Updated: 3 days 19 hours ago
Guest Sermon Old First Reformed ChurchDelivered for their Consecration SundayNovember 9, 2014
My teacher Rabbi Stanley Dreyfus, of blessed memory, always demonstrated to his students the need to love words. Study sessions with him were often opportunities to relish the construction of language and the varieties of evocations that words brought forth from we mere humans in our hopefully humble and sometimes, all too often hubristic seeking of the Divine.
Consecration. Now there’s a word. The shared experience of the sacred. The “being present with another” for the experience of “the holy.” Consecration.
Its meaning is clear to us from the Scriptural readings you have chosen for today’s service here at Old First. The Psalmist’s aspirational language--to articulate the past so that future generations might know the face of God--makes the claim that in the mindful and persistent telling of the story of the deeds of our Mothers and Fathers, in their awareness of the goodness and the kindness of the God of our Ancestors--we reify, we make real again and again and again, the covenant of Truth and Justice and Peace.
Consecration. Being present with the past, in the present, for the sake of those generations which will arise in the future.
This idea is rooted in the reading from Joshua as well. Lofty, heroic, battle-tested Joshua. A man who actually knew Moses, obeyed his command, and received from Moses, who would lead the people to the border but never enter the Land of Israel, therefore necessitating the generational passage of leadership, the gift of ordination, the consecration of service, the duty to demand of Joshua, the next generation, that which they are obligated to do. In Judaism we call this the Shalshelet--the Chain of Tradition.
Joshua’s time, like ours, was a transitional time. He was aware that the project of Freedom, Justice, and Redemption was at a critical moment. A crossing over from slavery to freedom was one thing; developing a society rooted in such values and therefore worthy of God’s continued blessing was quite another. Whether it is the Biblical Exodus from Slavery to Freedom; the Dutch Reformed Church of Brooklyn’s role in the Underground Railroad; and the call to address poverty, hunger, homelessness, education equality, access to housing and work in our own day--it is what we do with the world we inherit that is the very measure of our lives. Maybe they got it wrong in that movie, “Field of Dreams” when Kevin Costner heard a voice that said, “If you build it, he will come.” Joshua offers another view, saying, “We came. We’re here. Now we must build it. And therefore, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.”
“WItnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the Lord, to serve him.” Boy, if that doesn’t capture one of the quintessential spiritual challenges of our age, I don’t know what does. Choice. An an embarrassment of riches of choice. An App for every impulse and desire. From the endless varieties of choices available to us during every waking moment, Joshua reminds us that we have agency, we have power over our choices; and in choosing the right path, to serve, together, one another, those in need, and the God who animates our very existence, in choosing the right path, the covenant is renewed.
In Emden, a founding city of the Dutch Reformed Church, Jews were welcomed by Dutch authorities. Many Marranos, those who had fled persecutions and the Inquisition in Spain, found refuge there. In fact it wasn’t really until the annexation to Prussia in the 19th century when Jews faced persecution in Emden; and in Kristallnacht in 1938, the beginning of the Holocaust, the synagogue of Emden was burned and destroyed. In the Berlin of that time, Rabbi Dreyfus’ grandfather-in-law, Rabbi Leo Baeck, head of the Berlin Jewish community, was facing deportation to Theresienstadt. As he was led away by the Nazis, a Christian neighbor, at risk of her own life, stepped out of a line of witnesses and gave bread to Rabbi Baeck for the journey. Years later, when his rabbinical students asked him how he could go back to Germany, which had been so cruel to our people, he said, “If there was only one good person willing to do good, that’s reason enough to return.”
The consecration of shared service in suffering; of being together in times of great need; of being witnesses against ourselves for doing what is just and right and true.
I remember the first time that I met your Reverend Daniel Meeter. I had just assumed the pulpit at Congregation Beth Elohim and in my first week in the job, Daniel invited me to lunch. “Let’s be friends,” he said. We shared Mexican food and prayed together before we ate agreed to serve as witnesses against each other in our own traditions of making the sacred real. When it was clear that as New York City continued to grow and thrive in wealth certain sectors but that many countless others continued to suffer, increasing homelessness across the city, our houses of worship opened temporary respite shelters. When our ceiling collapsed at Beth Elohim, Daniel was standing on our front step, offering us your sacred space for our holy days worship. When your ceiling collapsed--prompting from your rabbi the only appropriate response--”Jesus Christ! What is happening here?” Beth Elohim offered your church its worship space for the holy days. And when Sandy struck our city, we cooked, delivered and fed thousands upon thousands of people across Brooklyn and Queens because together, in consecration, our communities held each other accountable, as witnesses, to do what is right and just and true.
From the simplest of meals to the most sublime spiritual service, our friendship together bears witness to what we are called upon to do. And each of our communities here in this ever-renewing spring of eternal hope, in one of the most fortunate neighborhoods, truly, in human history, the voices of our ancestors calling upon us to serve so that we may be, in awe and humility, that spring of inspiration and hope for future generations to carry out deeds of lovingkindness and peace in their time as well.
The rabbis of our Tradition, more than two thousand years ago, in the shadows of the Great Temple that stood in Jerusalem, conceived of the notion of what they called the “Mikdash Me’at--the Miniature Temple.” This was the true, intimate place where men and women would find God--at the locus of the most Intimate Divine. On the Bimah of neighborhood synagogues and the Pulpit of neighborhood churches, to be sure. But not only there. The Mikdash Me’at was a table where a meal was served and blessings were spoken. Where learning was shared and where family and friends and neighbors could articulate their loftiest of dreams and aspirations for better lives and a better world. “Where two or more sit and share words of learning,” our Sages taught, “the Shechinah--the Divine Presence dwells.”
God the Most Intimate. God who dwells in us and among us. Who connects us, Who binds us in Covenants of Love and Peace, Who consecrates us, together, as One.
May this Sacred Community of Old First Reformed Church and its pastor, Reverend Daniel Meeter, know only blessing and goodness from its neighbors as witness to the goodness and blessings that emanate from this house of worship; and may this sacred community know and receive God’s abundant gifts of kindness and love.
