A commentary by Mark Oppenheimer, originally published in the LA Times, and reprinted in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, completely missed the mark in characterizing Jews as drifting away from the fight for civil rights. Jews have always been, and still remain, firmly committed to social justice. We take seriously the words of our prophets who taught that while loving your neighbor is important, doing right by your neighbor is what brings about justice and change. It is true that many Jews are upset by the recent statements from the Movement for Black Lives Matter that mischaracterize Israel. However, that does not mean we stop fighting for racial justice and equality and for the needs of all those that are oppressed. And some, as Rabbi Sharon Brous recently wrote, are doubling down on our efforts to fight for equality. We are doing this not only for racial justice but for refugees, for voting rights, for the fight against hunger, for sentencing and prison reform and for interfaith cooperation and understanding. The Jewish community has not given up the fight for social justice and contrary to Mr. Oppenheimer's assertion, we are excellent partners to fight for change. We know what it means to be the stranger and to be oppressed and we will continue to speak out for those in need.
Planning a Jewish wedding ceremony is probably just what you would think. There is a first phone call or email from the couple inquiring about logistics - date, time, place. Then there is a conversation. With couples coming to the Central Coast from all over the world, that could be via Skype, phone or in person. Once we all determine we are a good fit, the fun begins. And I really do mean fun, because this process is why I am excited to go to work every day. I get to share Jewish tradition, often seeing this tradition I so love through new and fresh eyes. I am blessed to continually renew my relationship with these ancient rituals as we cooperatively transform them for this time and age.
Something else happens as we fine tune the ceremony. I witness the transformation of two separate people with two different family backgrounds become a lovely melting pot of shared traditions. A groom with Jewish Sephardic background reads a poem from the Golden Age of Spain's poet Yehudi HaLevi and has Flamenco dancers dancing to Ladino melodies at the reception. A bride with Mexican traditions incorporates the lazo along with the wrapping of the tallit for the Priestly Blessing. Incorporating these cultural traditions serves to unite families as the newly married couple creates traditions of their own. Creativity, flexibility and curiosity are needed in creating shared sacred rituals. We can take the traditions and make them relevant for our time. As the great Rav Kook said, "Make the old new, and the new sacred."