Shabbat Shalom ~ Shemot 2024

Dear WJC Family,

I hope everyone was able to get a little rest over the Winter Break and is feeling a little more refreshed heading into the new year. These months have been hard ones. The war in Israel and the rise in Antisemitism here at home and around the world is taking its toll on all of us. With that in mind I want to mention three important subjects and events for the next week:

(1) These months are dark, literally and figuratively. They are exacerbating an already crisis-level mental health situation. This Thursday night we will have an important conversation about it. As part of our “Beyond the Bimah” series, I will be interviewing WJC member Dr. Sam Glazer, a renowned psychiatrist respected for his work as an addictions specialist and with other mental health conditions. We will be discussing the mental health epidemic, how to identify risk factors, what can be done, and where to find help. If you or someone you know is at risk, or if you are simply interested in how to help others with their struggles, I hope you will join us. And also, know my door is always open to you

(2) If you are specifically struggling with the suffering from the war in Israel and Gaza, I understand. I am too. I support the efforts of the IDF to ensure lasting security for Israelis, I know the IDF tries to avoid unnecessary casualties, and I don’t think Israel has any choice but to wage war against Hamas, especially while over a hundred Israeli hostages are still being held in Gaza. That being said, I also recognize that war is always terrible for everyone involved, especially civilians.

In the first two sermons I delivered after October 7th, I predicted that these were going to be terrible months that would challenge us in every way, including morally. I think we should be struggling with the inevitable loss of life in Gaza. When we grow too comfortable with the loss of life, that’s the time to worry. I know the moral struggle is uncomfortable, but it is important that we stay in that difficult space. It is the only way to engage in a moral war.

So, if you are struggling, I invite you to come and speak with me about it. I don’t necessarily have answers, but I can share how I manage the struggle and hopefully we can support each other. Also, I invite you to join me and our member Michael Richter and our Sisterhood and Brotherhood, this Sunday at 3pm for our “Law of War” program. The laws of war attempt to find morality in the most difficult of human activities, war. Michael, who worked as a lawyer in the Defense Department, will help us understand how the “law of war” operates and the challenges presented by real-life scenarios.

(3) Many of you are troubled by the rising Antisemitism in this country, especially on college campuses. On Tuesday evening we will be hosting an event with representatives from several campus Hillels and current students to discuss the state of Jewish life on campus. The program is especially for teens, college students, and their families, but all concerned people are welcome to join:

7:30pm Gather – coffee and snacks (and minyan for those who wish to join)

7:45pm Panel 1 – Hillel Professionals: 

  • Ira Glasser, CEO Binghamton Hillel
  • Jeremy Davis, Director of Engagement Rutgers Hillel
  • Rachel Klein, Executive Director Hillels of Westchester

8:15pm Panel 2 – Current Students: 

  • Andrew Danziger – Cornell
  • Ben Levy – University of Rochester
  • Jared Sherman – University of Maryland

8:50pm – Open questions and discussions 

9:15pm – End

We are working to create programs to address this rare and difficult moment. I hope you will make an effort to join us and take advantage of the extraordinary efforts of lay leaders and staff to make these important events available to you.

Right around the corner is also our incredible line up of programming for MLK Weekend, including our Friday night guest Joan Grangenois-Thomas speaking on “Bias: More Relevant Today than Ever” and Saturday lunch guest and 1pm speaker, our friend Reverend Erwin Lee Trollinger, Jr., M. Th. speaking on “Reflections on MLK and the Value of Building Bridges.” Please check out the website to learn more about the MLK Weekend line-up.

And don’t forget to join us this Shabbat for Simple & Soulful on Saturday morning.

See you in shul,

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