When I was a kid growing up in Milwaukee, my dad preferred to drive from the East Side to the West Side of town by the street and not the highway, mostly for sentimental reasons. His sentimentality, mind you, was a many headed hydra. One was wistful and memory laden, almost romantic about his own childhood in the twenties and thirties, when he'd visit his grandparents who had started on the East Side, in the ghetto, and then moved west of the lake to the more wide open expanses near Sherman Park. He'd point out landmarks like old delis and grocers, parks and playgrounds where legendary games were played, and always the Kilbourn Reservoir, a wooded hill, fenced off and overgrown, the locus for a twenty million gallon tank which provided that section of Milwaukee with its drinking water. The decrepit nature of the reservoir; its location in heart of the once Jewish and then African American ghetto, symbolized for him, in our passes around it, a city and a world in transition, the proverbial, prophetic waters dried up, chained off, in a state of decay.
This indulged Dad's most cynical calculus. The mathematical formula for the Unmovable, the Insurmountable. He voted as one who knew "something should be done about it" but was never counted among those who actually had any skin in the game for determining which steps could or would actually be taken. And by "it" I mean the inexorable march toward the distinct separations between black and white that was coming to increasingly signify America--fueled by white upward mobility, the flight to the suburbs, vast disparities in educational and economic opportunities, the taken-for-granted belief in the future. Already by the late 1960s and early 1970s, one could see and experience the steady and then precipitous decline of whole neighborhoods into depression and poverty as well as the bottomless pit of their fleeting, addicting salves, substance abuse and violence.
Dad had enough trouble keeping ahead of himself. His anger and at times fragile emotional state were the challenging counterforce to his brilliance, humor and charisma, the latter qualities always the source for a great story.
One story he should have told was the story of the last ten years of his, a tragic descending spiral toward death that I tell; but there have been so many times in which I wish I could have heard it from his perspective.
In 1973, his father died. In 1974, Mom filed for divorce. In 1975, he moved out. In 1976, he lost his job with CBS. From 1977 to 1979 he failed as a real estate broker. From 1980 to 1983, he was the assistant manager of a shoe store in town, a job he hated, except for the 40% discount he got on socks for everyone he knew. Seriously. The guy came to really love socks.
When he died of a heart attack in the cold, early spring of 1983, it was a surprise to no one but a shock nevertheless. It's like he willed it to be the way Houdini would do a trick. Mind over matter. The Reservoir, he must have figured, had gone dry.
But the measure of a man, at least as I've come to understand it, is how he tells the story of his life (particularly when he has the opportunity, the time and the perspective) from the spot where one can look back down into the pit--having pulled himself out of it--and reflect upon what that journey meant.
From the Biblical patriarchs to Ulysses and Heracles and on throughout the Western canon, there is a long tradition of the triumphant narrative, of great risk in the face of tragedy and enormous suffering but in the telling, in the survival, a kind of victory. Primo Levi, in his dedicatory page to his book The Periodic Table, deployed the Yiddish proverb, "Troubles overcome are good to tell." As Levi explained to Herbert Mitgang in a 1985 New York Times interview, "Life is a texture of victories and defeats. If you haven't experienced at least a victory and a defeat, you are not a full-grown man."
Dad was two years gone by the time I read that and I was off on my own journey, seeking wisdom from other father figures, still living. Neither fully formed nor fully aware of the dimensions at play, I slowly chronicled my dad's downfall as it was happening, knowledgable of its impending reality but never a real believer in his inevitable end. After all, imagine being told as a kid: these will be the last ten years that you will know this man. How would you map out those conversations? For me those the years between the ages of ten and twenty. What the hell did I know? It wasn't cancer, after all. It was just life happening.
So I saved the pictures and the stories; the postcards, the letters, and the impressions. And the driving routes, from east to west to north to south. The short-cuts and scenic paths of his own past that before he could fully make sense of them himself he was already passing them on to me. His life, his gift to me, a big box with a surprise at the bottom, musty, dusty and overflowing with half-finished drafts of a man's life: the beginning, the middle and then, like Buster Keaton stepping on a rake, hit between the eyes with the suddenness-of-death-at-the-end.
This past weekend, while canvassing for the Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Wisconsin, I walked up to the Kilbourn Reservoir to look out over the city where my dad raised me. I looked south and a bit west where his grandparents settled after escaping Minsk for a better life in America; I looked east to where my grandfather opened his medical practice and where my dad excelled in school; I looked north toward where he he raised his family and then, slowly, year by year, toward the places where his life came apart. Down the hill, at the base of the reservoir, aged oak trees and their drying leaves swayed slowly, like they were singing a memorial prayer. And up on top, near where I stood, were saplings, newly rooted and hopeful, drawing from the waters that once were.
"Look away from the camera, son," I could hear Dad say. "It looks better that way." And so I looked, toward the future, just as he taught me.
A few weeks ago, I reflected Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's attempts to suppress voter turnout through the agency of the oft-discredited "Voter ID" law, which was fortuitously overturned by US Federal Judge Lynn Adelman. Judge Adelman pointed out that the law would disproportionately and unfairly single out the poor, the elderly, African Americans, Latinos and immigrants--many of whom are without a drivers license or the means of easily obtaining photo IDs. Voter suppression has long been a strategy of conservatives seeking to move elections in their direction and with the assist from judges like Adelman and defenders of democracy like the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, reasonable Americans are beginning to recognize that there is in fact negligible voter fraud in the United States and that the right to vote, while under attack, is one of American democracy's sacred secular rites.
I flew out to Milwaukee over the weekend with my friends Harriet and Lester Yassky to canvas in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood, a gentrifying area near the Milwaukee River with an interesting mix of longtime African Americans and whites, immigrants and gentrifying hipsters. It was a classic "get out the vote" effort, aimed at knocking on doors and engaging people in the conversation about why their voices needed to be heard. Basic issues separate the Wisconsin governor from the candidate Mary Burke, who seeks to unseat him: living wage; funding for the Milwaukee Public Schools; more than $100 million in federal aid for state health insurance for the elderly; and the fact that job growth in Milwaukee remains relatively low compared to elsewhere in the nation.
The campaign office out of which we worked was a perfect tapestry of lives from every segment of the spectrum of background and age. There was a united sense of purpose, a cheerful optimism, a sense of adventure for the long road there is to travel to make things right.
One quick walk around a random block and it became apparent that many of these people were hurting. For every few encounters with eager voters--especially those who had taken advantage of early voting (which is of enormous benefit to working people and the elderly)--there were those who had simply given up on the system and were not planning to vote. Often these conversations hewed to racial lines. African American citizens questioning the benefit of a governmental system that had regularly ignored, under-funded, or failed to engage them as equals was simply not worthy of their time.
