Every year has its particular challenges. This secular year will be no exception. Here are some areas that need attention this year:
1. Fighting the desire to draw red lines. There are so many efforts across political, social, and religious life to draw red lines. These people are too (fill in the blank) and therefore must be condemned. There is a great temptation right now to “other” people – to say that a certain mindset or skin color or religion means another person is dangerous. I want us to resist this temptation to “other.” 50% of America can’t be outside the bounds of political discourse; 1 billion Muslims aren’t evil. How can we find ways of reacting that promote blessings of safety and healing without othering so many?
2. Building bridges. Our society is divided along so many lines and basis. We need intentional healing work to create connections. I am particularly focused on deepening our relationship with AME Zion Church in Palo Alto and working together with area synagogues to develop a relationship with our local Muslim community. I need help and lay leaders for both, so if you are interested, please let me know.
3. Responding to refugees. We are living through one of the greatest dislocations in human history. While most of the press covers Syrian refugees, there are hundreds of thousands of Africans as well who have walked across huge parts of Africa to escape famine and war. I believe this is the humanitarian challenge of our moment. I intend to partner with IsraAid this year to help educate us about the challenges and give us an outlet through which we can help. We will also be inviting Kol Emeth members to learn more about local efforts to help teen refugees in our area who need homes and help.
4. Praying. Messages denigrating traditional religion and prayer abound. Yet all the evidence shows the profound importance of communities like Kol Emeth. Singing together is life sustaining; communities like Kol Emeth are provide essential spiritual homes that promote civic virtue. We believe that liturgy is a key path to gratitude and faith. We need to promote synagogue and prayer because they are such key elements holding our society together. There is a wonderful Jewish teaching – the work is beyond our capacity to finish, but nevertheless we have to do our part. This year has plenty of important work in front of us: let us as individuals and as a Kol Emeth community set out to be the kind of blessing the world so desperately needs.
Rabbi David Booth