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A black and white photo of the late Al Vorspan with a pipe in his mouth looking off into the distance

Al Vorspan, z"l, a giant for social justice, died on February 16 at the age of 95.

When Al helped organize the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in the nation’s capital, he could not have imagined that some 70 years later, he’d be viewed by many as a giant of social justice – even as a modern Hebrew prophet.

What did Al have in common with Amos or Micah or Isaiah? Like them, Al was not afraid to speak truth to power. Though he never claimed to be God’s spokesperson, Al felt commanded by...

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Two high school girls holding gun violence prevention signs at a march

When tragedy strikes, as it did on February 14, 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, FL, many turn to their religious institutions and clergy to seek answers and comfort. Those in shock want to know “Why?” and “How could this happen to us?”

On that day and the ones that followed, Congregation Kol Tikvah in Parkland, FL, opened its doors to welcome anyone in need of shelter or a refuge from the emotional storm starting to ensue in town. Teens and parents gathered to talk, to pray, to heal, and just to sit and be...

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Hand holding a yellow suicide awareness and prevention ribbon against a wooden table background

In April 2015, when I was 15 years old, I came home from getting my braces off to learn that my grandfather had taken his own life after fighting with anxiety and depression for many years.

My family and I felt a strange mix of emotions all at once: anger, sadness, and a looming feeling of isolation made all of us want to know why this had happened. I was reminded of this recently when my mom mentioned to me that while searching for comfort within Jewish texts, she found nothing that helped survivors of suicide loss deal with their grieving.

My family and I found the lack...

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Women in Israeli military with arm on shoulder of URJ Heller High student

I love the sounds of Jerusalem. The voices, noises, and music all tell stories that are unparalleled in the Jewish world – and perhaps in the world at large. One I find so compelling is that of my story and the story of the “other,” which I hear simultaneously.

There a variety of others in Jerusalem – Arabic, Russian, Amharic, Yiddish, and Hebrew – and over the course of a week, I can listen and hear these voices and countless more. It is one of the incredible characteristics of our city.

Join me on a brief tour of some of the other voices I am so fortunate to hear...

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Young woman shouting into a megaphone that is drawn on the wall next to her

Do you know the classic story of Chaim, who topples from a mountaintop and becomes ensnarled in a tree branch? Dangling above the abyss, he calls out, “Help! Help!”

A great voice from above booms out, “My son, do you have faith in me?”

“Yes. Oh, yes, Lord,” avers Chaim.

“Then let go of the branch,” bellows the voice.

“What did you say?”

“Let go of the branch,” repeats God.

A pause, then Chaim asks, “Is there anyone else up there?”

Joking about God takes a lot of chutzpah, a quality never in short supply among Jews. As the Yiddish...

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