Obviously, those were rich, complicated and powerful encounters. The insidious trap of failed efforts--poorly funded schools; lack of adequate jobs; decreased governmental services and assistance--combined with broken families, drug abuse and violence--makes for an overwhelmingly potent challenge to overcome. I was thrilled by how much hope and resilience I encountered from young and old, those who can see the horizon, however distant; and humbled by the challenge of being asked to defend a democratic system that had often left the poorest of the poor on the outside looking in.
One homeowner argued with me loudly, telling me the whole system was corrupt and not worthy of his time. His wife disagreed, prodded him, asked me for help in getting him to vote. I noticed a scar on her chest from a chemo stent and thinning hair and explained that during my mom's last summer, we had administrative hurdles placed in front of us by Governor Walker's decision to refuse federal aid for BadgerCare, the Wisconsin medicare program. The husband rolled his eyes at me in exasperation and said, "Alright. I'll do what my wife tells me to do."
On another block a man very politely answered the door, kept up his cellphone conversation, apologized and said quickly to me, "You'll forgive me if I don't vote. I'm tired of it all." And then he closed the door.
A crowd of Latino immigrants scrambled when I walked nearby, despite my attempts to assure them I wasn't there to report them to immigration authorities--just as another man approached with a wad of cash, waved it toward them, and recruited three guys for a job. In the shared backyard of three row houses, chickens roamed, kale grew, and three beehives buzzed with activity next to a large compost pit. Urban organic hipsters, fired up to save the planet. They had already voted the prior week.
In one of the last blocks I walked, as the sun set on Saturday afternoon, I looked down at a list of five names all at the same address and all of voting age. When I got the address, I saw the burnt out remains of a house and no door to knock on. Upon closer examination, the upper floors were bore fresh beams--perhaps a slow comeback was in play. It seemed like a metaphor for our democratic system. Despite the persistence of millions in outside campaign money--anonymously infused into these elections--and a tiring and juvenile discourse lacking in thoughtful, intelligent debate, I saw a real hunger for making this country better.
I'm not sure if my candidate will win in Wisconsin--I certainly hope she does. But either way, I came away from the weekend deeply moved by what I saw and heard, reminded that the road is long and hard but worth traveling, every step of the way.
I heard a good story recently and wanted to write it down. To share it, so it could be remembered.
A short time after his survival in a work camp during the Second World War, a Jewish immigrant to the United States, who had lost most of his family in the Holocaust, was brought out of the Displaced Persons camp where he was placed immediately after the war's end and then transported to America with his wife and son by the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society.
American Jewish communities in virtually every part of the United States participated in this highly coordinated effort to relocate refugees and allow them an opportunity to begin life all over again, an often devastatingly difficult endeavor, given all that had been lost and destroyed. "Since one starts with absolutely nothing--no family, no town, no history--one had to decide who one would be."
Some transcended the destruction with a will to begin again--vibrant, hopeful, alluringly engaging, reflecting the notion that every breath of life is an expression of good fortune, a blessing. Others remained in place, if not in unavoidable decline, shrouded in the darkness of death, mired in the shadowed valley.
One such man, yeshiva-trained in Poland, fiercely intellectual, destined for a higher education and an exemplary professional life, emerged from the war never quite able to break free from its bonds. He would have no such luxury. His pride and dignity bolstered his refusal to take "charity" once he was brought to America and with no time to devote himself to getting the university training once he was distributed and settled into a small, southern Jewish community, he set out to find whatever work he could. He wouldn't aspire. He would merely work. But his Jewish principles remained rock solid.
He saw an ad for a job with the designation, "Colored Only Need Apply," so he applied.
"I'm Colored," he declared. After all, he explained, everyone kept calling him "Greenhorn" when he arrived. The application was for a driving job and the man who taught him to drive was an older African American, who graciously accepted him into his world. Others, seeing the Jewish survivor driven around town by a Black man as he received his lessons asked what he was doing with a "Colored person." "I'm Colored," he said. "I'm Green."
As I heard this I was reminded of a story I once read about Rabbi Joachim Prinz, a German Jewish refugee himself who was a rabbi in Berlin before serving with distinction in Newark, New Jersey. American Jews often refer to Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel in near iconic terms, from his stand against the Vietnam War to marching with Dr. King during the Civil Rights era; but it was Prinz who preceded King on the dais at the March on Washington in 1963.
You can find and listen to his speech here.
In 1937, Prinz also went south for a time following his arrival in America; and as the story goes, was on a speaking tour in Atlanta, raising awareness of the Jewish plight in Europe and for the Zionist cause. One of his first stops in Atlanta, then still deeply segregated, was a visit to Dr. Willis Jefferson King, an African American Bible scholar. Prinz had actually met King the prior year in Jerusalem at an academic conference under the auspices of the American School for Oriental Research.
After their visit, explained Prinz in his autobiography, he invited the professor for a drink and dinner in his hotel. "We should eat in your room," said Dr. King, fully aware of the racially divide, taboos against inter-racial amity, and the undergirding assumptions and racist barriers of "southern etiquette."
Later, on the same trip, Prinz was in a Jewish home when his host expressed shock that he had broken bread with a Black man. "I simply did not understand nor had I known that Jews, the classical victims of racial persecution, could themselves be racist," wrote Prinz. "I said that what was evidently happening to the black people of America was the very same thing that was happening to the Jewish people in Europe." The argument ensued and to break the tension, the host offered Rabbi Prinz a drink. Hoping for a stiff whiskey to ease the impasse, he was passed a Coca Cola. It would be the first and last time in his life he'd drink a Coke. "Coca-Cola was for me a symbol of hatred and prejudice with which I did not want to be identified."
While there was great Jewish heroism during the Civil Rights movement, there were also pockets of Jewish racism and Prinz's story has always been an inspiring one. The insidious associations to color and race in American history is an ongoing, ever-unfolding burden that each of us continue to bear as citizens obligated to uphold the greatest values embedded in our democratic ideals.
In his speech to the March on Washington in 1963, Prinz said, "America must not become a nation of onlookers. America must not remain silent. Not merely black America but all of America. It must speak up and act, from the President down to the humblest of all, and not for the sake of the Negro, not for the sake of the black community but for the sake of the image, the idea and the aspiration of America itself."
