Statement from the Board of Directors and Rabbi Zimmerman on George Floyd, Policing, and Public Protests

.לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל-דַּם רֵעֶךָ
.לֹא תִשְׂנָא אֶת-אָחִיךָ בִּלְבָבֶךָ
Do not stand by while your neighbor’s blood is shed.
Do not hate your brother in your heart. (Lev. 19:16-17)

At Congregation Kehillat Israel, we are pained and disturbed by the events unfolding across our country, including in our hometown of Lansing. The killing of George Floyd by the Minneapolis Police Department has once again laid bare the fact that too often our current policing system does not value Black lives. Our hearts break for his young daughter, who now will have to grow up without her dad. Our hearts break for his community, who lovingly knew him as Big Floyd. In the short span of eight minutes and 46 seconds, Mr. Floyd lost his life and the lives of those who loved him were irrevocably changed. In less than 10 minutes, George Floyd became yet another Black man killed by American police.

Our hearts also break for the thousands of people all over the country taking to the streets to peacefully protest this violence, only to be met with yet more violence. Whether it is a video of tear gas being used against non-violent demonstrators or an account of police attacking protestors without provocation, the information flooding our news feeds raises many urgent questions about how our law enforcement handles protests.

Jewish tradition teaches that every human being is born carrying a spark of the Divine. We are all awesomely and wondrously made betzelem elokim, in the image of G-d. It is our duty as Jews to stand up for those whose inherent holiness is being demeaned and disrespected. Thus, we cannot be silent when we see racist violence and prejudice on full display as we have over the past week, for we are commanded, “Tzedek! Tzedek tirdof! Justice! Justice shall you pursue!” (Deut. 16:20).

The Prophet Isaiah says in the haftarah we read every Yom Kipur, that “thoughts and prayers” in difficult times are not enough. We must “unlock the fetters of wickedness… and break off every yoke” (Isaiah 58:6). Jewish communities the world over must take hard looks at ourselves, evaluate how we can best be allies to Black people and other people of color inside and outside of our communities, and spring into action to “untie the bonds” of structural racism wherever we find it.

We stand in full support of our Black friends, neighbors, and family members. Congregation Kehillat Israel says, without hesitation: Black lives matter.

In addition to this statement, we sign onto the Reconstructing Judaism and Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association’s June 2nd statement “Standing up for Racial Justice and Against Racial Violence.”  We echo their demands for reform, accountability, and justice.

 

Kehillat Israel Board of Directors

Rabbi Michael Zimmerman

Rabbi Zimmerman’s Retirement Weekend Celebration!

Rabbi’s retirement events:

Kudo Board – You can still add your thoughts, poems, pictures, videos.  Please contact Judy Shulman for a link or assistance. jbshulman@comcast.net or 517-290-4679 text or call

 Saturday, June 6th  6:30 to 8:30  (zoom link below)
We hope  you will join us even if you have not sent an RSVP

6:30 to 7:30  Schmoozing – each attendee will join a small group in a Breakout room, and Michael will be dropping in on each group for a while.

7:30   Presentations will begin. There will be an opportunity for everyone to share memories as a large group after the presentations.

Sunday, June 7th  3:00 to 4:30 Farewell Parade around KI parking lot

Michael and Elischa will be near the stairs at the North end of the lower lot.

Please drive by to wave.  Follow the signs and please do not block the parade and traffic loop.

There will be a bin for cards. If you wish to stop and chat, we will guide you to parking  outside of the traffic flow. Please wear a mask and keep a respectful distance from others.

Congregation Kehillat Israel is inviting you to the Rabbi’s Retirement Party on Zoom.

Time: Jun 6, 2020 06:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

Join Zoom Meeting

https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87524987967?pwd=NHNKbjRjYUNPenI5TDBJNDMrT0lSQT09

Meeting ID: 875 2498 7967

Password: 679250

By Phone:

Meeting ID: 875 2498 7967

Password: 679250

Find your local number: https://us02web.zoom.us/u/kcS2iCqlKK

 

 

D’var Torah Marjan Helms May 2020

“I shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel.
I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”
Leviticus 22:32

“I will be made holy among the children of Israel.
I am the Lord who makes you holy.”

What do we mean when we speak of holiness? What is holiness? Really?
If you could close your eyes for a moment—or let them drift unfocused into the inner spaces of your mind, with no hurry—and no forced attention… If you could simply rest …quietly…and listen to your own unique truth, what answer would come to your question, “What do I mean when I say, “holy?”
Before you reach too quickly for words or labels, try to sense your answer outside of words. When have you experienced holiness? Where? What did it feel like? What does it feel like now? Whatever you know or remember or imagine as holy, stay with that awareness. Rest in it. Savor it.

