Let’s Talk About EACH and EVERY Person

Between Us
Let’s Talk About EACH and EVERY Person

Here are ways to Make It Yours this week:

  • Watch a screening of An Ordinary Hero: The True Story of Joan Mulholland at the JCCNV this Sunday, March 8
  • Come to the JCCGW’s Parent Open House for parents of LGBTQ children of all ages on Wednesday, March 11
  • Sign up to volunteer on Good Deeds Day, the international celebration of doing good on Sunday, March 15
  • Last week, the Reverend John Steinbruck passed away. He is remembered fondly for his tireless and selfless advocacy for Soviet Jewry here in Washington. Read about Reverend Steinbruck from the Washington Jewish Historical Society.

I need to share with you a disheartening letter that recently landed on my desk:

Attn: Jewish Federation of Greater Washington: You will never see a penny of donation from us while you continue to: 1) support and advocate for the abomination(s) grouped under ‘LGBT’! 2) while you continue to waste funds and energy on “interfaith” “workshops.” If you want to continue wasting money sending me requests for donation be advised they will go direct into the recycling bin!

First things first. I’m glad to see that the writer has concern for the environment and practices recycling!

More seriously, while shocking in tone, I find the letter sad. It suggests that the Jewish community consists of some, but not all, and that we should select who is “in” and who is “out.” It singles out two groups – among many – that the writer doesn’t accept (there may be others). And it expresses a narrow-minded view of what the Jewish community should look like.

We unequivocally reject this writer’s premise, and say so in all of our written and online material: “The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington welcomes the participation of interfaith couples and families and people of all abilities, backgrounds and sexual orientations.” We say – and act – in this manner because our community is extraordinarily diverse and we have a responsibility to welcome everyone. In a week where the news was dominated by bipartisan support – or lack thereof – of Israel, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind. In a week when we launched our Disability Inclusion Committee we must double down on our commitment to welcome everyone – into every facet of Jewish communal life.

Our community is filled with wonderful people who are questioning the relevance of Jewish life and Jewish community. They are proud to be Jewish – or to have a Jewish partner – but don’t see what the Jewish community has to offer them. Like Abraham, we must walk outside the tent to extend a welcome hand to the stranger. We must share with them the richness of Jewish life and learning; of family and community.

But most importantly, we are inclusive because our tradition teaches us that all of us – not just some of us – are created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.

This week’s parasha – Ki Tisa – contains one of the most famous stories in the Torah: the construction – and destruction – of the Golden Calf. Moses stays on top of the mountain too long for the Israelites, who then urge Aaron to build them a god to which they can pray. Aaron compromises his leadership role and agrees to build the calf.

While the holiness of space was a concession to our limited understanding of an omnipresent God, it is the holiness of time that has sustained the Jewish people. Shabbat, with its total portability, enables us to create holiness with or without physical structures. The Golden Calf sought to make tangible that which is not. The very idea that God could be represented as a particular form is antithetical to Jewish thought, and therefore needed to be destroyed. When Moses returned with the new tablets, one of the commandments was to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy”. Shabbat has endured, while the Golden Calf is a distant memory.

And one of the most enduring traditions of Shabbat is the celebration of the dignity of each and every person. EACH and EVERY PERSON.

Shabbat Shalom,

Steven A. Rakitt, Chief Executive Officer  
[email protected]