Archive for November, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011

Dear Friends,

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we are profoundly thankful for all our blessings and yet when we realize that there is significant hunger in our world, we realize that we cannot be fullythankful unless we do our share to alleviate the poverty in our world. I hope that during this Holiday season, we will seek places to donate food, help provide Holiday meals, and think about those who are in need.

The following was written by Albert Einstein:

Strange is our situation here upon earth. Each of us comes for a short visit, not knowing why, yet sometimes seeming to divine a purpose. From the standpoint of daily life, however, there is one thing we do know: that we are here for the sake of each other, above all, for those upon whose smile and well-being our own happiness depends, and also for the countless unknown souls with whose fate we are connected by a bond of sympathy.

May we find meaningful ways to connect with those who have less than we do and provide for those whose well being depends upon our kindness. We have numerous opportunities to reach out and touch people over this Holiday period. The following prayer is an inspiration for social action and caring. May its words motivate us to perform acts of tikkun or healing.

Social Action – Jack Riemer (adapted)

We cannot merely pray to God to end war;
For the world was made in such a way
That we must find our own path of peace
Within ourselves and with out neighbor.

We cannot merely pray to God to root out prejudice;
For we already have eyes
With which to see the good in all people
If we would only use them rightly.

We cannot merely pray to God to end starvation;
For we already have the resources
With which to feed the entire world
If we would only use them wisely.

We cannot merely pray to God to end despair;
For we already have the power
To clear away slums and to give hope
If we would only use our power justly.

We cannot merely pray to God to end disease:
For we already have great minds
With which to search out cures and healings
If we would only use them constructively.

Therefore we pray instead
For strength, determination, and will power,
To do instead of merely pray
To become instead of merely wish;
That our world may be safe,
And that our lives may be blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving and Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Bruce Aft

This Veterans Day… what will you do?

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Dear Friends,

On this Veteran’s Day, I hope that each of us will take a moment to thank a person who has served or is serving in the military. I have had the privilege of interacting with a number of people in the military in my capacity as rabbi and in my capacity as adjunct professor at local universities.  I am unable to fully grasp the sacrifice which these brave people make on our behalf. The military personnel and their families are living a life style that challenges their relationships, their faith, and their opportunities to spend quality family time.

As a child and teenager growing up, we had a much different attitude toward the military. It was during the Vietnam War and many were questioning U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Unfortunately, many took out their frustrations on the soldiers as they returned and I can’t imagine what those returning from Vietnam must have experienced.  In today’s world we are much more aware about post traumatic stress syndrome and other issues which returning vets face. Back in the 60’s, the support of our troops by the American people was not nearly as present as it seems to be today.

On a totally different matter, we are all saddened and shocked by the events which have occurred at Penn State University.  I hope that there will not be a rush to judgement about what the appropriate consequences are for all those who were involved in the despicable act of sexual abuse and for those who knew certain things but were not as diligent as they might have been in reporting this information.   We are taught by the famous rabbi, the Chofetz Chaim, that lashon hara, negative speech, hurts the one who says the negative things, one who hears the negative things, and the one about whom the negative things are said. After reading the accounts which I have seen and listening to so many reports about what happened, it is clear that we don’t have all the information. We must always be careful to not judge someone until we know all the facts. The Talmud states that we should not judge someone until we have been in their place.

I hope that we will pray for the victims of the abuse whose lives have been changed forever. We also must never ignore claims that someone has been abused and must not dismiss what has occurred as not being serious. In my rabbinic experience, I have learned the complexity of these situations and the incomplete communication that often occurs, making it very difficult to ascertain what really happened.  When I hear about these kinds of occurrences in our community, I encourage those involved to pursue counseling and try to ensure that they are receiving help and support.  I believe that one thing is for certain: if you are being abused or know of a case where someone is being abused, please let someone know.  These things should not be kept silent and yet, often individuals don’t share this information and they live with the pain because they are afraid to share this information.

On a separate note, as I write this, the National’s catcher, Wilson Ramos has been kidnapped and our prayers are with him and his family for his safe return.

What a complicated time to be living and a challenging world in which we live.  I hope that through prayer, study, and connection to our religious heritage through your involvement with Hillel , we all will find the strength and faith to confront whatever comes our way.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Bruce Aft

Reflecting on Veterans Day…

Friday, November 4th, 2011

Dear Friends,

I recently had the opportunity to attend the Dedication of the Jewish Chaplain’s memorial at Arlington National Cemetery which will honor the twelve Jewish chaplains that have died in military service to the United States of America. It was a very touching ceremony and once again reminded me of the significant sacrifice which our military personnel make for us. I was particularly inspired by the story of the Four Chaplains on the Dorchester during WWII. As we prepare for Veteran’s Day next week, I hope that you will find the information below to be interesting.

If you have the chance to visit Arlington National Cemetery, please notice the Jewish memorial which is now part of Chaplain’s Hill. I also hope you will thank someone who is serving in our military for the sacrifices they make so that we can be safe.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Bruce Aft

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Four Chaplains, also sometimes referred to as the “Immortal Chaplains,” were four United States Army chaplains who gave their lives to save other civilian and military personnel during the sinking of the troop ship USAT Dorchester during World War II. They helped other soldiers board lifeboats and gave up their own life jackets when the supply ran out. The chaplains joined arms, said prayers, and sang hymns as they went down with the ship.

The Men

The four men were relatively new chaplains, who all held the rank of lieutenant. They included Methodist minister the Reverend George L. Fox, Rabbi Alexander D. Goode, Roman Catholic priest the Reverend John P. Washington, and Reformed Church in America minister the Reverend Clark V. Poling. Their backgrounds, personalities, and faiths were different, although Goode, Poling and Washington had all served as leaders in the Boy Scouts of America.[1] They would meet at the Army Chaplains School at Harvard University, where they would prepare for assignments in the European theater, sailing on board USAT Dorchester to report to their new assignments.
Alexander D. Goode
Main article: Alexander D. Goode

Rabbi Alexander D. Goode was born in Brooklyn, New York on May 10, 1911, the son of Rabbi Hyman Goodekowitz. He was raised in Washington, D.C., attending Eastern High School, eventually deciding to follow his father’s footsteps by studying for the rabbinate himself, at Hebrew Union College (HUC), where he graduated with a B.H. degree in 1937. He later received his Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1940. While studying for the rabbinate at HUC, he worked at the Washington Hebrew Congregation during summer breaks.[3]

He originally applied to become a Navy chaplain in January 1941, but was not accepted. After Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941, he applied to the Army, receiving his appointment as a chaplain on July 21, 1942. Chaplain Goode went on active duty on August 9, 1942 and he was selected for the Chaplains School at Harvard. He had courses in map reading, first aid, law, and chemical warfare. Chaplain Goode was then assigned to the 333rd Airbase Squadron in Goldsboro, North Carolina. In October 1942, he was transferred to Camp Myles Standish in Taunton, Massachusetts and reunited with Chaplains Fox, Poling and Washington, who were classmates at Harvard.[4]