Showing posts with label passover. Show all posts
Showing posts with label passover. Show all posts

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Don’t Cancel Alice Walker. Hold Her Accountable.

I have been a reader and follower of Yair Rosenberg for several years. He has been an amazing writer fighting the good fight against antisemitism in the media. And he has an amazing sense of humor. He has punk'd some of the most outrageous online trolls and spoken truth to power.

His regular newsletter, Deep Shtetl has become a subscriber based newsletter from the Atlantic Magazine. You can access past issues here as well as subscribe to the newest posts as well.

Because it is a subscription-based newsletter, I cannot share the entire text. You should go read it and subscribe. Really. 

Like most Jewish educators I have been teaching about redemption and the journey to freedom a lot in the last week or so. I have also been having conversations about cancel culture over the past few months. So when I read his article about Alice Walker, I was spurred to share it. The short summary is the title of this post (and Yair's newsletter post). He suggests that "for years, the public has responded to the celebrated author's antisemitism by either sidelining her or ignoring her prejudice. We can do better.

He suggest that rather than cancelling her, which is a pretty dehumanizing and humiliating act, she be challenged and asked to engage in conversation about her posts and public statements. Read Yair's article about that here. In his current post, he suggests that we treat her (and I presume others whom we might wish cancel) as a human, one who like the rest of us has flaws and brokenness. And we should instead engage with her on these issues and give her a chance to see how her words affect others. And perhaps to begin her path to redemption and escape from the narrow places.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Thursday, April 14, 2022

The Jewishness of Disney’s ‘Luca’

 eJewishPhilanthropy has over it's long (for a Jewihs internet outlet) existence developed a reputation for sharing a lot of news in the professional Jewish world - often in advance of the rumor mill. One of the things I have always loved about it (and it's founder) is the ability to find people who write brilliant opinion or thought pieces. They don't tell us about what has happened so much as make us think about what we ourselves might want to make happen, or about how we go about our professional or private lives. This ran last Thursday on eJP  (click here to see it on their site - and make your comments there as well to take part in the larger conversation).

My wife and I LOVED Luca. From a story point of view I think it clearly outshone Encanto. And I like the impact of this Bruno a bit more than Bruno Mirabel - although his song is wonderful and John Leguizamo is amazing as always. From a musical and capture-the-hearts-of-children perspective, the Oscar rightly went where it did. But I am all about the story. I would have written my own piece, but Ben Vorspan already wrote a better one than I could have. For now anyway. Enjoy. 


The Jewishness of Disney’s ‘Luca’

Everything we say to others matters. In Judaism, every word has the potential to bring holiness or profanity into the world. How much more powerful then, are the words we say to ourselves? How can it be that we teach our children to be mindful of their words and language to others, but we often fail to support them when they have a nagging voice or worse, we model for them the toxic and limiting behavior of our own negative self-talk?

I recently enjoyed watching the magnificent and kaleidoscopic Disney/Pixar film “Luca.” The central story revolves around two new friends, one a slightly older street smart teen (Alberto), and the other a bright and curious younger boy (Luca). In their adventures, they collaborate to accomplish many things neither could do alone. At one point, when Luca is not feeling brave, he responds to Alberto’s invitation to join him, “Nope. I can’t do it. Never in a million years.” Alberto accesses his own grit, and says to Luca, “Hey, hey, hey. I know your problem. You’ve got a ‘Bruno’ in your head…I get one too sometimes: ‘Alberto, you can’t.’ ‘Alberto, you’re gonna die.’ ‘Alberto, don’t put that in your mouth.’ Luca, it’s simple. Don’t listen to (silly ol’) Bruno!”

The simplicity of this scene is its brilliance. Since watching it with each of my sons, when they articulate self-doubt or worse, negative self-talk, I look at them, point and yell, “Silenzio Bruno!”  It is pure Disney-meets-self-help-guru-magic.  It breaks the tension, flips an intense moment into one of levity and allows us to connect and process whatever is on the mind.

