Blessed are You, LORD, our God, Sovereign of the Universe, knower of secrets.
The Talmud explains that this blessing recognizes the diversity of humanity and God’s understanding of what is in the heart of each and every person. I was reminded of this blessing so many times this week.
There were two interfaith events this week prior to Thanksgiving. First, I had the opportunity to participate in a beautiful interfaith Thanksgiving Service with a number of the local Jewish and Christian clergy this past Wednesday evening. The service was hosted at St. John’s Episcopal Church and included singing, wisdom, and prayers. I was so glad that our local communities came together to recognize the universality of Thanksgiving and many of our shared traditions. See below for the video of the Thanksgiving Petitional Prayer I offered on Wednesday. The prayer recognizes both the blessings and challenges of this holiday season, so I hope you will take a few minutes to watch and that it will contribute to making your Thanksgiving season meaningful.
Then on Thursday, I had the great pleasure of sharing a sacred morning with over 400 individuals at the AJC Interfaith Breakfast. It was an amazing morning with terrific honorees—each one had a story more inspiring than the next. The highlight was the keynote talk delivered by our own Rabbi Segelman. He was both wise and inspiring. He defined spiritual maturity as the recognition that you don’t have to be wrong for me to be right and explained how through harnessing and loving our own faiths we can learn to love the other. Judging by the riveted stares and agreeing nods he was receiving from the audience, he was a hit!
And it wasn’t just faith diversity I was encountering this week. On Tuesday the organization KESHET, which works for the full equality of all LGBTQ Jews and their families in Jewish life, did a training with our staff. The trainer, Dubbs Weinblatt whose pronouns are they/them/their, taught us all about how to approach gender and sexuality with more sensitivity and understanding. My pronouns are he/him/his, by the way; I mention it not to be glib, but because Dubbs helped us realize that if only non-binary and trans people identify their pronouns, they are already being made to feel different from the start. There is so much to learn about how to be welcoming and inclusive of all kinds of people looking to connect with God and our faith in an authentic, real way. The training was great and we will certainly continue the efforts.
One opportunity to continue is to learn with our guest teacher this Shabbat, Noam Sienna. Noam will be teaching on Friday evening after the Rhythm & Ruach service and will deliver the talk on Saturday morning. He is a leading scholar on issues of gender and sexuality in Judaism. There is no doubt that his talks will be interesting, provocative and sometimes challenging. One of the great things about our congregation is our love of learning and our willingness to have our boundaries pushed and tested. I hope you will join us for Noam’s talks and as we continue to explore how we as a community can best serve and include all Jewish people who come through our doors.
The mincha/ma’ariv service this week will be a special learning opportunity with our Hebrew School 5th and 6th-grade classes, and the learning is open to all. We’ll have another opportunity to learn together on Saturday night at the Night of Jewish Learning and Celebration. Join me at 7:15pm at Beth El in New Rochelle. I will teach in the second period. Here is my class description:
The Secret to Hillel’s Success (and Our Own?)
How the rags-to-riches story of one of the Jewish people’s most well-known Talmudic sages can inform our own approach to overcoming the obstacles we face, including others in our lives, and seizing the opportunity. In this session, we will use texts to investigate Hillel’s interesting early career and how his experiences may inform his later successes. Together we will draw out the wisdom these stories hold for us today, helping us live more meaningful lives and discover better versions of ourselves.
To register for the evening click here or you can just show up at 7:15 Saturday night.
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