Responding to the Executive Order on Migration and Refugees

SS-St-LouisThis Shabbat, from 11 – 11:45 a.m., please join us for a special bimah dialogue featuring Rabbi Glazer, Dr. Lindsay Gifford (Assistant Professor of International Studies and Anthropology, University of San Francisco), and Vlad Khaykin (Associate Director for the Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco).

As the world faces the most severe refugee crisis since World War II, affecting tens of millions of displaced people, the current administration signed an Executive Order that halts U.S. refugee resettlement efforts. In solidarity with many leading American Jewish organizations, all arms of the Conservative movement released an official statement condemning the presidential order and calling upon Jews everywhere to advocate for the rights of immigrants and reject the targeting of any individual based on their religion.

In this Shabbat discussion, Rabbi Glazer, Lindsay, and Vlad will explore the urgency of the refugee crisis, how it relates to Jewish values and shared history, weigh security concerns and the refugee vetting process, and look at how tradition teaches us to responsibly respond to these challenges with the ethical imperative "not to stand idly by as the blood of your brother is at stake" (Leviticus 19:16).

Please join us. The interactive discussion will take place from 11 – 11:40 a.m., and will be preceded by our full Torah service (beginning at 9:40 a.m.

Lindsay Gifford is Assistant Professor of International Studies and Anthropology at the University of San Francisco. She has worked on Middle Eastern migration and refugee issues for the past decade, including with members of the Syrian, Iraqi, Palestinian, and Lebanese communities, with field research experience in Syria, Jordan, and the transnational Middle Eastern Diaspora. She holds a Ph.D. in Anthropology from Boston University and was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow at UCLA. She also volunteers with refugee resettlement agencies in the US, and is a member of GenR, a professional advocacy group for the International Rescue Committee.

Vlad J. Khaykin is a former Jewish refugee and Associate Director for the Anti-Defamation League in San Francisco. He holds a degree in Economics from the University of California, Santa Cruz and graduate degrees in non-profit management and Near East and Jewish Studies from Brandeis University, where he focused on Jewish-Muslim relations and the history of anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim migrant xenophobia.

Image credit: Jewish refugees aboard the German liner, St. Louis, June 29, 1939. (Planet News Archive/SSPL/Getty Images/via JTA)

Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged Recap

facebook_yehudasolomonduvidswirsky_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016Almost two hundred people visited the CBS campus this past Saturday evening to mark our entrance into the final days of preparation for the Yamim Noraim ("the Days of Awe"). A joint production of CBS, the Mission Minyan, and The Kitchen, Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged made for a special night (and early morning!) – deeply affecting, joyous, and fun.

The centerpiece of the night was a communal singalong featuring Yehuda Solomon and Duvid Swirsky of the Israeli-American folk-rock band, Moshav. Yehuda and Duvid were joined by prayer leaders and hazzanim from CBS, the Mission Minyan, and the Kitchen – together, they led the crowd in giving voice to Selichot, our tradition’s beautiful and penitential piyyutim (liturgical poems). According to Ashkenazi tradition, the recitation of Selichot begins after midnight on the Sunday before Rosh Hashanah (or the Sunday prior, if Rosh Hashanah falls on a Monday or Tuesday, as it does this year) and, although our service didn't wind down until 2 a.m., there was no shortage of energy and ruach in the CBS Sanctuary! Attendees danced, stomped, and swayed with the music and singing, awakening to the urgency of this moment and our need for teshuvah.

Speaking of teshuvah and the related seasonal demand for chesbon hanefesh (a rigorous "accounting of the soul"), Rabbi Peretz Wolf-Prusan shared some moving words during the film panel that occurred earlier in the evening. Following a screening of Fire On The Water, a short film dealing with the Akedah (the binding of Isaac) that Rabbi Aubrey Glazer made during his days as a student filmmaker, Rabbi Wolf-Prusan spoke earnestly of his anxiety about the lack of communal sacrifice experienced by Jewish Americans in the last 50+ years. What loss has our society felt, he asked, as we wage an ongoing war in Afghanistan? Too many families lose their sons and daughters, of course, and our federal coffers are steadily drained, but the majority of Americans are insulated from the war – it remains a background abstraction, and there is little to no sense of communal commitment, contribution, or sacrifice. Even during the Vietnam era, Rabbi Wolf-Prusan argued, despite the anti-war movement and the greater public awareness of the body count (on both sides of the conflict), our culture experienced the 1960s and early 1970s as a period of economic growth and general prosperity. He contrasted this with the American experience during World War II, when all citizens were required to ration foods, fuel, and many consumer goods. We haven't experienced anything like that since the 1940s. "When will the bill come due?," he asked the audience.

