Note: The opinions expressed here are solely those of each individual blogger and do not necessarily represent the views of TRT.

A NIGHTTIME CONCERT

May 2015

Old Bridge Airport

As evening fell the heat of the day eased.

Reviving the Dead

April 2015

The Power of Telling Stories

From the Torah to contemporary novels, we Jews know that stories have power. They teach better than most other kinds of lessons because they put the message – the mashal – in the context of real people. No great news flash there.

What I didn’t realize about stories is their power to revive the dead.

Let all who are hungry come and eat

April 2015

Hunger for Meaning

One of the most famous lines in the haggadah is,

“Let all who are hungry come and eat.” It’s how we begin our seder – by inviting those who need what we have to share with us.

 

But this invitation isn’t just about food, and it isn’t just for Passover.

Blessings

February 2015

Life's Challenges

I don’t like surprises. Give me time to prepare and I can handle almost anything, but surprises are not welcome guests in my brain.

So, in December I tore my Achilles’ tendon.

Surprise!

How To Help Israel

December 2014

...We Can Go There

How To Help Israel

I’ve spoken and written a lot about Israel recently. Maybe it’s because I don’t hear many people doing it who aren’t completely critical of every single thing Israel does...

Should We Fear Everyone?

November 2014

How Do We Adjust?

Should We Fear Everyone?

This past summer a pregnant woman was punched in the face while walking along a street in Brooklyn. She was knocked out, but, fortunately, no lasting harm came to her or to her baby. The assailant, a 33-year old man, was quickly apprehended in what seems to be a completely random act of violence.

Are we the "Wyoming" of gay and lesbian Jewish life?

October 2014

Our Growing TRT Family

So, how many gay/lesbian families do we have in the TRT family?  

What We Do

September 2014

Minute Particulars

 

The poet William Blake wrote, “He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars.”

Rabbi Don Weber

August 2014

"Rabbi, do you believe in the Bible or in science?"

After years of our students asking me questions on everything from why people die to what I like about cats, this year nine students asked me this question about science and the Bible. Nine!

What’s going on here? Why the sudden interest from our students about which “side” I’m on? More important, where did they get the idea that there are “sides” in the first place – that this question has a black-and-white answer?

Maybe in today’s increasingly polarized atmosphere we should expect it. Television, news media and internet blogs share left-wing opinions that “religion is for ignorant fools” and right-wing claims that “science is a liberal conspiracy.” There is no room for compromise, for nuance. The question today is simple: Which side are you on?

Do I believe in the Bible, or in science? I believe in both. I know that to some, this is a cop-out, a wishy-washy refusal to take a stand. But it is not a cop-out, and not wishy-washy: it is the essence of who I am as a Reform Jew.

My rabbinic school professor, Dr. Kravitz, taught us, “Science is about true and false. Religion is about good and bad. You do not get facts from religion, and you do not get values from science.”

Dr. Kravitz would continue, “Zyklon B gas, used in the Nazi gas chambers to murder millions of people, is true. It exists. Scientists invented it to fulfill a function. It did what it was supposed to do.

“Religion, not science, attempts to put values on what we do, and what we create. What was done with Zyklon B gas was wrong. It was evil. It was bad.

For nearly two hundred years, Reform Jews have tried to synthesize truth and goodness. We take a critical look at the Bible and Jewish law, and at times we decide that the practices they put forth are “entirely foreign to our present mental and spiritual state” (Pittsburgh Platform, 1885). But we also take a critical look at modern society, and much of our movement’s focus on Tikkun Olam – repairing the world – is a stand against the inhumanity of unregulated capitalism in which some people rise and others fall. And we take a stand against the “gossip industry” which thrives on the private lives and private troubles of others. As reformers, the verb that is part of our identity, we make the radical statements that not everything that is “religious” is good, and not everything that is “true” is good, either.

When I answer the Bible/science question, I ask the students if it’s okay to say something hurtful or embarrassing about another person. Most say it is not. “But what if what you are saying is true?” I ask. “What if your best friend just told you that her parents lost their jobs, and they are being evicted from their home? Is it okay for you to tell your other friends? After all, what you are saying is absolutely true, isn’t it?”

Some of them say it is all right to share the information, since it’s true. Then I suggest they imagine the same situation, but this time they are the ones who are losing their home. Now is it okay for your best friend to share this news with everyone he knows?

“Ohmygodno” is the unanimous response.

“That which is hateful to you, do not do to another person,” I remind them. That’s how Rabbi Hillel summed up all of Judaism, and by extension, all religion. It’s important to know what is true, but it is just as important to think about what is good.

We Reform Jews have the chutzpah to insist that our lives in temple and outside of temple not contradict each other. We fully embrace the technology which makes pushing an elevator button less work than climbing 14 flights of stairs on Shabbat, and at the very same time we fully embrace the idea that religion, not science, can guide us to live ethical, caring, passionate lives – lives which value goodness above all.

So yes, I believe in science. And in the Bible. It might be simpler to believe in only one of them, but I can’t do that. I’m a Reform Jew.

Shira joins me in wishing you an early Shana Tova – a year filled with good.

                                                                                                                   

                                                                                                            Rabbi Don Weber

Rabbi Don Weber

August 2014

A Letter About Israel

Dear Temple Members and Friends,

One of the realities of vacation in the 21st century is that no one is ever disconnected from the world anymore. This summer, as Shira and I have taken time away together, we are reminded daily – even hourly – of the situation in Israel.

There is a lot of noise out there, and I don’t wish to add to it. In my sermon on Yom Kippur I hope to share my thoughts about what it all means, and I pray that long before that we will see an end to the violence. But right now, as Hamas violated the ceasefire to which it agreed and invaded Israel not 90 minutes after the ceasefire began, I feel I need to reach out to you.

