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Rabbi Stephen Lewis Fuchs

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The faces in the photo that hangs in the new synagogue in Bad Segeberg haunt me. They seared themselves into my brain the first time I saw it, and they do not let go.

What were these 26 souls thinking when – in hiding – they celebrated Purim in 1936? Their eyes and their smiles betray fear, and their resolve to celebrate the festival with joy.

There are those who demean Purim and the basis for the festival, the Book of Esther. They say:

“It is the only book in the Tanach that does not mention God!”

“The story reads like a cartoon melodrama. It is obviously a...

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During a recent trip to Germany, one of my most gratifying opportunities was the chance to lecture on Psalms to a class of Christian and Muslim students studying to be religious educators at the University of Hamburg. Psalms are the Jewish people’s first prayer book. In it are prayers for every occasion, and they figure prominently in Jewish liturgy to this day.

It was a blessing for me to study Psalms with mentors at Hebrew Union College and Vanderbilt Divinity School. Now, I study Psalms almost every day.

I began my talk by singing the Hebrew words of Psalm 133, “Behold...

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Rabbi Stephen Fuchs speaking from the podium in St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh Scotland

As part of a recent interfaith Holocaust memorial service, I delivered a sermon at the historic St. Giles Cathedral, the Mother Church of Scotland; I’m told I was the first rabbi ever to do so. I consider it more than a coincidence that the event took place on the 45th anniversary of my father’s death, a connection that is particularly stark because my father was a Holocaust survivor.

He was arrested on Kristallnacht (November 9, 1938) and taken to Dachau, where the Nazis shaved his head and beat him. Still, my father was fortunate – seven out of every nine Jews who lived in his...

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Moses in a reed basket

It’s a recurring biblical pattern: Time and again, it’s the woman who “gets it” and the man who does not.

There is much we can learn from these women, starting with Eve.

For millennia, people have blamed Eve for the so-called fall of man, but really, she is the heroine of the elevation of humanity. It was Eve, not Adam, who perceived that life in Eden, while idyllic, was sterile and essentially without meaning. It was Eve who saw “how desirable the insight was that the tree [of knowledge] would bring, [so] she took some of its fruit and ate…” (Genesis 3:6)

Later, in...

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With all my heart, I believe God chooses specific individuals for specific tasks.

I believe God chose Abraham to begin the journey that created the Jewish people. I believe God chose Moses to lead us out of Egypt. I believe God chose William Harvey to teach humanity about the circulation of blood, and I believe God chose the Wright brothers to inaugurate the era of aviation. I believe God chose Abraham Lincoln to end slavery in the United States, and I believe God chose Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to make the dream of racial equality more of a reality in our society.

If...

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