right where they are, lifting their souls ever higher.

I've been part of Ramah for the last 27 years. The traditions of this transformational camping movement, born from the vision of Conservative/Masorti Judaism,  are in my blood. And so, this summer I brought deep
Seven Rabbis celebrate Ramah NorCal_
Seven Rabbis celebrate Ramah NorCal
 expectations -  and my own children - to Ramah NorCal, the new jewel in the Bay Area Jewish community. I am thrilled to report that every expectation has been more than exceeded. I am so very inspired by what I've witnessed here. And, as rabbi of Netivot Shalom, I look forward to our partners at Ramah bringing the magic of the summer to our shul community in the coming year.

I also write to name the hard moment our sisters and brothers in Israel - and we all - are in. Just moments ago, a rocket fired from Gaza landed on a kindergarten in Sderot. (Thank God, the classroom was empty for Shabbat.) Just this afternoon, there was a shooting attack on a family driving home for Shabbat, and the father, Micky Mark z'l, was killed. He was 48. Just yesterday, Hallel Yaffa Ariel z'l, was stabbed repeatedly to death by a Palestinian terrorist while asleep in her bed at home. As the New Israel Fund's response made clear: "There is never an excuse for any murder." As our teacher, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, wrote: "It doesn't matter now what I think about the settlement in Kiryat Arba. Murdering a 13 year old girl who was celebrating summer by sleeping late is evil." 

How can I share the rapture of my first two paragraphs and the horrors of my third? How can I not? It's all true, and we haven't even mentioned the terrorist attack in Turkey, where our Muslim sisters and brothers in the Pacifica Institute community, with whom we just shared a holy Iftar. Please reach out to our Muslim friends with your thoughts. Annual events aren't enough. We must build real relationships if we are to make real our professed values.

Chevreh, there is so much happening. And the truth is: there will always be. I'm both gratefully recharging while away from shul and also missing the energy and rhythm of our shul's communal life. We celebrate our children's glee and mourn our lost sisters and brothers. It's all true. 

All this is to say: the heaven of Ramah is a gift of sacred space, of deeper breathing, of loving Israel, of making new friends - a place where the values of Netivot Shalom are nurtured with passion and love. Our fragile world needs much more - much more - of these blessings. So, as Shabbat begins in a few hours, I pray that we soak in all the strength and beauty we can, so that we might share them in return with the world we call home.

May this Shabbat bring comfort and healing to our sisters and brothers - namely, all people. May our children inherit a better world, thanks to the actions we commit to take. May our laughter outpace our tears.

rabbi creditor
Shabbat Shalom! 

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
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