Honorable Mensch-ion


We are a people that remembers. This week, we will commemorate the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust on Yom HaShoah. The next week, we will remember on Yom HaZikaron, the fallen soldiers of Israel who gave their life to give us a life in the Jewish state.

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What Will You Bring?

My son was recently awarded the game ball in his Little League. He put the ball in a glass case and proudly displayed it in the living room. Last week, we found the case shattered and asked him why he did not properly take care of his prized possession. He told us this: “It’s really too hard too explain.” After a bit of hesitation, the truth came out.

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Our Month

In the summer of 2010, my father and I led our respective synagogues on a trip to Israel. Besides the typical tours of Masada, Golan Heights, and Old City of Jerusalem, we searched for the local stories that were not in the headlines at the time. Day after day, we witnessed a small crowd of people under a white tent, set up in front of the Prime Minister’s residence. We saw a man in a black t-shirt and jeans greeting all those who approached him. His name was Noam Shalit, and his son Gilad Shalit, had been help captive by Hamas for the last few years. Noam was a father, not only praying for his son’s return, but actively pursuing a way for his son to sit again at the family Shabbat table.

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The Eighth Day

The minute the megillah concludes, we focus our attention on the next book, the Haggadah. With Passover just three weeks away, the to do list seems longer than ever. Matzah is already on the supermarket shelves. We know that spring cleaning is before us, but how ready are we to engage in that task? Fortunately, we know the prize at the conclusion of cleaning is a meal with our families and friends: The Passover Seder.

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Twenty faith organizations gathered in the Main Sanctuary this past Tuesday to come together in prayer. Children across Los Angeles sang songs of peace as we concluded the evening with the words of “Lean On Me.”

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Never Forget

Before we begin celebrating Purim this coming week, we pause to remember. This Shabbat is called Zachor. We will take out a second Torah scroll and read how the tribe of Amalek attacked the Israelite people from behind. Rashi attempts to reconcile the mitzvah of blotting out the name of Amalek with the mitzvah of remembering who they were. This week in Kohn Chapel, we will celebrate a bar mitzvah, the great-grandson of Holocaust survivors. He will read his Torah portion from that second scroll, but not just any scroll.

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We Must Not Be Afraid

Each year, thousands of Jews gather in Uman to celebrate Rosh Hashana. Uman is a city in the Ukraine, the burial site of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. One of Rebbe Nachman’s teachings has become a popular song in Jewish schools and camps. Kol haolam kulo gesher tzar meod: The entire world is a narrow bridge. V’haikar lo lfached klal: “What is essential is to not be afraid.” When I hear this prayer, I am reminded of my rabbinical school classmate, Rabbi Reuven Stamov. Reuven was born in the Crimean region of the Ukraine in a secular Jewish family where practicing Judaism was forbidden. In the 1990s, while other families were leaving, Rabbi Stamov stayed in the Ukraine and became involved in Jewish and Zionist activities, including the Ramah-Yachad Camp for Jewish Children in Ukraine. I will never forget sitting next to Reuven in Talmud class while we studied together in Jerusalem. Our paths were completely different. I was a Rabbi’s son who grew up surrounded by a loving Jewish community who would return to the United States and build upon an already thriving Jewish world. Reuven knew what he wanted. He was going to start the Conservative Jewish community in Ukraine after finishing his studies in Israel. I have watched from afar the work of Reuven and his family. Yet, this week, I have watched up close as Jewish monuments and Jewish communities were dispersed and destroyed in an instant.

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