Updated: 2 days 14 hours ago
A few months after Dad died, I trudged up Bascom Hill in Madison, on my way to making up classes that I missed when I left school to grieve. The entire year before had been shot academically--late teen crisis and depression, Dad's sudden death, and a paralyzing avalanche of questions about life's ultimate meaning.
I began to construct the scaffolding of personal narrative in George Mosse's history lectures, in after class bullshit sessions with his teaching assistant and now my dear friend Michael Berkowitz, in private Torah lessons with my Hillel director Irv Saposnik (of blessed memory filled with laughter) and a new group of friends who took Jewish civilization's questions of ultimate meaning seriously. Not that my childhood friends who had all migrated to Madison from Milwaukee didn't; but there was a texture to the conversation, an immersion into ritual, a willingness to, as George put it, "confront history," that made this new group compelling in its own unique way.
Life not only had purpose but it possessed, was inherently suffused with, Jewish purpose. "A Jew is an outside with a critical mind," George famously taught us in that first lecture. And from that moment forward, my own intrinsic criticality, inherited no doubt from my father, grandfather, great-grandfather and so on--the proverbial and quite literal chain of tradition--achieved lift-off. It was validating.
"You're so cynical," someone once said to me in high school. "Lighten up." I didn't quite see that as possible and in fact took great offense at the charge, it being somehow an existential threat to my very being, such as I pretentiously understood it during those striving late teen years, drinking pressed coffee, reading the New Yorker, and desperately trying to see Kurosawa, Bergman, and Godard--expressions which Milwaukee's East Side fostered generously, along with an ample supply of beer.
But cynicism was a tool, or so I had been taught; and that Jewish civilization had actually figured out how to harness it, through argument, debate, plowing deeper into textual and historical reality, for the purposes of maintaining a covenantal relationship not only between God and the Jewish people but among Jews themselves--this was revelatory. I was desperate for me.
What should have been my junior year was still, credit-wise, my sophomore year; and it was therefore agonizing to watch friends pack themselves up for various junior year study abroad programs--France, England, Spain, India, Italy and of course, Israel. Oh, man, I was shattered at not being able to go. I dreamed about it. Talked about it. Yearned for it, even. And one day, when I could no longer take it, I went to see the Dean of Students, Paul Ginsberg. A giant. A bear of a man. Psychologist. Zionist. Had even smuggled guns from Cypress in the pre-state years. Heroic state builder. He'd get me there. Immediately.
My sense of anticipation for the blessing I was about to receive was nothing other than the overflowing self-importance of youth. It was going to be like a noir novel. I'd get my assignment, maybe even in a dossier, and head over on the next plane to join the chain of tradition's heroic pantheon.
An office on a campus hilltop. Shelves overflowing with books. The slow, calming hiss of a radiator on a cold day. A bearded man, fiercely secular and wise. His hand a mitt--an Eddie Matthews mitt, a Henry Aaron mitt--engulfed my own.
"Sit down," he suggested. And I told him my story. He listened. The narrative arc of my youth, the tragically realized transformation of facing a parent's death, of the Sinai-like moment of receiving the tablets of critical thinking, of a son redeeming the narrative of a father, the journey from slavery to freedom. It was a wonderful story.
"Israel doesn't need another dreamer, Andy," he said. "It needs practicality. It needs you to be productive. There are enough dreamers there." It was a year before I'd learn to inculcate those words with these words, written by Ginsberg's contemporary, the poet Yehuda Amichai: "The air over Jerusalem is saturated with prayers and dreams, like the air over industrial cities. It's hard to breathe."
That was thirty years ago.
It's a lifetime. And much more than a lifetime when compared to the lives of children cut short in this latest, agonizing, repulsive war that chokes us all with grief, anger, sadness and pain. "It's hard to breathe."
I've heard my teachers' voices echo in my soul these past weeks, wondering what to do from here, in the West, while my heart remains, as it always has, in the East. The persistence of hatred and war after all these years combined with a broader extremism on the march has the potential to confuse, to blind, to leave us grasping for the allure of dangerous totalities. A land without Jews. A land without Arabs. Texts with my own child from a safe room in West Jerusalem. Facebook messages from friends in East Jerusalem. Macabre updates from safe rooms in Tel Aviv. And the war of images and opinions, of deconstructed news biases from Gaza to Ashkelon, of the seemingly hopeless search for objectivity in a land where bombs are dropping, terror is looming, consensus is elusive--this war of images is taking place in the context of a region torn apart--not, mind you, by the sheer weight of good people everywhere merely wanting to survive but by bad people doing bad things and drawing good people into the line of fire; and good people being forced to do bad things in order to prevent more bad things from happening.
Relativistic nonsense you say? Not in the least. In fact, I remain a proud Zionist. Fortified as ever, resilient with hope, faithful in my belief that the Jewish people need and deserve, like any other nation, a state of our own. And, because of this, I recognize the necessity and legitimacy of Palestinians' right to self-determination and to a state of their own. I both abhor the killing and admire deeply, enduringly, the quiet heroism of Israelis and Palestinians who are weathering, yet again, a seemingly intolerable descent into violence and madness.
During the course of the past few weeks, I have read more arguments over the rightness of each cause and the irredeemable sins of each side to convince me, yet again, that there is no path forward other than compromise. The Jewish people will not get all they want in the historic land of Israel; and the Palestinian people will not get all they want in the historic land of the Palestinian people. That essential truth has never changed, in my opinion, over the course of the past one hundred years.
Try as the most extreme elements on either side might, maximalist views lead in one direction: to the grave. And we'll just keep bloodying ourselves, defending ourselves, justifying our actions to ourselves, until there is compromise and peace. Until we learn that in our own sometimes deluded efforts to carry out the will of our God who loves us like no other, or the will of a Godless God of hatred and death, we will simply be dealing with the continual collateral damage of our own self-destruction. We will pay the price until we understand, fundamentally, that we are responsible for one another. Period. Anything other than that is a world whose very foundation we are apt to destroy.
What did Amichai say about the diameter of a bomb? "And I won't even mention the crying of orphans that reaches up to the throne of God and beyond, making a circle with no end and no God."
There is no other way. No other way than hope, paired with the practical decisions that derive from the belief and the knowledge that we all deserve better, not through the miraculous totalities of dreamers but the hardscrabble facts of builders.
