Friday, November 17, 2017
When I started to learn about my Torah portion of Toldot, I realized that it has a lot of similarities to my favorite all-time Broadway show, “Hamilton.”
I mean, if I were to tell you that this is a story about two men who are bitter rivals and one becomes insanely jealous of the other and wants to kill him, you can answer either “Toldot” or “Hamilton” and you would be right!
In Toldot, Jacob fools his father Isaac into giving him the special blessing that was meant for his brother Esau, so that Jacob would become the leader. When Esau found out that Jacob got the blessing, he became insanely jealous and wanted to kill Jacob.
In Hamilton, Aaron Burr is hoping to get Alexander Hamilton’s endorsement, his blessing, in the Presidential election of 1800, when he was running against Thomas Jefferson. When Alexander endorsed Jefferson, Burr also got insanely jealous and challenged him to a duel. Unlike Esau, Burr succeeded and killed Alexander.
Another similarity between the two is the idea that you have to let go of your jealousy. It happened for Esau, although it took many years. Eventually he came to accept and even love his brother and he gave up his desire to be the leader.
In Hamilton, the two competitive siblings are Angelica and Eliza, the Schuyler sisters (and Peggy!). At a ball, Angelica meets Alexander and really likes him, but she knows that her sister does as well. So rather than be jealous or compete with her, she gives Alexander up to Eliza.
In Hamilton, Aaron Burr gives Alexander some advice, over and over again: Talk less, smile more, don’t let them know what you’re against or what you’re for.” Burr was very cautious and afraid to take a stand, while Alexander was always impulsive in his action, knowing somehow that he was running out of time and needed to get a lot of things done.
With Jacob and Esau, it’s a little different. Neither of them is cautious – both are impulsive at some point in time. Esau is the sibling who let his impulses get the best of him, when he trades his birthright for a bowl of soup and can never the leader after that. And Alexander makes some bad decisions impulsively that ruin his chances to become President.
On the other hand, Alexander and Jacob both see the need to make the most out of life and that’s why they deserve the recognition that they received. When you think about it, the Jewish people are called Israel, which was Jacob’s name. We’re not called “Esau.” And the guy whose picture is on the ten-dollar bill is not Aaron Burr.
There are lots of other similarities that we could explore, like how both Jacob and Alexander were wanderers who never really could settle down.
In the end, what Alexander and Jacob shared the most was a desire to make the world a better place and because of that, they became the founding fathers of two nations that we all take pride in – the Jewish people and the United States.
And on this week of Thanksgiving, and since my portion is all about food, for my Mitzvah Project, I am collecting food for families in need on behalf of Neighbor to Neighbor.
Shabbat Shalom and Happy Early Mother’s Day. It’s truly amazing to have the mothers in my life including my mom, my grandma, my MomMom, and my nanny. I actually want to honor my mom in another way, by talking about the important work she does. My mom works in a program called JumpStart that helps preschool children with special needs. I started helping at Jumpstart in the 4th grade. Actually most of the JumpStart ladies are here today.
While I am at JumpStart I get to help the kids when they have music, which I really love. I also help at circle time, where I help them bang on a drum or simply reading them a story. Jumpstart has helped me realize that everyone is special in their own way. For me it doesn’t matter if you have Autism or Down Syndrome, you still treat people like anyone else. From helping out so much, I’ve developed a soft spot for kids with special need. I prefer not to say the word disabilities because they all have abilities ---just different. I really love the kid’s there they are cute, sweet and so much fun to play with.
This brings me to my mitzvah project. My mitzvah project is Swim Angelfish. This is where I work with kids of all ages in the swimming pool. I chose Angelfish because I love to swim and have been a part of a swim team with the Italian Center Orcas for three years now. While working with Swim Angelfish, I have learned that the most frequent cause of death for a child with Autism is drowning. I have been really lucky to work with a very special person, Ailene, who has taught me how to work with kids with special needs in the water. Working with the kids helps build their core strength so that they are able to do other things outside of the pool. When I am in the pool with the kids, I help them by playing ball, kicking their legs or just splashing around. All of these different activities help to strengthen their bodies in different ways. I am proud to come from a family that loves to work and help kids with ALL different abilities.
