Yesterday morning, Rosh Hodesh Heshvan, 5777, I woke to the news that a large group of Jews marched into the Kotel area carrying Torahs so that the Women of the Wall could celebrate Rosh Hodesh Heshvan with the words of prayer and the words of Torah. Quite a different scene than Rosh Hodesh Av 5770, when the Israeli police arrested Women of the Wall leader Anat Hoffman for carrying a Torah away from the Kotel area toward Robinson’s Arch, where the Torah service was to take place. Yesterday morning, all parts of the morning service, including and especially the Torah service, were held on the Women’s side of the existing Kotel Plaza. As I watched the videos from this morning, I was so gratified to see American Jewish leaders, notably Rabbis Steve Wernick and Rick Jacobs, key American/Israeli educators such as Rabbi Loren Sykes and respected American rabbis such as fellow Clevelander Rob Nosanchuck on the front lines of the historic Rosh Hodesh Heshvan “Hakafah TO The Kotel.”
I ended the day by watching Game Seven of the 2016 World Series, a valiant effort by my hometown Cleveland Indians to capture their first World Series title since the historic days of 1948. However, Cleveland’s quest for history was to be eclipsed by the Chicago Cub’s greater quest for history, as after a 17 minute rain delay (during the week that We Jews read Noah), the Cubs scored two runs in the 10th inning to claim the title. While I know that my son David who went to both Games 6 and 7 is heartbroken, I find myself comforted that another scrappy Midwestern town can share the joy of a championship, as we did in June when LeBron James brought the NBA title home. Given the state of politics in the USA right now, to have such a joyous World Series go into one extra inning during the last game is that bit of Cuyahoga County Carma that I said would happen tonight. In other words, knowing that the Demagogue Donald Trump was going to be nominated in my beloved Cleveland (situated in Cuyahoga County), I also knew that the Cavs would win. While I thought the same magic would spill over to the Indians, clearly, the Windy City, having endured 108 years of a drought, was charmed tonight.
Which brings me to what lies ahead for not just the American public but the world as November 8, 2016 approaches. Having shared my thoughts on the dangers to democracy presented by the popularity of the Demagogue Donald Trump, I only hope that these final days of the presidential campaign do no further damage to the American democratic system. This is the first time that I have been truly disturbed by the other candidate. Over the course of my adult life, I have voted for candidates of both parties, always with a pragmatic eye and a deep trust in the check and balances of the American governmental system. I have voted as a passionate American Zionist who owns property in Jerusalem; this year, I vote as a parent and grandparent of Israeli residents which of course, interjects the very personal level. In this odd political year, hacked information is the source of major news stories and the FBI seems to have gone a bit crazy. The words that are floating out in our public space are nothing short of toxic. In short, most of us cannot wait for the morning of November 9 so that the American Public can move on.
Yesterday morning, on 1 Heshvan, 5777, the Jewish People moved on from accepting Prime Minister Netanyahu’s defense of the historic status quo which grants political power over religious and personal matters to Orthodox politicians. Jews other than Orthodox are no longer standing by as our spiritual civil rights to practice our Judaism publicly in the Jewish State are violated. The abuse of political power has stalled implementation of the Great Kotel Compromise Agreement, prompting Israel’s Supreme Court to get involved in the matter, and yesterday’s great display of spiritual civil disobedience. In January, 2016, the Government of Israel made an agreement with the leaders of World Jewry, led by Natan Sharansky, to 1) expand what we as a People consider Holy Space by building up the southern area of the Kotel and 2) to organize a new egalitarian governing body for this new Holy Space. Ignoring the Prime Minister’s request to not participate with the Women of the Wall as a way of making a point, finally, the leaders of World Jewry in significant numbers found both their voice as well as their courage to put their feet on the ground, enduring the same type of harassment WOW activists have endured for years.
On Rosh Hodesh Av 5770, I was in the picture with Rabbi Steve Wernick that showed our shock and disbelief that the Israeli police were literally grabbing a Torah away from Anat Hoffman. On Rosh Hodesh Heshvan, 5777, the leader of “my movement” was right there on the front lines, carrying a Torah to the Kotel for WOW to use. Kol hakavod Rabbi Wernick and to all the others who walked with WOW and made it clear to the leaders of Israel and to the Jewish People that the historic status quo must change. This is the raw material of social change and politics. As an American citizen, I have a voice and vote in the American polity. As a Passionate American Zionist, while I don’t have a vote in the Israeli political system, I certainly have a voice in the Israeli/Jewish/Zionist community.
The mission of The Sacred Rights, Sacred Song Project is to encourage other American Zionists to join the Modern Jewish Democracy Movement and raise their voices in concern over the abuse of political power by Orthodox religious authorities in Israel. How excited I am to be presenting “Sacred Rights, Sacred Song” – A Philadelphia Concert of Concern on Sunday evening, Nov. 13 with a chorus of over 50 singers from the Philly area. Unlike World Series tickets, the tickets for the concert are affordable and can be purchased by going to the SRSS website www.sacredrightssacredsong.org. And unlike sports, we can no longer wait until next year. Using the power of our words, we can work with Israeli activists to write the next great chapter in our Jewish History. And, Mazal Tov to my friends who are Cubs fans, especially my Sh’ma Yisrael partner Naomi Less!