As a Jew and as a human this word screams out for life: Hope.
there's enough Mediterranean Sea for everyoneI'm no longer on the Left or the Right.
I'm not Orthodox or Reform.
I'm an American Jew. It's as simple as that.
And that's the place I write this from.
Just a week ago, the Jewish world was recoiling in horror at hearing the news of the deaths of three young Israeli men, Eyal, Gil-ad and Naftali--brutally murdered, shot in the head, dragged and buried under rocks in a field. They had been missing for 18 days. The parents of the young men prayed and asked for hope. But it wasn't to be. Soon others (but not the parents) called for revenge. Tensions rose. Many feared the worst.
Moments later (or so it seemed) a group of Jewish youth fell upon Muhammed Abu Khedeir, a Palestinian from East Jerusalem. He was kidnapped and burned alive, a horrific death, condemned by Jewish leaders in Israel and throughout the world. Within days the perpetrators were arrested. Rabbis and philosophers and politicians dug deep within their Jewish souls, taking responsibility for and desperately trying to understand how such brutality could occur in the name of Israel, Judaism and Zionism. Riots broke out in Palestinian areas. More deaths. The Jerusalem police beat a teenaged Palestinian-American. The officers were punished. Jews visited the Muslim funeral tent of Muhammed Abu Khedeir's family. Calls for revenge mingled with calls for peace on Facebook and Twitter. Flaccid, rehearsed calls for restraint were issued by governments from around the world.
And then the rockets started falling from Gaza. We know how this ends.
It's not a fair fight. Hamas terrorizes Israeli civilian populations. Israel strikes back, strong, against rocket batteries that are placed among civilian populations, knowing that children, women, non-combatant men will die. Those deaths, like human ante at a tired game of poker, will be chips in the media, on Twitter and Facebook, on the international stage of the United Nations.
Zionism is racism. Zionism is genocidal. Zionism is colonialism.
Palestinians are savages. Palestinians are inhuman. Palestinians don't want peace.
In my life, I know all those above six statements to be false. Annoyingly, repetitively, debilitatingly and idiotically false. "Game of Thrones" has a more compelling plot line at this point than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
I'm a Zionist because I know it to be true that Jews are a nation with a history, a land and a language all our own. As a Zionist I also believe that Palestinians, as they have come to define themselves, have a history, a land and a language all their own.
I actually believe that this can be worked out.
I don't think kidnapping teenagers and killing them or launching rockets helps anyone. It just makes things worse.
So it's mid-July. And the conversation should be about soccer. But all the world is watching Hamas launch rockets and the Israeli Army bomb Gaza, killing the guilty along with the innocent, as rockets fall in the south and the center of Israel, terrorizing a civilian population including, this summer, my own kid. (WhatsApp question of the day: "Dad. Are there benefits to a ground invasion?")
And when this latest rounds ends, with many more dead than there were at the beginning (some who deserved to die and some who didn't) the people, who live under their leaders, will demand to know what the next steps will be.
I'm a practical man. So here's my demand:
I want to hear from Palestinian leaders that the Jewish people have the right to live in a state of their own in peace. I want to hear from Israelis leaders that the Palestinian people have the right to live in a state of their own in peace.
The partisan blows will be tempting. Cynics will say: Settlement expansion. Right of Return. Refugees. Jerusalem. It will all fall apart all over again.
Seems to me, for the better part of the past twenty years, we've got answers to those questions. They're bound up in agreements. Stored away. "Light is sown for the righteous." Release the light already.
Stop the killing.
So why all the killing? Hate is a powerful tool, isn't it? Tens of thousands of Facebook posts calling for revenge against Arabs. Celebrations in the streets over Jewish dead teenagers' bodies. On the other hand, thousands express moral outrage in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Hundreds visit Muhammed Abu Khadeir's family's mourning tent. The killing doesn't have to be, does it? Our morality can overcome our baser instincts, can it not?
My sense is that, besides our more savage, uncontrolled urges toward death, killing continues because the people grant the consent to those who govern them to kill in their name. It's either that or the mark of pure despotism. But history dictates that either can be changed. But one does have to take a risk. Yitzhak Rabin, tragically, wasn't the first patriot to risk his life for peace. Anwar Sadat was killed too. Closer to home, Abraham Lincoln. Martin Luther King. This is the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer in America. African Americans are more equal today than one hundred years ago because people risked their lives. It's a terrible dilemma. There are no guarantees. But history calls for at the least, the risk of sacrifice.
I'm a double patriot. A proud American and a proud Zionist. Less than a week ago I sat with friends and family and read the American Declaration of Independence, an annual ritual that reifies, each year, the values embedded in America's imperfect and ever-evolving democracy.
One section interests me greatly each year and this year, in anticipation of what I knew would inevitably transpire in Israel, I paid special attention to these words:
"That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security."
The Israeli government is remarkably contentious. It's to be expected amongst Jews, no? I've spent the better part of the last thirty years of my career in Jewish life. The way we organize ourselves is often no walk in the park. For instance, even as bombs are falling in the homeland and a military operation is underway in Gaza, news outlets carry speculative reports of the Israeli governments rising and falling, coalitions forming and re-forming--perhaps this time, the theory goes, creating a government that can truly bring peace. Not for "light and transient causes," mind you. Rather, peace.
But "mankind are more disposed to suffer." This I direct to my Palestinian friends and their allies. To wit: where is the suffering getting you? The wave of suicide bombs in the Second Intifada got you behind a security barrier, tighter controls over your movements, and increased Jewish settlements. Bombs from Gaza get you mass death and an economic stranglehold in the form of blockade.
And under Hamas, in the form of messianic religious extremism and a totally blatant rejection of the validity of Jews', Jewishness and Judaism's national expression of Zionism, you are left with nothing.
The "long train of abuses and usurpations" are not just the Occupation you have come to singularly detest. But in your detestation you are showing your own remarkable capacity for self-abuse. Hiding bombs among children. Shame on you.
It is your right to bring such shame upon yourself, that's for sure. But it is your duty "to throw off such Government" whose actions may very well be contributing to the abuse you so disdain. You want peace? Overthrow your own very leaders who are preventing you from accepting reality: the Jewish people have an equal claim to live in the land. We are here to stay.