“I shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel. I am Adonai who sanctifies you.” When we consider this glimpse of holiness, how do we respond? Is there a change in energy, an emotion, an inclination to do something or act in any particular way? The holiness code established in Leviticus calls for recognizing boundaries between what is sacred and what is profane. Both priests and the people at large are called to maintain a
purity that allows the Presence of God to be known.

What do we do to act on our experience of holiness? Or, to put that another way, What rituals do we observe to allow the Presence of God to be known?
We live now in troubled and frightening times, and there is no escape from the tragedy and madness that surround us. But I think escape is not what we want anyway, not really. I find myself drawn instead to an old-fashioned word—Redemption. It is redemption that we long for, not escape—not easy answers, not quick-fixes, not hiding our heads in the sand nor hoping in vain—but Redemption. And how can that happen? How do we reclaim the sanctity of our lives and our world?

Every day for two months I have marked on my calendar the latest numbers of Covid cases and deaths. I write the numbers, reaching out for some sense of connection, but I cannot comprehend their meaning. To reduce human suffering and lives lost to a series of digits is obscene. Like you, I read and listen to news and commentaries until my mind is saturated. I whipsaw from sadness to anger, outrage to despair. It’s far too easy to feel powerless and overwhelmed. So where is holiness in this moment? How do we find it?
How do we recognize it? How can we make ourselves available to receive it?
If we are to sense a boundary between sacred and profane, maybe we have to start by purifying our own minds.

When I first read through this Parshah, the thing that caught my attention was the repeated command to rest—to do no labor. It’s as if the glorious ideal of Shabbat is meant to infuse each festival throughout the year. I wonder if it is not also possible that Shabbat can breathe its grace into the smaller moments of day-to-day life. We need rest. And nourishment. We need moments to remember who we are—to know that we are not the news feed or the bickering, to know that we are separate from the anger and hatred and fear. We need boundaries—even the briefest of moments—to remember the Presence of God and to rest beside still waters. Surely this is the place where Redemption is born.

From the refuge that is Shabbat, I offer a suggestion:
Sometime soon, give yourself a few minutes to rest and lean back into your own heart.

Listen there for holiness—your own holiness, with your own  understanding. And then see if there is anything at all that you would like to do in response. Whatever that might be, no matter how small or simple, consider making it your own private ritual for a day or a week or for as long as you like. Let this gesture be for you as the fire offerings and purifications from so long ago. Let it mark a sacred boundary in time, a moment to
recognize what is holy, a moment to offer yourself to the work of Redemption.

I shall be sanctified amidst the children of Israel.
I am the Lord who sanctifies you.”

Kroger Fundraising for KI – link your card to our account and we will receive free money!

KI’s organizations NPO number is NV535.

The Kroger Family of Companies is committed to community engagement, positive social impact and charitable giving at the national and local levels. Every community is unique, but our common goal is to partner with the neighborhoods we serve and help the people there live healthier lives.

One of the ways in which we do this is through our Kroger Community Rewards program. This program makes fundraising easy by donating to local organizations based on the shopping you do every day. Once you link your Card to an organization, all you have to do is shop at Kroger and swipe your Shopper’s Card. Here’s how it works:

1. Create a digital account.

A digital account is needed to participate in Kroger Community Rewards. If you already have a digital account, simply link your Shopper’s Card to your account so that all transactions apply toward the organization you choose.

2. Link your Card to an organization.

Selecting the organization that you wish to support is as simple as updating the Kroger Community Rewards selection on your digital account.

1. Sign in to your digital account.

2. Search for your organization here.

3. Enter the name or NPO number of the organization you wish to support.

4. Select the appropriate organization from the list and click “Save”.

Your selected organization will also display in the Kroger Community Rewards section of your account. If you need to review or revisit your organization, you can always do so under your Account details.

3. Your organization earns.

Any transactions moving forward using the Shopper’s Card number associated with your digital account will be applied to the program, at no added cost to you. Kroger donates annually to participating organizations based on your percentage of spending as it relates to the total spending associated with all participating Kroger Community Rewards organizations.

If you have any questions, please contact our Customer Service Center.

Whether you’re a customer or an organization, get started today!

Note: If you are a customer, make sure you have a preferred store selected to view participating organizations. If you are applying on behalf of an organization, please select a store in the same area as your organization.

Kedoshim 2020 May D’var Torah

Kedoshim 2020

I want to look at Chapter 19, verses 17 to 18.  Etz Chaim translates these lines: You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart.  Reprove your kinsman but incur no guilt because of him. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against your countryman.  Love your fellow as yourself.  I am the Lord.

