It is a tough time to write with a positive outlook. But now is the opportunity for synagogues to step up!
Since my first visit to Israel in 1975, my hope and dream for peace continues. But I must admit it all of the efforts for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is a lot like the movie Groundhog Day. Sometimes there is progress – baby steps, but progress nonetheless. And then pretty severe setbacks. Like today with the announcement of 2500 new settlement homes on the West Bank. And this is the cycle that happens time and again.
And there is the issue of how Jewish you have to be to be be Jewish in Israel. And the activities of Women of the Wall and their work for egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City and all the issues this raises for all American Jews. Remember, conversions officiated by Rabbi Haskell Lookstein, a prominent Orthodox Rabbi in New York City who worked with Ivanka Trump on her conversion, wasn’t good enough for Israel’s Rabbinic High Court.
That so many of us continue to love Israel despite struggling with these political and religious issues never ceases to amaze me. And this is an issue that synagogue leaders and congregants should be talking about in formal and informal settings.
The election and this past week in Washington: What times we are living in!! I have been witness in my lifetime to both apprehensive and hopeful transitions: From Lyndon Johnson to Richard Nixon; from the Watergate era, and Presidents Nixon and Ford to Jimmy Carter. From Bill Clinton to George Bush; And from George Bush to Barak Obama. And this week, from President Obama to President Trump.
My family and friends all know that I have always been a believer that the role makes function. Donald Trump as president should behave differently from Donald Trump the real estate developer or even the presidential candidate. And that while I believe we need to give President Trump a chance, I, too am somewhat skeptical about the next four years.
The potential impact on congregants and the community of the Trump administration’s policies on health care, employment, climate, just to name a few, are also worthy of conversation and perhaps action within our congregations.
The past two weeks have also brought security scares to many JCCs across America. And I know for many, this raises anxieties about our own synagogue’s security. We want people to feel safe when they come to Shabbat Worship. And we want everyone to feel welcome.
You don’t want the synagogue to be a fortress. I shared the story before about visiting a synagogue on a weekday during office hours where I was searched, and so was my car. And I was on the visitor list that the security person had on his clipboard.
Although a bit dated, ADL’s booklet for synagogue safety remains an important resource. From time to time, it is certainly worthwhile to check-in with local police officials about the security procedures that are being followed at your synagogue.
Sharing with congregants what you are doing regarding synagogue security shows that you are being responsible as synagogue board members and that their safety is a serious matter.