It's an easy transaction. Stop the terror. Accept the Jewish state. You'd be surprised--as the Egyptians and Jordanians have come to learn--that when you exercise that duty, together, we can "provide new Guards" for future security.
June 30, 2014
CBE Mourns the tragic and unjust deaths of Israeli youths Naftali Fraenkel, Gilad Shaar and Eyal Yifrah, whose kidnapped and murdered bodies were discovered today, north of Hebron, by the Israel Defense Forces. For more than 18 days the Jewish nation and the broader world hoped and prayed for their safety; but today we learned, with broken hearts, that terror and hatred have cut short young lives of blessing and faith.
There are so many difficult emotions to confront and process at this moment. There are those of us who feel anger and sadness; there are those of us who feel confusion; and there are those of us who crave a desire for revenge.
And there is among so many of us a gnawing exhaustion from a conflict which seems to have no end; a world which seems to hang in the balance; and ongoing questions about what it is that we might do ourselves to eradicate the perceived insoluble hatreds over land, history and God.
But if the memories of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal are to be a blessing, as our tradition demands, then we must honor their lives with a renewed commitment to the varied and eternal expressions of learning, spirit and deeds of lovingkindness that have sustained the Jewish people for generations.
As Jews we must mourn the loss of life with the promise to live life itself to its fullest expression; we must confront the deprivation of life with a generosity of spirit to those in need; and we must remember, always, with this in mind, that to be a Jew in the world is a weighted privilege, which still, tragically, can come at the price of life itself.
On Tuesday evening July 1 at 7 pm, we mourn and remember together at a special service sponsored by the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, the UJA Federation of New York and the New York Board of Rabbis, to be held at the Jewish Center, 131 West 86th Street.
While we pray for a future peace with our Palestinian neighbors, tonight we mourn with the Fraenkels, the Shaars, the Yifrahs and all Israel. United as one.
May the memory of Naftali, Gilad and Eyal be a blessing.
Rabbi Andy Bachman
Enclosed is a statement from CBE Clergy and Leadership regarding the recent divestment vote of the Presbyterian Church U.S.A.
June 23, 2014
The Clergy and Leadership of Congregation Beth Elohim are disturbed and saddened by the recent vote of the Presbyterian Church USA to divest from certain companies doing business with Israel.
Rather than engage both sides in this difficult situation, the Presbyterian Church USA has chosen a path of isolation and divestment. In addition, as has been publicized, the Church's website distributes an anti-Zionist tract called "Zionism Unsettled," understood generally to be a one-sided, ahistorical and biased document, unhelpful in the least to the cause of mutual understanding and peace. While PCUSA has taken an objectionable position and is still publicizing "Zionism Unsettled" on its website, there are many friends and allies in the PCUSA. The vote was extraordinarily close--with a margin of 7 votes. With continued dialogue with our friends in the PCUSA, we hope that on these local levels the understanding and joint work for peace can and should thrive.
This vote was part of a larger campaign, known as BDS (for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), which the broader American Jewish community has strongly opposed as unfairly singling out Israel. We have long agreed that BDS is counter-productive to the efforts at reaching a just solution for Israelis and Palestinians.
The Reform movement's president, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, was present for the debate and vote and issued a condemnation of the action on behalf of the URJ. You can see Rabbi Jacobs debating this vote on CNN. In addition, Rabbi Bachman shared some reflections on BDS in the Forward two years ago at the time of the proposed Park Slope Food Coop Boycott of Israel.
CBE has a broad and diverse membership which, while recognizing disagreement over any number of issues, remains united in our support of one another's attachment to Judaism, Jewish identity and the State of Israel. It is our understanding that no matter where one may reside on the political spectrum, the BDS movement is unequivocally a movement which de facto denies Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state. We therefore find the vote of the Presbyterian Church USA to be wrong and damaging to the two-state solution. For many years now, the Reform movement has long supported the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians as the only viable means for resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Closer to home, CBE has historically worked with many faith-based organizations across Brooklyn that share a mission to bring greater kindness to the world through worship and action. One such partnership is with Park Slope Resurrection, a Presbyterian congregation that uses our Sanctuary on Sunday mornings. It is important for our membership to know that Park Slope Resurrection is not affiliated with the Presbyterian Church USA, but with the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, which is an entirely different Protestant movement, and played no role in the recent vote on divestment.
When asked to comment on this matter, Matthew Brown, the Senior Minister of Resurrection, expressed his regret at the message being sent by fellow Christians in the PCUSA. "Christians and Jews are united in our desire to 'seek the peace of the city' in all times and places. I believe the BDS movement not only undermines cooperative efforts by Jews and Christians to this end, it also fortifies barriers to peace between Israel and her neighbors. And yet, given the shrinking influence of Protestant and mainline denominations in the United States, this vote will have little sway over the hearts and minds of American Christians."
Despite our deep disappointment in this vote, CBE as a community is united in maintaining and developing partnerships in Brooklyn and Israel which strengthen our people's connection to one another, to be a just and kind city for all its citizens, and to honor Israel's right to exist as a Jewish and democratic state at peace with its Palestinian neighbors.
It is our fervent wish that with continued dialogue and trust, we can together reach these goals.
Andy Bachman, Senior Rabbi & Jonathan Fried, President
Second Home Cemetery, Milwaukee (Google Earth)In the shade beneath the cluster of trees at the top of this photograph are the stones marking the burial place of my ancestors, Chaim and Rebecca Siegel; Charles and Barbara Bachman. Two of them I helped bury as a kid; two I never met. The measure of their lives in words, when recounted in this hallowed ground, rolls along like crushed gravel beneath car tires that carry those who've come along to pay respects; like intermittent gusts of wind that shake and animate branches and leaves; and like the slow but certain transmutations of gravitational pull and decay which wears away granite in time. Bones which once walked the earth rest softly beneath it. And from a certain vantage point, this community of the dead is like a circuit board, a sim card, with a central artery of delivery (the path and roundabout) infusing energy and kinesis to static stones by reading names and dates, telling stories, shedding tears, planting new life.
Walking my kid to school the other day, I saw another youngster taking a photograph of her self (selfie) in front of a local running store. The store is called "JackRabbit," a name evocative of fleet--the warm, fuzzy and adorable kind. I love the logo.
