Dear Members and Friends,
As our Jewish neighbors wrapped up their seven day celebration of Sukkot this past Saturday and began the observance of the joyful Jewish holiday of Shemini Atzeret, horrific news from Israel came pouring in.
The Hamas attack on Jewish towns and the murder and kidnapping of civilians disturbs me beyond words. The images and stories coming out of Israel speak to a wreak of terror that will lead to so many more people being killed.
Over the last two and a half decades, I have worked closely with Jewish and Muslim leaders to address the emergence of hate and violence both in this nation and in the wider world. I have co-hosted courageous conversations with my Jewish colleague in Oak Park, Rabbi Max Weiss, to lift up the oppression of the Palestinian people in the state of Israel. When Muslims were massacred at a Christchurch mosque, Rabbi Max and I drove together the following day to pray and show solidarity with the imams and community of the local mosque.
Both our nation and our world appear to have rising numbers of people who ignore the humanity of others. It is ever more critical for people who believe in the humanity of all people—and that all the great religions call for the recognition of our shared humanity—to support one another.
I’m glad many of you attended Shabbat last Friday at Temple Israel for the Neighboring Faiths class. This Friday, if all goes well with my travels, I will attend Shabbat led by Rabbi Michael Friedman at Temple Israel at 6:30 PM, just down the road from UU Westport. I invite you to join me. I will inquire with the local mosque how people of faith can be of support to them—and let you know.
If you are also disturbed and horrified by the violence, reach out to your Jewish acquaintances that have a relationship with people living in Israel. And don’t just reach out to your Jewish acquaintance, reach out to the Arab Muslims in your community. I understand that the vast majority of them are similarly horrified—and fearful of what response awaits not only their relatives in the middle east, but their own community here in the United States.
During these past few days, I have been with my wife’s extended family. Her younger sister just turned 50 and the four sisters spread all over North America came together for a family gathering. Yesterday we went to Hollywood Studios. I wore a t-shirt yesterday that says “HumanKind, be both.”
I invite you all to take time for meditation and/or prayer to discern how you can be both human and kind in this time of global insecurity. Perhaps the following two poems can be of support.
“Kindness” by Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to gaze at bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.
“The Path” by Lynn Ungar
Life, the saying goes, is a journey,
and who could argue with that?
We’ve all experienced the surprising turns,
the nearly-impassible swamp, the meadow
of flowers that turned out not to be quite
so blissful and benign as we first thought,
the crest of the hill where the road
smoothed out and sloped toward home.
Our job, we say, is to remain faithful
to the path before us. Which is an assumption
as common as it is absurd.
Really? Look ahead. What do you see?
If there is a path marked out in front of you
it was almost certainly laid down for someone else.
The path only unfolds behind us,
our steps themselves laying down the road.
You can look back and see the sign posts—
the ones you followed and the ones you missed—
but there are no markers for what lies ahead.
You can tell the story of how
you forded the stream or got lost
on the short cut that wasn’t,
how you trekked your way to courage or a heart,
but all of that comes after the fact.
There is no road ahead.
There is only the walking,
the tales we weave of our adventures,
and the songs we sing
to call our companions on.