As we approach the Thanksgiving holiday, I wanted to take a moment to share how thankful I feel to be a part of this Boston Jewish community. I am continually impressed by the passions and desires to do good in the world that I see every day, even when there are differences in opinion on how to realize those goals. Since Election Day, we have all watched our nation and our community struggle for unity after a contentious campaign. CJP has received calls and emails from many of you. Each person who contacted CJP was sincere and unselfish, reflecting their concern for our nation, for our Jewish people, for Israel, and for those most vulnerable in our society. Whichever side of the election we supported, our values as a Jewish community should be clear and based on our most sacred traditions.
Last Shabbat, we read the Torah portion called Vayera. It is my favorite Torah reading, and it is the perfect Torah reading for this troubled time. It contains what I believe to be the mission statement of the Jewish people, revealing our role in history and making a demand of us, and CJP in particular, that clarifies our values and the path we must take. We have inscribed it on the wall of our building.
God says of Abraham and Sarah:
“I have loved them because they will teach their children and grandchildren to follow the way of God by doing justice and righteousness.”
Vayera is a focused demand that we love and protect the stranger.
It reminds us that we are the children of Abraham and Sarah, “compassionate ones and the children of compassionate ones.”
It tells us that Abraham leaves a conversation with God to welcome poor strangers to remind us that, “the deed of hospitality is greater than the welcoming of the Divine Presence.”
It tells us that the sin of Sodom was greed, hatred for and abuse of strangers.
It demands that we stand with Abraham, “the compassionate one” to avoid the fate of Sodom.
Here are our responsibilities moving forward:
- We will strive to keep the Jewish community united, even amid disagreement.
- We will care for the vulnerable.
- We will fight anti-Semitism and advocate for and forge strong connections with Israel, as we always have.
- We will inspire the next generation to embrace Jewish life and learning.
- We will unwaveringly speak up for the rights of immigrants, women, minorities and the LGBTQ community; and we will defend those rights whenever necessary.
- We will advocate for the rights of people with disabilities and for adequate funding for the poor and hungry in our society.
- We will work with our agency partners and other faith communities to protect the stranger, the weak, and the helpless in our blessed nation.
As we advocate for those issues that are most important, we will try our best to do so in a way that avoids further dividing our nation or our community.
The strength of our community and the love that ties us together was recently highlighted on the front page of the Boston Globe. There is much more that unites us than divides us – our shared commitment to our faith and our beautiful Jewish traditions, our love of our families and our communities, and our support for a safe and prosperous Israel at peace with its neighbors.
Continuing to strengthen our community by accepting these responsibilities is CJP's most important role. These responsibilities are not easy to fulfill, and they have been personally challenging for me, as they have for many of you, over the nearly 30 years that I have served this community.
At the recent General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America, Rabbi Jonathan Sacks spoke of Abraham and, later, Moses, who left their native lands and tried to create a world of “justice, compassion, and healing.” Insisting that “the politics of anger comes from fear,” he asserted that the Jewish people are “uniquely poised to show the world the gift of hope.”
“When the world is divided, let us be united as Jews,” he said. “Where there is despair, bring hope. Where there is hurt, bring healing. Where there is division, be united.”
We will work together in unity for the benefit of our nation, our people, and our world. We will reinforce our values, pursue justice, and always remember the necessity of hope.
With confidence, optimism, and love,