Gratitude & Action — Rabbi Jason Klein

November 23rd, 2016

Dear Friends,

This has been a challenging few weeks for many people.

The presidential campaigns, election results, and people’s reactions to them have amplified growing divides in our country, and people of good faith everywhere across the political spectrum knew weeks ago that, regardless of who was elected, there would be much mending to do.

That time for mending has come. I look around our community and appreciate the safe spaces so many of you have created for one another and for our children to process what being Jewish and being American mean today. The Torah reminds us of the imperative of welcoming “the stranger,” and I treasure that our community is not a space that tolerates misogyny, racism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, or homophobia. And I know so many of us have been disturbed by anti-Semitism in the public discourse as well. The Attorney General just reported the increase of hate crimes in 2015 and the over seven hundred hate incidents reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center in the past two weeks alone. Echoes of Pastor Martin Niemöeller’s poem from the era of the Holocaust — “First they came for the communists, but I did not speak out because I was not a communist…” — are in our collective memory as we must be advocates both for ourselves and for others.

At this season of Thanksgiving, I am grateful for our freedom to travel, to speak, to love. I am thankful for freedom of religion, of privacy, and of the press. Tomorrow is a day of gratitude for America. I urge us all as to turn it into a day of hope and action as well. Grace Paley reminds us: “The only recognizable feature of hope is action.” Let us all consider what actions we wish to take that draw from our time, our tzedakah, our talent, and our relationships to mend divides, to be advocates for our country and our world, and let us hold one another accountable to really making a difference.

I want to challenge all of us to expand our conversations around the table tomorrow from “What am thankful for?” to “How can I be an active participant in building the America that I believe in? What can we around this table commit to do together?”

Our tradition reminds us that is not our obligation to complete the work, but we are not free to abandon it either. From our Jewish community here at home to the community of communities I wish our country and world will become, let us draw wisdom from this imperative of turning hope into action, and strength from one another.

Best wishes to you and yours for a happy, healthy Thanksgiving.

Warmly,
Rabbi Jason Klein
Director, Center for Jewish Life