Rabbi Matthew A. Reimer’s Blog

Letter from our Clergy about Oklahoma Tornado

May 22nd, 2013 | posted by Rabbi Matthew A. Reimer | Email Me

We are both shocked and saddened by the news, the images and the stories that have been coming out of the devastation from Monday’s massive tornado in Oklahoma. Dozens were killed, thousands have been displaced, and there has been widespread destruction of homes, schools, hospitals, offices and infrastructure. As a religious community, it is our moral imperative for us to act in doing our part to help in any way possible.

The Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) is accepting donations in the wake of the deadly tornado and is working closely with our congregations in the affected region to assure the safety of their congregants, their neighbors, their structures and to determine next steps in relief work. For now, TBJ and the URJ will collect donations and distribute them to the American Red Cross and others on the ground in Oklahoma. As other needs arise, perhaps including volunteers to assist with the clean-up and rebuilding, we will, of course, stand ready to help in any way possible.

Visit their website to make an online donation:

urj.org/socialaction/issues/relief/ 

Please make checks payable to:

Union for Reform Judaism

ATTN: Oklahoma Tornado Relief

633 Third Avenue

New York, NY  10017

Our tradition teaches us that in one way or another, we are all responsible for each other. In that spirit, our thoughts and prayers go out to all those impacted by this horrific tragedy.

An Interfaith Statement re: the Shooting at a Sikh Temple

October 12th, 2012 | posted by Rabbi Matthew A. Reimer | Email Me

Dear Congregational Family,

While our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and their families in Aurora, Colorado, another senseless act of violence struck our country this past Sunday at the Sikh Religious Society in Brookfield, Wisconsin.

Regardless of whether the victims were targeted because of their religion, because of how they looked or otherwise, what is behind this chapter of violence during these past few weeks – of insane and dark behavior – is hatred. And it is this hatred that we stand united against.

Our people know far too well what it means to be targets of hatred, and so we stand, side by side, with those of different faiths, or no faiths at all, as one nation, as one community.

Our Tradition teaches: Kol Yisrael Aravim Zeh B’Zeh (All Israel is responsible for one another.) This is not just a statement. It is a promise. It is a covenant that each of us – as TBJ members – share with each other.

Please take a moment and read the attached Interfaith statement about the shooting at the Sikh Religious Society, and remember that your TBJ Family is here for each of you.

Interfaith Statement

And please join us in prayer for their victims and their families, and may God bless then United States of America.

Warmly,

Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz

Cantor Howard M. Stahl

Rabbi Matthew A. Reimer

Rabbi Karen R. Perolman

Remembering, Praying & Healing Together…

September 9th, 2011 | posted by Rabbi Matthew A. Reimer | Email Me

For many of us, the approaching tenth anniversary of September 11, 2001 brings with it a sense of uncertainty as well as recollections and the desire to commemorate the lives lost on that tragic day. On the one hand, with the ongoing wars, terror and conflicts throughout the world, and natural disasters in our own backyard, our pain and insecurity, individually and collectively, may have only been exacerbated in the decade since the monumental tragedy and horrors of 9/11. As Jews, Americans, and members of the human family, we have been subject to repeated assaults and losses. In our hearts and our minds, it can all merge into a terrifying and unrelenting state.

In the face of this, however, Jews are far from impotent or adrift. Rather, we have shown throughout our history to have necessary and useful tools, approaches, and traditions that can help us with our struggles. Simply put: Jews have resources of community, tradition, and faith to bolster ourselves and give each of us a sense of strength, purpose and renewed hope.

To that end, your TBJ family invites you to participate in a full weekend commemorating the 10th anniversary of September 11, 2001 through prayer, reflection and communal events.

  • September 9, 5:30 pm: Erev Shabbat Services, Commemoration of September 11, 2001, Sermon by Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz.
  • September 11, 3:00 pm: “Compassion in Action Interfaith Service 9/11,” Trinity & St. Phillips Cathedral, 608 Broad Street, Newark, with Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz & Cantor Howard M. Stahl joining communal religious and political leaders.
  • September 24, 7:00 pm: S’lichot Service and Ethics Panel –“Memory, Reconciliation and Hope: An Interfaith Conversation on the 10th Commemoration of September 11, 2001,” with Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz, Imam W. Deen Shareef, The Rt. Rev. Mark Bethwith and Father Edward Beck, moderated by Jon Meacham.

As we begin to enter into these awe-filled days, please join your TBJ community as we remember together, pray together and heal together.

President Obama’s Mideast Speech: More Questions or More Answers?

May 20th, 2011 | posted by Rabbi Matthew A. Reimer | Email Me

Much has been said since President Obama’s speech on the Middle East this past Thursday. Supporters of the President have hailed the speech as a bold new approach to an age old issue. Detractors have claimed that the President has irrevocably destroyed the previously unbreakable bond between the United States and Israel. So what exactly did he say? And, perhaps more importantly, what did he NOT say?

  • President Obama’s speech was a major policy shift from previous administrations: NOT TRUE. Both Presidents Bush and Clinton have made similar proposals and referred to the same borders in the same way, with “mutually agreed swaps,” referring to accommodations and changes. (Here is an article in The Atlantic to highlight this point: http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2011/05/nothing-new-in-the-idea-that-67-borders-should-guide-peace-talks-updated/239162/)

So what did President Obama say? President Obama…

  • Made a strong restatement of American’s commitment to Israel’s security.
  • Restated American’s firm commitment to “stand against attempts to single [Israel] out for criticism in international forums.”
  • Strongly and directly addressed Palestinian efforts to delegitimize Israel, isolate Israel at the United Nations, unilaterally declare statehood and deny Israel’s right to exist.
  • Eloquently recognized Israel’s essential Jewish character as a homeland for the Jewish people.
  • Insisted that a Palestinian state be non-militarized, and that Israel “must be able to defend itself – by itself – against any threat.”
  • Noted the “profound and legitimate” questions posed by the alliance of Fatah and Hamas, and recognized that “Palestinian leaders will have to provide a credible answer to that question.”