Mindfulness practices and skills are essential at Jewish day schools. Whether through our social emotional learning programs or partnership with organizations like the Institute for Jewish Spirituality, these opportunities provide us with the tools to notice, interrupt and reframe negative self-talk. As someone immersed in this work, trust me when I say that there is no quicker way to integrate mindfulness into our own day, or that of our students or children, than using, “Silenzio Bruno!”

Once this tool is in the toolkit, we can go through the transformative steps of turning self-doubt into self-confidence. We identify the negative self-talk as negative, we “name” it (Bruno), and we take action and command it to stop (Silenzio!). This mindful process is an integral step in wellness and self-health.

As we move toward spring and Pesach, toward our holiday of the liberation of our people and nation, it can be a moment to break free from the Pharaoh’s voice within each of us. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught that we can be a Pharaoh unto ourselves, that the true meaning of freedom is “the liberation from the tyranny of the self-centered ego.” In other words, while we eat the bread of affliction, we can embrace the virtue of self-compassion.  

May this Passover — one to remember as we move out from two years of Seders where we were chained to our own homes or our Zoom screens — be one of great liberation! May we each have a silent Bruno, and maybe instead, find and name that internal, affirming voice, full of compassion, love and encouragement.  Perhaps that name is none other than the one name Adonai, God of Compassion and Grace (YHVH El Rahum v’Chanun). That same compassionate voice we are so comfortable sharing with a friend, a student or family member… may we learn to hear it for ourselves.

Monday, April 11, 2022

Sing a Redemption Song

I alternate between Pesach and Sukkot as my favorite Jewish holiday. I love building and hanging out in our Sukkah. Feeding people I love and celebrating with them is my happy place – and so I love the seder as well. Passover is so much more than that though.

Geulah – Redemption – is much more than a moment in our history: the crossing of the Sea of Reeds on the beginning of the walk to freedom. It is a Jewish value. We invoke it when we participate in freeing someone from captivity or slavery. Some of us remember participating in the movement to free the Refuseniks – Jews in the Soviet Union who only wanted to be free to be Jewish, to teach Hebrew or go to Israel. That was Geulah. Natan Sharansky, a former Knesset member and leader of the Jewish Agency was perhaps the most famous Refusenik.

Many of you know that I have been a mentor for Jewish professionals who participate in the immersion program at Beit T’shuvah in Los Angeles. Beit T’shuvah (literally “house of repentance”) is a residential recovery facility for people trying cope with alcoholism or ay of a number of other addictions. The immersion program is designed to teach clergy, educators and communal workers how to better recognize and help addicted folks in their communities.

A scene from Freedom Song

A few years ago, we brought Beit T’shuvah’s Redemption Song to B’nai Israel. It is a piece of musical theater written and performed by people in recovery. It tells a story of families with addicted members against the background of Passover seders and the Exodus from Egypt. It was and is an amazing show.

Mark Borovitz, emeritus Rabbi of Beit T’shuvah, refers to Passover as the second High Holy Days for people in recovery. For them to achieve Redemption, they must go through the steps of Repentence (T’shuvah). They use the 12 Steps of Recovery to help them do that. The 8th, 9th and 10th steps all look a lot like how we Jews are taught to atone during the period leading up to Yom Kippur:

  1. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

  2. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

  3. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

So as we prepare for own Pesach seder – as we buy and prepare the food, set the table, plan how we will lead the seder – let’s also take some time to reflect. What do I need to do to make sure I reach the other side of the Sea of Reeds? How can I make sure I and the ones I love will find redemption? I suggest making a list, making amends and continue to look to our own actions. Through T’shuvah, we can find Geulah!

We all wish you a wonderful Pesach and a safe journey to Redemption. If you need any help in preparing, let me know!



Monday, March 30, 2020

The Socially Distanced Full-Contact

Seder ™

Before our children were even conceived (the youngest turns 22 on Sunday) my wife Audrey and I developed what we called the Full-Contact Seder. The idea was to create a Seder that was so engaging that the children we would someday have would be an experience that filled them with wonder. Thanks to being at the seder at Kibbutz Lotan in 1989 - where we saw five little ones mesmerized by the shadow-maggid their parents performed - we were determined. And with the help of family and friends, I believe we succeeded for many years. 