It came to a bit of a shock for me to see that my portion Emor talks about priests with different abilities who were not allowed to lead services. As it says in Leviticus chapter 21 verse 18, the Lord told Moses to speak to Aaron and say to him that any man among your offspring throughout their generations who has a defect, shall not come near to offer up his God's food. Some Rabbi’s say it was because the Torah was looking for the perfection in their leaders, no blemishes and no past marriage’s. But other Jewish leaders, including rabbis and cantors, can have physical challenges. Elsewhere in the bible there are examples of people who have challenges but equally close to G-d. Moses had difficulty speaking, yet he was our greatest leader of all time. And there was Leah, Jacob’s wife who had weak eyes.
Working so much with people who are different has taught me a lot. People who are less able to walk might be able to swim better. People who might not see as well may be able to hear. We are all unique- we are all special. We are our own person, each of us with very special needs. And like I’ve always said “be yourself because everyone else is taken”. Which means don’t try to be what you are not BE YOURSELF!!
Thursday, November 16, 2017
Peter Kempner launching The Campaign for Temple Beth El at a kickoff dinner attended by nearly 200 people. Excerpts from my Campaign statement are below.
Shabbat Shalom and happy Thanksgiving!
First of all, the death notice that I just sent out contained two links to obituaries. The one for Gladys Cohen is here. May apologies for any confusion.
Mazal tov to Emily Goodman, as she becomes Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat morning, and to Jonathan Cohen, who becomes Bar Mitzvah on Sunday, with is Rosh Hodesh Kislev. At Shabbat morning's service, I'll also be reprising our ever popular "Great Toldot Taste Test." This week's portion is a Jewish Foodie's paradise. In it, food changes history, not once, but twice: first, there's Jacob's "Lentil Soup a la Ruddy" which entices Esau to sell his birthright, and then Jacob and Rebecca cook up a dinner scrumptious enough to trick Isaac into giving his younger son the big blessing. Once again this week, we'll have a blind taste test of four scrumptious local hallahs. Which one is the best for this year? Stay tuned....
Friday night we kick off our holiday week with Rock Shabbat, or in honor of Thanksgiving, Plymouth Rock Shabbat. Our seventh graders will have their sleepover at my house and on Shabbat morning, our entire Hebrew School will be in session - plus we'll have a special Shabbabimbam for the tots, and lunch for everyone afterwards. On Saturday night, the community comes together for Tapestry at the JCC, where my fellow rabbis and I will have a panel discussion about God. There will be no O-Gram next week, so let me invite you now to plan to join us next Friday night when Katie Kaplan will be sitting in for Cantor Fishman, who will be away.
A Thanksgiving Assignment
Our TBE 2012 Group
If your family has never been to Israel, now is the time to plan to go, as we celebrate Israel's 70th. Take a little time during your Thanksgiving dinner to discuss it with your friends and family. Send them to the trip's website to see our itinerary. While the trip doesn't leave until June 24, our registration deadline is Dec. 15, so that the group can begin to prepare in earnest and make some key decisions, including possible itinerary adjustments. Everyone should visit Israel at least once!
Evan Hansen's Tie
I finally got to see "Dear Evan Hansen" this week, just a few days before Ben Platt's final performance this Sunday. The show every bit as life-altering as advertised. I still tear up when thinking about it. I've been following DEH closely and spoke about it at length on Rosh Hashanah, but some surprises still awaited me on Tuesday night.
One surprise came during a brief scene featuring Evan and Cynthia, the mother of Connor, a teen whose suicide propels the entire plot. Evan is about to speak at an assembly memorializing Connor, and Cynthia gives him a tie that she had purchased for her son back when he was in junior high school and all those Bar Mitzvah parties were coming up. She then says that Connor never wore it, because he was not invited to any of the parties.