He knew that truth--from heart to his bones to the surface of skin. And it showed on the surface. As apparent to all as if he were green.
Some time ago I called Mom on a rainy day in November, just as the Holiday Season was kicking in to gear at the Bay Shore Mall in Milwaukee where she worked. Intrepid, hard-working, a cheerful demeanor for her customers always hiding the jaded perspective she hid well beneath the surface, she brought me up to speed on the goings on at Boston Store.
"Some genius went to the bathroom in the changing room yesterday," she sighed. "Such is the nature of the work. I put on gloves and cleaned it up."
I was silent on the other end of the phone. Seeing public defecation in New York isn't exactly news. However the relative anonymity of the city tends to often veil us from this excremental reality, other than its malodorous intrusions or, God forbid, an unfortunate misstep. Additionally, in the heart of Baby-Centric Brooklyn, one's day is often punctuated by moms and dads changing kids in all sorts of venues--coffee shops, restaurant benches, beneath the arboreal canopy of the park, on a subway seat, what have you. So, you know, everyone poops.
But there was something particularly violative of changing room poop. It conveyed, what? A lack of self-control; a malevolent intent; mental illness; a political statement? Against malls?
Mom was unmoved.
"I'm a wage earner," she explained. "This is the kind of shit we deal with."
We laughed, but not uproariously.
Yesterday, after a meeting in a nice Midtown office, speaking about the loftiness of Jewish values, identity and Israel engagement, I jumped over to Macy's to buy some socks. I needed socks. After making my selections--solids and a few trendy stripes (when did stripes get so trendy? everyone's wearing striped socks)--I went to ring up.
The man behind the counter was in his early seventies. He was wearing nice slacks, a grey shirt and a floral patterned tie. We talked about the book I had set on the counter (Isabel Wilkerson's The Warmth of Other Suns) just next to my umbrella, and the incessant rain. I politely declined his invitation to apply for a Macy's card and as he totalled me up, I could sense the next customer in line tensing over our conversation and the salesclerk reading the awkwardness, if not the yearning, for more such encounters, the social grease of capitalism's "weal" that is perhaps a dying art in our click-to-shop material culture. When he asked if I wanted my receipt emailed or in print, I said, "Give me the paper," and he generously placed it in the plastic bag, at rest among the socks.
As I walked away I thought of Mom--how could I not?--and back to man, wondering what rooms he'd clean that day; what customers would look right past him, down into their phone, their wallet, the exigencies of their own transactional lives. Would he work Black Friday, folding and refolding the piles of clothes left on the floor in the mad rush of sale shoppers? Would his packed lunch sit uneaten, lost in time to too much work on the floor? And when he went home at night, would he have a kid to call and recount the day's work to, the din of late night television in the background, the newspaper out on the table next to dinner, a story, a laugh?
Earlier that day I had gone down to our corner grocer to get some laundry detergent and conscientious Brooklyn consumer that I am, had taken my cloth bag, to avoid the plastic. At the end of the day I went back to get some popcorn kernels and seltzer as an after school snack for the girls. I forgot the cloth bag as I approached the cash register. The clerk from the morning was still there, ringing people up all day.
"What happened to your principles?" she asked with a wink.
"How was your day?" I responded. It was the best answer I could come up with.
Hand in Hand members: Neighbors at PeaceAs I begin to plan my post-pulpit career, I recently joined two non-profit boards that represent two ongoing issues I intend to work closely on for the coming many years: New Yorkers Against Gun Violence and Hand in Hand: Center for Jewish-Arab Education in Israel.
Each organization and its leaders are right at the proverbial cutting edge of dealing substantively with two of the most urgent issues facing us today--gun violence and the seeming insolubility of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. And to my mind, both NYAGV and Hand in Hand offer practical, this-worldly, meaningful solutions. And they get it done.
NYAGV has been on the ground for years now and my own involvement has been in speaking at rallies, showing up for meetings with political leaders when advocacy is needed, and helping foster a relationship with communities that want to be involved. For example, in the past nearly two years since Sandy Hook, NYAGV has helped organize an Anti-Gun Violence Working group at CBE in Brooklyn, where I will serve until June, led by a number of members, including fellow NYGAV board member Rebecca Fischer. There is a focus and a resiliency to this work that the traditional gun lobby, the NRA, may very well be underestimating; and though there has been no major, headline grabbing legislative victory as yet, my sense is that the national momentum for sane gun laws is really, truly building in this country. The only obvious tragedy is that we can't work fast enough to prevent the ever-present senseless deaths that occur. But we can try.
At the NYGAV fundraiser on Monday night, I presented an award to Amy Domini, a mutual fund investor whose company, Domini Social Investments, simply refuses to invest in business that support gun manufacturing. Her plainspoken, ethical approach to doing business was inspiring to hear. I also met a member of Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr (there to accept an award on his boss' behalf) who has done remarkable work helping stop the flow of illegal guns into New York. The assistant DA was introduced by Detective Steven McDonald, a New York City police detective who was gunned down in Central Park while on duty. A quadriplegic who breathes with a ventilator, he is one of the most soulful and spiritually generous men I ever met. Whose son is now in the NYPD. Extraordinary.
Finally, I met Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy, whose crusade in Washington for gun control is heroic and inspiring. She retires this year and so was awarded by NYGAV with the Allard Lowenstein Award. For those who don't know, Allard Lowenstein was a one-term Congressman from New York City who was murdered by a mentally ill student, paranoid that Lowenstein was "out to get him." Circumstances that were chillingly similar to my grandfather's murder in 1939, an event that I grew up hearing about and shaped my view about guns. Rep. McCarthy first ran for Congress, remember, when her husband was killed and son was wounded in the 1993 shooting on the Long Island Railroad.
But here's what also stuck with me from Monday night. Conversation after conversation with other board members and guests, each of whom have been irrevocably touched by the scourge of gun violence. There are so many inter-connected issues here: poverty, education, economics, faith, social policy, and politics. It can be overwhelming; but the human capacity for triumph and the determination to do something to make a positive difference after seeing one's life ripped open by senseless violence made me so damn proud to be committing to this new work in this new chapter of my life.
Hand in Hand, the bi-lingual K-12 school system in Israel, is another such endlessly inspiring organization. As I've written about before and as Roger Cohen helped amplify this past summer, Hand in Hand is doing what every self-respecting educator knows to be the ultimate solution for bringing peace to the world: teaching, one student at a time.
