Resources for Responding to Pittsburgh Tragedy

Tree of Life painting by Yitzchok Moully, posted on Facebook with a “please share”

Last Saturday evening, in the hours after the attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, I tried to prepare myself for facing our Beit Sefer students on Sunday morning. After consulting many other Jewish professionals and teachers of young children, I determined that the best way forward was to check in with the teachers, be prepared to reassure and comfort, and to let the students be the guide to how much information to share, by answering questions but not going into extra detail.

As it turned out, none of the younger kids brought it up and so we went on with our planned lessons. The oldest class did have a discussion about anti-Semitism, not really focused on Pittsburgh. I arranged for a room for parents to talk to each other, and I invited Laurie White to lead the school in song for the closing half hour.

All in all, I was over-prepared for last Sunday. But now, going on a week later, I have a sense that more of the Beit Sefer students will have heard about the massacre and may have further questions and reactions. I’m glad I began my preparation immediately.

I would really appreciate hearing from any of you who have questions, advice, or anecdotes to share from your family’s experiences in dealing with this tragedy. I saw many of you at the community vigil at TBE on Sunday evening, which I found to be moving and strengthening.

A huge crowd at the Oct 28 vigil at TBE

I have received many helpful resources for responding to the tragic attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh and I want to share just a few of them here.

From Rabbi Joshua Lesser, “THE TREE OF LIFE: Navigating Conversations With Our Children After Acts of Violence and Anti-Semitism.”

From Moving Traditions and Rabbi Tamara Cohen, “Guidance for Jewish educators and parents: Helping Teens in the wake of Pittsburgh.”

Resources for Interfaith families on anti-Semitism.

An article by Jewish activist Dove Kent and AME Reverend Jennifer Bailey, “Charleston to Tree of Life: White Nationalism is a Threat to Us All,” reminds us that this week’s shooting in a synagogue is part of continuing terrorism, and that we have foundations of solidarity to build on.

A video from the Pittsburgh protest of Trump’s visit, organized by Bend the Arc, is balm.

 

And finally, the Jewish community worldwide is calling for Nov 2-3 to be a #ShowUpforShabbat shabbat. This article from The Forward reminds us that “this Shabbat is a good time to remember that racial profiling has zero place in Judaism and Jewish spaces.” AARC does not have shabbat services this Friday or Saturday, but our congregants are welcome at any of the area’s services, a list of which will be sent to you soon.

by Yehuda Amichai, translated by Chana Bloch:

“Poem Without an End”

Inside the brand-new museum
there’s an old synagogue.
Inside the synagogue
is me.
Inside me
my heart.
Inside my heart
a museum.
Inside the museum
a synagogue,
inside it
me,
inside me
my heart,
inside my heart
a museum

 

 

L’chaim, Rosh Hashanah poem

by Seth Kopald

It amazes me that we know so little about birth until we become parents and how little we know about dying until we watch someone close to us reach the end of his or her life. It is as if we are protected from our impermanence. The fact that we were once ​not​ here and someday we ​won’t be​ is veiled, keeping us unaware that life is truly a gift that should be celebrated. There are many distractions to life. Of course there are the electronics and screens, but more than that, we often forget to live in the now. We spend our time worrying about the future or vexed in the past. By doing so, we overlook what is right in front of us – our children, our friends, our family, the beauty of the earth. So I wrote this poem hoping to inspire you to live now and be here for yourself and for those around you. L’chaim! To Life!

L’chaim!

Choose living
over distraction
consumption
hiding
numbing
running away

Choose living
over protection
anger
irritation
worry
fear

Be engaged
Pick life goals that align with your values
what you see as your purpose.
Goals without agendas:
like needing to be being perceived a certain way
Release the burden of assuming people’s expectations

Do you want to be rich?
First become enriched through your work and service to others.

At times we are not our best selves
we say and do hurtful things

It’s bound to happen
being human and all
We can count on our flaws
old friends, part of who we are.

