Why Do We Open the Door At The Passover Seder by Ayala Emmett

The Passover Seder is the retelling of our passage from slavery to freedom, our defining central journey. We begin the Seder by opening the door to say, “All who are hungry, come and eat. All who are needy come and celebrate Passover with us.” This is the night that we are seated around the table, friends and families, to narrate our history as a people. We raise the matzah plate and recite, “This is the bread of poverty that our ancestors ate in the land of Egypt.”

The exodus powerful narrative has produced enduring timeless Jewish values of care, compassion and justice as foundational and compelling. In some communities it is customary to put an empty plate on the table to remember those less fortunate, those who are suffering, those in need of shelter, the homeless and the hungry. We who follow the custom, place pledges on the plate and commit to do a mitzvah of our choice to alleviate suffering in the coming year. read more

My God, Why Have You Abandoned Me (Psalm 22) by Matia Kam

This intense psalm describes a state of frightening loneliness, of abandonment, of God’s face hiding, and of the psalmist’s sense of being a worm rather than human.

The metaphor of a worm is striking and unique, precisely because it is so rarely used: it appears only twice, in this psalm and in Isaiah’s prophecy (44).

The Psalm begins with a piercing cry, “Eli, Eli, My God, My God, why have You abandoned me”; a scream of existential loneliness of the psalmist, “You are my God, no one but You has ever been my God, why have You deserted me now?!.” The cry is about a double separation: the spatial distance from God – “until You will not be close to me to be my salvation in times of need,” and the emotional remoteness – “until You cannot even hear my roaring,” and despite my loud cry that can be heard afar, “You would know nothing of my troubles”—abandonment as well as hiding God’s face (Malbim). All these become a daily unbearable pain, “ in the morning I call and you do not respond, and at night I have no respite.” read more

Real News From Mosul by Peter Eisenstadt

The big news story today is that the Syrian government has probably used nerve gas against Syrian rebels, killing a number of civilians. Because we place poison gas in a different category from conventional means of killing people from the air, and because the Asad government is despicable, it has received a good deal of attention, temporarily driving the latest Trump scandal from the lead story in the news.

The biggest problem in trying to follow the news in recent months hasn’t been fake news—though there certainly has been enough of that, thank you very much—but too much real news, like water from a burst dam, flooding everything, saturating our ability to follow it. It has been difficult to follow any one story as it quickly rushes by, and we all seem to be unable to concentrate on any one story for very long. read more

Rash Promises by Peter Eisenstadt

Over the weekend, through the magic of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD Series, I saw a performance of Mozart’s opera Idomeneo. It is Mozart’s first great opera (as opposed to the 10 or 12 very good operas) he had previously written. Premiered in Munich in 1781—the original theater is still standing—it found Mozart at a crossroads in his career. He was a young man of about 25, his days as a dazzling young prodigy days far behind him, and was now just another scuffling musician, albeit one of needing to prove that he could build on his early success and earn the big pricey commissions befitting his talent. (He had his share of successes, but, as perhaps the original member of the “gig economy” he continued to scuffle.) read more

Rash Promises by Peter Eisenstad

Over the weekend, through the magic of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD Series, I saw a performance of Mozart’s opera Idomeneo. It is Mozart’s first great opera (as opposed to the 10 or 12 very good operas) he had previously written. Premiered in Munich in 1781—the original theater is still standing—it found Mozart at a crossroads in his career. He was a young man of about 25, his days as a dazzling young prodigy days far behind him, and was now just another scuffling musician, albeit one of needing to prove that he could build on his early success and earn the big pricey commissions befitting his talent. (He had his share of successes, but, as perhaps the original member of the “gig economy” he continued to scuffle.) read more

The Ides of March – by Peter Eisenstadt

The Ides of March

Today is the Ides of  March. All I can say is, “beware, beware, beware.”  You don’t have to be an soothsayer in the market  to have a sense of impending catastrophe.   We still have a senate.  We still have (lower case “r”) republican institutions that are badly fraying. And we still have would-be strong men who seek to take advantage of the situation, phony tribunes of the people, and a would-be dictator (which was an office in Republican Rome, which Julius Caesar occupied in his last months.)  Just to be absolutely clear, I am not drawing any further parallels, or anticipating or advocating for anything bloody or untoward. It’s just that the Ides of March is a day for looking at where we are, and where we are going. read more

Helping Women is Helping the Entire Planet by Ayala Emmett

Statement by the President on International Women’s Day

“Today, on International Women’s Day, we recommit ourselves to achieving a world in which every woman and girl enjoys the full range of rights and freedoms that is her birthright.

Women and girls make extraordinary contributions every day across all fields of human endeavor, including in business, education, sports, art, science, agriculture, parenting, and governance.  Without these contributions, economies would collapse, communities would fail, and families would fall apart.  And yet, in too many places around the world, women still struggle to rise out of their status as second-class citizens.  They are denied opportunities for full economic and political participation.  Some are forced to marry and have children when they are still children themselves, while abusive practices, such female genital mutilation/cutting, still persist in too many places.  Moreover, secondary education-arguably the most powerful tool for helping girls escape cycles of poverty and abuse and take control of their lives–remains beyond the reach of tens of millions of girls around the world. read more

Threats and Desecration in Our Town by Ayala Emmett

Children Play Here

This morning our local Jewish Community Center received a bomb threat.

Rochester, NY the city of Susan B. Anthony and Fredrick Douglas, a community with a long rich history of Jewish immigration and philanthropy, is facing a wave of anti-Semitism.

Since the political rise of Donald Trump, Rochester has seen hateful defaming pamphlets, desecration of Jewish cemeteries, and now a despicable bomb threat to the JCC. This is a place where parents bring infants and children to daycare and seniors come daily for sociability. read more