A Rabbi’s Apology

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September 1, 2011

Dear Members of the Board of Directors:

It has come to my attention that I may have made a few small errors in judgment during this, my first year as your rabbi. I would like to acknowledge that if I could do certain things over again, I would have made slightly different choices so as to avoid the occasional “ruffled feather” that I only now realize my style may have engendered in certain instances.

To begin with, if I had it to do over again, I would not have thrown the cheesecake at Mrs. Blumenstein during the All-Night Shavuot Study Session last summer. I didn’t believe her horror was genuine at the moment she pleaded with me not to throw the cake, and I thought a little surprise slapstick humor would help break up the mental heavy lifting of the long hours of late night study. I realize now that I read the social cues incorrectly. I am sorry.

Additionally, if I could turn back the clock to six months ago, I would not have insisted that the synagogue host an open-mike limerick contest on St. Patrick’s Day in conjunction with the Irish tavern across the street from our shul, as a gesture of cross-cultural neighborliness. I did not foresee that the combination of too much beer and the foul possibilities of the limerick as a genre would result in what some older members of our congregation ended up describing in histrionic terms as a “desecration of our sanctuary.” I also did not realize that the delicious Irish deli tray our guests provided would include items whose kashrut status was questionable. I would like to point out, however, that our building manager ultimately acknowledged that I was right when I stated that the carpet on the bimah was stain-proofed and that everything, including the vomit, would come out with a little steam cleaning, which I paid for from my discretionary funds.

I regret that I thought Deliverance would be a good movie to show our Talmud Torah students in celebration of Passover.

I see now that my attempt at humor just before the Cantor chanted “ha-melech” last Rosh Hashanah, in which I tried to pun on the English slang notion of the Divine “throne” being like a toilet, was ill-timed.  Despite my intent, the joke failed to soften the somber atmosphere of the High Holy Days and draw us closer together through its informality.  I do dispute, however, Mr. Finkelstein’s angry letter to the Board in which he stated that many congregants reacted with shock when I made the joke.  I prefer to understand their reaction as one of awe, and after all Rosh Hashanah is part of the Days of Awe. Perhaps Mr. Finkelstein and I can meet each other halfway, and agree that the congregants who were offended reacted with shock and awe.  I would hasten to remind the Board that the theme of the High Holy Days is forgiveness. Continue reading “A Rabbi’s Apology”

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Enumerating Good Things

This is an experiment. I’m going to start each work day this week by enumerating 7 good things going on in the world, and 7 good things going on in my personal life.

MONDAY 2/6 – IN THE WORLD

  1. There’s a planned Philly rally this week for Jewish & Muslim youth who want to support each other during these times.
  2. HIAS is working hard to help refugees.
  3. There’s a renewed appreciation and level of support for independent journalism.
  4. Millions of people openly express their opposition to Trump & his policies daily.
  5. Rev. William Barber is doing inspiring work.
  6. Other liberal democracies are stepping up to lead with good values even though Trump is not.
  7. Indivisible is making an effort to resist in an organized way.

MONDAY 2/6 – IN MY PERSONAL LIFE

  1. Melissa loves me.
  2. Sparky is my dog.
  3. I’m working for a progressive religious movement.
  4. The days are getting longer.
  5. My son has new shoes.
  6. Sherry Diamond is caring and helpful.
  7. Trader Joe’s frozen entrees are delicious.

 

Oh well, I didn’t do it for 3 days. But I might as well try again.

FRIDAY 2/10 – IN MY PERSONAL LIFE

  1. Mr. Fleury is a great teacher and mentor for my son.
  2. I am appreciated at my work place.
  3. I have a warm safe place to live.
  4. I get invited to Shabbat dinner at friends’ homes.
  5. Many people care about me.
  6. I can be very, very funny.
  7. I have an exciting book I’m getting closer to finishing.

FRIDAY 2/10 – IN THE WORLD

  1. The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals firmly rejected Trump’s Muslim travel ban.
  2. I’m hearing that Republicans are getting inundated with cards, calls, emails, and other messages from progressives.
  3. All the Senate Democrats voted as a bloc against DeVos’ confirmation, and with 2 Republicans forced the VP to have to cast a tie-breaking vote.
  4. There are some Israelis and Palestinians who are working together to aid Syrian refugee children currently living in shelters on the Greek isle of Lesbos.
  5. It’s possible that Trump’s administration will screw lots of things up in a way that backfires bigly against their authoritarian and alt-right backers. I don’t know if it’s merely possible, or if it’s probable, or unlikely but still possible – but I do know that the chances of it are non-zero.
  6. California, Oregon, and Washington state are really emerging as a regional block that is organized around a progressive vision of America.
  7. Many Jewish-American organizations came out strong against the “Regularization Bill” passed by the right wingers in the Knesset earlier this week.

What I Can Do For You!

As you may already have heard, I’m in the job market. I just want to share, widely, what I think I’m good at, and what kinds of work I’d be excited to do. Happy to talk with folks who may have leads, advice, or opportunities.
I would describe my top skills, experiences, and interests as follows:
  • interfaith collaboration
  • writing, especially for advocacy
  • essays / non-fiction writing / research-based journalistic pieces
  • teaching, especially making complex or often inaccessible cultural or religious ideas understandable to a general audience
  • organizing information and presentations
  • interpersonal communication, including strong people skills and cultural sensitivity skills
  • Hebrew (reading, writing, speaking)
  • French (pretty good but not as good as my Hebrew)
  • public speaking and presentations
  • social entrepreneur capabilities
  • Microsoft office suite, with strong Power Point / multi-media authorship skills
  • Biblical studies, rabbinic studies, and the ability to speak or write drawing on sacred texts
My passions include:
  • Israel/Palestine peacebuilding
  • collaborative business projects that build positive bonds between Palestinians and Israelis
  • Jewish / Muslim coalition building and mutual advocacy
  • LGBT equality
    Israel-Palestine-flags
  • progressive approaches to religion (promoting non-fundamentalist, non-exclusivist,”first-do-no-harm” approaches to all religion)
  • Democratic party politics in the US
  • income inequality / poverty
  • interfaith efforts on issues like undocumented immigrants in the US, environmental advocacy, human rights, etc.
  • supporting and researching interfaith families within the Jewish community (my last job was focused on this work)
I think I’d be a good candidate for jobs like:
  • lead writer / media content developer for an NGO or advocacy organization
  • Executive Director of an organization that would benefit from my strengths, and that would have the staff needed to take the lead in the areas in which I’m inexperiencedcropped-rfk-2.jpg
  • speech writer for political candidates or issue campaigns
  • university chaplain with some teaching duties in religious/Judaic studies
  • Judaic studies prof at a Christian small college (problem: I have no PhD and I need a full-time position)College_row_at_wesleyan
  • being hired to do a big research/writing project (like a book about a neglected historical figure or set of events, or a new curriculum, etc.), especially if it required some travel and use of my language skills.

What if those warning labels on cigarette cartons…

…which are much more clear and direct in other countries, by the way, also appeared on the teenage boys who go out on dates with our daughter?smoking kills

I’m imagining the guy showing up at our door, and around the mid-section of his shirt, there would be a rectangular box with a white background and bold black letters saying: Jerrod drives recklessly, or Anton Disrespects Women.

Just a thought.