Flawed
like a crystal has inclusions
Crystal clear is stunning for a moment
but inclusions are much more interesting
Imperfection is our beauty
and provides richness to our story

I’m sorry I hurt you
I’m sorry I was a jerk to you
I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you when you needed me
But I’m here now
reaching toward you
knowing that human connection
family connection
is a powerful earthly force

When we hurt others
invite in curiosity
humility
patience
Invite in 2 minutes of courage
apologize showing your precious vulnerability

When we lean in to life
Lean in
to our family
Lean in
to those that unintentionally hurt us
We release sparks of kindness
that season negative climates

You are the most important person
you standing in front of me
family, friends, coworkers, congregants
the one that might look like an other
You are the most important person
my attention present as if we are all that the I can see

There is no life
in what we think of as the future or the past
Life is only now

Time moves quickly
when we don’t embrace the present
We live in our next meeting
wrestling with self judgement in the past.

Time was extended in childhood
Living fully in the present

As we age
we need intention
Reminders
look through the eyes of a child
embrace our happiness and pain
be willing to show it, like a child, with freedom
See the extraordinary in the ordinary

Introducing Bec Richman, our High Holiday guest Song Leader

My name is Bec Richman, and I am so excited to come to Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation for the High Holidays as your Song Leader. I am currently living in Philadelphia, PA with my beloved partner, Josh (who is also excited to join AARC for the High Holidays).

We are both graduate students – I’m studying to become a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Josh is getting a PhD in Urban Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. I am heading into my final year of school with an immense amount of gratitude to my teachers and my program for affording me the flexibility to pursue folklore, calligraphy, sofrut (ancient scribal arts), and mashgichut (kashrut supervision) as part of my studies. In tandem with my academic program, I have worked as a rabbinic intern for college students, as a hospital chaplain, and as congregational student rabbi. This year, I am honored to be the recipient of a grant that will allow me to build a beit midrash (house of learning) in Philadelphia.

When I’m not in school, I am often training for a triathlon, throwing pots in the ceramic studio, practicing writing Jewish sacred text on parchment, or reading quietly at a cafe. Thank G!d, my life is full and vibrant.

I am honored and excited to come to AARC for the High Holidays. This season in the Jewish calendar calls on us as individuals and as a community to tune into our relationships, behavior, and intentions. I appreciate the annual reminder of our fragility and encouragement to think with care about how to live, and I love the way the High Holiday nusach (musical theme) reflects this holy work. I have so enjoyed working with your incredible rabbi, Rabbi Ora, to plan High Holiday services, and I can’t wait to come sing with you.

Selichot 2018, Sept 1

Even the days of ‎Selichot before Rosh HaShanah are not days of judgment – just the opposite, they are days of ‎mercy and desire, the last set of forty days when Moshe Rabbeinu was on the mountain and the ‎Holy One showed him favour. It is only on Rosh HaShanah that the judgment begins… Moreover, ‎the Ten Days of Repentance are not called “days of judgment”. Just the opposite, they are days of ‎mercy, during which Hashem avails Godself to every individual. Only Rosh HaShanah and Yom ‎Kippur are “days of judgment”…Nodah B’Yehuda I Orach Chaim 32:3

The Jewish calendar gives us many opportunities to get ready for the new year. Reciting Psalm 27, a declaration of faith, each day of Elul is one practice. Another practice is reciting special prayers on the Saturday evening before Rosh Hashana, known as Selichot.

If Rosh Hashana feels like it’s fast approaching and you’d like to slow down and begin turning towards the new year, come to AARC’s second annual Selichot Service on Saturday September 1; we’ll celebrate Havdallah together and then learn some new tunes to carry us into the High Holiday season.

Selichot Service  Saturday, September 1
8pm
each bring a candle (we’ll have extras if you forget)
 Touchstone Common House
(yellow building at the front right behind the Touchstone sign)
 560 Little Lake Drive (off Jackson Rd between Wagner and Zeeb)
please park on the street
The full schedule of AARC High Holiday services is here.

