October 26, 2009 8 Kheshvan 5770
Together we experienced a wonderful, moving, and deeply enspirited High Holy Days. We sat under the stars in each other’s sukkot, planting the seeds of this year’s teshuvah in freshly tilled spirit soil, even as we savored the fruits of last year’s crop. We poured out our prayers for rain—and conjured up thunder, lightning, and torrents of water from the skies within two days. (Now that’s prayer-power!) And we danced a joyous and holy jig with the Torahs of four different communities, rolling the scrolls from the right eytzim (wooden rollers) to the left, reading the beginning of parashat B’reishit to remind ourselves that this Creation we are so blessed to inhabit, whatever its mighty challenges, is and was always meant to be good, very good.
Now, we as a community are facing some tough issues. I want to thank the present Council Presidents, Shoshana Dembitz and Neal Cronin, immediate past Presidents Abigail Grafton and Barry Barkan, and the entire hard-working Minyan Council for squarely facing these issues and committing to moving this community forward.
So much good work has been done over the past couple of years to create infrastructure; to develop leadership capacities—both spiritual and administrative—amongst our members; to heighten the level of spiritual engagement during our services and gatherings; and to become an even more caring community, attending to those who are ill or in need within our midst. A great thank you to all who have been engaged in these worthy and rewarding projects.
We have also begun, as a community, to look outward into the larger Jewish world and the world of evolving spirituality and to ask, what is our part in it? How can we more fully participate in the powerful wave of rising consciousness now sweeping across our planet? As individuals, as Aquarian Minyan members, and as Jews, what is our mandate, our charge, our joyful service?
As I write this, a historic gathering is in progress in Washington, D.C. Last night an organization called J Street, committed to bringing forward progressive Jewish voices in the international dialogue concerning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, convened its first major conference, “Driving Change, Securing Peace.”
Among the presenters at the first plenary session, titled “Israel and 21st Century American Jewry,” was Ronit Avni, director of the ground-breaking film Encounter Point, founder of the galvanizing cultural organization, Just Vision, and daughter of Minyan Council member Fran Avni. Tomorrow local Rabbis David Cooper of Kehilla Community Synagogue and Julie Saxe-Taller of San Francisco’s Congregation Sherith Israel will participate in a panel called “Dancing on the Head of a Pin: The Role of Rabbis in the Pro-Israel Pro-Peace Movement.” Other break-out sessions bear such titles as “Examining the Jewish Social Justice/Israel Divide;” “How Jews, Christians and Muslims Can Work Together for Peace;” and “How We Stop Talking to Ourselves; Innovative Ways to Broaden the Conversation.”
Here at the Minyan, we have agreed not to bring the emotionally charged and potentially divisive topic of Israel, its policies and its struggles, into our communal discourse. However, at this fraught moment in our collective human journey, I believe we desperately need to hear and tell new stories, stories of hope and the possibility of change, of integration, of peace. Just as we are learning in the Minyan that tachlis matters of organizational structure and money are intrinsic to our spiritual mission, so I believe that dialogue and action around our Jewish nation and homeland are vital to our mission of growing the light of consciousness and bringing Oneness into the world.
There are many ways to participate, to contribute—through conversation, thought, meditation, financial giving, art-making, travel, study, and prayer. The very act of making space for disparate viewpoints, learning not to privilege our particular emotional response and to hold in respect those—whether within the broader Jewish community or within our family—whose views differ from our own is a radical healing act.
I invite you, if you are interested, to go to http://www.jstreet.org/blog/?p=669 and read the transcript of the opening conference speech, delivered by Jeremy Ben-Ami, Executive Director of J Street, on Sunday evening. It may surprise you, inspire you, or outrage you, but it will certainly make you think.
There are no simple answers to any of the problems we face, whether within our small community, within the larger Jewish world, or as a planet. But we need now, more than ever, to remember that to stay engaged and informed, and to work always for justice, peace, and increased consciousness, not just for ourselves but for the Shekhinah, the Holy Presence embodied in all of G~d’s Creation, is the essence of our Jewish heritage. And that is good, very good.