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Tol'dot 5780: Unseen Blessings

Dec 03, 2019

It being Thanksgiving weekend, some reflections on gratitude are in order. Thanksgiving is that wonderful American holiday that we as Jews can and should celebrate without hesitation. Its themes of gratitude and family resonate strongly with Jewish religious sensibilities, even though the claim that the Pilgrims were inspired by the biblical Sukkot holiday is true only in the loosest sense .

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Va-yera 5780: Laughter

Nov 19, 2019

Va-yera 2019
This week, I had occasion to visit another synagogue in the New York area. It is nowhere near here, and I will not name it in order to protect the innocent. As I wandered around looking for my meeting, I saw a large sign near the door to their children’s playground, saying: “No high heels on the playground surface,” accompanied by a graphic of an extremely high-heeled shoe with a red circle and diagonal line around it.

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Kol Nidre 5780: Apologies, Good and Bad

Oct 10, 2019

In the spirit of Yom Kippur, I have a confession to make. About two years ago, I was preparing for my wedding and had to assemble my wedding party. I had always intended to include my sister. We had spoken about it generally, but I never asked her in so many words to take on this honor. I did ask the few other people in the party. Then, I told Daniel to send an email to the whole group, including my sister, with logistics about what we needed them to do.

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Rosh Hashanah 5780 Day 2: Cup of Gratitude

Oct 01, 2019

As you may know, I spend an hour at Starbucks once a week in an attempt to make myself accessible to the congregation and the broader community. Now, for a shameless plug—please come by any Thursday from 8-9am to chat. While I often do end up speaking with someone, I also spend a lot of time watching people come in and out to get their morning coffee. Most people seem to want to get in and out as quickly as possible. And nowadays, with the app, you can pick up your coffee while barely interacting with another person.

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Mas'ei 5779: Cities of Refuge

Aug 09, 2019

This week, the attorney general announced a change in the interpretation in US asylum law. As you may know, under federal law, someone seeking asylum must prove a credible fear of persecution in his or her home country based on religion, race, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a specific social group. Since 1985, immigration courts, which are part of the Department of Justice, have interpreted “specific social group” to include specific families, if membership in that family is the cause of the persecution.

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Mattot 5779: Family Ties

Aug 09, 2019

I had the great pleasure a few months ago of reading this recent book, The Soul of the Stranger, by Joy Ladin. Joy Ladin is transgender; she was raised as a boy and as an adult came to realize and express her true identity as a woman, an excruciating process that upended her life and that of her family. Nonetheless, she was able to keep her job as an English professor at Stern College of Yeshiva University, making her the first openly transgender employee of an Orthodox institution.

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