I first visited the school with fellow board members of the UJA Federation of New York in April 2013 and fell in love with the school and its faculty. From campuses in Jerusalem, Jaffa, Haifa and the Galilee, Hand in Hand is committed to the idea that, as its website says, "there is another way."
This past summer, when violence, war and racism were at all time highs and when both Palestinian and Jewish residents of Jerusalem were fearful for their safety, the parents, teachers and staff of Hand in Hand stepped into the breach, embraced their methodological framework of education and community building, and let a series of peaceful walks that were meant to demonstrate that in Jerusalem and elsewhere in Israel, Jews and Arabs refuse to be enemies. It's a basic but essential and powerful statement that needs to be heard, needs to be taught, and needs to be practiced by more and more people.
In addition to bi-lingual education having a whole host of benefits to those recipients of its pedagogical practice, Hand in Hand models what public education is meant to do in democracies--bring people together from diverse backgrounds in order to instill in them a shared value system.
Moving forward, I'm interested in strengthening the school, broadcasting its message to the greater world, and helping build connections between Brooklyn (New York City's great heartland of public education (though imperfectly democratic according to today's New York Times) and my other favorite places in the world--Jerusalem, Tel Aviv/Jaffa and the Galilee.
More to come in the weeks ahead but there's an update for you.
If you want to read an exercise in passive aggressive, moral obfuscation, read the statement on the Jewish Voice Peace website about the physical attack on Leonard Petlakh at the Barclays Center on Tuesday night.
Typical of JVP's moralistic stance on Middle East Peace in which they defend only the rights of those who are victims of the Jewish right to self-defense, JVP nods its hypocritical head toward peace while casting blame on the Jews for bad behavior. Beating Leonard was deplorable. But bad Jewish behavior made someone do it.
1. "JVP members held signs and handed out flyers expressing the view that honoring the IDF only a few weeks after Israel's attack on Gaza has ended contradicts our values as Jewish New Yorkers."
Which values? Some Jews have the right to protection and self-defense but others don't? And JVP gets to determine which ones, according to their Jewish values? And was it the IDF being honored or the specific project of supporting wounded soldiers? I was at the game. "Friends of the IDF" was mentioned once. Which clearly was not enough, but too much for JVP.
During this summer's war in Israel, several friends--Zionists and Israelis who live in Israel and vote in elections and support the two-state solution by voting for the left-wing parties that support territorial compromise, had sons, who also vote for those same political parties, defending Israel's borders by fighting in Gaza. One lost an eye in the ground invasion. While JVP leaders were drawing protest posters with Sharpies in Brooklyn, other Jews, with other Jewish values, were both defending their right to live as Jews and taking the daily risk of working for peace, on the ground, in Israel and Palestine. One such price of citizenship is service in the IDF, a people's army, with soldiers who vote across the political spectrum.
2. "We were there as part of a large coalition of organizations who were all committed to non-violently protesting this event."
Which organizations? Name them. What are their views? What are their values? Does speech approximate violence when basketball fans are called "murderers?"
3. This is the most egregious. "The police had us behind a barricade on the sidewalk, while many people aggressively waving Israeli flags were in front of Barclays yelling at us and making rude gestures."
Was Leonard Petlakh aggressively waving an Israeli flag and making rude gestures? Is the claim here that because somehow, somewhere Jews were behaving aggressively that the later violence which victimized Leonard and his family was justified? Is this part of the Jewish values construct that JVP deploys? "If it happened, you must have deserved it" they seem to be implying.
Here's more: "Before we left, a police official said to us, 'Thanks for making our job easier.' I don't think he would have said that if someone from the protest had attacked someone."
So you organize a protest, you build a broad coalition as your allies, one of your allies assaults a man, breaking his nose, causing a wound requiring 8 stitches to mend, and you imply, strongly, it was deserved. What you don't say, in your deplorable deploring, is "JVP will fully cooperate with the NYPD in finding the identity of the attacker and see that he or she is brought to justice. We are a Jewish Voice for Peace and believe that anyone who disturbs the peace by using violence on innocent people should be brought to justice."
The reason that statement does not exist on the JVP website is that JVP doesn't believe it. Their Jewish values extend only to those they determine to be the true victims of hate and violence and this, in their weird calculation, does not extend to innocent Jews.
Here's another one: "However, while a small group of us were leaving the area, a group 3 (sic) young men with Israeli flags harassed us and said that we 'need Israeli dick.'"
Vile. Disgusting. But did Leonard say that to the person who hit him? I don't understand the relevance.
Again, this summer in Tel Aviv, while attending a peace rally to protest the war in Gaza, I saw a few feet from where I was standing, a right wing demonstrator assault an Israeli police officer. The assailant was grabbed violently, wrestled to the ground, and hauled away. Instantly, police on horseback and others in riot gear, pushed the right wingers two blocks further from the peaceful protest so that the left wing rally could continue. My point? People do and say horrible things in political conflict. Our job, as people of conscience, is to condemn the evil talk and the violent actions--without muddying the waters through doublespeak.
Finally: "We reaffirm our steadfast opposition to all forms of bigotry, violence and hate, including anti-semitism, anti-arab hate, and misogyny."
I'd correct the spelling to "anti-Semitism" and "anti-Arab." Capitalizing letters is both correct grammar in this instance as well as a justified expression of pride for both Jews and Arabs to claim the right to national self-determination.
Which brings me to my last point.
Does JVP support the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state? Or is that only a quaint idea debated over drip coffee in a Brooklyn roasting joint?
Meanwhile, what did Bob Dylan say on "Infidels" about "the man of peace?" Sometimes he's actually the Adversary.
I remain unconvinced of JVPs righteousness.
What would would have been so wrong about deploring the attack on Leonard Petlakh, wishing him a fast recovery, and encouraging authorities to find the perpetrator?
What would have been wrong is that it would have gone against JVPs main Jewish value: to undermine the right of Israel to exist.
Congregation Beth Elohim deplores the recent anti-Semitic attack Tuesday evening against our friend and colleague Leonard Petlakh, Executive Director of the Kings Bay Y, who was beaten by pro-Palestinian demonstrators after attending the Brooklyn Nets v Maccabi Tel Aviv basketball game at the Barclays Center with his family. Leonard suffered a broken nose and lacerations requiring eight stitches. He is safe and home recovering. Hate and violence have no place in our diverse city. This attack is totally deplorable and we demand that the NYPD will do all in its power to apprehend and prosecute those responsible for this crime.