It was just a throwaway line and I might have been the only one in the audience drawn to tears by it (though it's hard to tell, because there are so many other tearful moments that they tend to overlap). But it made me think of why we are here and why I do what I do.
This Shabbat marks the final Bat Mitzvah for our current Hebrew School class. Those kids are now in 8th grade, and they've been through quite a journey together - and "together" is the operative word. We have a policy here that everyone from the class must be invited to every Bar/Bat mitzvah and I personally make sure that happens. When I hear that someone has not received an invitation, I proactively contact the host parent to make sure that invitation went out. Almost always, it's because of a mix up, and that mix up is quickly cleared up. But for this class, it was almost unnecessary for me to ask. They came together so nicely as a group.
We also do our best to make sure that the bonds established by the kids carry forward well beyond the Bar Mitzvah year. Lisa Udi and Mara have personally invested many hours of time creating a program that bridges the middle school and high school years, both for our Hebrew School and day school students. We had a wonderful trip to Manhattan last spring to see the Tenement Museum, along with Mitzvah projects, after parties and the ever-popular Friday Night sleepover at the Hammermans (this year's seventh grade sleepover is, in fact, this week). Just last Sunday, our teen group met to collect food at Stop and Shop to donate to the JFS Kosher Food Pantry. Yes, there are other teen groups in town and we partner with them, but for us it is absolutely essential that every TBE teen be nurtured and embraced and be able to find friends here, in their spiritual home. We will not outsource the essential task of providing a safe and caring space for all our teens.
With that little throwaway line at the end of act one, Connor Murphy's mom sends out a huge warning signal to all of us. If Connor's tie is never worn, we have only ourselves to blame.
Our teens' food drive, last Sunday at Stop and Shop
Are Men Pigs?
A few years ago, Time Magazine ran a cover story asking the rhetorical question, "What Makes Powerful Men Act Like Pigs?" In the wake of the flood of scandals that have led to so many courageous victims coming forth to tell their stories, it's an increasingly relevant - and troubling - question. How does Judaism account for this constant abuse of power by piggish men? I answered this question a few years ago in the Jewish Week and now am adapting that response to suit this watershed moment.
Back in the quaint days when sex abuse scandals broke weekly instead of daily, both Time Magazine and The New York Times Week in Review ran cover stories equating men with pigs. Yes, those were the quaint days before the #MeToo Revolution, when, with so many apocalyptic weather events, mass shootings and terror attacks happening, it might have seemed almost comforting to be preoccupied for a brief time by good old-fashioned lechery. But no longer is it acceptable to say "boys will be boys" or to dismiss such behavior as "locker room talk." And it NEVER is acceptable to blame the victim, even while exercising some healthy skepticism while scrutinizing the facts.
While there are degrees of depravity, with child molestation and rape the most extreme manifestations, all forms of harassment and abuse need to be taken seriously. One person's office flirtation could cause deep emotional wounds for the object of those advances, and I use the term "object" intentionally. There is no question that we live in confusing times, where rules of social interaction are being rewritten on the fly. At a time like this, maybe the best advice is to stop treating other human beings as objects, in the office, online - anywhere
The answer to my initial question is that not all men are swine, or livestock of any sort. At the risk of sounding Nixonian, I am not a pig. Psalm 8 makes the claim that humans are just a little lower than angels (literally it says "gods"), with dominion over sheep, oxen and beasts of the fields. One would assume that also means we potentially have dominion over ourselves - and the beasts within us. But Judaism recognizes that we often fail to live up to that potential. David's abduction of Bathsheba (his defense attorney would probably claim, incorrectly, that it was consensual and that she seduced him by bathing on the roof) and murder of her husband Uriah (2 Sam. 11-12) could fit neatly into the stories that are coming out day after day. The prophet Nathan brilliantly re-calibrates David's moral compass. Otherwise, David would not have been fit to lead.