Sitting 6,000 miles away, the most important question we can ask is, “What can we do to help that will really make a difference?” I have three suggestions, all of which are concrete actions we can take today.

 

FIRST: In a Congress that doesn’t appear able to agree on what time of day it is, a near-unanimous vote in both houses resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars in new funding for the Iron Dome defense system. Given that those missiles cost almost $100,000 each, this is a tremendous accomplishment. President Obama, too, has been a strong supporter of Iron Dome since he became president, and without that support I shudder to think where Israel would be right now. So right now – right now – please sit down and write an email to our two Senators, Menendez and Booker, and to your Representative, who is either Pallone, Holt or Smith. Thank them for voting to support the Iron Dome Missile Defense System, and tell them how much it means to you personally that they did.

 

Go to http://www.contactingthecongress.org/ and skip everything except your zip code +4, and you will get a link to each of your Congressmen’s email. You can send the same letter to each, but please be sure to change their names! To email President Obama, go to http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments and send your email through that site.

 

SECOND: The Jewish Federation of Monmouth is raising funds to send directly to those most affected in Israel – the families of the soldiers killed and wounded, and those forced out of their homes by the war. Please contribute NOW, at https://salsa3.salsalabs.com/o/51069/p/salsa/donation/common/public/?donate_page_KEY=11180.

 

THIRD: Do you have family in Israel? Friends? The guide who led you on your Israel trip a year ago, or ten years ago? I know you think they are swamped with emails from all over the world, but they aren’t. It will mean more than I can say if you take two minutes and drop them a line, via email or Facebook: “I’m thinking of you. I hope you and your family are safe, and I hope Israel will overcome this threat to its existence quickly. Please, when you have a minute, drop me a line to tell me how you are doing. Thank you, and love…”

 

If you ever went to Israel with Shira and me, the office has the email addresses for our guides. Just tell them whether your guide was Ronnie Macarov, Arie Harel or Chana Estrin and they will give you the information. However you do it, please do it.

 

The situation in Israel is a microcosm of radical changes taking place around the world. It would be easy to say there is nothing an individual can do, and certainly none of us can change the whole world by ourselves. But I have always believed that we can change some of the world, and make things a little better, and for me, that has always been enough. As the Mishna says, “It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but you are not free to ignore it.”

 

Let’s get to work. Sha’alu shalom Yerushalayim, pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

 

With love,

 

Rabbi Don Weber

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Rabbi Died This Week

June 2014

I have been fortunate – blessed, actually – to have had many rabbis in my life. I don’t just mean someone who is a rabbi, but someone who has been rabi u-mori, my rabbi and my teacher. That’s actually the highest compliment I can give someone, and I count at least a half-dozen people whom I think about that way, including Shira. Each of them has changed my life, helped me to grow and helped me to understand – not just once, but time and time again.

"Kadima" ("Onward")

June 2014

NEWSLETTER ARTICLE JUNE/JULY 2014

In June, 1984, I became the rabbi of Temple Rodeph Torah. At the time we were meeting in the “cafetorium” of the Asher Holmes School in Morganville, Bar and Bat Mitzvah services were held wherever we could find a place, and 66 families made up the entire TRT community. Temple leaders, unable to figure out how to budget for a rabbi’s salary, put out a request for a rabbi to work “two-thirds time.”

 

At my first interview I shared my suspicion that “two-thirds time” probably meant full-time work at two-thirds pay – unless they thought it would be a good idea for me to work part-time at Pathmark on the side (remember Pathmark?). Sheepishly, they admitted I was right. And I took the offer.

The Son Who Doesn't Know Enough to Ask

April 2014

NEWSLETTER ARTICLE APRIL/MAY 2014

From Rabbi Weber

Here’s a bad, old Jewish joke:

 Eleven-year old David comes home from school and says, “Guess what, mom – I got a role in the school play!”

 “That’s wonderful!” his mother says. “What part did they give you?

“I’m the Jewish husband,” answers David.

“Young man, you march right back there and tell them that’s no good – you want a speaking part!”

Say NO to Academic Boycott of Israel

January 2014

Newsletter Article February/March 2014

NOTE:  For the list of colleges and universities that have publically rejected the ASA boycott, click here.

FROM RABBI WEBER

 Not everything bad that happens to Jews is anti-Semitic. But some things are.

 In December, the American Studies Association called for an academic boycott of Israel, asking universities to cut off relations with Israeli scholars and universities to protest the Palestinian situation.

 According to the New York Times:

The American Studies Association has never before called for an academic boycott of any nation’s universities, said Curtis Marez, the group’s president… He did not dispute that many nations, including many of Israel’s neighbors, are generally judged to have human rights records that are worse than Israel’s, or comparable, but he said, “one has to start somewhere.”

Know When to Hold 'Em, Know When to Fold 'Em

December 2013

Benayim, January 2014

From Rabbi Weber

Once a year, for our anniversary, Shira and I go to Atlantic City. Since our anniversary is in March and our day off is Tuesday, we get a very nice hotel room for almost nothing. We make up for the discount room with a dinner for two in one of the really excellent restaurants which dot the casino hotels.

 

After dinner, we head to Shira’s favorite: the video poker machines. Big spenders that we are, we go for the quarter-slots. Even there, we set out a specific amount of money we are going to play with. Most often that sum lasts long enough to provide our entertainment for the evening. Once in a while we agree to put in a little more because the money disappeared more quickly than expected. Even more rarely we walk away with enough to cover our dinner. Bottom line, if Atlantic City is depending on us to stay solvent, it’s in deep trouble.

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