Misheberakh for the State and People of Israel: Rabbi Ascherman visits Ann Arbor

 By Martha Kransdorf

In the first week of May, Israeli-American human rights activist Rabbi Arik Ascherman returned to Ann Arbor on a speaking and fundraising tour. My co-pilot, Harvey Somers, and I were the anchor people for his visit here. We’d like to first of all thank AARC for their support and to thank all of the co-sponsors for the May 2 JCC Fundraising Dinner and Community Forum: Beth Israel’s Social Action Committee, Jewish Cultural Society, Pardes Hannah, & Temple Beth Emeth. In addition to Rabbi Ora, rabbis from each of the other congregations were present, and took part in the evening’s program.

Rabbi Ascherman was the head of Rabbis for Human Rights for 21 years, and last fall he founded a new organization, Torat Tzedek, Torah of Justice. At the Community Forum, he described some of the current issues that he is working on, and the list is long and quite moving. His work ranges from meeting with lawyers and interviewing people who have been threatened by settlers, to lobbying at the Knesset on behalf of poor Israelis, to helping Arab shepherds hold onto their flocks when settlers frighten them and scare them away. Torat Tzedek has also been involved helping African refugees fight the Israeli government’s efforts to deport them and helping Bedouin communities hold on to their way of life.

Rabbi Ascherman’s courage and commitment have not wavered. He won’t throw in the towel. He admits that he is somewhat less optimistic than he has been in the past, but his response is to roll up his sleeves and work harder. He urges us, similarly, to react with urgency by becoming more active.

In addition to speaking at the JCC, Rabbi Ascherman spoke at Shir Tikvah in Troy, and he led text studies at Lunch & Learn programs at TBE and at Kehillat Israel in Lansing. His visit wrapped up with an “Open House” at BIC. A busy week, by any account. We are grateful to our communities in Michigan, which contributed over $4000 to Torat Tzedek. If anyone would like more information on Rabbi Ascherman’s work or on Torat Tzedek, please feel free to get in touch with either of us.

Martha Kransdorf ,  mkransdo@umich.edu    734-663-7933

Harvey Somers,  harveysomers@gmail.com   734-780-6907

Rabbi Ascherman blogs regularly in The Times of Israel. On April 19 2018 he included this “Misheberakh — A Loving Prayer of Healing for the State and People of Israel

The Hebrew is followed by a transliteration, and then a translation.

מי שברך קדמונינו אברהם ושרה, יצחק ורבקה, יעקב לאה ורחל, הוא יברך וירפא את החולים, מדינת ישראל ועם ישראל. הקדוש ברוך הוא ימלא רחמים עלינו להחלימנו ולרפואתנו מכל מחלה המקשה עלינו להגשים את הטוב ואת השאיפות לצדק שבליבנו – ביניהן: העיוורון לנוכחותך בכל אדם והעיוורון למציאות; החירשות לקול הדממה הדקה בתוך רעש הפחד וההפחדה, קולות הענות והמלחמה במחנה; והפקודות; האטימות לסבל של האחר/ת;  הרשימו שנשאר מכל מה שסבלנו אנו, השיכרון מכוח ומשלטון; השנאה לחושב/ת אחרת מאתנו; והאהבה היתרה לארץ ישראל ולמדינת ישראל ולעם ישראל ולכל דבר קדוש המסנוור אותנו לקדושתך ולרצונך. אנא, החזק בנו את היצר הטוב והחיות את אמונתנו בעולם מתוקן במלכותך וביכולתנו לקרבו.  שלח לנו במהרה רפואה שלמה, רפואת הנפש ורפואת הגוף, בתוך שאר החולים/ות, השתא בעגלא ובזמן קרים, ונאמר אמן.

