Benjamin Franklin is one of America’s great heroes. He’s the one to make popular the idea “From Rags to Riches.” A child of extreme poverty, he quickly became a success by literally turning the rags he once used for newspapers into paper currency - riches. The self-made man, the hero with humble beginnings, achieved the impossible. Benjamin Franklin, the shining face of a currency that implies wealth and success is the model of American achievement. He embodies what we strive toward - fulfilling the American dream.
This year we will celebrate 70 years of statehood and national independence in the Land of Israel. It is a time to rejoice in the thousands of years old dream, “To be a free people, in our Land - Lihyot Am Chofshee B’Artzeinu,” as the words of Hatikvah proclaim. The unfolding drama of the State of Israel is focus of daily study and concern for us as it has been for millennia.
How many times have we cringed after a quick response to a troubling comment or after an impulsive reaction to a difficult situation? What does it mean for us to wish for just one more moment to think about what we should have said or done?
I wasn’t alive to read the news of crematoria constructed to burn Jewish bodies in Europe during the Shoah. I wasn’t alive to witness the palpable dread and concern the world must have felt as news washed upon the shores of this land of freedom and security. I wasn’t alive to urge our leaders to act swiftly or to pray for the safety of those whose lives were in mortal danger.
Raising a child today is exciting, daunting, and certainly all-consuming. As a young parent myself, some days the goal is just to make sure the kids are dressed with matching clothes, let alone making sure my suit doesn’t have any stains on it! Loftier goals like providing your child with a strong sense of self and a deep connection to the Jewish people seem far off, but dreaming and acting for them begins even at the earliest stages of development.
This Saturday evening and Sunday we will gather, dress in costumes, revel with music and food, and hear the story of Esther and Mordechai, Achashverosh and Haman. In the center of the story, Mordechai speaks to Esther, now the queen of Persia, and appeals to her so she may help save the Jews who have been threatened with annihilation of genocidal proportion.
In 1969, Norma Rosen was one of the brave firsts who began to fictionalize the experience of the Holocaust. More than a dramatization of events, the writings of Rosen and others like her dared to enter into a universe of curiosity. Novelists cautiously embarked on quests to discover the deep truths lying dormant in the lives of survivors and historians.
The King and I, the fourth longest running show on Broadway, is playing at the Pantages Theater in Hollywood these days. It’s marvelous to see how a classic production from 1950 can still speak with a modern idiom, and how the messages it conveys are particularly relevant even today.
Last week, I had the privilege of meeting King Eze Chukwuemeka Eri, the Nigerian Hebrew king on his visit to Southern California. The King was attended by three men who represented the local Igbo Hebrew community, where approximately 30 million Africans in Eastern Nigeria live.
This summer, I was privileged to participate in the annual Rabbinic Training Seminar (RTS) at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. The seminar is a 10 day learning experience which brings rabbis and scholars from around the world to study, reflect, sing, and dream together while exploring complicated issues facing the Jewish world today.