As a leader in the Jewish community of New York, reaching across Jewish, Christian and Muslim communities to strengthen our diversity with a voice of tolerance and respect, Leonard is the very model of the Jewish ethic of "love thy neighbor as thyself."
We wish Leonard a full recovery and pray that our city's leaders will speak out against this anti-Jewish incident and all acts of hate.
On the Eve of Sukkot, a holy day on the Jewish calendar celebrating both Freedom and the Blessing of a Harvest, we are especially mindful of the need to strengthen our community in the spirit of friendship and gratitude. Together and tolerant we are a stronger, better city.
Rabbi Andy BachmanSenior Rabbi
Time is unstoppable. And though sometimes our impulse is to reach out and control its inexorable, forward march, in fact its ongoing, pulsing reality means that growth and change are a constant in life. Each moment building on a prior event; each day founded upon that which came before; each year an opportunity to reflect on where we have been and where we are going.
Some look down at the starting gates of life and never look up until they cross the finish line; others go about reflectively, embracing each moment as it arrives. And most of us are somewhere in between, caught up in life's exigencies, looking inward when we can, doing our best to understand the events and circumstances that life brings us.
One of the Jewish calendar's unique gifts to us is in its dual-call to look inward both as individuals and as a community. With the blasts of the Shofar, the piercing, penetrating, primitive calls awaken in each of us life's fundamental questions of identity and meaning: What kind of person am I? What are the values I live by? Who are my partners in this endeavor we call Life?
The Sages of our Tradition, in codifying these ideas in the Mahzor, meant to shake our souls awake to the awareness of life's fragility, life's preciousness, and life's demand that in our wakefulness we do what is right and what is just in the eyes of God. "U-Netaneh Tokef. Let us speak to the sacred power of the day." When all our deeds are exposed to a Judge, spread before that Judge as one sees an accounting on a ledger, we ask the obvious, most radical questions of the year.
"Who will pass on and who will be born? Who will live and who will die? Who will be poor and who will be rich?"
The questions terrify. This is one reason why the High Holy Days are called the Days of Awe. The Mahzor itself responds to its own searing questions. In the face of such earth-shattering questions, it proposes that "Teshuvah, Tefilah and Tzedakah--that Repentance, Prayer and Charity transform the harshness of our destiny." In other words, we have agency in responding to the passivity of being acted upon by seizing life itself and demanding that we be God's partner in building a world for Good, for Justice, and for Peace.
Equally critical is the notion to remember that Judaism defines the ultimate expression of religious "fear" as Love. And Love rendered through the commitment to serve God and our fellow human being with kindness, justice and humility is, as they say, what it's all about.
As the words of the prophet Micah demonstrate on the Chapel windows in our Temple House, "He has shown you, O mortal, what is good and what the Eternal requires of you: To do justice, to love with kindness, and walk humbly with your God."
Life in the world around us emanates in ever-expanding circles: from Park Slope to greater Brooklyn; from Brooklyn to greater New York City; from New York west and across the nation; from America to Israel and beyond. Everything is connected and in reality, no one person or no one nation is any longer truly separate. The Jewish people, the people of One God, have always believed that if God is one then ultimately, we are all one. After all, the Sages taught, God made the human being in the Divine Image so that no one should be able to say that he or she is better than their neighbor.
And so as we pause, in time and awe and humility, to accept time's constant trajectory, may our reflections at this plateau be filled with meaningful and soulful examination; may we strengthen one another in our fearlessness to ask the hard questions of ourselves and others; and may we hold ourselves and others to eternal ideas that have animated and inspired us to build a better world.
May each of you and your loved ones be inspired as you look out across the city and the world to make this New Year, 5775, a year of blessing, justice and peace--for our People and for all Humankind.
Rabbi Andy Bachman
We didn't start out poor but then it became that way, pretty much immediately after Mom and Dad broke up. First there was the expected additional strain of two homes, followed by Dad losing his job, which precipitated what I often refer to as the Great Unraveling. It happens to people and it happened to him. The trip, stumble and fall of his mid-life was, in two years, his father dying, his divorce and the loss of his job. Eight years later he'd be knocked out cold by a heart attack and that was that.
I write these words all these years later in part to remember how quickly one's life actually can fall apart; how what one once expected to be the rhythms of life to set a watch to can become, in the seeming split of an eye, the challenging darkness of the Trial. Some make it past the Judge. Others don't. For some there are those to pick you up; for others, luck runs out. For some, there is a regenerative well of persistence and optimism; for others, a debilitating depression, a rendering of essence to dross.
Whatever the answer, the reality is we were poor but hadn't started out that way. Mom went right to work in the time leading up to the divorce and during the hardest parts, worked two jobs, doing whatever was necessary to make ends meet. One job she had was as scheduler for a local politician named Lynn Adelman, a brilliant lawyer from Milwaukee's East Side. His whole team was smart--a bunch of young Jews interested in policy and reform-minded Democratic politics. They were trying to knock off the golden boy of Milwaukee's über Gentile community, Robert Kasten, a conservative who was seen as very much the voice of the city's business and commercial elite, such as it was. The son of Milwaukee dry-cleaners, Lynn went to Princeton and Columbia Law (where he had defended students in the anti-war protests as a law student) then came back to Milwaukee and did legal aid work before going in to private practice. When he ran against Kasten in 1974, it was the first of three unsuccessful runs for the U.S. Congress. Mom (and I) worked on all three campaigns. He eventually served in the Wisconsin State Senate (where, as a college freshman I worked in his office in Madison) and in 1997, President Bill Clinton appointed him as a federal judge.
Even though we were newly poor, we had three cars. Ours was a temporary condition and we somehow knew it. Dad's car, Mom's car and then, as was the trend in those days, the kids had a car. I think it was an AMC Gremlin. Might have even had the Levi's jeans interior. You can guess the decade.
The point is, we had a car. And the adults had drivers' licenses. Which were used to drive the candidate to his appointments and campaign stops. One time Mom picked up Lynn for a day of campaigning and he got into the car dressed in a suit and tie but he wasn't wearing socks. So they stopped at the dry cleaners and as the son of the owner, he took the liberties. His campaigns were filled with stories like that.
