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Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner

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Lighted faces of teenagers holding candles in the dark

Our world is imperfect. As Jews, we know this. 

The Torah teaches that God created a world capable of chaos and of order. While this can sometimes create moments of despair, it is also the basis for all hope, all light in the darkness.  

The violence and hatred witnessed over the weekend in Charlottesville, VA, weighs heavily on our minds and in our hearts. As Americans, many of us awoke today feeling ashamed, scared, and outraged. It is okay to feel these things. The fight for justice cannot come only from the head; it must come also from the heart.  

It is in...

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challah on a cutting board, candles and wine, all on a table covered by a white lace tablecloth

God then surveyed all that [God] had made, and look—it was very good! (Genesis 1:31)

When we think of Shabbat, we think of the smell of challah baking, festive singing, time with family, delicious meals, and sweet wine. The Sabbath is a day of such joy, that as Rabbi Theodore Friedman has shown in “Shabbat as a Preview of the Perfected World,” the classical Rabbis understood it as a taste of olam haba (the world to come), – a messianic time of perfection in which “every man will sit under his vine and beneath his fig tree, and none will make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).

For...

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Group of people each holding an oversized puzzle piece of a different color

One hallmark of Reform Judaism is our commitment to speak out and advocate on critical issues of social justice. People often wonder how the Reform Jewish community makes decisions regarding public policy, while still honoring the considerable diversity of views among our membership. The Festival of Shavuot provides an ideal Jewish textual grounding for celebrating our diversity, and lifting up various and dissenting voices, even as we apply the enduring values of our sacred texts to the modern day.

On Shavuot, we celebrate our ancestors receiving the Torah from God at Mount Sinai...

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View from bimah of Consultation on Conscience 2017 participants filling sanctuary (including the balcony)

The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism recently concluded its 2017 Consultation on Conscience. With more than 800 Reform Movement leaders and activists gathered from across North America, the excitement to build a more just world was palpable. Participants from 89 congregational and community-based delegations, representing 200 synagogues, came together as a movement to learn and be inspired by our guest speakers, as well as by one another – returning home to cities and towns across North America ready to act.

Whether you were with us or not, I invite you to visit our...

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President Trump on stage at the AIPAC Policy Conference with his face shown on large screens about the podium

AIPAC’s Policy Conference returns to Washington this weekend. Like many other pro-Israel Americans, I know that America’s relationship with our closest ally in the Middle East, and the only Jewish state in the world, is best sustained when it transcends the partisan rancor that divides entrenched opponents on so many other issues. Diverse American political support for Israel is a source of strength for both nations and for the Jewish community.

During this first Policy Conference during the Trump administration, how do we avoid letting shared pro-Israel values be overwhelmed by...

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