Clal builds bridges across communities to encourage pluralism, diversity, and openness.
"You’ve probably never heard of him, but my friend, Steven Esses, died last week. He left us from a too-quick and too-brutal bout with one of the worst illnesses on the planet. As per the tradition of my tribe, I won’t even mention its name, just as I’d refuse to mention the name of a murderer or a terrorist–extra publicity is the last thing I’d want to give either of them. But as for Steven, I’d just as soon talk about him all day long.
"'You have to decide who you are, and force the world to deal with you, not with its idea of you.'
"When President Trump issued his executive order banning refugees from seven predominantly Muslim countries, setting off a wave of protests and condemnations, many Jewish groups who opposed the ban noted the cruel irony that the ban was issued on International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
In addition, Jewish groups also noted with dismay that the statement the Trump White House issued in observance of that day failed to mention Jews specifically, saying that they 'took into account all of those who suffered.'"
A few weeks ago I was at a, first of its kind, gathering in Austin, TX. The leaders of more than ten national religious denominations came together to explore why their congregations were losing membership so rapidly over the last decade. The gathering included leadership from the Methodists, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ, Lutherans, Unitarian Universalists as well as top leadership from the Union for Reform Judaism, United Synagogue for Conservative Judaism and the Reconstructionist Movement.
"I read An Interrupted Life and Letters from Westerbork for the first time six years ago. Then, her words leapt directly from the page into my heart. At the time, I struggled quite a bit with formulating my thoughts and putting them on the page. Etty’s no-nonsense advice to herself was exactly what I’d needed to hear:
"I had been spending a few days with a motley group of American rabbis of all the varied denominations. Many of them I know well; I have deep affection and respect for them. We were in the midst of a talent show; it was supposed to be fun, after a long day with our noses to the grindstone.
"It reminded me of so much we teach from Jewish tradition: That study leads to action. A debate raged in the Talmud about the importance of study versus the importance of action. Rabbi Akiva concluded that study is important because it leads to action, and that’s the first thing that came to mind when I saw the sign. We learn, we teach, we explore our human values through a Jewish lens, so that we can act when action is needed...."
Dear Friend of Clal,
You are receiving this message from Clal precisely because it is genuinely different from any communication we have seen from any other organization which has chosen to speak out about the events in our nation over the past week. We don’t make such claims lightly but were it not the case, we would not be writing at all. This message is about you, regardless of your politics.
"I jumped onto the uptown 5 train just as the doors were closing. I pushed my way through the wall of people, blocking the doors and empty seats. It was the middle of the afternoon on a weekday, prime train time, apparently. I put my bag on the floor and squeezed between two shoulders on the bench. I wasn’t dying to sit down, I just figured I’d take up less space that way. The doors shut and the automated train announcer politely requested that we stand clear of the closing doors.
"On Saturday I found myself at the impromptu protest rally at JFK airport. The anger was palpable. The indignation continues to simmer. It boils over on social media. It is heard from other nation’s capitals. A few lawmakers speak out. Governors weigh in. More and more raise their voices.