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pastrami sandwich on rye on a plate

And the priest is to turn the whole into smoke on the altar as a burnt offering, an offering by fire of pleasing odor to the Eternal. -- Leviticus 1:9

There is one smell that always takes me home: Montreal smoked meat. Smoky, salty, peppered, and spicy, the caramelized exterior of the marbled charcuterie draws me in like nothing else – the ultimate taste of heavenly comfort.

Because we moved to Toronto when I was young, my memories of life there are few. Nonetheless, we were always Montrealers and the city was a beacon to my family in the same way that Ahad Ha’am saw...

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Two little girls holding hands in a Syrian refugee camp

Tuesday, June 20, marks the United Nations’ World Refugee Day, which “honors the courage, strength and determination of women, men and children who are forced to flee their homeland under threat of persecution, conflict and violence.” The title of this poem, which I wrote at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis, comes from Torah. “Strange fire” is what killed Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Abihu, in an exceedingly dark episode in Torah. My...

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Collage of two photos includes one of a smiling man marching in a pride parade with a Shaar Zahav banner behind him and the other photo shows the same man with his husband as they both wear rainbow Star of David shirts

“It’s not as much fun being gay; It’s now the American way. What was edgy and cool Is really old-school When everyone thinks we’re OK.”

So begins a world premiere song that the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, of which I am a proud upper second tenor, is singing for our pre-Pride concert, “Gay Kitchen Sink,” on June 16 and 17. The lyrics remind me of the response I often get from friends when I ask, “What are you doing for Pride this year?” I too often receive a ho-hum, yawned, “Oh, I don’t do Pride anymore... It’s so yesterday.”

For me...

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Father and young childen facing the ocean with their feet in the water

For the dads up to their elbows in poopy diapers and the dads whose kisses cover every owie and always know where the bandaids are and make certain the fridge is stocked with ice cream

And for the dads who weep because their children are too old to be tucked in and the dads whose wisdom shapes our hearts and the dads who raised our spirits when we wept and the dads who held us as we sobbed broken hearted and the dads who wiped our noses 

For the dads who inspired us to stand up for what is right and speak out clearly for justice And for the dads who showed us our strength...

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Canoe full of excited campers on a lake

Every summer I return to my youth, spending two weeks at URJ Camp Harlam, a Reform Jewish summer camp in Kunkletown, PA. This year, thousands of Jewish kids will spend the summer living Judaism by wearing white on Shabbat, praying before meals, swimming with other Jews, playing sports with other Jews, singing in Hebrew after meals, and staying up late with the other Jews in their cabins.

These expressions of Judaism can only happen in a home away from home, a place where you’re encouraged to...

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