Judaism has always seen marriage as a microcosm for all social bonds. It is the grand experiment. The Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings) at the wedding ceremony proclaim that marriage is our last best hope, that, to paraphrase Sinatra, if commitment can make it here, it can make it anywhere. Break trust with your spouse, and you've broken it with God. So how could you possibly expect to be trusted by anyone else?
We've come a long way since the days of "Mad Men," when affairs were an expected perk for powerful men, including US Presidents, and everyone turned a blind eye. Now even the French seem to be getting it. Infidelity and abuse are becoming scarlet letters for public figures - well, most public figures, at least.
But are men sexual predators by nature? The Talmudic rabbis seemed to think so, so they proceeded to create barriers to keep men from succumbing to their temptations. Unfortunately, most of those barriers came at the expense of women. More recently, in Israel we are seeing this in its most extreme forms , with segregated buses and separate shopping hours for men and women in some post offices and supermarkets. The ancient rabbis both revered and feared women (although Jewish thought also recognizes feminine characteristics in God), but this current trend toward misogyny-gone-wild indicates that what Jewish males might fear most is their own lack of self-control.
Are men pigs? Only if we allow ourselves to be.
The Campaign for TBE
Carl Weinberg and Dana Horowitz at our Campaign Kickoff
Last night we kicked off our new endowment/capital campaign. Here are excerpts from the comments that I wrote for the Case Statement. Consider these words over the coming holiday, and perhaps spend a few moments at your Thanksgiving table reflecting what TBE has meant for you.
I can recall the first time I set foot in TBE's magnificent sanctuary. It was love at first sight, as I gazed out the windows at nature's magnificence and felt an instant communion with the world around me. Over the years, that initial sense of wonder has never waned, as week after week, I've seen falls blazing beauty transform before my eyes into a blanket of pristine winter whiteness, followed by the explosion of new life in spring and then summer's sustained glory. Season after season, that relationship between us and the world around us only intensifies.
Our sanctuary tells the story: we are a congregation of windows, not walls.
Those windows let the sun shine in and direct our aspirations outward. Our prayers are intensified by world-class music; our learning is deepened by open, honest inquiry; our socializing is heightened by inclusiveness and true love of neighbor, and our commitment to justice and compassion are unbounded. We are truly a synagogue without walls, and the impact of our efforts has resonated far beyond our community.
"Sustainability" has a double meaning, and each is central to this campaign.
We want to continue to sustain the world around us, by creating a state of the art campus where every inch of the facility is designed and refitted to be as "green" as possible, as we take the commitment exemplified by our solar panel project to the next level. In addition, we look to enhance the beauty of our grounds, creating more opportunities for warm interaction and intimate worship spaces for spiritual reflection, to enrich the lives of all who come here.
At the same time, we also wish to ensure the sustainability of a congregation that is fast approaching its 100th birthday. We are in a position of great strength, and this is absolutely the right time to make the commitment so that TBE will continue to make the world a better place for at least a hundred more, long after any of us have departed from the scene. We have built from the stunning vision of those who came before us, and now it is our turn to take what has sustained us for so long and ensure that it can enrich the lives of our grandchildren.
We've played a unique role in forging a new vision of Jewish life, one that has our unique imprint. Through the funds raised in this campaign, we will be able to further contribute to that developing vision. At the same time, we can pursue efforts to create a model for a 21st century congregation for a new generation, one that is relevant to their lives, welcoming and affordable. A significant endowment will enable us to create more innovative programming while reducing our dependence on old models of generating revenue. At a time when fewer Jews fall into old patterns of affiliation, we will be able to reach them where they are at and draw them toward our open arms with love and acceptance. In so many ways, this campaign will truly be our gift to the Jewish community that comes after us.
Melissa Miles Update
An update from Melissa (in photo above), whose GoFundMe project was introduced in last week's Shabbat-O-Gram
Lillian was on the verge of tears before and after taping this video. She could not grasp the level of kindness sent from people halfway across the world, whom she had never met before. She wanted me to let you all know that that evening she and the children who stay in the dormitory with her prayed for health and blessings for all of us.
