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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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Balak 5779: Good Tents, Good Neighbors

Jul 23, 2019

In our Torah portion this week, Balak, we read of the blessings conveyed by the prophet Balaam. Among the poetic verses with which he blesses Israel is the line mah tovu ohalecha ya’akov, mishkanotecha yisrael: How fair are your tents, O Jacob, Your dwellings, O Israel. This line eventually was incorporated into the prayer book, to be said upon entering a synagogue.

But tonight I want to focus on this line in the context of Balaam’s blessing. Of all the things about Israel he might have praised, why the tents? And why refer to the people by the name of their ancestor Jacob?

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Sh'lah L'kha 5779: True Colors

Jul 16, 2019

If you’ve made it in to the city at all in recent weeks, surely you noticed that many places have been festooned with rainbow flags, as was the lawn of our synagogue. June, as you may know, is Pride month, which celebrates the resilience of the LGBTQ community. This pride month is particularly important, as it commemorates 50 years since the Stonewall Riot. This event is widely considered as the catalyst of the gay rights movement. People from all over the world have come to New York this weekend to participate in the World Pride parade through lower Manhattan on Sunday.

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