How to be Part of the World Around Us

A couple of weeks ago, I invited a close friend to a Martin Luther King Day event.  The event featured a number of speakers including leaders from the Black Lives Matter movement. “I can’t come with you,” she told me. “Really? Why?” I asked. “Black Lives Matter is anti-Israel and anti-Semitic.” She stated matter-of-factly. An intelligent, educated, professional who dismissed the entire organization because of one part of their platform. She was ...

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Radical Ideas and Self Sacrifice: Stone Temple Baptist Church

Stone Temple Baptist Church in honor of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. / January 16, 2017.       This past week, President Obama delivered his valedictory address here in Chicago, IL. He spoke passionately about the need for all of us, every American citizen, to be engaged in preserving our democracy. In particular, he spoke about “the great gift our founders gave to us,” that “radical idea” that is “the beating heart of our America”: It's ...

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2016 It Wasn't So Bad After All

I don’t know about you, but lately, all I keep hearing and reading is how horrible this year, 2016 has been. Just a week ago, my facebook newsfeed flooded with the following statements:  “Seriously 2016, I’m so done with you. RIP George Michael.”  “2016 you are the worst. We love you George Michael.” This wasn’t the first time I saw these remarks, and it wasn’t the last. Only two days later, when we learned that Carrie Fisher died, I a...

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From Regret to Comfort Yom Kippur 5777

A blackboard stood in a park in Brooklyn with the question: What is your biggest regret? For an entire day, New Yorkers opened up about some of the deepest, most intimate parts of their lives. As the day went on, the blank board quickly filled. “Not saying I love you” “Burning bridges” “Not staying in touch” “Not being a better friend” By the end of the day, the production team who created this project, noticed a common theme among nearly all ...

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The Function of Limits Yom Kippur 5777

The date was July 31st. The setting was Toyota Park, twelve miles southwest of the city.  The last-place Chicago Fire hosted the New York Red Bulls in a soccer game ending in that most unsatisfactory of outcomes: a tie.  Still, the night was a success for the home team.  First, it was “Pride Night”, and a sports franchise celebrating the LGBTQ community is not something we should take for granted.  Furthermore, after the Gay Men’s Chorus sang our national...

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The Limit Function Kol Nidrei 5777

             I remember calculus class like it was yesterday.  Al Cavalarro drew two pictures on opposite sides of the blackboard: on the left was a rudimentary frog; on the right was an open door.  Slowly, he scripted three words between these fascinating figures: “The Limit Function”.  “The frog,” Mr. Cavalarro began, “is trying desperately to make its way through the open doorway. ...

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Real Hard Work Rosh HaShanah 5777

    “Love Easy Money?” asked the front business page headline in the Chicago  Tribune.[1]  “Unsealed Trump University playbook results in free sales lessons,” promised Phil Rosenthal, the article’s author, with tongue planted firmly in cheek.  A series of scathingly sarcastic assessments filled the column, printed the day after a U.S. Judge in San Diego ruled the purported “playbook” of the presidential candidate opened ...

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The Real Kind of Hope Rosh HaShanah 5777

Shanah Tova!  This year, these words are more difficult to say than in the past. It has been a tough year.  For me personally, for so many of us here this evening.  We have experienced the death of loved ones.  Sudden illnesses have torn families apart. Some of us have lost jobs and experienced the uncertainty of tomorrow.  Others have confronted challenges that come with aging, losing a sense of independence. We’ve faced all sorts of hardships this past year. ...

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Devastation, Disappointment, Deja vu. Dallas

How do we respond to more callous killings? Of police officers?  By police officers? How do we live our daily lives in a time filled with such tension? I find answers to  these questions by turning to our Torah Portion.  This parashah is in no way a perfect parallel to the events of this week; it provides no perfect parable that neatly explains all the details of the complicated mess of racial injustice in America.  But it does provide a guide for navigating our way throug...

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Building a World of Love

 50. 50 bells. I did not count. I stood, somberly listening to each bell ring. And then a pause.  I wondered during each pause, is this it? Are we done yet? And I watched. I watched cars driving through the street. I watched people walking by. The bells did not stop ringing. 22, 23, 24. I tried to make out the individual faces of the people across the street. And I heard another bell --  37, 38, 39. I felt my eyes welling up with tears. And the bells, they kept ringing -- 45, ...

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