Comments from 4/5/2024: Gaza humanitarian crisis and World Central Kitchen

These are the comments I shared with the USH community on Friday April 5, shortly after the tragic killing of seven World Central Kitchen aid workers in Gaza in an Israeli strike in error.  פתחו לי שערי צדק. לעולם הבא אומר לו לאדם מה היתה מלאכתך והוא אומר מאכיל רעבים הייתי. והם אומרים לו זה השער של מאכיל רעבים הכנס בו.  “Open for me the gates of righteousness.” (Psalm 118):   In the World to Come, a person is asked 'what was your occupation?' When one replies 'I fed the hungry,' they respond:  'this is the gate of those who feed the hungry; enter into it'.  ( Midrash to the Book of Psalms 118 )  Among the vanishingly few matters of general consensus in the world concerning the Hamas-Israel war is that the World Central Kitchen is a truly heroic organization.  With a mission to bring food to troubled spots in the world, it is a rare organization that sees the humanity of all people who are endangered, displaced, traumatized or otherwise affected by this terribl

Seder Trivia Game, 2024 Edition

At our synagogue's congregational seders for the last several years, we have played the following game: I have collected unusual Pesach stories, and shared three such stories with the community: two true stories, and one fictional story. Participants then have to guess which two stories are true and which one is false. (If you listen to  Wait, wait, don't tell me,  you get the idea, except that only one story is false.) You can see previous editions of this game here . This is what was presented at our congregational seder in 2023. Two stories are true; one is fictional. Answers at the bottom!  (And photos inspired by the stories were created by AI...)  STORY #1: Seders have taken place in a lot of strange and remote places in the world.  There have been seders in Antarctica, and on Mount Everest, and on submarines deep under the ocean.  But the seder in the most remote location of all took place last year, during Passover of

Talking peacefully? (Parashat Vayeshev 5784 / 2023)

  Talking peacefully? Parashat Vayeshev 5784 / 2023 This week I saw a very chilling video and a very inspiring video, both of which were both recorded on the same day in the same location.  Both videos were recorded at a place very dear to me, the campus of Columbia University in New York City, this past Wednesday December 6.  Both were recorded in the lobby of the Columbia School of Social Work. A student group in the Columbia Social Work school had announced a ‘teach-in’ in support of Gaza to take place this past Wednesday December 6. If the topic of  this event had been the plight of people in Gaza currently, the difficulties and horrifying loss of life faced by civilians in Gaza in the face of Israel’s bombardments, that’s something I would have expected. But that’s not what this event was. This event planned by Columbia Social Work students was an event specifically to applaud the violent events of October 7.  In fact, the title that the students gave to this “teach-in and discuss

Yom Kippur Day 2023/5784: "Asking 'When' rather than 'Why'

  If you’re going to invite a speaker to speak in your community, you probably want to make sure you know how to introduce them correctly - how to pronounce their name, what titles they prefer to be known by, and if you’re inviting someone who is known for having written a best selling book, you probably want to get the title of the book correct. This year the world lost a great author of several wonderful books who was especially known throughout his life for one of those books in particular, and he had story after story about people getting the title of this most famous book wrong when they would meet him or introduce him. For many years this author was probably the most famous rabbi in the United States, and definitely the most famous Conservative rabbi. You may have guessed that I am referring to Rabbi Harold Kushner, who died this year at age 88. He was also  known as a mentor to so many of my colleagues, and a person of outstanding intellect and also outstanding sensitivity.  Eve