The Massacre Generation

Kol Nidre 5780

I have the honor of speaking on this most sacred of evenings.  Tonight however, I want to share this pulpit with people who don’t share my privilege, but whose wisdom needs, nevertheless, to be heard in our sanctuary. Tonight, I want to share the words of our children.  I begin with the thoughts of a young woman I’ve never met, but whose words cut me to the quick.  Her name is Julia Savoca Gibson: It was last Saturday when it hit me that my entire life has been framed by violence. I don’t remember being born on Jan. 28, 2000, and I don’t remember being a year and a half old when 9/11 happened. I don’t remember the panic of my mother as she stepped outside our house in Washington and smelled the smoke of the burning Pentagon. I don’t remember her knowing I would grow up in a changed world. But I...

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Our Identity, Our Politics

Rosh HaShanah Day 5780

“For from Bari shall go forth the Torah, the word of God from Otranto”. In the Middle Ages, this famous play on the prophet’s vision of Jerusalem was so well-known it made its way into the famed Talmudic commentary of Jacob ben Meir, Rabbeinu Tam. Jews throughout the world knew of the importance of Otranto and Bari—two thriving trading hubs on the heel of Italy’s boot—both as centers of commerce and bastions of Jewish thought. As far as capitals of Jewish life and learning are measured, Bari and Otranto were to the Byzantine Empire what Chicago and New York are in America. It was therefore only appropriate to describe these twin cities as the Jerusalem and Zion of their day. However, until recently, I had never heard of either Bari or Otranto. I knew nothing of the Saletine Peninsula [that Italian “boot heel”], or the modern region called Puglia that...

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Behold We are a Stiff-Necked People

Erev Rosh HaShanah 5780

“Welcome to Elberta Michigan, First Settlers John and Caroline Greenwood 1855.” This summer, I went on a 2 week bike trip with a number of high school students, from Olin Sang Ruby Union Institute, the URJ Summer camp in Wisconsin. For two weeks we cycled around the Northern half of Lake Michigan, through Wisconsin, and the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. We cycled along the picturesque coast, through farmland, and small tourist towns. As we entered each town, there were always the small signs on the side of the road welcoming you to the town; they name the town and honor some individual or group. “Welcome to Charlevoix, Home of the 1992 Boys Cross Country State Champions”. “Welcome to Ludington, Home of the SS Badger”. When you are riding around on a bicycle entering all sorts of small towns, you have extra time to notice the signs, time to...

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The History of Flags and Chicago Sinai

News and Views

You never know what to expect when you ask a Rabbi a question…. To illustrate, I’ll share a question that was asked of me two years ago. The literal question of the e-mail subject line was, “Can we visit with you?” But the real question was written in the message: “We wish to propose having the flag of Israel in the sanctuary for your consideration and support”. This was not the first time I was asked this question at Chicago Sinai Congregation. During my interviews to become Senior Rabbi, the committee asked me what I imagine they asked all candidates: Would you bring an Israeli flag into the sanctuary to hang next to the American flag? Despite knowing how thorny issues pertaining to powerful symbols can be, I answered honestly: I see flags as political symbols, not Jewish symbols. Because they contain such potential power to divide human beings from...

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Ensuring Freedom for All: A Letter from our Rabbis

As we welcome this anniversary of our nation’s independence, we rightfully celebrate the unique liberties we enjoy in America. At the same time, our Jewish heritage reminds us that our celebrations of liberty should compel us to work for the liberation of all. This July 4th is especially bitter as it arrives amidst horrifying news of squalor and degradation emerging from the detention centers at which the very country we celebrate is confining those who seek the freedoms we enjoy. We have heard horrifying reports from Homestead, FL and Clint, TX, anguishing arguments over the minimal support our government is providing asylum seekers, and continuing coverage of children separated from their families. This should be troubling to all Americans; it is especially disconcerting to our Jewish community. The question we ask ourselves, and which we are asked almost every day is: what can I do to make a difference? The...

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Rabbi Limmer’s Sermon: Video about Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise

Shabbat Services

On Friday, April 5, Rabbi Limmer spoke about Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise. You can view the YouTube video he spoke about here.

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Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority

Book

Chicago Book Launch of "Moral Resistance and Spiritual Authority" -  Our Jewish Obligation to Social Justice co-written by Rabbi Seth Limmer, Rabbi Shoshanah Conover and Rabbi Edwin Goldberg. To listen to Rabbi Limmer's interview with Jay Shefsky on Chicago Tonight on 12/28/18 click on READ MORE below, and then click here.

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Letter from Rabbi Limmer in Light of Today’s Tragic Events

Today was a painful day. Today, a murderer entered a synagogue, a house of worship—a literal sanctuary from the worries of our world—unleashed the contents of a deadly weapon, and stole the divine gift of human life. As I write these words, I believe at least eight human beings have been murdered at Congregation Tree of Life in Pittsburgh, PA. I am shocked. I am dismayed. I am horrified. I learned today’s awful news while riding on a bus through the Jordan Valley on the road North from the Dead Sea along the Jordan river. “Rabbi, did you hear the news,” asked my friend Pastor Chris Harris of Bright Star Church, adding, “I am so sorry.” Immediately, my other friends on the bus—twelve Pastors from Chicago along with two other church leaders—immediately offered their sympathies. This was moments after two heavily-armed Israeli soldiers walked through our bus to conduct a...

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Something New Under the Sun

Yom Kippur Day 5779

To watch Rabbi Greene give her sermon, click here.  “They called her a THOT,” the female counselors shared one night during a staff meeting this summer. “The 6th grade boys, they called a THOT” “What’s a THOT?”, I chimed in? The counselors giggled at my naive question. “No but, really, I asked again, what’s a “THOT”? They all paused sheepishly, until the Unit Head took one for the team, “Rabbi,” she said as she rolled her eyes, “it’s an acronym, T-H-O-T, THOT, ‘That Ho Over There.” I froze. So did the laughter. And this is where it all begins. October 5th, 2017 revealed the news coverage of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal. Ten days later, actress Alyssa Milano posted the following tweet, “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write, ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.” And within hours, minutes, seconds, posts emerged...from everywhere. Here are just a...

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Stop the Silence

Kol Nidre 5779

To watch Rabbi Limmer give his sermon click here.  Kol Nidre is a night of quiet.  It commences our signature ceremony of introspection: this evening we examine our souls, search out our faults, and begin to change our ways.  For that, we create quiet.  We silence our voices as the music of Kol Nidre rushes over us.  We pause for silent reflection, silent prayer, silent remembrance, silent confession.  We turn down the noise of our physical needs, refraining from food and drink, from activity and exercise.  It will only be with the blast of the shofar tomorrow at nightfall that we break our spell of quietude just moments before we break the fast. Ages ago, Yom Kippur was quite a noisy affair.[i]  Crowds filled the Temple so far before dawn the rooster didn’t even need to crow.  In a public pageant of pomp, sacrifices were staged, blood was sprinkled, communal confessions...

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