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Canadian and American flags flying; blue sky and white clouds in the background

In the U.S. and Canada, Independence Day is almost upon us! Both national holidays call for celebration and prayer, and each country has its own customs to ask for divine blessing on the land, people, and government – as does Jewish tradition. Reform Judaism, too, has a rich liturgical tradition of “prayers for the government” that tells us a great deal about who we are as Jews and as citizens.

On April 30, 1973, President Richard Nixon ended a speech with “God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.” Although neither Gerald Ford nor Jimmy Carter closed presidential...

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Sunlight shining upon a footbridge in a forest

I first found my voice at a dying woman’s bedside during a unit of clinical pastoral education. I had been paged to the neurology ICU for a family struggling to say goodbye to their mother, who was in the final stages of brain cancer. When I asked her daughter to tell me about her mother, I learned that she loved music and had been the choir director and organist in their church for many years.

Instinctively, I asked if I might sing something to help soothe her mother’s spirit in this time of need. The first song that came to mind was “Balm in Gilead,” a gospel hymn I remembered...

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Israeli and rainbow flags at gay pride parade in Tel Aviv

The first time I participated in a gay pride parade was in 1981, when I marched with my mother as part of the contingent from PFLAG (Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays). Those were the early days of gay pride (the first gay pride parade was held in 1970 in New York City) and many of us were inching our way out of those proverbial closets and coming to terms with issues of identity, coming out to families, and fighting discrimination at our jobs. Marriage equality was not on the horizon and the AIDS pandemic was a few years away.

Fast forward almost 40 years. I’m still...

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Indian Jews stage a Bollywood flashmob on Ben Yehuda Street while dressed in traditional Indian garb

We're back with five more great news stories for the week, no politics or heavy-heartedness involved. Of course, the serious stuff is what makes the world go 'round, but when it all gets to be too much, take a step back and read something a little fluffier. It's good for your mental health!

  1. If you're loving the Latin beats of Luis Fonsi's hit song "Despacito," featuring Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee, how about a Hebrew version? The version...
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Closeup of the upper half of the Statue of Liberty against a blue sky with clouds

Like parents of most American teenagers these day, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of Hamilton a lot. I’m not an expert on this musical, but I know it well enough to embarrass my kids whenever I try to sing it.

The other night, I sat down with my daughter to write a parody based on one of its songs, “You’ll Be Back,” for the bar mitzvah of a family friend. Back in April, two students at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (in Philadelphia, of course) made their Hamilton-themed Haggadah available just in time for...

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