Here is the President’s speech in its entirety: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/19/remarks-president-middle-east-and-north-africa

The speech shows a clear commitment to a two-state solution that exists – and can only exist – in peace. So perhaps we can put on our filters and use this opportunity to listen – to really listen – to what is being said. We may just learn (read: hear) something we didn’t hear before.

From your Clergy: on the Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami

March 11th, 2011 | posted by Rabbi Karen R. Perolman | Email Me

Dear Congregational Family,

I am sure that many of you have been glued to your televisions and computers since the news of the devastating earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan early this morning. The 8.9 magnitude earthquake is one of the strongest in recorded history and the tsunami covered parts of the country in water with its ripples reaching the West Coast of the United States and South America.

When unexplainable and tragic events strike our world we try to understand their cause while responding as quickly as possible to help those in need. We are proud that the Israeli government was one of the first to reach out to the people of Japan and that Israeli search and rescue organizations will be traveling there after Shabbat.

The Jewish Federations of North America is setting up an emergency relief fund to help those in affected areas and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee, a federation partner, has opened a mailbox for donations to be used for Japan/Pacific disaster relief. Information about contributing to the JDC and Red Cross can be found below.

We pray for health and peace for those affected by this disaster and their families.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,

 

Rabbi Matthew D. Gewirtz

Cantor Howard M. Stahl

Rabbi Matthew A. Reimer

Rabbi Karen R. Perolman

 

Donations to the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee

https://jdc.org/donation/donate.aspx.

Or

Donate by mail or phone:
Check payable to JDC (Japan/ Pacific Disaster Relief)
P.O. Box 530
132 East 43rd Street
New York, NY 10017
212-687-6200

 

Donations to the Red Cross’ rescue efforts:

http://tinyurl.com/yc2uaon

or

Donate by mail

American Red Cross (Japan Earthquake and Pacific Tsunami)
PO Box 4002018
Des Moines, IA 50340-2018

 

Thanksgiving Blessings…but Inequality

November 22nd, 2010 | posted by Rabbi Matthew A. Reimer | Email Me

Thursday is Thanksgiving, a holiday that almost every single American celebrates. And it’s an anomalous holiday, in that it is a secular or civic holiday, celebrating American prosperity, but observed by many Americans in religious ways: saying blessings or Grace before the meal and interfaith services such as the one taking place in our community on Wednesday (St. Rose Church, 5:30pm) with our own Rabbi Perolman preaching.

The Thanksgiving meal is often characterized by abundance. One of the ways we celebrate is by demonstrating how much we have to eat. The sense of satiation that we feel – and our pleasure at the company we share with those we love – touches a place of spirituality that is often deeper than any organized religion can express. But that place of contentment and pleasure can be instructional as well. Rather than simply basking in our turkey-induced lethargy, we can use the abundance of Thanksgiving to remind us that there is also tremendous hunger and lack. While we are thankful for what we have, we can be cognizant that not everyone currently shares our manifold blessings.

Today, we should live in a world where we never see children begging for bread, and Thanksgiving can be a reminder of just such a hope. God’s gift of nourishment has never been greater. There is a surplus of food being produced in the world’s fields, more than enough abundance for everyone. And yet, nearly one billion people are hungry. Twenty-five thousand people die every day due to malnutrition. Every six seconds a child dies from starvation. Global hunger is one of the most pressing challenges facing humans today.

But hunger today is not caused by a scarcity of food around the world. Hunger today is caused by problems in distribution and by the disruption of local food systems. In the past, people ate what grew nearby. But today’s local farmers cannot profit when their goods are sold alongside mass-produced food which, because it is mass-produced and often subsidized, can be sold at lower prices. Local agricultural systems have collapsed, and indigenous and poor people world wide are struggling to defend their land and water from encroaching international industries.

There are many efforts to end hunger. One idea coming into focus is something called “food sovereignty.” This means that people not only have enough to eat, but that they are at the heart of the decision-making processes that determine how and what is produced and available.

Of course it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the challenge. There is a story from the Talmud which tells of the righteous Rav Huna, who, whenever he ate a meal, would open his door and invite in the hungry, saying, “Whoever is in need, come and eat.” His colleague, Rava, when told of this, said he would never be able to do that—there were far too many people starving in his town.

Let us follow the efforts of Rav Huna, rather than give in to the despair of Rava.

So what can we do? What can we do to take up Rav Huna’s challenge? What are some steps we can take in our own community that can help to end global hunger? Buying “fair trade” products, supporting various food sovereignty organizations, and being more aware of the food that sits on our plates are just a few ways. As we celebrate much abundance – even in the face of serious challenges that our communities face – our obligation as a religious and sacred community is clear.

What better time then when our tables are copious and our stomachs are full.

This year I am grateful for all that I have, both on my table and in my heart. In the Jewish tradition, we say at the conclusion of our daily Thanksgiving prayer, Baruch atah Adonai, ha-tov shimcha u’lecha na’eh le-hodot. Blessed is the Eternal, whose name is good and whom it is good to praise.

Let us, on this Thanksgiving, praise God’s name proudly, each in our own unique ways. But let us never lose sight of our common responsibilities toward one another and toward the rest of humanity. Let us work together for healing, for justice, and for peace.

From my family to yours, I wish you a happy, healthy and meaningful Thanksgiving.

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