Legacy: From Yesterday to Today and for Tomorrow

Rabbi's Message - January 11, 2022

Rabbi Tina Sobo

The proximity of Tu Bishvat (the 15th of Shevat, essentially what has become “Jewish Earth Day”) and the national recognition of Dr. Martin Luther King , Jr. is fairly common based on the inner workings of both calendars.   That said, these two days are very different from one another.  Most would connect the two holidays based on their shared theme of tikkun olam (repairing the world).  Dr. King' s vision and leadership were staples in the Civil Rights Movement to advance equality and justice in our world.  Tu Bishvat, the Birthday of the Trees, is born out of a Jewish legal need to know how old a tree is.  This information tells us what tithes are necessary and if it is permissible to eat its fruit.  The holiday has grown to be a day about paying attention to our dependence on the earth and mindfulness of using its bounty; thus its ecological and environmental themes tie in with issues of climate change and sustainability quite nicely.

I’d like to focus on a different connection: legacy.  Dr. King had a dream, a vision, that we would be seen as peers and not judged by the color of our skin.  He sought to leave his mark on this world to create, without violence, enough pressure to cause systemic change.  We inherited this legacy, and strive to march it at least a few steps forward towards fruition to bring equality, to bring equity, to all in our days.  On Tu Bishvat, we tell the story of Honi the Circle Maker (from Taanit 23a) who questions the purpose of a man planting a carob tree (known to not reliably bear fruit for many years), when he himself won’t benefit from the tree.  The lesson of the story is that the seeds we plant today are what we leave for the next generation, just as the past generations planted for us.

As we enter this weekend into “Shabbat Tzedek” – Justice Shabbat - may we reflect on the legacies of those who came before us and benefits they provide today.  Let us also think about the legacy of the actions we engage in today and how they impact the next generation.  May this world be a little bit better because we were in it.

Repairing this World is Our Obligation

Rabbi's Message - November 9, 2021

Rabbi Karen Bodney-Halasz

In Pirkei Avot, Rabbi Tarfon taught: Lo alecha ha’melacha ligmor, v’lo ata ben horin l’hibatel mi’mena. It is not our obligation to complete the work, but nor are we free to refrain from doing it.  

As Jews, we are not permitted to back down from confronting the ills of our community.  We are taught that we must take an active role in finding solutions to bring us closer to the world as it should be.  It is a big weight to bear, considering the enormity of the work to be done, but we are not to be disheartened.  Even if our efforts may not single-handedly fix all of our societal ills, we must remain committed.  We must continue to engage in acts of tzedakah, justice, ma’asim tovim, good deeds, and Tikkun Olam, mending the world. 

Sometimes the work can be discouraging.  There will be moments in our lives when we struggle with the efficacy of our impact.  It could be because of the magnitude of the work to be done or a lack of capacity for effecting change.  But we are comforted knowing that even the smallest of our efforts will make a difference.  When we drop off a bag of dry goods at a food drive, we understand that, although the handful of items we contribute will not eliminate hunger in our entire population, it will nourish the bodies of individual families.  And every ripple we produce through our efforts has the possibility to become a massive change-enacting wave.   

When it comes to systemic issues in our society, these also can feel like climbing insurmountable mountains.  Documents, interactions, personal experiences, and testimonies - they help us understand the depth of the problems our society faces.  And it, too, is a lot.  But, just like our hands-on work of tzedakah, we must keep at it, even if we don’t see the immediate results of our work.  Policy change often takes years.  And we are not free to refrain from the work, just because we may not be able to finish it in our lifetimes.

This is why the work of the Religious Action Center is so important to our congregations.  It offers us a mouthpiece to address larger societal issues as a community and helps us to feel supported in our individual efforts.  

This year, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC) has committed itself to issues surrounding racial justice.  Here in Ohio, we are specifically addressing one of many of these issues, in particular, the death penalty.  We are working closely with Ohioans to Stop Executions (OTSE) to help pass bills that will abolish the death penalty in our state.  With RAC-OH, our congregations are empowered to work in coalition to bring about real, lasting change in our communities.  And together, our ripples will gain incredible force.

On Thursday, you have the opportunity to hear from a powerful panel of speakers to learn more about why we are being called to abolish the death penalty.  Wise Temple is hosting an evening (via Zoom) to hear from State Representative Jean Schmidt, founder of the OTSE Hannah Kubbins, and Jonathan Mann, a family member of a victim.  Following this panel there will be time for us to discuss how we can move forward together as a congregation.  I hope that you will join me for this meaningful conversation.  When we work together, we help carry the weight of this task more evenly and move closer to a world of wholeness and peace.

Taking a Stand, Making a Statement

Taking a Stand, Making a Statement

Temple Israel is committed to social justice for all people.  We firmly stand with all of our brothers and sisters in the fight against hate, bigotry, and racism in all forms.  This sign (pictured in this post), now standing out front of Temple’s driveway, will help serve as a reminder to the community of our Jewish values of tzedek (righteousness) and gemilut chasadim (loving kindness)for we are all created B’tzelem Elohim – in God’s image.

Is social justice your passion?  Would you like to help work for change in our community and beyond?  Contact Temple’s office at 937.496.0050 for more details on how you can get involved.  Together we can make a difference.

We are all accountable


A Message from Rabbi Bodney-Halasz

June 2, 2020

Alden Solovy offers a new “Psalm of Protest” in memory of George Floyd:

Strangled by Police: Psalm of Protest 17

A psalm of protest,
In memory of George Floyd,
Sung at the gates of justice,
When black men are strangled in the streets,
When power is abused and jails overflow,
When the voiceless are forgotten and minorities misused.
Open, you gates!
Open to the cries of those murdered, jailed or harassed
For being black,
For being a person of color,
For being homeless, indigent, destitute or unwanted,
The detained, the hounded,
The pursued and the persecuted,
Those who are killed while being restrained.
Open, you gates!
Let righteousness flow forth as living waters,
And truth flow forth as healing balm,
To still the hand of violence and hatred,
To cure the heart of bigotry and racism,
To herald fairness and equality,
And bring justice to this land.

-Alden Solovy, 2020

Solovy’s words express our angst that deeply rooted racism still plagues our nation. Though the title of his poem is “Strangled by Police,” he, and we, acknowledge that there are many dedicated officers who are fighting racism alongside us.  Together, may we ensure that all who are in positions of power carry out their responsibilities with justice and compassion.  We are all accountable if we want to see change.

Many of us are looking for ways to help.  To start, here is a list of 75 ideas about how to respond to racism.  Research these ideas, determine what aligns with your values, and, if able, take action. We cannot sit idly by any longer.