Don’t Stand Idly By — Go to Church this Sunday!

After a Jewish home was stoned in Billings, Montana, to attack a Jewish family who placed their Chanukiah candles in the window during Chanukah, families throughout this community placed Chanukiot in their windows in solidarity with that Jewish family.  I learned from a lecture by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of England, that the most effective way to confront hate crimes in our community is for other religions and races to stand up in defense of the group who was attacked.  This creates a society in which every segment takes care of one another and marginalizes the hate groups.

Following this lesson, I urge my Jewish brothers and sisters throughout the United States to go to church this Sunday.  Go to an African American Church to stand in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters of faith. We must stand up to preserve the sanctity of the embattled human spirit and restore reverence to God’s dwelling place of peace.  This is how we shall strengthen one another in our respective and cherished identities.  Together, we shall defend and define the values of our country.

The Torah exhorts us, “Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:15). Dedicate this Father’s Day to this sacred mission of preserving the dignity of our larger human family.  May God help us transform our society’s culture of violence into a culture of mutual respect and responsibility.

This Sunday, I will lead a group to attend Speedwell United Methodist Church with whom we have initiated an ongoing dialogue the past four months.  The church is located on the corner of Montgomery Crossroads and Skidaway.  Services begin at 10:00 a.m.  I will be going there directly from morning minyan which begins at 9:00 a.m. All are welcome to join us!

About the Author
Rabbi Ruven Barkan is a relationship builder and visionary, seeking to nurture vibrant Conservative Jewish life that builds on the solid foundation of tradition for promoting inclusivity and innovation. As rabbi, educational leader, and social activist he is dedicated to bridging gaps through dialogue between diverse communities, transforming Tefillah (Jewish prayer) into an engaging, accessible, and personal experience, and establishing new Torah study models tailored to the culture of each community. He has served as rabbi in a variety of contexts. As a congregational Rabbi, he led Congregation Agudath Achim in Savannah, Georgia. As Rabbi-in-Residence, he helped establish the Jewish Life Program and taught Jewish studies at the Chicagoland Jewish High School. He directed the faith track of Auburn Seminary’s international peace camp, Face to Face/Faith to Faith, that builds peace through dialogue in regions of conflict throughout the world, including Israel. He wrote his Master's Thesis in Hebrew Letters from the American Jewish University on “Zionism and the Conservative Movement: Finkelstein, Heschel, and Kaplan,” and his Master's Thesis for the Jewish Theological Seminary's Davidson School of Education on “Teaching Jewish Holidays through Gardening.” He was ordained at JTS in 2001. He is a regular practitioner of Iyengar Yoga, and plays soccer, basketball, and golf. He has been married to his life-partner Adina Weber since college.