December 2012 / Kislev 5773
"Am levadad yishkon - A people that dwells apart,"Balaam called us in the Torah.
But we don't dwell apart, not physically, anyway. We've always lived among others. And, since
Abraham and Sarah entered Canaan, Jews have grappled with a dilemma - how to fulfill our destiny as a people, living among a "family of nations".
The tension between "dwelling apart" and coalescing with our neighbors was present in
the "fleshpots of Egypt," in Spain, North Africa, Europe, and of course, in the Goldeneh Medinah
of America. It is an ongoing theme in the Torah and a preoccupation of the prophets. It is at the
heart of the Hanukkah story.
Yes, we rebelled against a repressive regime that tried to deny our religious expression. Yes, we
threw off the yoke of foreign rule and re-asserted an independent Jewish commonwealth in Israel. And yes, the Talmud reports the miracle of the oil as the Maccabees rededicated the Temple.
Still, the historic Hanukkah was a civil war - between "Hellenizers" (who embraced Greek/secular ways) and traditionalists.
The tensions that erupted in the Hanukkah story were captured a hundred and fifty years later by Hillel: "If I am not for myself, who will be for me" and "If I am only for myself, what am I?"
Hillel connected these two seemingly contradictory comments for a reason. The tension between self-preservation and caring for others comes with the human condition. We have a set of guidelines to help us navigate that tension - it's called "Judaism."
When the stakes are higher, the dilemma feels more acute and distrust grows. So it was in the conflicts with the Greeks and the Romans.
The "Hillel paradox" erupted during the recent "Operation Pillar of Defense" - Israel's response to hundreds of rockets fired against Israeli civilians from Gaza.
Rabbi Sharon Brous expressed solidarity with the people of Israel, but also addressed her heartache over the loss of life on both sides: "...supporting Israel's right to protect and defend itself does not diminish the reality that the Palestinian people are also children of God, whose suffering is real and undeniable."
Her comments inspired condemnation from Rabbi Daniel Gordis, who described Brous' concern with Palestinian victims as an "inability to distinguish ourselves from the mass of humanity." Gordis suggests that many American Jews "dare not care about ourselves any more than we care about others."
Gordis' article provoked a stream of responses. All of them can be found here. Gordis, Brous, and their respondents each address Hanukkah's central dilemma between dwelling apart and living among the nations.
The "Hillel paradox" is a given; how we deal with it is up to us. While struggling against Greek and Roman occupation, Jews spent a lot of time, energy, and blood fighting among themselves. This, the rabbis of the Talmud suggest, caused the destruction of the Temple.
"Jews on the left have been excoriated as traitors or self-hating Jews, while Jews on the right have been castigated as racists or immune to the suffering of others," writes educator Sivan Zakai, of our inability to engage in civil discourse about Israel. Zakai reports of teachers and students in Jewish schools who avoid talking about Israel. "When talking about Israel, I no longer feel comfortable being the only adult in the room," one teacher reported.
Debates over how Israel should deal with its neighbors will continue to rage within Israel. And debates about how we as American Jews should respond will continue here. These debates are healthy, as long as they don't devolve into the kinds of attacks Zakai describes. Too often, they do. And, what is most troubling is when that poisonous atmosphere spills into our schools.
There is a way out. As we are inspired by the courage of the Maccabees, so too we can learn from their mistakes. When embroiled in conflict, don't compound it with a "war between the Jews." We need one another. Especially when we are in conflict, we need one another.
"Light one candle," wrote Peter Yarrow, "for the strength that we need to never become our own foe."
CEO, Jewish LearningWorks
IN THIS ISSUE . . .
A Message From Nathan Englander
Family Camp 2011 Slideshow
TCI in the News
|Nathan Englander Welcomes One Bay One Book
Nathan Englander sent a personal welcome to crowd gathered for One Bay One Book's First Annual Bay Area Jewish Storytellers Event on November 11! His book, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, is the selection for our inaugural year, and the inspiration behind our kick-off event.