Yesterday, I spoke to one of the children in Primary 5 (5th grade) who told me that when she grows up she wants to be a teacher, like Lillian. Another boy told me he wants to be a doctor when he grows up, so that none of his friends will have to miss school again because they are sick from HIV/AIDS. Education is the first step to giving these wonderful children a shot at the future.
From my own experience here, I can tell you that if there is one thing that is maybe even more important than education, it is hope. And that is what you all have given to Lillian and the 200 children in her school - hope for their future. I cannot thank you enough for the support and warm wishes. I am truly overwhelmed and completely humbled by every single one of you.
An update: the land brokers have given us one more week to finish making the payments. Lillian has sold off some of the school's assets to contribute to the payments making us SO close to the finish line. If you would like to help us spread the word and try to reach our goal, please 'share' this GoFundMe page or tell one friend about Lillian's story.
There are not words to express my gratitude. THANK YOU.
How to Talk to Your Kids about God
On Saturday night I'll be part of a panel on God at this year's Tapestry. In light of that, and with religious holidays abounding over the next month, I'm sharing this excellent video on how to talk to your kids about God.
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman
Tuesday, November 14, 2017
Thank you all for joining me here today! Whether you came from near or far, your love and support means so much to me and my family.
I have been very fortunate to spend my last four summers at a sleepaway camp in New Hampshire called Walt Whitman. It has become my home away from home.
At camp, we spend a lot of time hiking. This past summer my bunk went on a challenging hike. We went up the highest mountain in the North East, Mt. Washington. On the first day, we started out by hiking along the Southern Presidentials trail and did 5 miles.
The second day we did nine miles and that was the day we climbed to the top of Mount Washington. We were so happy we got to the top! We did it! After we hung out on top for a bit it was eventually time for us to start hiking down. On our way down it suddenly began to hail. We were panicking as our leader called the camp.
The thunder was scary and the hail was painful, banging against our legs. The hail felt like prickly thorns as it hit us.
Thank god for rain pants!
We all got so scared that we almost had to be evacuated off the mountain and taken back to camp, not even making it to the third day of our hike. Thankfully, we found a rock nearby with a section of it jutting out over our heads. We all fit underneath and stayed safe and dry.
The storm stopped after about 15 minutes that afternoon. When it did, I looked up, and from out of nowhere we all saw the most beautiful thing. A double rainbow.
It was so pretty with all of its vibrant colors shooting through the sky. We were absolutely amazed at what we saw. It was one thing for the storm to clear up. But a double rainbow, this was way beyond that!
As we moved on with the hike I realized that without the storm there would never have been a double rainbow.
This taught me that in order to appreciate the good things in life, you may have to experience the bad. My Torah Portion is called “Chaye Sarah,” “Lives of Sarah,” except that Sarah dies at the very beginning. So why is it called “lives” when it talks about death?
Not only does a death occur at the beginning of the portion, but at the end, Abraham dies too. However, in the middle of the portion, Abraham and Sarah’s son Isaac meets his wife Rebecca. When Isaac sees Rebecca, they fall in love and marry each other. They go to live in Sarah’s tent, and Isaac is comforted. It is as if Sarah gets a new life. We learn from this that people live on, even after they die. In order for Isaac and Rebecca to be truly happy they had to first experience the sadness of Sarah and Abraham’s deaths.
My Torah Portion also connects to my Mitzvah Project – collecting supplies for the Stamford Animal Control Center. It connects because at first every animal that is taken to the center has to experience the bad, such as being given up by its’ owner or being a stray. But fortunately, once a dog or cat gets turned into the Stamford Animal Control Center it is cared for and hopefully adopted into a loving home.
