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Rabbi David Wirtschafter


rows of small American flags on sticks upright in the grass

As we gather this Sabbath on the eve of Veterans Day we are compelled to confess how we are failing our veterans. Last week’s shooting is yet another example of a veteran who didn’t get the full extent of mental health care he needed. Our High Holiday prayer book delineates three forms of failure that are not only harmful but sinful. Failures of Truth, Failures of Justice and Failure of Love. All three of these are applicable to how we have failed our veterans. Together we confess these failures.

We have failed to admit the painful truth, the depth and breadth of the crisis....

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A brunette woman from the back with her hair up and her hands on her neck as she looks out over a body of water

God of dignity and decency, Creator of man and woman, Source of Wisdom Who calls on us to demonstrate respect and practice restraint…

Many of us come to you this Sabbath full of embarrassment, shame, humiliation, guilt, outrage, anxiety, and disgust.

Too many men have spoken basely and behaved horribly.

Too many women have been subjected to sexual harassment, abuse, and assault.

May the “Me Too” campaign of this week be blessed with the staying power to live well beyond the news cycle.

May we seize the opportunity for meaningful action so that...

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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 Passover. And perhaps it’s got nothing to do with the...

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Wooden door painted with an American flag with a large lock on it

Secretary of State The State Department Washington, DC.

Dear Mr. Secretary,

We write to you on behalf of an Iranian asylum seeker by the name of Vashti. The circumstances under which she has become a “displaced person” are as follows. Her former husband, and current head of state, Mr. Achashverosh of Shushan, demanded that Vashti dance for him and his inebriated guests at a prolonged celebration at the palace. While we cannot prove with perfect certainty that “dance” is an idiom for striptease act, there is cultural and historical evidence that lends validity to such an...

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Statue of Liberty against blue sky

In the aftermath of yet another attack on a Jewish cemetery, another round of bomb threats at JCCs, and an ever-increasing climate of fear and hostility, perhaps we can find inspiration in the poetry of Emma Lazarus. Borrowing from the structure of Psalms and Proverbs, as well as the grammar and diction of The King James translation, she wrote these lines in her master work, "By the Waters of Babylon."

Thou shalt say to the bigot, "My Brother," and to the creature of darkness, "My Friend." And thy heart shall spend itself in fountains of love upon the ignorant, the coarse, and the...

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