Our shul was standing room only last night as Anat Hoffman, Chairwoman of Women of the Wall, shared of her work and experience to the over 300 people gathered in our sanctuary (as can be seen in the photo above and those archived here). We were inspired by her passion, disturbed by her experiences, and ready to join the call, coined by WOW's fiscal sponsor The New Israel Fund, "Say yes to a better Israel!"
There are far too few places in our community where the hard questions asked last night can be answered by a liberal Zionist activist dedicated to Israel's future as the democratic homeland for the Jewish People committed to ethical treatment of all its citizens. Last night demonstrated that this approach (explained beautifully in this YouTube video by Conservative Rabbi Jack Moline and Reform Rabbi Daniel Zemel) resonates loudly in our community. Netivot Shalom's commitment to the ethical vision of Religious Zionism inscribed in the Israeli Declaration of Independence by Israel's founders is clear, even in the midst of Berkeley's politically-charged landscape.
But last week I encountered a set of commitments I believe we officially support yet don't currently confront as a community. I participated in an intense service at Glide Memorial Church in memory of Robert Kamin z"l and Susan Poff z"l, two heroic activists who died tragically two weeks ago. I was overwhelmed not only by the 1,000+ people who attended the service, but also by the Church's purpose which was manifest in the line of people struggling with poverty and homelessness lined up outside the church. They stretched around the block, and were there from the time I arrived until the time I left, 4 hours later. They are always there. I am not. My heart pounded both with the shock of stepping into "the real world" and with the realization that during the last year we have been so rightfully and urgently concerned with the survival of Netivot Shalom that we have, I believe, paid much less attention to another core aspect of our purpose. Our mission statement, proudly displayed on our website, states that we are:
"an egalitarian, participatory Sacred Community that encourages and engages in Tefilah (Prayer), Torah(Learning), Tzedekah(Social Justice), and Kehillah (Community) within our congregation and the broader community."
As is true of every group, focus ebbs and flows to different activities, based on reality and personal involvement. There is nothing strange about this. But whereas we are not obligated to complete every task at once, neither are we exempt from (re)starting our work. Jewish tradition tells us that "pikuach nefesh/saving a life" is the supreme mitzvah. It is this imperative that must be the purpose of all of other Jewish acts. If we are to be our whole self as a community, we must not lose sight of the contribution we are called to be to the world around us. We cannot be about institutional self-perpetuation. And we are certainly not that. Let us be clear about our priorities: The urgent work of the Capital Campaign is to save our shul. That comes first. But it is not the "why" of our community - it is the "how."
I pray that, through the success of our Capital Campaign, each of you will grant us the strength to deepen our commitment to Tzedek/Social Justice. We are not out of the financial woods yet. But, while skillfully confronting the forest, we are blessed to be mindful enough to see the beauty and fragility of each tree calling for our care.
If you are aware of a way to re-invigorate our community's Tzedek commitment, please contact me. We are stronger together than we are individually. Last night's event was a reminder that sometimes, all it takes to refocus a community's attention is a passionate activist with a good amplification system. Let's embody that passion as a community of activists, dedicated to Tikkun Olam/healing the world. Here are three current ways to support individual members' current Tzedek projects:
CNS member Judy Massarano has connected her 2nd-grade class at OHDS with an organization called April Showers, which supports the homeless of San Leandro, by collecting toiletries, etc. for those in need. Collections of travel size toiletries, deodorant, toothpaste or toothbrushes, and combs are needed. Please bring donations of this kind to the shul office during February, and we will arrange their delivery thanks to Judy's commitment.
And we are committed as a community to supporting the Tzedek work of Women of the Wall, supporting women's voices at the Kotel and in Israel. Last night's event happened largely through the work of CNS member Rabbi Pam Frydman. Please consider making a gift to WOW by clicking here.
May the strength of our precious community grow, so that we can add ever-more strengthto healing our world.