We continue to make our seder with many of those same friends and when COVID-19 decided on a Zoom seder for us, we dusted it off. Here is the introduction of the planning document. I happily share the planning document which are welcome to copy or download. The comments are live on the document, and I invite your thoughts, suggestions and ideas. You can find it at this link:

Socially Distanced Full-Contact Seder ™

Welcome to the Family Virtual Seder Planning Page!
Also known as the Socially Distanced Full-Contact Seder ™

So it took a few (thousand) years, but we finally have a seder that is fully a product of experiential learning. I was opposed to having an actual plague this year, but you all know how THOSE guys get when they start getting silly.

My understanding of the plan is that we are going to a modified digital version of the Full Contact Seder we did when all of our kids lived at home and were too young to tell us to cut it out.

Below is an outline of the 15 parts of the seder (and some of them are subdivided into more parts). Each has at least one link to a site that will explain what it is about or other relevant information. We agreed that each participating family will take responsibility for at least two of the items. That may include dealing one of them off to a child(ren) or even the one communal grandchild. If you can deal more than one off (keeping at least one for yourselves, of course) awesome! We can skip or just talk about the ones no one took!

The task for each part or sub part is to creatively express, teach or engage us in the meaning of that part of the Seder.

We are using Zoom on a professional account, so the only time limit is the patience of everyone attending (so no filibusters!). You can share your screen with the group, so if you have something prepared on your computer or on another website (e.g. a YouTube Video, Prezy or the like) there is no problem.

As soon as you decide which TWO parts (or sub-parts) you want to own, please put your name on the chart below so we don’t have two families or individuals planning the same part.

I will post prayer sheets, etc. as pdfs for all to download. If you would like to post anything, go ahead or send it to me and I can convert it and post if you prefer.


Here is the link again.
Socially Distanced Full-Contact Seder ™

Friday, April 15, 2016

#BlogExodus: Examine

My friend and colleague, Rabbi Phyllis Sommer has for many years invited people to "Blog Exodus" at this time of year. See her blog from the 11th of April: Basically, she chooses a theme a day for the fourteen days leading up to the Seder, and invites us all to write on that theme. You can do it on her daily Facebook post or on your blog.

Today's theme spoke to me at a moment when I had some time to write. The theme is Examine.

Now Examine is very Pesadik trope - next week we will clean our homes of all chametz - the stuff that has been leavened. Some will even use a feather and candle to examine the nooks and crannies in our homes so we can find the last of the chametz. We have been examining store shelves for weeks, hoping to find everything we need in order to prepare meals for a week, including one or two fairly large feasts.

But seeing the word Examine as a theme for the day makes me think about something even more intimate. It is interesting that the Israelites were instructed to make sure the lambs they sacrificed on the night of the final plague had to be without blemish, but were not told to purify themselves in any way. But much of the book of Vayikra (Leviticus) is filled with various people in a variety of situations being commanded to purify themselves as they prepared for a ritual or to reenter the camp.

My wife and I agree that Pesach is one of our favorite festivals, and it may be number one. The reason has to do with the cleaning of the house and the switching of the dishes. For me, though, it is also the idea that I need to Examine myself, and find the chametz that is inside me. I need to find the things that are holding me back from setting out on the path to freedom this year. And I need to deal with them. Some I can handle on my own. Others are big enough that I will need some help.

My rabbi growing up, Mark S. Shapiro, used to say that as hard as it was to get the Jews out of Egypt, it is (still!) harder to get the Egypt out of the Jews. We bring our chametz with us, just like packing a lunch for the road. The forty years of wandering was God's attempt to get the chametz of actual slavery - and the fantasy that somehow Egypt was better than the reality of freedom - out of our heads.

Find your own chametz - the kind that is inside you. And get rid of it. I am hoping we don't need to take a whole generation to get it done.