The floppy ears and floppy feet of the rabbit, engined by determined fists, convey purpose and fun in a yellow bundle of victorious achievement. In ancient Greece the gods all had yellow hair and like Mercury with his winged sandals and winged cap, the yellow hare reminded me, as I watched this young lady capture an image of herself, of the varieties of ways that Hermes (and Mercury in Roman myth) delivered messages back and forth, to and from, the underworld.
In the 19th and early 20th century, when cameras were invented and modern photography came into being, some traditionally observant Jews avoided having their pictures taken because they feared the technology might capture their soul. In conveying an image, Hermes might steal them away to the underworld. My great-grandfather's mother's name was Liba Gutzeit-Siegalowitz and in a photograph taken in Minsk in 1911, she looks concerned.
The earth floor beneath her feet; her grandchildren at her side; left behind to perhaps share the fate of Kopyl's Jewish community's liquidation by the Nazis in 1942 (I don't yet know--the evidence is bare); or maybe she sees her own soul vanishing, like magic, materially moving from her own body to the lens, the film, the studio, the blackroom, the mailroom, the ship, the rail, and into the hands of her son, Chaim, in Milwaukee, who cannot save her.
The girl in front of the mercury-rabbit shoe store sends a picture of herself somewhere, maybe to someone else down the street or halfway around the world; and in an instant I look up in the sky and imagine an infinite number of messages and images dashing, hopping, colliding in space, the instantaneous delivery of digitized materiality making each of gods of our own fate.
So much power. So much faith in one little sim card.
One of my kids recently got her iPhone upgrade. We met at the Apple Store on the Upper West Side and carried out the exchange effortlessly. We transferred information to a cloud. We wiped out memory. And then when we asked the salesperson what to do with the old sim card she said, "Break it and throw it away."
And so with circuits humming heatedly all around me in that transparent commercial cube of happy entertainment, I floated above the burial ground of Milwaukee, looking down on the circuitry of my soul. I told myself stories that were happy and sad; triumphant and tragic. I took modest comfort in the reality that granite gravestone, as in a game of rock-paper-scissors, wears away silicon.
Grandpa died in 1973 and Grandma died in 1979 and they are buried next to one another, their flesh and bones in the earth beneath the trees; the shade, the leaves, the wind and sky above. In this picture they smile freely, in America. The camera captures only a playful image. Their stories, their essences, hovering in the Circuits of Time. Eternal.
Mourning, we sometimes forget, can be a heavy fog, dulling perception and the precise measure of things.
My father's date of death, for instance: March 22, 1983. I seem remember everything that happened that day, a cold spring afternoon, just this side of winter. In the repetition of the telling, my pen drifts across a page in my favorite lecture; I get distracted and head home; my uncle has driven up to Madison from Milwaukee to break the news and I know the moment I see him. I hastily pack and travel home to my family. I remember the dull, beige brush at the side of the highway; the cool condensation on the car window; a hug from my sisters; silence and confusion from my younger brother.
But now, when I look down at the only artifact left over from those grim first few days, a small yellowed document that had been taped to the bottom of the urn which held my dad's cremated remains, I'm surprised to see that we didn't do the nasty deed until a full six days after he died. It's not that we cremated him that alters my perception of the past--but that I have virtually no memory of the days that followed his death but one: the trip to the funeral home with my siblings and uncle; the shopping for a casket; my sister's moral objection to burying dad against his wishes (he had wanted to be cremated); and the spontaneous, unanimous agreement that his wish would be fulfilled.
Six whole days of what? Where did they go? Hung, like an invisible tapestry with a one word message: Loss.
After the funeral, at my uncle's house, my dad's brother made a special request to hold on to the remains for a while, keep them up on the mantel. It bothered me on one hand; on the other, they were brothers, after all, sons of the same mother, my beloved grandmother, whose own heavy, depressive nature was counterbalanced by her soft skin, her beautiful smile, her ample breast, and her delicious cooking.
Grandma fed me sour kugel and sweet blintzes in a wasted effort to fatten me up. As a kid my dad and I would go pick up my grandparents for meals at our house (followed by bridge) on most Saturdays and Sundays and while Dad and Grandpa sat in the front of his Olds Cutlass, I snuggled in the back with Grandma, being fed warm kugel, by hand. "You're a Jew," she'd say. And I'd nod obediently.
At Grandpa's funeral their apartment was loaded with people--family, friends, neighbors, patients and colleagues from Grandpa's medical practice--and food. All kinds. My grandma, who was devastated, depressed and nearly suicidal from the loss, poked her head into the kitchen at one point to explain to my mother and aunt as they scrambled to bake another kugel, that it required large curd cottage cheese. What do shiksas know?
It's amazing what one remembers.
Anyway, within six years grandma was gone and four years later we lost Dad to his heart attack. When my uncle asked to hold the ashes, it seemed like the right thing to do. Until he lost them. Each spring I'd roll into town for a family gathering, call him up, pay a visit, and ask for the ashes back. I had become more serious about Jewish observance and felt a deep need to inter them, to get them into the ground beside his ancestors. (Shortly after 2000, when he retired to the south, my uncle found the urn, delivered them to my sister, and we were finally able to bury Dad's ashes.) I had come to believe, as I still do, that the dislocation his mother knew--a refugee from Kopyl, Minsk in 1903, a town ultimately obliterated by the Nazis in 1942, all 2500 of its inhabitants killed--was the tapestry of Loss that hung over her life. And that America, as wonderful as it was, represented not what could be but what was. Then. Over there. The hallowed ground of the cemeteries in Milwaukee, where those immigrants from Minsk and Pinsk are buried, meant the world to her. It meant she came from somewhere. Had roots. Had a story to tell.
As a kid I'd follow her there with Dad. We'd plant flowers. Sit in the car under a tree. Get lineages right. But mostly Grandma would remain silent. Present in her loss.
Without a doubt this was a burden that was too much for my dad or uncle to bear. They took themselves seriously as Jews but never paid too much mind to the rules. And for them, first generation, the call of America was the music that animated their souls. And luckily for me, food was the fuel that made their engines run.