Rabbi Dorothy Richman responded to Rabbi Wolf-Prusan and quoted the 20th century sage, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel: "Some are guilty, but all are responsible." With so much racial strife, ongoing overseas wars, ugly partisanship, and reactionary politics, she said Rabbi Wolf-Prusan's anxieties about our lack of sacrifice hit her hard. Doubtless, many people in the room were similarly stirred.

This sort of earnest, challenging soul-searching is what the High Holy Days are all about. Observant Jews devote the entire Hebrew month of Elul – which began on September 4 this year – to the spiritual heavy lifting of teshuvah. And what exactly is teshuvah? Depending on which Jew you ask, you'll get different answers. Most resources translate teshuvah as "repentance," but many rabbis scorn this translation, and instead frame teshuvah (which literally translates as "return") as the work of returning to relationship with God. Given contemporary Jews' varied conceptions of deity, that's too vague a formulation for many. However you translate or characterize it, though, teshuvah is about working to develop and improve our character – and it's meant to be hard.

As Rosh Hashanah approaches, the need for a commitment to teshuvah becomes increasingly urgent, but it is likewise important to balance the moments of reckoning with moments of joy. Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged provided both.

Thanks to all of the panelists, performers, and prayer leaders who made the evening so moving and fun. Thanks, too, to all of the friendly folks from the Mission Minyan and The Kitchen who trekked out – in some cases, carpooling (kol hakavod!) – to the Richmond to make this memorable evening that much better. Todah rabbah, and l'shanah tovah u'metuka (for a good and sweet year)!

A selection of photographs snapped during the event are included below.

facebook_talyaglazerrabbiglazeryehudasolomonduvidswirsky_havdalah_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

facebook_fireonthewaterscreening_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

facebook_elyssawortzmanrabbiwolfprusanavivachernickrabbirichmanjonathancrosbyrabbiglazer_cineforumfilmdiscussion_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

facebook_program2_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

facebook_duvidswirskyavivachernickrabbikasher-_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

facebook_shoes_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

facebook_duvidswirskyavivachernickrabbikasher-rabbiglazeryehudasolomonrabbibubisrabbirichman_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

facebook_rabbikasher_-yehudasolomonduvidswirskyrabbirichmanrabbibubis-rabbiglazer_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

facebook_sanctuaryview2_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

facebook_-yehudasolomonrabbibubis_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

facebook_sanctuaryview3_hardlystrictlyselichotunplugged_september2016

Miles Kessler's Bar Mitzvah

MilesKessler

MilesKessler

My name is Miles Kessler, and I am a 7th grader at Roosevelt Middle School. I enjoy playing board games like Monopoly along with strategic games like chess and Risk. I also enjoy playing World War II video games, engineering, model railroading, and playing jazz on my tenor saxophone.

I am very excited about my bar mitzvah this coming Shabbat, but, to tell you the truth, I'm also pretty terrified! The Torah portion will be Parashat Chukat. The manuscript outlines the laws of purity, that is, how one becomes impure, and instructions on how to purify those who are impure. It then chronicles Moses' mistake (when he struck, rather than spoke, to a rock to get water for the parched Israelites), and the history of what happened next.

I cannot wait to share this day with my friends, Greg and Colin, family, and all the members of the minyan, and I hope you find it enlightening.

I would like to thank my mom and dad for pushing me on when I got stuck and teaching me the value of commitment; my tutor, Stuart, for teaching me how to do get the job done along with the value of learning; Rabbi Glazer, for giving me the gift of Torah study and instructing me on the value of spirituality; the weekday minyan, for showing me how to read the Torah and teaching me the value of tolerance; and all the previous b'nai mitzvahs during the last school year, for exposing me to this process and teaching me the value of passing on knowledge as a side effect of your own learning process.