Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere

OK - so I basically come from a liberal background that has fostered my support for a variety of "progressive" causes. As an educated contemporary Reform Jew, I am very much aware that this is a key piece of my identity and activity. To my own surprise, my positions and perspective on issues continues to become increasingly progressive. I find this quite interesting.
Now I have no problem with the idea that there are those who hold differing opinions from mine; as a matter of fact, that is of course what makes life interesting. What baffles me is the level of narrow-minded hatred that often emerges from within the right-wing spectrum (of any issue). As if to say "because YOU hold a different view, I have the right to demean your worth as a human being."
And more recently - at least in my experience - these vitriolic attacks are often propped up by unitelligible (in not outright unintelligent) arguments. Don't get me wrong - I'm not looking to live in a world where everyone agrees with *me*. I would appreciate a greater level of respect and openness in civil discourse - in our society, in our political arena, and in our own communities as well. If we can cultivate an atmosphere in which people truly strive for understanding, while protecting and upholding the inherent dignity of those who with whom we disagree, or find different, or are relegated to being "other", we will go a long way toward fulfilling the obligation for tikkun olam - repairing the ills that face our world
I know this is not a new issue, and I'm certainly aware that there are no quick-fixes to such complex, emotionally charged matters. Yet I maintain the hope that in our own day, we will find ways to make this world better, and not worse, for our having been here.
Any great ideas? PLEASE feel encouraged to share.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bring it on home

Many of my closest friends and colleagues spend a great deal of their time and energy - throughout the year - in an effort to creat meaningful Jewish experience for our young people. For me, there is no more satisfying opportunity and for youth work than time spent at camp (anyone who knows me is now saying "duh"). With its atmosphere, programming, creative and experimental setting - camp provides the best "laboratory" for the richest of Jewish learning, living and growth. This is true for all who attend and participate, from youngest children to eldest returnees and visitors.
We just came back from two absolutely wonderful weeks at OSRUI (http://www.osrui.org/), and again I am so very thrilled to have had the chance to be part of the faculty - a group of talented, dedicated rabbis, educators and cantors who are inspired in their work to build kehillah (community), to express ruach (spirit) and foster kedoshah (holiness) by drawing deeply and practically on the treasures of our tradition - applying them in meaningful ways that connect with (and stay with) the campers, staff and others who make up camp.
The lasting questions that I have is: how do we maintain the sense of active, engaging spirit that saturates the camp environment? How do those who "go away" for 2, 4, or 8 weeks keep that level of positive energetic Judaism in their daily lives? And more so (perhaps the real kicker) how do we share the wealth - and inject even some of camp's power and potential into our "home" communities and congregations? This has been my personal mission for 30 years - and I revel in this continuing challenge.
How do you sustain the best of your experiences? That is, how do you bring it on home?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Loving camp, again and again

Here we are, in the middle of our first week at camp - always one of best times of the year. Serving on faculty at OSRUI is a treat - to continue enjoying one of the real favorites of my life - Jewish summer camping. I loved camp as a kid...and now as an adult I can both share that joy with today's campers and staff - and also rely on them to rekindle and strengthen my own delight in being here: living as one community, sharing meals, learning and playing together, and creating life-long bonds that in many ways help shape and define who we are. The list, the memories, the fun and meaningful stories could go on and on...
I hope you'll share how camp has influenced your life - whether in your choice of career, finding your passions, and especially the people who've been added to your world. I'd love to hear.