Mi sh’beirakh kadmoneinu Avraham v’Sarah, Yitzhak v’Rivkah, Ya’akov, Leah v’Rakhek, hu yivarekh v’yirapeih et ha’kholim, Medinat Yisrael v’Am Yisrael. HaKadosh Borukh Hu yimaleh rakhamim aleinu  l’hakhlamatanu v’l’rfuatanu mi’kol makhalah ha’makshah aleinu l’hagshim et ha’tov v’et ha’sheifah la’tzedek sh’b’libeinu-beiniehen: ha’ivaraon l’nokhakhutkha b’kholadam v’ha’ivaron l’mitziut; ha’khershut l’kol ha’demamah ha’dakah b’tokh ra’ash ha’pakhad v’ha’hafkhadah, kolot ha’onot v’kolot ha’milkhamah b’makhaneh v’hapekudot;   ha’atimut l’sevel shelha’akher/et; ha’rashimu sh’nishar mi’kol mah sh’avalnu anu; ha’shikaron mi’koakh u’mi’shilton; ha’sinah l’khoshev’et akheret m’itanu; v’ha’ahavah ha’yiterah l’Eretz Yisrael v’l’Medinat Yisrael, v’l’Am Yisrael, v’lkhol d’var kadosh ha’misanveir otanu l’kedushatkhah v’l’ratzonkhah. Anah, he’khezeik banu  et ha’yetzer ha’tov v’ha’khayot et emunateinu b’olam mitukan b’malkhutkha u’v’yekholteinu l’karvo.  Shlakh lanu b’meheirah refuah shleimah, refuat ha’nefesh v’refuat ha’guf, b’tokh sh’ar he’kholim, hashta b’agalah’ u’v’zman Kariv, v’nomar amein.

May the One who blessed our ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah and Rachel, bless and heal the ill:  the State and People of Israel.  May the Holy One of Blessing be full of mercy and us to heal us from every illness that keeps us from fulfilling the good and the aspiration for justice that is within us – Among them: Blindness to Your Presence in every human being and blindness to reality; deafness to the Still Small Voice within the thundering fear and fearmongering, the sounds of war and singing in the camp,  and orders; hatred of those who think differently than us, disproportional love for the Land of Israel, the State of Israel, the People of Israel and every holy thing that blinds us to Your Holiness and Your Will.  Please strengthen within us our good inclination and revive our faith in the possibility of a repaired world under Your Sovereignty and our ability to bring that world closer to reality. Send us complete and speedy healing of body and soul, along with all who are ill, speedily and in our day.  And let us say, Amen.

 

AARC Mimouna 2018: Abandon Bitterness, Celebrate Blessing

Photo of Mimouna foods from an article in The Nosher, includes recipes.

This year, AARC will be celebrating Mimouna on Saturday April 7, 5:30-7:30pm at the JCC. We’ll have lots of food, music, and a short ‘seder’ to learn about the symbols and traditions of Mimouna. We will also begin a conversation about things our congregation can do to form relationships with other faith communities in the coming year.

Mimouna, the traditional Moroccan Jewish celebration held the day after Passover, marks the start of spring and the return to eating chametz, i.e., leavened bread and bread by-products, which are forbidden throughout Passover. In centuries past, Muslim neighbors would bring gifts of flour, honey, milk, butter and green beans to their Jewish neighbors to help them prepare delicious, chametz-rich recipes. More recently, Moroccan Jews brought the holiday to Israel where it is now widely celebrated with picnics and visiting with friends and neighbors. Recently, an organization of Moroccan Muslim students was founded which preserves and promotes the history of Morocco’s ancient Jewish community and seeks to educate about Jewish culture to encourage harmony between Jews and Muslims.

“Unlike Passover, which is charged with religious meaning, this is a festival devoted to the celebration of community, friendship, togetherness and hospitality. Mimouna is celebrated by throwing one’s home open to friends, neighbors and even strangers, with public parties, and by sharing – a large portion of that sharing involving food. Mimouna is thus clearly all about encouraging peace, kindness and human warmth. It also centers around making music, singing and dancing,” explains an article in Haaretz which includes a recipe for the traditional crepe, mofleta.

