These compositions are the personal thoughts of HOW staff and do not reflect opinions of the organization, officers or affiliates.
Rachel Klein, Executive Director
Dvar/Shabbat message, 11/11/2016:
Lech Lecha, l’chi lach…to form a more perfect Union.
God to Abraham: Go. Somewhere, to an uncertain future. It will be a long journey, ripe with achievements and setbacks. Have faith and it will be worthwhile. (Genesis, Chapter 12)
America's Founding Fathers to us: Go. Somewhere, to an uncertain future. It will be a long journey, ripe with achievements and setbacks. Have faith, work together, and it will be worthwhile. You will never get it 100% right. The best you can do is strive to be more perfect. (Preamble to the U.S. Constitution)
“Who is America?” Response to the 2016 election
"This is God, and you are my family. Every one of you." Words spoken by an Hispanic young man to a crowd of 100 Purchase College students, perhaps more, accompanied in support by faculty and college president Tom Schwartz. They were gathered, like many campuses across the country this past week, at a central location to share their thoughts.
At that moment I was struck to my core by two undeniable realities.
First, the composition of students who wore their identities loudly and proudly, each announcing his/her/their most shaken part of self before seeking solace in expression from the center of the circle. We were shades of black and white; gay, straight, transgender; Muslim, Christian, Jewish, other, and none of the above; creative types and conscientious observers - representative of the campus and probably not too dissimilar from the U.S. population. One after another, they shared feeling like they are not represented, and I tend to agree because this crowd is what Congress should look like, yet it doesn't. Second, they are truly scared.
The most promising outcome of this election - equally astounding as the actual election - are the words of unity, encouragement, and acts of human kindness. When you're riding high the world can look wonderful, yet somehow when low and looking ahead, transformative action becomes clearer. We are flush with need in our community and the world, and positioned to alleviate others' suffering regardless of who is in elected office.
I hope the next four years show a surge in gemelut hasadim, acts of loving kindness, like history has never known. Let that be how history (herstory, ourstory) recounts this part of our journey to form a more perfect union.
Rabbi Ben Shefter, Senior Jewish Educator
Dvar/Shabbat message, 11/11/2016:
We are currently in the Torah portions that focus on Abraham and what made him a patriarch. The trait that Jewish literature ascribes to Abraham is the attribute of kindness, chesed, based on his open tent mentality and fighting for the little guy. In the aftermath of a polarizing election, it is critical that we muster up all the Abraham we can and invite everyone in. Jew or non-Jew, Trump or Clinton supporter, LGBTQQIA or straight, we as a nation need to come together and support one another.
Many students are afraid on campus leading to vigils and moments of silence. They are afraid that they will no longer been seen as part of the community, that they are not an American and thus have no rights. This Shabbat as we sit down for a meal, attend synagogue, or relax from a hard week, please think about someone that might feel marginalized and show that you are with them.
Looking in the Mirror - My response to the 2016 election:
Yesterday when I cast my ballot for president, I had not spent much time thinking about what the process of voting for a leader meant. What does the leader that one votes for really mean?
In the book of Kings, the monarchs are described as either good or bad based on how they influenced the people. The King either made the people better, more loyal to God and the guiding principles of Judaism, or they lead them down a path of idolatry and self indulgence.
As we just passed Halloween, how many children dressed up and impersonated Hillary and Donald? How do the values that they each represent affect society? As a Jew, I have seen the influence of propaganda on children in the Middle East and in Europe during World War II.
However, the reality is that neither Donald or Hillary are all bad. Donald represents the anti-establishment, someone that knows how to tap into people’s emotions to start a movement. He is also a successful businessman, demonstrating how to win in a dog eat dog world. Hillary one the other hand, represents liberal values, women’s rights, and multiculturalism.
However this is not the whole story. A leader that is elected by the people also represents the values of who we are as a people and this is where I struggled to choose. Do I vote for a seasoned politician, who is influenced by big money, lies, and is corrupt or do I vote for a xenophobic and impulsive person who is the big money and also lies and is corrupt? There are times when each type of personality is needed. However, we have to look within ourselves and see what within us is being spoken to. Four years ago, I wished that the political system would enable someone to be outside the system to really speak for the people and lead us towards a better, more empathic future. I got the first part of my wish but not the second part. Instead we have a non-politician that stokes the emotional uncertainty deep within each of us.
But now that it's over and Donald Trump will be the president for the next four years, what do we as a people need to do? We need to first learn how to reconnect with the other. After such a polarizing election season we need to rejoin and find a common vision to make the world a better, more kind, and peaceful place. We might have voted for one candidate because of one value or another, and we should be aware that there are maybe other values we do not support or support in the other. The second thing we need to learn is how to prevent the political system from creating such a toxic environment again. Imagine if there was a way to say “No, we do not want either candidate. Republicans and Democrats go find someone better!” Or create a system where someone that is not a celebrity or has millions of dollars can get their message out and rise to the presidency.
As I process the results of the election I think about the two descriptions of how the redemption will come. One, is through human means. We as a society can lead the world towards a better, more collaborative society. For me, I feel that this is another push from God for humans to do their part. God wants humans to contribute to the structure of the world. The second approach is through a war. I pray that we are able to take the message of the first approach and alleviate the mourning and grieving that so many in the country are feeling today. We are not Blue or Red, we are all Americans and we need to learn to work together.