One Bay One Book has over 40 partners, who will be hosting discussions, panels, conversations and more in a wide variety of settings - synagogues, JCCs, schools, book stores, book clubs, libraries, to name just a few - throughout the Bay Area.
Check out our calendar of events to find a conversation near you. You do not need to be a member of any organization or group to take part in the events - all readers are welcome to join every and any conversation, at every and any venue.
And, guess who's coming to town? Nathan Englander himself. Save the date for his two appearances as part of our One Bay One Book Program:
Sunday, May 5, 2013
3:00pm - 5:00pm | Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco
Monday, May 6, 2013
7:00pm - 9:00pm| Oshman Family JCC, Palo Alto
|A Message From Nathan Englander|
Jewish LearningWorks' Special Needs Family Camp
Gearing Up for 2013: May 3 - 5!
INCLUDE's Special Needs Family Camp 2011-2012
Save the date! May 3-5, 2013, is the weekend of the 12th Annual Special Needs Family Camp.
Special Needs Family Camp will take place at URJ Camp Newman in Santa Rosa. Camp is open to all families who have children with disabilities as well as their typically developing siblings. Celebrate Shabbat, play in nature, and enjoy time with your family in a warm and caring Jewish environment. Check out the slideshow here
, and contact David Neufeld
, Director of Special Needs Programs and Services, with any questions you might have.
Special Needs Family Camp is now under the INCLUDE umbrella. INCLUDE is a partnership of Jewish LearningWorks and the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund that builds the capacity of the community to welcome children with special needs and their families.
We hope to see you and your friends at camp!
The Curriculum Initiative in the News
Celebrate TCI's impact on its' 16th anniversary!
The report marks the 16th Anniversary of TCI, and addresses a larger issue of sustainability, by addressing the changes and adaptations - lessons learned - that TCI made along the way, to become a leader in multicultural Jewish education.
Last year, Jewish LearningWorks brought The Curriculum Initiative into our family. We are so proud of Adrian Schrek, TCI Director, and her team for all of the great work they are doing!
CELEBRATE THE 25TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE FREEDOM MARCH FOR SOVIET JEWRY
Thursday December 6 | 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Congregation Sherith Israel | 2266 California St. San Francisco
Join us for an evening of storytelling as we honor those who were part of the movement to bring our brothers and sisters from the former Soviet Union to the United States.
Sunday December 9 | 1:00pm - 4:00pm
PJCC Main Building | 800 Foster City Blvd., Foster City
This Do It Yourself fair will help you get ready for Hanukkah as you learn how to make your own candles, dreidels, gifts, sweet treats and much more! The event concludes with a community candle-lighting and sing-a-long. Admission is FREE with the donation of a can of food to support the Second Harvest Food Bank.
INCLUDE has partnered with the PJCC to provide sensory-friendly versions of activities in a staffed, smaller quiet space, as well as gluten- and casein-free options for food.
Tuesday December 11 | 4:30pm - 6:00pm
Oshman Family JCC | 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
In this Do It Yourself Hanukkah program, we will not only learn about the different symbols of Hanukkah, we will all make our own - and discuss how they are used in the rituals and celebration of this holiday.
Tuesday, January 8, 2013
7:00 PM to 9:00 PM Jewish LearningWorks | 639 14th Ave., San Francisco, CA 94118
Open Sources is the Bay Area's open, accessible and pluralistic, community Beit Midrash (study hall). Join adults from all denominations, levels of knowledge and observance in a monthly learning community. Each month a different Bay Area Jewish educator will offer a class on a topic of his or her choice.
Register and learn more here.
FEAST OF JEWISH LEARNING
Saturday January 26, 2013 | 7:00pm
Oshman Family JCC | 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto
Hungry for Jewish learning? Community connection? Join us for a unique night of community, connection and learning. The Feast of Jewish Learning is for all adults, no matter your age, background, practice or affiliation.
Click here for more information.