The piyyut (ligurgical poetry) below, “Atem Yotzei Maarav ,”composed by Rabbi David Bouzaglo (1903-1975), to commemorate the Mimouna holiday tells–in Hebrew with some Judeo-Arabic interspersed–the various aspects of the holiday including the foods eaten, the friendly atmosphere, and the significance of the holiday. It tells a story of strife and its resolution, and in conclusion calls for the abandonment of bitterness between Muslims and Jews.

 

Atem Yotzei Maarav

A Moroccan Jewish Piyyut:

You, who come from the Maghreb, from Morocco, men of faith –
praise G-d in assembly, this day of the Mimouna.

Yesterday the Red Sea opened its gaping mouth before Pharaoh,
it moved over all their wagons and swallowed them.

Israel, the flock, his servants crossed through passages,
as the waves of the sea were piled up by the hand of Moses, the faithful father.

The wealth of their enemies and tormentors Israel collected,
between the waves of the sea, they received it as a gift.

On every doorstep, all congratulated each other:
“Be blessed, friend, all the months of the year.”

And in Morocco, for many generations, the Hebrews say,
in blessing their friends, “good luck, brother, good fortune!”

The strangers, their waters were spilled on them;
the fear of G-d, in Heaven poured down on them.

Loads and loads of wealth and grains
were delivered from all comers of the world to the people G-d has chosen.

And it is the way of the sons of Arabia, in Morocco,
each according to his means brings the Jews an offering of value.

Yeast, honey and flour, the milk of a healthy cow,
fish, mint, and butter with wild flowers and flowers from the garden.

This night, Hebrews and Arabs are all seated together –
they rejoice with musical instruments and singing.

The Hebrew woman wears the clothes of an Arab,
the man wears an Arab vest, and the scent of incense and perfume.

One can no longer distinguish between a Hebrew and his Arab brother,
or if they are city dwellers or villagers: the good spirit overtakes them all.

The borders between Israel and the nations are blurred
If it wasn’t for the bloodthirsty who run the states.

It is these evil kings who deliver their people to catastrophe –
They are concerned only with their thrones, not the soul who suffers.

Abandon for all time conflict and bitterness!
Stop the bitter cries! Stop in the name of peace and freedom!

(Translation – Ruben Namdar and Joshua Levitt)

What Makes a Poem a Prayer?

by Rabbi Ora

Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

Many prayers in our Shabbat services are taken from the Book of Psalms (in Hebrew, Tehillim) and are traditionally attributed to King David. Because we’ve received these poems as prayers, we automatically think of them as having a sacred resonance. But what alchemy transforms contemporary poetry into prayer?

Elliott batTzedek, a Philadelphia poet and liturgist, is the author of the alternate ‘Mourner’s Kaddish’ we read on Yom Kippur:

“So often am I lost,

yet through the pall, yet through the tarnish, show me the way back,
through my betrayals, my dismay, my heart’s leak, my mind’s sway,
eyes’ broken glow, groan of the soul—which convey all that isn’t real,
for every soul to These Hands careen. And let us say, amen.”

Read the rest of the poem here

Elliott reflects that “liturgy is a living project, as predictable and as unpredictable as the people that use it.” She also suggests that the physical, embodied act of reciting a poem (whether individually or communally) helps us to experience it as prayer. Quoting Edward Hirsch, Elliott writes:

 “‘When I recite a poem, I inhabit it, I bring the words off the page into my own mouth, my own body. I let its heartbeat pulse through me as embodied experience, as experience embedded in the sensuality of sounds. […] The secular can be made sacred through the body of the poem. I understand the relationship between the poet, the poem, and the reader not as a static entity but as a dynamic unfolding. An emerging sacramental event.’”

For more of Elliott’s transformative liturgy, take a look at her Tallit Blessings, the Arch/Welcome to Redemption, and Ahavah Rabbah/Gatherings.