I am not a Hebrew scholar but I do want to point out a few features of the Etz Chaim translation.  In the first line the referent for Etz Chaim’s “kinsfolk” is unambiguously “brother” in the Hebrew, as the note clearly indicates.  Perhaps the decision to go with “kinsfolk” is gender flattening.  In fairness, Etz Chaim does point out that “brother” creates a level of closeness that surpasses the broader “kinsfolk.” Where Etz Chaim has “countryman” and “fellow” most translations that I have seen use “neighbor.”

The other intriguing grammatical point that I see is that in the famous “Love your neighbor (or fellow) as yourself”, the object of the verb is expressed in Hebrew not, as you would take it from the English, as a direct object but rather indirect. Sort of Love ‘to’ your neighbor as yourself.  This use of the preposition ‘le’ may be idiomatic, but commentators, like the Rambam think the usage illuminates Hillel’s famous negative restatement of this sentence: What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow.  Hillel’s version puts emphasis on specific acts that one could do and not on a general feeling of “love”, or in Hillel’s case hate.  The suggestion from Rambam is that the sentence in Verse 18 does not refer to a general feeling of love but rather to the requirement to do gemilat chasadim, deeds of lovingkindness, for one’s neighbor or fellow.  So one should demonstrate one’s with action, even actions of remonstration and criticism, rather than letting perceived bad behavior go unremarked.

At first glance this passage may seem a bit of a jumble, perhaps even contradictory.  But Rashbam, a grandson of Rashi, and many other commentators regard them as a unit. “If you are someone’s friend (or neighbor, or kinsman or –woman), and they do something that you consider wrong, reprove them, admonish them.  Do not plot against them or harbor animosity.   And do not look the other way or you will be culpable for their wrongdoing also.  The negative statement, “You shall not hate your kinsfolk in your heart” that begins the passage is balanced at the close by “Love your fellow (or neighbor) as yourself.”

As many of you know, Rabbi Akiva regarded the statement “Love your neighbor as yourself” as a major principle of the Torah, one that is predicated on the two words that follow: Ani Adonai.  The implication is that Hashem, God, Yud Hay Vav Hay is the creator of you and also the creator of your neighbor or fellow or kinsman or woman.  There is a fundamental, creaturely equality that necessarily binds us one to another, even when this other is annoying or even antagonizing us through their actions.  And we are enjoined to act on the basis of that equality.  Our “love” of our fellow creature must overcome our annoyance, even our hatred.

It is apt to reflect on this principle these days.  At this time of great stress in the land I am finding that my own relationships with my neighbors and fellows has become less flat and anodyne than I confess it usually is.   People don’t stand 6 feet away from me and I get annoyed.  I can estimate 6 feet pretty well; but why do I assume that others can as well and are deliberately violating that policy?  Ont the other hand, people do decent things and I feel perhaps a little more warmth and fellow feeling than I suspect I would normally. This face covering, policy, if that is what it is, which I am by and large observing, is creating for me, and probably for others, an additional barrier.  The innate ability to acknowledge and establish fellow-feeling with a stranger is greatly impeded when your mouth is covered.  It is a barrier in more ways than one.

I have absolutely no qualifications to ascribe or suggest appropriate actions to others.  But I am going to resolve that I will try to be more understanding of the behaviors of others at this time.  I have to acknowledge that the large university where I work has never been more divorced from the reality of the surrounding community than at this moment.  Yes, we have undergone enormous and swift change.  We are unsettled and apprehensive too.   But the vast majority of people connected with MSU, at least so far, are feeling little of the stunning financial hardship that many of our neighbors are feeling.  I will try to remember: Ani Adonai.

Of course, we are also witnessing and perhaps experiencing deeper divisions between people who don’t seem to be living in the same country as us, even though they are.  Even within the same state some seem capable of regarding their countrymen and women as strangers.  It is disease for New Yorkers, for minorities in Detroit or Chicago, for people in prisons.  I guess for some might say for the old and the infirm.  On the other side, there are people who I know are thinking or even saying, wait till really hits in Georgia or Florida.  Do we wish that it will?  I hope not.  Today’s parsha speaks to these feelings as well, and to the reality of many minority workers in newly essential or essentialized industries like meatpacking, foodservice, hospital laundry and maintenance.  This week’s parsha reminds us (verse 34 in chapter 19) that God is also the creator of those who are very different from whoever we are or think we are: The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens.  You shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt, Ani Adonai Elohaychem.

 

Shabbat Shalom.