by Rabbi Adam Roffman
While driving around Dallas this week, I listened to an interview on NPR with Dr. Duane Bidwell, a professor at the Claremont School of Divinity. The topic of the interview was his new book, When One Religion Isn’t Enough: The Lives of Spiritual Fluidity. His argument, essentially, was that there are a growing number of Americans who don’t identify themselves as being solely Christian, or Muslim, or Jewish but rather a combination of different religions. While much of this 21st century phenomenon is the result of intermarriage (he cites marriage between Jews and Christians as a primary example,) he argues that in today’s society it is becoming more and more acceptable to take on a much less dogmatic, more flexible religious identity.
Good evening, and welcome to Congregation Shearith Israel! It is a great honor and privilege to be hosting all of you here at our congregation for this first of what we hope will be an annual Community Interfaith Thanksgiving Service, rotating in venue from year to year amongst different local houses of faith. I’m also honored to have been asked by my friends and colleagues on the planning committee for this service to present some remarks this evening on our theme of “Diverse in Faith, United in Gratitude”.
Last night we had a beautiful evening here at Shearith as we hosted the 1st Annual Greater Dallas Interfaith Thanksgiving Service. Beck Family Sanctuary was filled with 400 people from Jewish, Christian and Muslim congregations all over the area who came for a celebration of community and to reflect on the evening’s theme of “Diverse in Faith, United in Gratitude”.
by Rabbi Ari Sunshine
This past weekend was an incredible high for our family as we celebrated our daughter Elana’s Bat Mitzvah. We were so proud of Elana, the wonderful job she did, the poise she displayed, and her warmth that shone through. Moreover, we were so delighted and honored to be able to share this simcha with so many of you in addition to our out of town family and friends. Your presence and the outpouring of your love and support for Elana and for our family added so much to this experience and elevated our Shabbat and our weekend.
Thank you to Sally Wolfish who recently hosted a Shabbat dinner for David with some fellow members of The Ladder Project Executive Committee. David appreciated the warm hospitality of Sally and her husband Larry. After dinner, the group helped David fill out a long, online application for a new job since David does not have wi-fi in his apartment. Good job team - he got the job!
Sermon/Bat Mitzvah Charge for Elana
Parashat Chayei Sarah
by Rabbi Ari Sunshine
At the end of last week’s parasha, Vayera, we experienced the harrowing and traumatic story of the Akeidah, the binding of Isaac. The narrative relates to us, the readers, of God’s test of his faithful servant Abraham, demanding the sacrifice of Isaac, the beloved son of his old age and the key to the continuation of the lasting covenant that God had promised Abraham. Hearing God’s command, and despite any apprehension or doubt he may have felt at the incongruity of this demand with the covenantal promise, Abraham zealously gets up early, saddles his donkey, and sets off with Isaac on what Abraham initially can only assume will be a journey that will end in personal heartbreak, even if it simultaneously affirms his faith in God. And what does Isaac know or understand about this journey? Not much, it would appear, until the third day, when Abraham and Isaac separate from the two servants who were travelling with them and take the wood, the firestone, and the knife and continue their trek alone, with Isaac himself bearing the burden of the wood while Abraham carries the firestone and the knife, “vayelchu shneyhem yachdav”, “and the two of them walked on together”. It is only at this juncture that Isaac begins to wonder what is happening here, as he notices that they have the instruments necessary for a sacrifice, but they are missing the most critical element of all: a sheep.
by Rabbi Adam Roffman
When I found myself arm in arm with Shira, walking down the hallways of Levine Academy earlier this week after dropping Hannah off for school, suddenly struggling to stifle my sobbing, I realized that this is the kind of grief that gets worse before it gets better. And before the day was over, I understood why.
I was stunned on Shabbat morning by the news of the shooting at Tree of Life in Pittsburgh. On Sunday evening, I was uplifted by the rush and emotion of the remarkably diverse gathering in the Aaron Family Sanctuary. And on Monday morning, once the details of a mass murder like this that we all seem to seek out, despite their horrific nature, had made their way into the daily papers, I was newly devastated.
Shearith Israel clergy, staff and congregants share