Elliott batTzedek: “I’m a poet, critic, activist, teacher, gardener, a Jew of the Feminist, non-Zionist variety (there are more of us than you might think!), and a life-long collector of random interesting facts.”

 

Hanukkah and Winter Solstice Reflections

Photo from the Jewish Multiracial Network Facebook page.

Yesterday, the last day of Hanukkah 5778, Rabbi Marc Gopin posted on Facebook some words of deep wisdom:

“It was very hard to let go of the light this year. Light in darkness feels deeply resonant now, and difficult to resist a sense of foreboding.

Sometimes when you have been caught vulnerable by thieves and criminals, especially when they disguise themselves to beguile the foolish, and sometimes in order to avoid bloodshed, you need to let them steal their trillions. Sometimes you need to learn a harsh lesson, and then build a better security system, a better community of safety and mutual protection, a better community of fair law for all.

This is the only antidote, this inescapable need to reconcile and build trust among the decent rich and poor, the decent women and men, the decent secular and religious. We can do this. Even when it’s darkest outside, there is the amazing light we conjure.”

Hanukkah is always close to the Winter Solstice, but also independent from it. In a reflection on Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice, Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote in Seasons of Our Joy:

If we see Hanukkah as intentionally, not accidentally, placed at the moment of the darkest sun and darkest moon, then one aspect of the candles seems to be an assertion of our hope for renewed light. Just as at Sukkot we poured the water in order to remind God to pour out rain, perhaps one reason for us to light the candles is to remind God to renew the sun and moon. Indeed, the miracle of eight days’ light from one day’s oil sounds like an echo of the Mishnah’s comment that at the Sukkot water pouring, one log (measure) of water was enough for eight days’ pouring.

On her website “tel shemesh: celebrating and creating earth-based traditions in Judaism,” Rabbi Jill Hammer tells us “There are a number of Jewish stories about the winter solstice. Here are some of the legends Jews can tell one another during the darkest days of winter…” You can read more of her Rabbi Hammer’s teaching on Hanukkah and Winter Solstice here.

And finally, Marcia Falk includes the poem “Winter Solstice” as part of her amidah sequence where it appears in the second-section which re-creates the traditional theme of g’vurot, “strength,” affirming God’s power as m’hayeyh meytim, “reviver of the dead.”‘ For her full discussion of this concept in her creative prayers, see the wonderful book Jewish American Poetry: Poems, Commentary and Reflections.  I highly recommend we each have in households her The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival (CCAR Press, 2017). Copyright © 1996, 2017 by Marcia Lee Falk. Also, I found on her website that she has done mizrachs (decorative plaques hung on the eastern wall of the home) with her poems and original paintings. Check them out: beautiful gifts for yourself and others.

Click on picture to make it big enough to read.

 

 

 

Click on picture to make big enough to read.

 

About Lincoln’s Nigun

Cover of Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble’s 2014 album, “Nigunim Vol IV Brooklyn Spirituals.”

At our October Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat, Rabbi Ora introduced a new to us nigun [a mystical musical melody] for “L’cha Dodi.” Composed by Joey Weisenberg, it is called “Lincoln’s Nigun,” which immediately generated speculation, Why Lincoln?

Evidently, we are not the only ones curious about the nigun’s title. Just last month, Tablet Magazine published a story on the background of “Lincoln’s Nigun,” “If You Like the Music at Brooklyn’s Hippest Shul, Thank Abe Lincoln.” If you have the time, read the article. But to summarize, Weisenberg’s composition was inspired by both a story related in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln about respect the troops showed President Lincoln (the soldiers would part to the left and right to make way for Lincoln) and a phrase in “L’cha Dodi”: “yamin u’smol tifrotzi/to the left and to the right they part ways” expressing respectful welcome for Shabbat.

