As Jews, we know what it is to be a minority group under attack, and it's our moral imperative -- as I've said at many other times this year -- to stand in defense of our fellow minorities who are being targeted with the cruel rhetoric and policies of this administration. The Torah emphasizes this point in multiple ways, both in the positive -- with the commandment to emulate God in loving the foreigner in our midst (Deut. 10:18) -- and in the negative -- with the prohibition against oppressing or perverting justice for them in any way (Exod. 22:20, Deut. 24:17).
For me, this has been a week of dramatic contrasts. On the one hand, this was back-to-school week for my three kids... and as such, it was filled with all of the wonderful things you might imagine (fresh school supplies, shoes and lunch boxes, new teachers and classrooms, and lots of excitement!). First-day photos of children serve as such beautiful reminders of growth, change and potential that every new year holds.
(Kavana's Gan started this week!)
But, every time I look up, something else seems to knock the wind right out of me!
Sessions' announcement about ending DACA hit me (and many in our community!) like a brick. It feels evil and inhuman that our country might seek to deport 800,000 young people, many of whom have been here since infancy... especially because this represents a reversal of the premises they've been living under for years as they've graduated high school, attended college, found first jobs, and/or served in our military. This decision, especially coupled with Trump's pardoning of Arpaio, feels like a direct assault on all Latinos (undocumented and documented alike).
As Jews, we know what it is to be a minority group under attack, and it's our moral imperative -- as I've said at many other times this year -- to stand in defense of our fellow minorities who are being targeted with the cruel rhetoric and policies of this administration. The Torah emphasizes this point in multiple ways, both in the positive -- with the commandment to emulate God in loving the foreigner in our midst (Deut. 10:18) -- and in the negative -- with the prohibition against oppressing or perverting justice for them in any way (Exod. 22:20, Deut. 24:17). There's also a powerful historical argument to be made from Jewish experiences with deportation mere decades ago -- for a great articulation of this, see Susannah Heschel's article in the Forward this week, entitled "My Father, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Was a Dreamer, Too." Stay tuned... as a Kavana community, we will continue building coalitions, fighting discriminatory policies, and advocating for justice and openness in our society with every fiber of our being in the year to come!
In addition, the sun and moon have been glowing red for days and ash has been falling from the sky here in Seattle due to raging wildfires across the west. Clean-up efforts in devastated and still-soggy Southeast Texas have only just begun, while now Florida and the entire Southeastern seaboard is bracing and/or evacuating for Hurricane Irma, one of the strongest hurricanes ever recorded in the Atlantic. Whether our federal government chooses to use words like "climate change" and "global warming" or not, it's clear that something is up. We will strive to respond to immediate human suffering to the best of our ability, while also setting our sites on the longer-term goal of protecting our planet and environment.
When all of the news and even the weather reports get to be too oppressive, I try to return to simple promises of hope and renewal: the shofar sounds during this month of Elul, calling us to return; the sweetness of apples and honey; the joyful sounds of kids returning to classrooms where they will spend the next year playing and learning. We truly are privileged to lead the lives we all do... and I look forward to welcoming in the New Year of 5778 with this community and setting our sights on all the work we might do together in the coming year!
At Kavana, since our inception, we have described "risk-taking" as a value of our organization. However, we've always meant that in the entrepreneurial sense... in that we have taken risks in our approach to Jewish education, ritual, community-building, and more. Where we have NOT taken risks -- nor do we care to do so! -- is in any situation where thesafety and well-being of our community members are on the line. (Jewish law supports us in this, and incidentally, the value of "pikuach nefesh," "saving a life" was the topic of our last Havdalah Club event... among other things, the kids talked about proactive steps we should take to ensure the safety of ourselves and others.)
Last Shabbat, Jewish communities everywhere read Parashat Yitro, which tells the story of the giving of the Ten Commandments and describes revelation at Sinai, a peak moment of closeness between the Israelites and God.
It's easy to get caught up in what's NOT working these days... from the "via-doom" traffic situation here in Seattle, to the Federal government's partial shut-down. We know that these situations are real and that their effects can be felt... mildly, by some, and much more severely by others. Gridlock, whether physical or metaphorical, is painful.That said, at Kavana, we have always prided ourselves on our ability to focus on what IS working, what possibilities there CAN be, and where there is potential for FORWARD MOTION.