When Dad and Mom split up, I'd spend weekends with Dad and each Friday we'd go to Benji's Deli, the East Side Eden of Milwaukee's Jews. We'd order blintzes, or hoppel poppel, watch a game on the tv, and talk to Dad's cousins who we'd often see eating there as well. There parents were either dead or aging, too, and so the restaurant became a kind of mysterious memory salon, where souls and recipes hovered, benevolently, on those who had come to eat and remember.
About the blintzes, of course, Dad always said what you'd expect a good son to say: "It's not as good as my mother's."
We buried dad's ashes on a hill overlooking Miller Park, where the Brewers now play. And nearly thirty years later, and forty since their divorce, we laid Mom to rest nearby.
Through the fog of mourning and memory I recall this well: At Dad's funeral my brother-in-law told a story about how Dad, who lived in regret of his own behavior and wished he could take Mom back, used to go to their house for Sunday dinner and that my sister would make my dad's favorite meal that Mom made--meat loaf. "It's good," he'd say to my sister, "but your mother's is better."
Last night, inspired by Tablet's recipe page and my recent trip to Russ & Daughter's Cafe, I made a chopped salad and homemade blintzes for Shavuot.
Rachel and the girls seemed to genuinely like it and I have to say it turned out well. Grandma would have been proud. "What did you learn today, son?" she may have asked. With blintzes, trout, beets, eggs and red onions in the air, and yahrzeit candles scattering with ease the fog of mourning, I might have said, "We Jews mourn and remember and observe and eat better than anybody."
This is a tired routine, isn't it? But not so tired that we can't shake it up a bit, right?
A shooting rampage. Senseless deaths. Moral outrage. Opposing teams on their own side of the 2nd Amendment barricades. And then the vast, amorphous medium of nothingness swallows any hope of meaningful legislation. Until the next time, when those granted the blessing of time are robbed of their time by another outburst of powder, lead and steel.
We keep signing petitions. Tweeting our elected officials. Expressing our anger wherever we can. But you know what I know what we all know: Nothing happens until we throw the bums out. Remove from office those officials and representatives who will not have the courage to stand up for a proper and moral and historically accurate understanding of the 2nd Amendment to the United States Constitution. As Michael Waldman has been arguing in his description of the House debates of 1789--225 years ago!--"Twelve congressman joined the debate. None mentioned a private right to bear arms self-defense, hunting or for any purpose other than joining the militia." Individual rights, he noted, have trumped the public good of self-defense.
Truly Originalist readers of the U.S. Constitution know this. Paradoxically, it will rely upon citizens like us to restore the Framers' original intent in order to pass the laws necessary to save future lives that, with our unforgivable inaction, will continue to be lost.
Michael Bloomberg, upon leaving office as Mayor of New York City, has vowed to invest millions of his own personal wealth in the cause of removing from office those who won't pass strong gun control and replacing them with legislators who will.
Let's start with a March on Washington. Too young to be present for the 1963 March on Washington for Civil Rights, I was old enough to be present in 1987 with 250,000 others to help free Soviet Jewry. I occupied the state capitol in Madison to support divestment and end Apartheid in South Africa. A rally won't do it but it's a start.
Our synagogue in Brooklyn has 1000 families. That's more than 3000 people. I bet we could get several hundred people to spend a day Washington, DC, filling the National Mall, walking the halls of Congress, and standing on the steps of the Supreme Court and letting those justices and elected officials know that the time for meaningful gun control is now.
So what do you say Michael Bloomberg, Everytown, Moms Demand Action, Brady Campaign, New Yorkers Against Gun Violence? Are my elected officials listening? If we need to come closer to tell you, we will happily oblige. My hand is on the phone. The buses are coming.
Are we doing this or not?
I'm ready. Are you?
A friend recently gave us a bottle of wine--a 1998 Chateauneuf-du-Pape--that was quite delicious. We drank it while preparing dinner, listening to news on the radio, and glancing here and there at headlines as they came on various refreshed news sites I habitually track all day. Kidnapped Nigerian teenage girls; another violent day in the Ukraine; the denial of global warming's evidence; and some kid, again, with his hands on a gun. Our dog Nathan gets up, meanders about, and finds a new spot on the floor. Maybe this time, he figures, something will change.
It often doesn't. Or it least not in any immediate, discernible way. Which can be frustrating. Despite man's penchant for the urgent and exacting measurements of reality's existence, Time, alas, is its own master. Perhaps this is the reason, as King David taught, that "wine gladdens the heart." It eases us into a more compliant stance with Time and its corollary, Aging, bending us toward the wisdom of its will.
Right and Left. Believers and Atheists. Democrats and Dictators. Each race against, bargain with, at times even attempt to out-wit Time.
But not too much wine. "Better a good name than good oil, and better the day of death than the day of one's birth," said Kohelet. "Better to a house of mourning than to the bar, for that is the end of all men and the living may take the lesson to heart."
With each death--in Santa Barbara, in Jerusalem, in Nigeria, in Brooklyn--we think it will be the final death, the final time, to learn the lesson and get it right. But we keep on learning, don't we? And trying. Over and over again.
Chateauneuf-du-Pape means the "Pope's New Castle," from a time in papal history more than 700 years ago, when Pope Clement V moved the center of papal power to Avignon and a new wine was dedicated in celebration of this blessed event.
The Pope's New Castle. A fortress becomes a wine that gladdens the heart. The ironies of Time. I thought of this all weekend long, watching Pope Francis arrive in Bethlehem, touching his head to the Separation Barrier, the Eastern Wall of Palestinian self-determination and the Western Wall of Israeli security; giving honor to the Palestinian dream of statehood; secreting his own prayer in the infinite space of hope in the Kotel; deploring the Holocaust; laying a wreath at Herzl's grave. I wondered if young Herzl, writing about the Dreyfus Affair more than a century ago, drank the Pope's wine as he penned the words to the Jewish State that launched Zionism. I beamed with pride at seeing in an email that the Pope visited Jewish and Palestinian kids at Hand in Hand, a school in Jerusalem I've come to know and love.
I marveled all weekend long, from the safe distance of Brooklyn, at a man's imagination: for so quietly, so simply, and with such grace and dignity, giving voice to Jewish and Palestinian aspiration. This can happen on occasion. It can shift discourse, however briefly, to hope.
It takes a long time to change the world. But hope, like wine, can gladden the heart.