Weisenberg also characterized the music as influenced by Civil War Americana, as well as traditional Jewish melodies. For some, the melody brought to mind the song “Ashokan Farewell” from Ken Burn’s Civil War miniseries, composed by Jay Ungar, the only song in the soundtrack not composed during the Civil War. (In writing this blog, I also found out that Jay Ungar played at Paul Resnick and Caroline Richardson’s wedding!)

May we enjoy singing this together for many Shabbats to come.

 

 

Who by water and who by [police] fire?

The Unetaneh Tokef prayer is unique to the Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur liturgy. The first line is variously translated as ‘We shall ascribe holiness to this day” and “Let us speak of the awesomeness.” The poem contains the imagery of the book of life opening on Rosh Hashanah, and being sealed on Yom Kippur. A translation of the poem can be found in this blog post by Rabbi Reuven Hammer.

For our Rosh Hashanah service this year, Deb Kraus wrote this powerful introduction to the Unetaneh Tokef.

From last high holy days to today, how many African American people have died by police fire?

For smoking an e-cigarette, like Alfredo Olango

For reaching for a gun, like Che Taylor
For just having a gun, like Michael Moore and Nicholas Robertson and Corey Jones.
Or for refusing to drop a gun, like Sahlah Ridgeway and Sylville Smith

For waiting for his son’s schoolbus to arrive, like Keith Lamont Scott.
For having his car stall out, like Terence Crutcher
For speeding, like Moses Rubin and Doll Pierre-Louis
For riding a motorcycle, like Terrence Sterling
For stealing a car, like Paul O’Neal
Or for stealing an officer’s car, like Paterson Brown, Jr.

For running away from the cops, like Dalvin Hollins and Deravis Caine Rogers and Jabril Robinson and Rodney Watts and Akiel Denkins and Calin Roquemore and Ricky Ball and Jessica Williams and Miguel Espinal and Donte Taylor and 13 year old Tyre King.
Or for approaching the cops, like Christopher Goodlow and Javario Eagle

For shooting himself in his own wheelchair, like Jeremy McDole.
For being schizophrenic, bipolar, suicidal or mentally impaired in some other way, like James Anderson and Janet Wilson and Joseph Mann and Jawari Porter and Kevin Matthews and Carlumandarlo Zaramo and Tyler Gebhard.

For trying to help a neighbor, like Bettie Jones
For faking a prescription, like Keith McLeod
For selling CDs outside a convenience store, like Alton Sterling
For damaging a traffic sign, like Peter Gaines
And for road rage, like Delrawn Small and Clarence Howard.

For “refusing to cooperate” like Cameron Glover and Gregory Frazier and Nathaniel Pickett and Darnell Wicker, who, BTW, was probably deaf…
OR For doing everything the police said, like Philando Castile
For sitting in his bedroom looking threatening, like Levonia Riggins
Or trying to protect her five year old child in her own home, like Korryn Gaines.
For looking like someone else, like Colby Friday and Donnell Thompson, Jr.
For engaging in “suspicious activity,” like Dazion Flenaugh and David Joseph, and Greg Gunn
For fighting back, like Kevin Hicks and Junior Prosper
For turning around too quickly, like Antronie Scott

For panicking, like all the people above, Blue AND Black…

Although, a sign I saw Saturday summed it up:
“We live in a world where trained cops can panic and act on impulse but untrained civilians must remain calm with a gun in their face.”

Notice race was not mentioned in that last quote. I’ll say it again:

“We live in a world where trained cops can panic and act on impulse but untrained civilians must remain calm with a gun in their face.”

I know that none of these situations are as straightforward as I have presented it.

But this year, as we pray the Unetaneh Tokef, let us really try to comprehend the myriad ways those who have pledged to serve and protect can instead cause people to die by fire, just because of the color of their skin.

–Deb Kraus

For a long reflection on Unetaneh Tokef, written by Rabbi Toba Spitzer, for Rosh Hashanah 5762 (Sept. 18, 2001), please go here.