Rabbi Norman T. Roman
JANUARY 2012 VOICE
Social (Religious) Action: What will you do in 2012?
I am constantly reminded that Kol Ami is known in our community as “the Social Action Temple”. There is so much that our members and groups do: from volunteering to deliver and serve food, to tutoring, to raising funds and awareness for various health-related issues, and more. Our B’nai Mitzvah students (and their families) participate in a diverse range of “Mitzvah Projects”. Temple members are always seen coordinating area-wide events, and we regularly open our facility to housing the homeless.
Indeed, Kol Ami has always shared in the fundamental principle as taught in Pirkei Avot: “The world is sustained by three things, by Torah, by Worship, and by Deeds of Lovingkindness”.
As we usher in the new year of 2012, and as the colder days of winter approach and we all look for ways to remain warm – both in the physical and the spiritual sense, I want to suggest two important sources for all of us to consider:
On the local level, I urge you to sign on to the “I’m a Believer” campaign in support of the revitalization of Detroit. Though many of us live in the suburbs, we can (and should) be active in bringing about positive change in SouthEast Michigan. The “Believer Pledge” includes essential statements about encouraging all to acknowledge the challenges and changing attitudes. It talks about how each of us affects Detroit’s image and can make everyone proud. You may have seen the billboards or heard the commercials: “if we all do something, we can do everything!” More of us can volunteer to reach out, to tutor, to help a senior, to plant a garden, to clean up a neighborhood.
Adults can learn more through the website: www.believeindetroit.org;
Teens can learn more through the website: www.summerinthecity.com
[We are all especially proud of our own Sandy Hermanoff, who has been a spearhead for the Believe in Detroit campaign, and of Ben Falik, Rachel Pultusker and Michael Goldberg (now Mr. & Mrs.), who are founders and leaders of the award-winning Summer in the City project!]
Furthermore, Social Action should be more than the meaningful, local “Deeds of Loving kindness” with which most of us are familiar. I also urge you to be involved on the national and world-wide level, through the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center in Washington, DC. Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, the RAC is the simply most highly-respected liberal Jewish institution. Its staff testifies in Congress regularly, and represents us to the American agencies of government, to the Israeli Embassy, and to other political organizations that are headquartered or lobby in the Nation’s Capital. And the RAC’s staff serves as researchers, programmers, and spokespersons for Reform positions on every conceivable issue or policy question, from the environment to poverty, from nuclear disarmament to equal rights. If you find yourself in Washington, visit the Center. If you have interest in a particular cause or concern (especially in the 2012 election year), seek out their background material. If you’re constantly feeling, “well, what can I do about . . . .?”, send them an email.
Sign up for the Religious Action Center’s briefing communications and learn more through the website: www.rac.org
[We are proud that our own Rabbi Silverman has worked at, and with, the RAC staff in Washington, prior to her studying for the Rabbinate; and that she was recently invited to serve on the Social Action Commission of Reform Judaism, as did I some 20 years ago.]
Rabbi Ariana Jaffe Silverman
DECEMBER 2011 VOICE
As Chanukkah approaches, many of us start to think of…presents! Even though we know that Chanukkah is not a holiday that is traditionally associated with presents—in Israel, for example, Chanukkah is typically not a time of gift giving—many of us, nonetheless, feel that in a culture in which exchanging gifts in the month of December is so ubiquitous, we want to participate in the fun. The decision to opt-out of this custom may alleviate a lot of stress, save a lot of time, and save a lot of money, and I admire that choice. But I do not feel that everyone needs to make that decision.
Rather, as is the case with many of the things that we do, it is important that we ensure that we purchase gifts that reflect our values. To do so is not only just, and is not only Jewish, it means that as we provide gifts for our loved ones, we simultaneously provide gifts for the world.
We can consider who made the product—was it assembled by laborers in a sweatshop, or was it crafted by people who make a living wage? We can consider from what it was constructed—is it made from sustainable or renewable resources? We can consider where we purchase the product—are we supporting small local businesses? What are the other values that are important to us as we make these choices?
I am not suggesting that every purchase must meet all of our ethical criteria. Those gifts may be impossible to find, and may be very expensive. But it is worth the effort to find gifts that align with some of our values. Doing so means that you are giving a gift that is not only an expression of love, it is an expression of the values we seek to pass on to those we love. You are giving a gift that expresses tikkun olam, repairing the world, as you make the world a little bit better for us, and for generations to come.
May your Chanukkah be filled with love and light, and may that love and that light be shared with your loved ones, and with people all over the world.