Or like this: One summer, when he was running for re-election in a newly re-districted and more decidedly conservative part of southwest Milwaukee, I was campaigning for him door-to-door and encountered a vehemently hostile constituent. The vituperations flew through the screen door. "Communist. Socialist. Jew." That kind of thing. I was shaken and needless to say, this was not a vote Lynn was going to win. Dejected, I walked down this man's driveway and out to the street where I saw Lynn coming up the block. I told him what happened and he said, "Watch this."
And in an instant, he had bounded up the walk, knocked on the door, and then, with the persuasion of a persistent prophet, stuck his foot in the screen door so the man couldn't shut it. "Don't say things about me that aren't true," Lynn said. "Now tell me, really, what do you know about my views? Let's talk!" And for the next several minutes they argued positions--taxes, education, spending on the poor. No names, no accusations. Just two citizens disagreeing.
"Did you change his mind?" I asked. "No," he said, "but that doesn't matter. The process was as important as the outcome." That's what he told me back at his house where we went for lunch that day. He made me a sandwich, we talked about my classes at UW, my interest in going to Israel, my ideas for the future. "I guess a rabbi is kind of like a politician," he said. "Come on," he continued, his mouth full. "Let's go knock on some more doors."
In that district Lynn's constituents were mostly white. And had cars. So we walked down streets with no sidewalks and up lots of driveways. Knocking on doors. Pushing for votes.
But there was another job that Mom had in those years, where she was an office staff member in the Community Development Corporation, which in the 1970s on into today was devoted to enhancing the economic position of low-income communities. The people who came to CDC, most of whom were black, took buses or walked to where they needed to go. Their economic scene was in serious distress; schools were rough; and there certainly wasn't a lot of kids in high school drivers' ed classes.
This means that, like thousands upon thousands of similarly disadvantaged people today, those folks didn't have drivers license which was once a burden if you wanted to drive but certainly wasn't a burden if you wanted to vote.
As the New York Times reminded us on Tuesday morning, electoral chaos is about to occur in Wisconsin, primarily among the more than 300,000 poorer citizens of the state who will not be able to vote because of a conservative appellate court's decision to overturn Judge Lynn Adelman's stay of the Wisconsin Voter ID law, which Judge Adelman argued last April contained several serious violations of the federal Voting Rights Act.
Several commentators appropriately, I believe, have criticized this decision of the appellate court to overturn Judge Adelman's sound reasoning, particularly in light of the fact that Governor Scott Walker and his Republican legislature passed the initial voter ID law precisely to protect an electoral advantage they had hoped to use to govern. Except that Governor Walker has recently begun to trail Democratic candidate and businesswoman Mary Burke (whose family makes the much beloved Wisconsin gem, Trek Bicycles). And what better way to climb back into the lead with less than two months to go in a gubernatorial election than to be aided by a panel of judges to undo the constitutional work of defending the right to vote.
I got half a mind to head out to Wisconsin after the Jewish holidays this Fall and spend the second half of October knocking on doors for Mary Burke. To cover more territory in the limited time available, perhaps I'll take my Trek.
I'm sure I'll meet my share of Republicans, as it should be. Who doesn't like a good argument?
I'll even stick my foot in the door, insist on engaging, and if the power of persuasion doesn't work, we'll agree to disagree.
But what I won't do is suppress someone's right to vote just because they're poor and don't drive.
I didn't watch the Packers game on Sunday. As a shareholder and lifelong fan living in New York, it's rare to see my team on TV. But truth be told, my stomach turned at the gnawing thought of enabling that low grade tolerance for immoral violence that wore away at my conscience as the day hurdled toward the late afternoon kickoff. I couldn't "just do it."
Ray Rice is a Baltimore Raven and Adrian Peterson is a Minnesota Viking but I knew enough about the game to know that Green Bay has had its own troubles with sexual violence. In 2000, its star tight end Mark Chmura was accused of assaulting his family's 17 year old babysitter; and frankly, I get a headache trying to figure out this whole "baby mama" thing with Packers cornerback Sam Shields.
Understatement of the Year: The NFL has a sex and violence problem.
Runner-up for Understatement of the Year: ISIS is evil.
Back to football.
As a former student athlete whose greatest achievements were sunset by the time I turned 16, I've always fostered a relatively healthy distance from the over-valorized role that athletes play in our society. Still, the mere physicality, discipline and psychological fortitude required of champions is admirable--and ignites in the mind the epic dimensions of a child's imagination. Spectacle. Grand Arc Narratives. Greatness.
And I've even inculcated fandom in the kids. Touring campuses last winter on a college tour, we took in a Wisconsin-Michigan basketball game. Three years ago on a winter road-trip, we took in a Packers-Bears Christmas night game. Despite their late season collapse, the Brewers Baseball Club continue to receive our devotions, even after Ryan Braun's half-assed apologies for PED use.
So I get loyalty. You stick with those you love when they're down. Got it.
But what are our obligations when they cross the line? When athletes violate--egregiously--the covenant of devotion between themselves and the fans who support their careers? Violence against women and children is serious enough to merit a one-day blackout, no? How much does our fawning enable?
Like: How about one NFL Sunday soon the fans don't show up? Hit the league hard. Where it counts--in the wallets of the owners who enable themselves, with a wink and a handshake at contract talks, the rampant violence that has come to define the league for what it is. Big guys getting paid a lot of dough to inflict punishment on and off the field.
Is painting faces, wearing over-sized jerseys, grilling meat in a parking lot, eating salted corn-products, and consuming artificially sweetened soft-drinks and beer SO IMPORTANT that we can't do without it for one day in order to send a message that we find violence perpetrated by large men against women and children to be morally revolting?
And I'm just talking about the fans.
What definition of teammate necessitates tolerating this? I'd like to see an athlete brave enough to step forward and say aloud: "Yo. This is bullshit. Keep your hands off women and kids."
That would be heroic.
"The land that devours its inhabitants."
That's reading it wrong.
The prooftext is from Torah--Numbers 13-14. Spies are sent by Moses; they head over to report on the land that the Jewish people are poised to enter after a generation spent wandering post-Exodus, where prior, they were slaves for 400 years in Egypt. The spies see the land as unconquerable. They see normal sized men as giants, and themselves as grasshoppers. "It is a land that devours its inhabitants." They repeat a common complaint: "You brought us into the desert to die?"