Thursday, November 9, 2017
Two TBE 2018 B'nai Mitzvah getting comfy on the bima
at last week's family program - see the photo album here
Mazal tov to Samantha Laichtman and family as she becomes Bat Mitzvah this Shabbat morning. Join us also on Friday night, and next week too (next week is Rock Shabbat!). And see last week's d'var Torah by Julia Marrinan.
Gordis and Beinart
Photos by Aviva Maller. See our Hoffman Lecture photo album
This week's Hoffman lecture filled our sanctuary, both with people and with passionate but respectful dialogue about Israel. People have been commenting that it was one of the best ever, and that's a very high bar to have surpassed. Both speakers were articulate and convincing - there were many "He's right and he's right moments," even on some issues where they were diametrically opposed. They also agreed on more issues that one might have expected. The conversation was taped for broadcast on JBS (Cablevision channel 138). I will let you know when it is going to be shown.
There were a number of key takeaways, including Gordis' sobering assessment of the grave possibilities of a potential war with Lebanon and Beinart's reflections on why American Jewish college students are completely unprepared to deal with anti-Israel sentiment on campus. Both had interesting points about whether Israel or America is facing the greater threat to their democratic values.
You can find many of these issues discussed on the Fault Lines podcast web page. I would love to hear - and share - what points you thought were most interesting from Thursday's event. I'll inform everyone as soon as I know when the talk will be broadcast on JBS.
Kristallnacht and Larry David: Too Soon?
Today is Kristallnacht plus 79 years, the end of the seventh decade since the Holocaust unofficially began with the Night of Broken Glass. Here is some background on this foreboding event, from the Jewish Virtual Library. With the completion of seven decades, has a threshold been passed where the Holocaust is no longer to be seen as "recent" and must now be considered exclusively to be in the past tense?
According to the Urban Dictionary, "too soon" is "a phrase used to respond to someone making a comment that was intended to be funny, but touches on subject matter that shouldn't be joked about, usually because it was a recent event (being in the last decade or so).
When a joke is no longer considered "too soon," we know that a threshold has been passed. That might be the best indicator that we've reached a different moment in the perception of an event.
It might always be "too soon" to joke about certain elements of the Holocaust. But the same thing might have been thought regarding the Lincoln assassination until someone uttered sometime in the 1950s, "But how did you like the show, Mrs. Lincoln?" Some say the joke came from a New Yorker cartoon, others say it was from a comedian like Tom Lehrer or Bob Newhart. Either way, we're talking about nearly a century before it was not "too soon."
With the Holocaust, that moment might have come last weekend, when Larry David went on Saturday Night Live and talked about the absurdity of coming up with good pickup lines at a concentration camp. The monologue was met with considerable shock from the Jewish community, even though it hardly is the first time the Holocaust had been a source of humor by Jews - but most of the prior jokes had been told at the expense of the perpetrators rather than the victims.
When I heard David's quip, I recoiled at its insensitivity, instinctively saying to myself, "too soon." But then I reflected for a moment about the shock I was feeling that this joke was "too soon." Was it because survivors are still among us and that it actually is still "too soon?" Or did I gulp so hard at the realization that the "too soon" moment had just passed before my eyes. It is no longer "too soon" to usher the Holocaust into the realm of normalcy, to treat it as history, to begin to remold it, rethink it, and even play with it, and in doing so, to re-imagine the Judaism that the victims bequeathed to us.
In fact, Larry David's monologue was just the most visible eruption of something that has been slowly boiling beneath the surface as a new generation of writers and artists has come of age. In Shalom Auslander's angry, narcissistic, yet shockingly brilliant memoir "Foreskin's Lament," published a decade ago, in 2007, he describes the horrible way his parents inflicted guilt as "going Holocaust" on him, as in "Do you know how many Jews died at the hands of the Nazis so you can keep kosher?" The Holocaust itself becomes a character in the narrative: "Mr. Holocaust," he calls it, the bearer of eternal Jewish trauma. Auslander is numbed by the naked bodies in the newsreel footage he watches at school assemblies. He struggles with the horror even as he trivializes it, out-Rothing even Philip Roth in his cynical detachment.
