This past week, Kavana has done a lot of what we do best: building Jewish community together, welcoming and supporting a wide range of practices, teaching and learning, davening, celebrating, and finding meaning. From the Book Club to the Baby/Toddler playgroup, from Living Room Learning to Prep & Practice, from Gan and Moadon Yeladim to life cycle events and communal prayer...
This past week, Kavana has done a lot of what we do best: building Jewish community together, welcoming and supporting a wide range of practices, teaching and learning, davening, celebrating, and finding meaning. From the Book Club to the Baby/Toddler playgroup, from Living Room Learning to Prep & Practice, from Gan and Moadon Yeladim to life cycle events and communal prayer... in total 250+ individuals participated in Kavana events in the last week alone! As we move towards Thanksgiving, I will be thinking about how grateful I am to have the Kavana community providing me with solid grounding and with inspiration, particularly at this moment.
Sunday evening's Social Action Town Hall gathering was particularly powerful. Rabbi Sydney Danziger and Brooke Brod led about 50 participants in a high-level conversation about our community's Social Action priorities and commitments -- what we learned from Kavana's fall survey, and what may have changed in light of the recent election. Then, we broke into working groups to dig into some of the proposed areas for further learning and action.
It will take a little time to synthesize the work of the various groups, and you can expect to hear more about this next week... for now, please know that we will be continuing to work on issues that have been priorities for Kavana already (such as refugee resettlement), while also adding some new projects (including a weekend of service around the Inauguration in January, an exploration of potential partnerships, and an increased focus on human & civil rights). There will certainly be opportunities for everyone to get involved at some level on our Social Justice work this year, and we truly hope that you will choose to participate -- we will need as much help as we can get, as the work to be done is both vast and urgent!
One of the top issues that emerged in our discussion Sunday was the need to combat the rise in hate speech and violence. On top of Trump's campaign insults towards women, Muslims, people with disabilities, etc., there has been a sharp uptick in potential hate crimes in the wake of the election... not only in far away red states, but also close to home in places such as Bothell and Bellevue (where we've seen hijab-snatching harassment and swastika graffiti). You may also have seen news reports this week about an "Alt-Right" (read: White Nationalist) conference in Washington, D.C., where the final speaker voiced openly anti-semitic sentiments and was a saluted with "Sieg Heils." Obviously this is terrifying, and the U.S. Holocaust Museum put out a very important condemnation of the event, conveying a simple, but ever-important and profound message: "The Holocaust did not begin with killing; it began with words."
Our Jewish tradition teaches that words have the power to create worlds and shape realities, and of course, we know from experience that words can also mark the beginning of the perpetration of great evil. As we move forward with our work at Kavana, we pledge to choose our words carefully, to make our speech a reflection of our highest aspirations, and also to confront racist thinking and divisive hateful speech wherever we see it.
We will do our best to hold our leaders accountable to the same standards to which we hold ourselves. This won't be easy, but remaining silent is not an option.
Wishing you a meaningful Thanksgiving holiday (and one filled with only words of uplift and hope),
Rabbi Rachel Nussbaum
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.