Their report is disregarded, understood as a betrayal of faith. Of all the tribal leaders, only Joshua and Caleb demonstrate the vision and the fortitude to get the job done. And they are mightily rewarded. The generation of tribal heads is fated to die in the desert. Joshua and Caleb are permitted to enter the land. They choose hope over fear. Life over being trapped in exile, waiting to die.
This is a metaphor. Let me explain.
I was in David Ben Gurion's house today. There is an exhibit there of letters sent back and forth between children and Ben Gurion. In one such exchange, captured beautifully in a video presentation with the child, now grown, a dialogue is recounted with regard to the notion of the Chosen People--did God choose the Jews or did the Jews choose God?
Ben Gurion was direct. The people chose God. Joshua 24 proves it, he said. On the corner of his desk where he wrote these letters, as well as next to the bed where he slept, Ben Gurion kept a copy of the Hebrew Bible close at hand. He did not believe God wrote these words but he nevertheless knew them as a student of history, a lover of books, a man with a voracious appetite for learning. "A man who devoured words." He thought we should be that way, too. Zionism was as much a personal as a political liberation.
Look closely. You can see his Bible, next to his sparse bed, under plexiglass protection. He lived, worked and slept there (as well as in the Negev, in Sde Boker) from 1931-1973. It was from this house that David Ben Gurion composed Israel's Declaration of Independence and then traveled across town to declare it in May of 1948. Both the Ottomans and the British were larger empires than the Jews; and the array of Arab opposition to the Jewish state was equally, well, gigantic. But he was of a generation who refused to see himself as "but a grasshopper in their eyes."You may find it hard to dwell in such places when the land indeed appears to be devouring its inhabitants. When Israel's aggressive offensive against the Hamas tunnels and rockets sheds innocent blood along with the guilty; when Jews attack Jews for proclaiming a hope for peace; when it is not safe to be an Arab walking alone in some areas of Jerusalem, a holy city; when Hamas preaches and teaches a doctrine of extermination of the Jews, denies a Jewish claim to the land, uses innocent children and women and schools as mosques as shields against Israel, knowing that the death of innocents will bring down worldwide condemnation of Jews; when communities in Europe, led by a strange amalgam of enraged Muslim populations, radical leftists and neo-Nazis, wreak havoc, vandalism and violence, at times resulting in the murder of Jews in Brussels, Berlin, Paris and elsewhere. The new anti-Semitism.
You may find yourself not wanting to deal with this at all. But we are a "choosing people." The world demands our moral engagement.
Your Facebook and Twitter are leaden, weighted down with the unresolvable hatred that's boiling over in this land; that Israeli t-shirt you were going to wear stays in the drawer; you remember being glad that Obama ordered the killing of Bin Laden or weeping at the assassination of Rabin but you generally prefer the more Jewish aspects of your understanding of the conflict kept at a distance; it shouldn't ask too much of you. It's enough already. Sign on the line. Make peace.
But the world, alas, doesn't sit still for us. There is not really an opt-out clause. It's a complicated, dangerous, unpredictable place. It requires strenuously difficult, sometimes seemingly contradictory choices. Interesting, isn't it, that the very nations who attacked Israel in 1948, 1967 and 1973, are all lining up to tacitly support Israel in a war--not against the Palestinians in the West Bank but against Hamas in Gaza, whose version of fundamentalist Islam is seen as a messianic, apocalyptic and therefore dangerous force in the world that needs to be defeated. Further complications: this morning's paper carries news of an Israeli Army Commander imploring his troops to study Torah and recite prayers while heading in to battle. War is bad enough, Ben Gurion might have said. Need it also be holy?
I worry about American Jewry on this trip more than I ever have. I worry about their increasing alienation from the notion of a Jewish people, each of us inherently obligated to one another despite our differences; I worry about our understandable abhorrence of the killing of innocents that too quickly shifts to blame, guilt and distance from Israel; I worry about internal Jewish hatred of, about a willful and angry persecutory impulse, even violence, toward Jews who seek peace or express remorse and sadness over the loss of innocent Palestinian life; and I worry about a kind of liberal American Jewish hopelessness toward the Jewish national project, the dystopian other-expression of the very spirit that created this improbable, historically miraculous, wildly creative yet weighted, complex, imperfect nation.
And finally, I worry (with no small amount of paranoia) of a Hamas operative, reading these words, laughing and rubbing his hands in a diabolically cartoonish gesture: The Jews, he says, can be worn down. Eventually, they'll give up and leave.
So I wake myself from this nightmare.
Earlier this week I had lunch in Jaffa with my friend Rabbi Meir Azari. He's an ingenious entrepreneur of new Jewish life who straddles worlds in Jaffa and Tel Aviv like no other rabbi I know. After eating and walking around, we went to visit a Jaffa native, an Arab Israeli shop owner who is suffering economically, as are many businesses, because of the war. Meir, his own family many generations of Jews from the Galilee, knew the Arab shop owner's family in Gaza, in Nazareth, in Jaffa, and he asked after them in Arabic and Hebrew, with the compassion known among neighbors and friends not despite of but because of their differences. The richness of difference which in baser expressions can cause war, in fact, has the power to redeem.
Sunday night I'll be in Jerusalem with my friend Rebecca Bardach. She helps run the Yad b'Yad schools and since violence broke out, parents and students of the school--Jerusalem's only bi-lingual, Hebrew and Arabic school--have been walking from the Palestinian neighborhood of Beit Safafa to the Old Train Station in Jerusalem as an expression of unity and solidarity. At breakfast this week, where we sat down moments after hearing the news that her child's kindergarten teacher's son was killed in Gaza, I asked her if the school (comprised of Jewish and Palestinian residents of Jerusalem) is tearing apart because of the war. "No," she said simply. "We come into the school committed to the framework. As people, we know peace is possible. It's the leadership we need, on both sides, to make peace happen."
Just when you think this land can break you, devour you, there is another who steps in to the breach to again raise the flag of hope.
This morning we woke to a seventy-two hour truce. May the hours of peace grow. May each of us rise from the ashes and destruction of war's evil embrace. May the righteous among both our people's prevail.
If we are to be devoured, let us be devoured by hope.
Update: Not two hours in, the truce is broken and an Israeli soldier, Hadar Goldin, 23, has been taken captive. With a heavy heart, we dig deeper--for strength and hope and peace.