Beyond Hitler’s Grasp

A great many Jews know the story of how the Danes rescued 8,000 Jews from the Nazis by smuggling them to Sweden in fishing boats. Very few Jews know the story of how all 50,000 Bulgarian Jews were saved. Not a single Bulgarian Jew was deported to the death camps, due to the heroism of many Bulgarians of every walk of life, up to and including the King and the Patriarch of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church.In 1999, Abraham Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League, flew with a delegation to Sophia to meet the Bulgarian Prime Minister. He gave the Prime Minister the first Bulgarian-language copy of a remarkable book, Beyond Hitler's Grasp, written in 1998 by Michael Bar Oar, a professor at Emory University (a Bulgarian Jew who had immigrated to Israel and then to the USA). This book documents the rescue effort in detail. The ADL paid…

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The Tent-Peg Business

The Tent-Peg Business:Some Truths About CongregationsBy Rabbi Lawrence Kushner1.    If synagogues were businesses, their product would be Jews.  The more Jews they could manufacture from otherwise illiterate, assimilated, and un-self aware members, the more successful they would be.  That is (to continue the metaphor) the bottom line.  Simply getting together with other Jews may be ancillary and even indispensable to this ultimate goal, but it can just as easily be -- as is often the case when Jews get together to watch a movie, eat dinner, or play tennis -- a pleasant way to pass time.2.    Jews need one another, and therefore congregations, to do primary religious acts which they should not, and probably cannot, do alone.  Doing primary religious acts is the only way we have of growing as Jews.  Consequently, it is also the only justification for the existence of a congregation.  Everything else congregations do, Jews can…

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July/August 2008: Shabbat Shalom

I would like to begin my presidency with a special thank you to Eta Kaplan. I was thrilled when you said it would be an honor to be the installing officer this year. I always admired your dedication as a member of this temple and I will be looking to you for advice this coming year.  (more…)

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Is the Internet Jewish?

I was watching an episode of Doctor Who called the Forest of the Dead. Doctor Who is an alien, the last of his people. He travels through time and space and solves problems and rights wrongs. In this episode, he comes across the universe's biggest library containing every book ever written until the 51st century. The library is somewhat sentient and has the collective knowledge of the evolved “Internet”. At some point the Doctor is threatened and rather than explain why he should be the last person to be confronted, he suggests that the other entity look him up in the library. This library is the ultimate memorial book of all who are alive or died. It has a Jewish soul; nothing and no one is forgotten.Last July when I started to populate this new TBS website, I was deeply disappointed that our previous host managed to lose our old…

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Where There is No Vision, the People Perish

One of the books of the Bible that we don’t talk about a lot is the Book of Proverbs. So I want to read you something from the Book of Proverbs. It says, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” This is a way of saying that everyone needs dreams and a goal in order to live life satisfactorily. If we don’t have a specific goal in mind, if we don’t know where we want to go, we’re more likely to end up in places not of our choosing. If we have goals, if we have milestones toward our goals, these things will keep us focused and energized to make our lives more interesting and useful. (more…)

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Outlook and Attitudes

Life is often filled with broken hopes and big disappointments. Therefore, what is important is not so much what happens to us, but it is the attitude we take toward that which happens. Frustrated ambitions and crucial circumstances certainly affect life, but it lies within our power to direct the impact. When we raise lightening rods of worry, we will attract thunderbolts of trouble. (more…)

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Drumming

My friend Danny asked me this morning if I would give a sermon about drumming. That is sort of an unusual request but intriguing, nevertheless, so here is what I assume is the first sermon in history on drumming. (more…)

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Labor Day

Labor Day is a time when people say, “The summer’s over. We have to go back to our schedules.” And so Labor Day is something that a lot of people dread. Labor Day is also a nice weekend for people, so for other people it’s something that they like and look forward to. But just about no one really thinks about what Labor Day means. What I’d like to do tonight, and what I’d like to do next Friday night, is to take the idea of Labor Day seriously and to talk about Judaism and the concept of labor and of respecting those who labor for us. (more…)

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Senator Lieberman, the Golem, the Death of Jesus, and the Real Cause of Anti-Semitism

The nomination of Senator Joseph Lieberman for Vice-President was one of the most important moments in American Jewish history. For the New Haven Jewish community, it was an incredible moment. This is a man whom a lot of us know personally. We see him at the Kosher Deli. For those of us who have been his supporters for years when he ran for offices including Congress, Attorney General and then Senator, well, we were busting with pride and personal excitement. (more…)

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