Sibling rivalry, they say, is as old as the hills. As old as the very hill that Cain and Abel brought their gifts to, only to have Abel's accepted and Cain's rejected, resulting in the first murder of God's newly minted world. This spurning of Cain triggered a sequence of events that ended with a killing and banishment, a disastrous destruction path of fugitive wandering that would last, for Cain and his progeny, for generations.
Was Cain's gift faulty from the start? Could he have done something better, something different, dug deeper into his own soul to find what it was that would have truly been a gift to give? Was his generosity false? His giving facetious? A feigned attempt to curry favor, gain an advantage, only to use it for his own edification and uplift?
The text provides a clue, embedded in Cain's emotional reaction, non-verbal, and God's spoken response. "Why art thou wroth? And why is thy countenance fallen? If thou doest well, shall it not be lifted up? And if thou doest not well, sin coucheth at the door; and unto thee is its desire, but thou mayest rule over it."
Cain is told a difficult lesson. One of the most difficult lessons for any of us to learn: When people say good things about us or when we achieve something worthy of someone's praise, we are proud and our faces show it. But when we don't achieve; when we miss the mark; when we offer what is wrong, we sometimes run the risk in our own lives of the degenerative power of self-destruction. Losing control, our anger and resentment control us.
Not a good situation, I'm sure you'll agree.
Once I sat with a dying man whose sons couldn't figure out how to get along in this critical moment in the family's history. The brothers themselves had a history of a deep and bitter rivalry which was becoming an impediment to the ability of the family to move forward toward the ultimate of offerings--the return of a body to the earth from whence it came. Key decisions like Burial and Cremation and Kaddish and Shiva and Minyans and Food and Mirrors Being Covered were, initially, as weapons of mass destruction, like primordial ancient objects, the hurled rocks of Id and Super Ego contending for the higher of the sacred offering.
Not a good situation, I'm sure you'll agree.
But a beautiful thing happened as the result of talking. Everyone listened. Harsh words were exchanged along with loving words. Difficult things were said and were followed by words of compromise and comfort. Space was created, in the rocky terrain of verbal and emotional cultivation that equalized what each brother had to offer, making both gifts acceptable to the Greater Cause.
This week's Parsha states: "And the Eternal said unto Moses: Speak to the the priests the sons of Aaron and say to them, 'There shall none defile himself for the dead among his people.'"
Now granted, the text here is primarily concerned with the fear of contamination, not an insignificant concern in the ancient world, far removed from our own era's contemporary professional practices of cleanliness in dealing with the dead in our current age. (Of course, this has its own extremes, bound up in a troubling distancing that we create from the death experience by outsourcing to skilled professionals, housing in marginal areas of society, and not fully facing the inevitable in a way that has taught generations of human civilization to face what we all must face: our own demise.)
Nevertheless, I couldn't help but read the text as one which warned families not to "defile" themselves with unnecessary rivalry in the face of profound and uneasy but necessary choices that we all must make to help those we love close out our lives, say goodbye, make arrangements, and die. Some experience the process of dying with violence in their hearts, tear open continental rifts in the territory of family, and destroy, sadly, tragically, irrevocably, the very bonds that generate and regenerate who and what we are.
Two different teachers read this text quite creatively with regard to importance of speaking, of using words and language in order to alleviate unnecessary suffering and the risk, even the danger of evil or violence, coming from matters related to the dying and the dead.
"None shall defile himself," says the Magid of Mezerich, means that when they stand before their people, "they must be very careful not to defile their souls through haughtiness or personal concerns." I see this over and over with families: a peace-making which occurs when people sublimate their personal desires for the greater good of the family unit in dealing with a reality which reflects people personally as well as the corporate body of the family. Sublimation of rivalrous views by talking, by speaking, by saying -- to echo the text -- allows for the space of compromise and shared offering to be sanctified.
Similarly, the Hozeh of Lublin writes that as in Torah text, the speaking that is done should be like the priests, sons of Aaron, who were known for their words of peace. In speaking words of peace before the dying and the dead, in speaking words of peace in the family at the moments before the dying and the dead, peace becomes the altar upon which all subsequent sacrifices are made.
I had one such conversation recently with a family, where some challenging conflicts were averted by speaking to each other, sublimating, listening and making peace. And to celebrate, we all shared a drink. It was 5:30 pm, after all, the sun was setting, and moving toward peace was a moment worthy of celebration. Most of us had a bourbon but the dying man had pinot grigio ice chips, small, infinitesimal molecular constructs of pleasure. There was a break from his headache; a smile on his face; a plan for his end coming in to focus. We asked, "How's the pinot grigio?"
And with a smile and raised brow he whispered, "Delicious."
When I was Hillel director at NYU, I was honorarily inducted in to the Jewish fraternity AEPi. This was a particular honor since the organization had been founded at NYU in 1913. Though my father and uncles were members of Jewish fraternities at UW-Madison in the 1940s and 1950s (where, like in the case of social discrimination on campuses across the country, frats and sororities for Jews were a kind of social necessity) I was never a member. By the 1980s, universities and colleges across the country had opened up to Jews (with still poor records on advancement for African Americans) and Hillel was the place where I went for Jewish learning and nourishment, charitable work and service. In fact, while a young professional at Hillel in Madison, we had to intervene on a couple of occasions with ZBT, another Jewish fraternity, who had obnoxiously sponsored a racist celebration of Martin Luther King's birthday. Working with the Dean of Students, Hillel brought discipline against the chapter and forced sensitivity training, with the hope of changing the minds of these young impressionable students.
My induction into AEPi was part of a secret ceremony, the contours of which I simply couldn't reveal. Fraternities, like most private organizations, have their ceremonious rites, after all. And so with a wink and a nod, I occasionally meet someone who was in AEPi, share the secret handshake, and that is about the extent of my involvement in the cloaked world of Jewish privilege.
Speaking of cloaked worlds of Jewish privilege, I was disheartened and bemused by the confidential vote yesterday to deny membership to J-Street at the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations. A well-known and well-positioned player on the national scene and a vocal proponent of the two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, Jeremy Ben Ami unquestionably leads a "major Jewish organization," certainly as major as AEPi, the American Federation of Jewish Holocaust Survivors, Workmen's Circle, the Women's League for Conservative Judaism or any of the other organizations, listed HERE, that sit and deliberate on all matters Jewish.