Similarly, in the documentary "Kike Like Me," also released in 2007, Jamie Kastner takes us on a sophomoric, self-indulgent road trip through the Jewish world, culminating with a visit to Auschwitz. It is an infuriating yet revealing window into the YouTube generation at its most cynical and most shallow. Borat meets Buchenwald. Kastner, like Auslander, is simply one lost young Jew trying to figure out how this big Holocaust piece fits into the rest of the puzzle known as Jewish identity. It's a big piece, but it's just another piece. Even Larry David might have recoiled to read this bit of "humor" from David Deutch's, as quoted in Heeb Magazine: "So I guess you don't think the Holocaust is funny. But I gotta tell you, it killed them back in Poland."
That's shocking, but no less so than Mel Brooks' "The Producers" was in 1967, when, for many, "Springtime for Hitler" came much "too soon."
In the Torah, at the end of the seventh day, God rested. With the Holocaust, at the end of the seventh decade, the dead have rested. A bad joke was told by a Jewish comic and the world kept on spinning.
The Holocaust has receded far enough into history to begin its assimilation into the larger Jewish story. This process is inevitable and for the most part beneficial. When we lose a loved one, the grief eventually gives way to "normalcy" - but not normalcy as it was before the person died. Instead, a new equilibrium forms, an altered worldview, in which the story of that departed relative's story becomes one with our own, imbuing our lives with added meaning.
The year 1648 was a dark one for Eastern European Jewry, as a Cossack revolt killed upwards of 100,000 Jews in Poland. Almost exactly 70 years later, the Baal Shem Tov introduced the Hasidism to Polish Jewry. In early Hasidic literature, his followers specifically drew a line from the ordeals of 1648 to their teacher's career, asserting that this charismatic leader "awakened the people Israel from their long coma and brought them renewed joy in the nearness of God." Seven decades was precisely when it was no longer "too soon."
The folklore of the early Hasidic masters demonstrates that that the Cossack massacres were still very real to them, well over a century after they occurred. Those tales are filled with the pathos of illness and poverty and loss - but they took that sadness and transformed it into song. They could not succeed in doing that until a full generation had come and gone and few if any actual witnesses were left. Otherwise, to sing and dance, as they did all the time, would have been to sing and dance on someone's fresh grave.
So, based on historical precedent, it makes perfect sense that after seven decades, the rabbinic equivalent of a lifetime, we can begin to envision new possibilities and remove ourselves, ever so slightly, from the traumas of the past, even if it's done in bad taste.
Perhaps the realization that the Holocaust might be transitioning to becoming purely historical is what shocked us most of all about Larry David's monologue. Perhaps then, for a new generation, such humor is no longer "too soon."
What do you think, Mrs. Lincoln?
Report from Uganda
Our TBE Millennials have fanned across the globe doing incredible acts of World Repair.
Exhibit A - this correspondence from Melissa Miles:
Hi Rabbi Hammerman,
Hope all is well! My mom told me she forwarded you the gofundme page I've started and I wanted to share some more background info!
I've been volunteering in Kampala, Uganda for the past month (and I will be here until December) at Community Microfinance, an organization that lends money to those who are otherwise excluded from the financial services sector. Their clients are mainly women entrepreneurs engaged in all types of business, agriculture, and community leadership roles. With the help of these loans, many have been able to lift their families out of poverty and serve as strong role models. One especially inspirational client for me is a woman named Lilian who quit her job as a teacher to start a school for children in her village. These children were not previously attending any school due to a lack of their family's ability to pay the associated fees. I would love for those interested to read more about Lilian and the project on the fundraiser page: https://www.gofundme.com/school-for-vulnerable-children
Let me know if you have any questions and thank you so much for helping to spread the word!
Melissa - we could not be more proud of you!
I encourage everyone to read about Lilian, her courage, persistence and love. Click here to donate to Melissa’s project.
Rabbi Joshua Hammerman