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Rabbi Dennis S. Ross

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Will & Grace logo from television show

The original TV comedy “Will & Grace” brought eight seasons of wide acclaim for scripting, acting, and groundbreaking portrayal of gay characters to television audiences from 1998 to 2006. The series is now returning to prime-time television and to lots of buzz, including talk of how “Will & Grace” got its name.

According to David Kohan, the show’s executive producer, the title “is very Jewish. There's a theologian named Martin Buber who talked about the will to go after and the grace to receive something. It always seemed like two complementary ideas. They happened to be...

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Hanging kitchen utensils

Beyond four cups, four children, and four questions, there’s a fourth set of four to consider, as if we didn’t already have enough.

No sooner do we put down the Haggadah, than we pick up the Mishnah, Pirkei Avot, for study during the seven weeks between Passover and the holiday of Shavuot. The rabbis of Pirkei Avot (5:15) bring us four kinds of students, and the Mishnah goes on to compare each one to a kitchen utensil of all things – as if you haven’t been spending enough time in the kitchen and need yet another cooking lesson.

One student has a head like a sieve, another...

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Martin Buber

There’s spirituality thriving in our homes, offices, and synagogues. It hides in plain sight, in our small talk, in extended conversations, and in the back-and-forth between people. Jewish thinker Martin Buber called this spirituality “I-Thou.”

Buber’s landmark book, I and Thou, brought this interpersonal spirituality to light in 1923. He speaks of two kinds of human interactions in I and Thou – I-It and I-Thou. To illustrate I-It, envision yourself leaving work for Shabbat services one Friday afternoon. You’re racing from the office to the car and run into someone from another...

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View of empty sanctuary pews from pulpit with Bible on it

The Johnson Amendment, a national law restricting political activity in churches, synagogues, and other non-profit organizations, is making news as some preachers are using the pulpit to instruct their faithful how to vote. These clergy see the Johnson Amendment as a muzzle. They believe freedom of religion and freedom of speech mean the freedom to take worship time to express partisan political views.

To be sure, we generally expect our clergy to discuss religious perspectives about health care, hunger, the environment, Israel, and more. After all, the Torah tells us to look after...

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Keep abortion legal sign

Clergy played an important role in the struggle to make safe and legal abortion a reality. With the 44th anniversary of the landmark U. S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade on January 22nd, and as extreme politicians are threatening access to women’s health care that includes birth control, cancer screenings, and more, let’s turn to a page in history that led to legal abortion.

Six years before the Roe decision, the front page of The New York Times announced the formation of the Clergy Consultation Service on Abortion (the Service). The Times listed 21 New York City religious...

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