But unlike fraternities, which are run as charitable but ultimately closed and sometimes (wink, wink) secret organizations, the Conference of Presidents plays an important diplomatic role, in national and international politics as well as in the media, representing broad Jewish views to the Jewish community as well as the greater world.
A cursory glance at the list of member organizations and a quick survey of media appearances, activity on Capitol Hill, and influence among young Jews on campuses across the country, would seem to mitigate toward placing J Street at the table of leaders of major Jewish organizations. Jeremy Ben Ami, whether or not you agree with him, is undeniably a major voice on the issue of peace and security for Israel and the two-state solution. He commands the attention of politicians, synagogue membership roles, and college students across the country. And his positions consistently line up with where American Jews are in regards to Israel in poll after poll.
That J Street is denied a place at the table, by dint of a secret ballot, as reported in the Forward and elsewhere, seems to lack the kind of transparency that we have come to expect at this stage in the ongoing evolution of Jewish civilizational ideas.
For goodness sakes. Even yesterday's vote in the Senate against the Minimum Wage (unjust and cruel, if you ask me) was transparent enough for us to see the Ayes and Nays so that we might prod, cajole and advocate further for some alleviation to economic inequality in our fair land.
Equal transparency is owed to us by the leaders of the Conference of Presidents. Show us the vote. Explain its justification. Let us call the leaders who voted to deny entry to J Street. Behind closed door deliberations in 2014 to deny a seat at the table for an American Jewish leader who has the ear of thousands is bad policy.
Jews young and old: if you don't like the vote, let your voices be heard. Call and Tweet the Conference. Let them know how you feel.
While preparing to daven Musaf on the 8th day of Passover, I made the decision to cross over into a new way of praying to God. Rather than read the words on the page carefully and with meaningful spiritual intention; or sing along with the leader quietly; or close my eyes and rock, meditatively, to the ethereal dialogue of the ages, I just spoke.
In the paragraph addressing the God of our ancestors, I did just that and gave thanks for those who came before that I never met but whose image and values I carry with me each day. To the God of Strength and Giving Life to the Dead I gave thanks for names and words that still live not just in me but in my children and with hope, one day, my grandchildren. For the God of Holiness, ordinarily lathered with complimentary angels all around, I gave thanks for the Distinction and Uniqueness of the Jewish people, the Jewish narrative, the many Jewish languages and foods and folkways of existence that have animated our People for millennia.
Suddenly, though seated in a somewhat private area of the small chapel, I felt myself surrounded by not quite grace but a gathering of souls that were egging me on for more candor in prayer. The prayerbook slowly relaxed at my side; the tallis on my shoulders a hero's cape; and my pointed words, my bitter complaints and my stubborn gratitude gave way to a deep breath and renewed commitment to being a guy who gives a damn about Justice.
And Justice was the restored Chapel window I chose to sit next to on Tuesday morning. Mercy, Justice and Humility, as they are arrayed.
These windows, as some know, are inspired by the Hebrew prophet Micah: "He has shown you, o man, what is good, and what the Eternal requires of you: to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with your God."
Micah, you'll notice, placed Justice first, preceding in order Mercy/Love and Humility. But when the architects built the CBE Temple House, for whatever reason, Justice was made the center window in this triptychal statement of early 20th century American Reform Judaism. The fulcrum of the contemporary Jewish life that would come to be on the welcoming shores of this nation, they seemed to be saying, would be Justice. I need to be in Shul for the Holy Days; Light the Menorah; and host a Passover Seder. But most important, Do Justice.
Like many American Jews of the past few generations, Justice is at the center of our identity. In the very myth-making of our secular Jewish identities which have always drawn mightily upon the scaffolding of Exodus, Labor Rights, Women's Rights, Civil Rights and Two States for Two People, it is forever "justice, justice" that we are commanded to pursue.
I felt that on Tuesday morning. I really did. Freed from the obligation to simply mouth the words, to carry on with an exercise that sometimes feels like the aping of the imagined actions of my pious forebearers, I broke through a wall and spoke directly to God.
Silent God. Enthroned above a world where so much goes wrong. But whose fault is that? His words, afterall, came to me loud and clear.
Your mess, He said. You clean it up. Poverty. Housing. Guns. Racism. Jobs. Education. Peace. It's all there. In Micah and Amos. In Isaiah and Jeremiah. In you and me.
Mercy and Humility are there to offer balance, to move us up and down the ladder, like Jacob's dream angels, ascending and descending in gestures of compassion, comfort and love, there for us when we're so damn exhausted and sometimes even broken from the effort, for the backwards slides, for the indignity of convincing others that this is God's real work for us. So fixing what's broken hard work. It's not like we're the first generation to figure it out. Avadim Hayinu and all that.
There's a powerful scene in Yoram Kaniuk's memoir, 1948, in which long after the War for Independence, Kaniuk encounters a fellow soldier, now elderly like him and walking with his granddaughter, on Allenby Street in Tel Aviv. There is recognition of one another, laughter and then this: "We exchanged a few words, I said something to him, he was moved, and then there were no more words. His life and mine had not stayed the same. We had a memory from one day aboard a ship when he was a young, scared and angry boy who had sold his dead parents' diamonds to the SS and now he's an adult, introducing to me his wife and daughter, or granddaughter, I don't remember. We remained silent for a few moments and then went our separate ways, because we didn't have anything to say to each other, the memories exchanged glances and sentences, but we didn't have the words to talk about them."
This is what prayer is often like for so many people, looking down into the book, exchanging glances and sentences, but left with a feeling, too frequent and for some too painful, that there are "no words to talk about them."
But there are words. You have to find them. By pounding away. Like the way one pursues Justice.
14 April 201414 Nisan 5774
With another Spring upon us and Brooklyn in bloom, we gather at communal tables this evening to celebrate Passover and tell our people's redemptive story from servitude and liberation and praise.
For generations this telling has animated our existence. In tasting the matza and maror, we embody not just the remembrance but the experience of slavery's restrictions on the human spirit. In lifting up our cups of wine, however, we also claim that we are to "revere, extol, acclaim, adore and glorify God who for our ancestors and for us took us from slavery to freedom, from despair to joy, from mourning to celebration, from darkness to light, from slavery to redemption."
