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Many pairs of hands forming hearts

When he died in 2001, Rabbi Chaim Stern left a vast collection of groundbreaking – though unpublished – writings on myriad topics. This essay was written on April 11, 1969, approximately a year after Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King was the outstanding spokesperson for non-violent change while he lived. Like his teacher and inspirer, Mahatma Gandhi, Dr. King suffered the ironic fate of death by violence. Since Dr. King’s assassination, no one remotely approaching him in stature has taken his place. If such was the purpose of his...

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Israeli children, eyes covered, reciting the Sh'ma

Tu BiShvat is known as the Jewish Arbor Day, and as such, it’s the time each year when Israeli schoolchildren plant trees. Perhaps it’s no coincidence, then, that it was a teacher, Ze'ev Yavetz, who instituted the custom of planting trees on Tu BiShvat.

Only an educator could come up with such a hands-on, personalized way to connect with the building of the Jewish homeland. There is such profound wisdom in this act, proving that every action, no matter how small, counts. Even the small hands of a child can bring...

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Childs hands holding a small globe

As I write this, I'm flying back to La Guardia. I'm returning from several days at the Rabbinic Moral Leadership Gathering, a gathering of 140 Reform rabbis from across the country sponsored by the Religious Action Center, the social justice and advocacy arm of the Reform movement.

The conference was, in part, a response to the reality of being a religious leader in this unique – and uniquely difficult –  time. It was an opportunity for us to explore with rabbinic colleagues how to lead our congregations –...

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Man holding an open Bible in the palm of his left hand

The Hebrew Bible contains 23,145 verses and if I had permission to excise only one, I have no doubt which it would be: “Happy the one who seizes and smashes your infants against the rock” (Psalm 137:9).

Psalms 137 is a stirring lament over the destruction of Judah in 586 B.C.E. and the exile of a significant percentage of its population to Babylon. The rage and humiliation of the exiles, with their “harps hung on the willows near Babylon’s rivers,” is palpable as they commit to remember their beloved Jerusalem even as Judah’s captors taunt them: “Sing us some of Zion’s songs!” (...

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Woman praying with her eyes closed, hands held near her face

“May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable before You, Adonai, my Rock and my Redeemer.” – Psalm 19:14

As Reform Jews, we may recognize this beautiful and important verse not only from the Tanach, but also from our siddur (prayer book), Mishkan T’filah. Some of us might remember chanting these words in Hebrew during Shabbat services. This quote has had a long-...

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