The promise is in the telling. In the telling there is the reification of the covenant that even in the darkest times there is hope. And in the journey from Egypt to Sinai--from the idolatrous servitude toward a cruel master to the sublime devotion through Torah, Prayer and Deeds of Loving Kindness--we have sustained ourselves and will continue to sustain ourselves for all time.
Our hearts are heavy this evening as we offer prayers of comfort to the families in Kansas City who fell victim to the cruel violence of a madman. "In every generation," the Hagadah reminds us, there will be those who rise up in hatred. The suspect in the shooting had been tracked by the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Alabama, an organization our CBE high school students visited in March on our Civil Rights tour. It is humbling and chilling to realize that such hatreds remain and a sobering reminder of the work that remains for us all. Our task, our role in this world, is to remain ever vigilant as well as a beacon of hope and light for our own people and all humankind. This is Elijah's hope. This is the Cup of Redemption.
In a world with so much need, with individuals and families seeking material, spiritual and emotional sustenance, we must always offer this Cup of Hope. We offer this cup to those who are hunger and in need of shelter; to those whose spirits are broken and require our love and support in community each Shabbat; and we offer this cup to those seeking a connection to the Jewish story, a way in, to join us on the sacred journey.
From our brothers and sisters seeking to live in peace in Israel to our community and neighbors here in Brooklyn, the Hagadah exhorts that this night is a "season of liberation." So it may be. May our efforts bring us that much closer to peace. May our efforts bring us that much closer to eradicating hunger and homelessness. May our efforts bring healing to the hearts of those in need. And may our historic community in Brooklyn at Congregation Beth Elohim remain a sanctuary of goodness and kindness for all who seek a meaningful connection to our Jewish tradition.
In these endeavors, may we "soar with arms like eagle's wings and run with the gentle grace of swiftest deer." And may each of you blessed with good health and joy in this season of liberation.
Rabbi Andy Bachman
A good friend.
A helping hand to those in need.
A lover of books.
He dreamed of his people's redemption
And dedicated himself to this day and night.
These are the favorite of the lines from the acrostic poem my great-grandfather wrote about himself, had painted on to ceramic and attached to his gravestone, which still sits in a cemetery on the South Side of Milwaukee.
Chaim Siegel, an immigrant to Wisconsin from Kopel, Minsk, Belarus in 1899, was by family legend a "rabbinical student" who instead ended up working in business in Milwaukee's center city, not far from the Golda Meir School at 3rd and Walnut.
When I did a college tour in February with my daughter, we rolled through town and pulled up to the school to take a look. It's where my grandmother was educated to be an American; it was from there that Goldie Myerson picked her up for babysitting; and it remains a symbol of our family's roots in both Minsk and Milwaukee--roots that are now deeply planted in my own kids' lives, so that they will one day tell the stories of where they origins.
Chaim Siegel never became the rabbi he had hoped to be but nevertheless he founded two synagogues was president of the Mizrachi Zionists, a small but meaningful contribution to the building and eventual founding of the Jewish state. Perhaps more important than his erstwhile desire to fulfill his service as a rabbi, he was a Jew who always showed up.
When I decided to become a rabbi, the great-grandfather I never met was foremost on my mind. Honoring his memory, exercising the privilege of Jewish leadership that perhaps economic circumstance prevented him from fulfilling, pushed me forward to Israel, rabbinic school and service. My life's work, solidified while saying Kaddish for my own father back in 1983, was alloyed to his.
Alloys, as far as the characteristics of metal are concerned, are generally stronger and more durable than the simpler, pure metals from which they are made. And the rabbinic career I wrought for myself these last thirty years has been one such mixture of sorts--sacred text and political activism; popular culture and deep spiritual traditions; deeply American and proudly Zionist. I have always strived to give life to the many dimensions of what it is to be a Jew in our age. And have, consequently, taught others to do the same.
Our lives are mixed up with each other, aren't they?
Since announcing my departure from the pulpit rabbinate of CBE last week, some people have asked me questions about my motivations for making this shift in my career. Will you stop being Jewish? Are you no longer a rabbi? And, the most often asked, will you do my funeral?
My Jewish soul is alloyed to wiry body. They are inextricably bound. I will forever read and teach and talk and argue and laugh about the many-faceted aspects of the improbable and inspiring reality of the Jewish people. As I told my Shabbat morning Torah study class, I will always teach.
As for being a rabbi, I'll say that with great pride I plan on remaining a rabbi; and am both fascinated and inspired by the notion of what it will mean to me to carry my rabbinic service out to the greater citizenship of my hometown here in Brooklyn. Wherever I land professionally in a little over a year from now, I may very well not retain the title of rabbi, but it doesn't mean that the work won't fundamentally be about service, learning, and the ethical and moral dimensions to what it is to live in community.
Just as Simeon the Righteous taught the "world stands on three things: Learning, Service, and Deeds of Loving Kindness," I see the rabbinic dimension at play in whatever I'll do because I know that equally central to the next professional chapter of my career will be that great sage's wisdom as well.
The ancient prophets were quite clear that the Jew was to be ethically attuned to both the particular aspects of his Jewish soul as well as the universal calls to serve others. I always have and always will take that prophetic mandate seriously.
Rabbi Tarfon, another great sage, comes to mind as well. "The day is short, the work is great, the workers are idle, the reward is great, and the Master of the House is pressing!" I have always felt this way about work at CBE, with Brooklyn Jews and with the Bronfman Center before that; and I will take this teaching with me out into the greater world. Tarfon also reminds us that while "we are not obliged to complete the work, neither are we free to evade it."
Having had the incredible privilege to serve for fourteen years at CBE (1993-98 & 2006-15) I humbly accept that the work inside the synagogue community is never done. I am also enormously hopeful that the next Senior Rabbi will bring her own or his own set of skills and unique commitments that will carry the work of Torah, Service and Deeds of Lovingkindness onward still.
In the meantime, let's agree that the most important aspect of who we are as a people is made manifest in showing up: To make a Minyan or to teach the Alef-Bet; to feed the hungry or house the homeless; to welcome those not born Jewish into our People; to speak out against injustice and to illuminate the sublime pathways of the inner spirit of human striving for the Divine; to see ourselves as one people--in Israel, America and throughout the world; and to also see ourselves as One People--humanity, bound by our aspirations to live lives of goodness and peace.