July has been a hard month. Elie Weisel passed away. Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were senselessly shot and killed by policemen. Women wearing tallit, kippot, and tefilin while praying with the Torah were shouted down and called “Amalek” by fellow Jews at the Kotel. Eight police officers, five in Dallas and three in Baton Rouge — Brent Thompson, Patrick Zamarripa, Michael Krol, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Smith, Montrell Jackson, Brad Garafola and Matthew Gerald, brutally lost their lives at the hands of snipers. My sorrow, fear, and outrage all stem from the same source: radical othering.
What does it mean to lead a Torah study? When we sit with congregants, friends, are guests in different communities, what is it we are doing when we are given the honor to lead a Torah study? There is something quite amazing that we are doing – we are framing the message for this group. For that short moment in time that we are asked to lead, we are transmitting a concept, idea, ideal or moral teaching that we believe the group needs to hear. It is a truly powerful moment and the texts, commentaries, works that we bring to the table also convey the message of what our values are or what sources contribute to our very own understanding of the week’s parashah. For the Torah studies that I lead, I am indebted to a rabbi and teacher who taught me the important lens of gender to bring forth powerful lessons, messages and teachings.
Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement 50 years ago does not grant us a free pass today. We Jews have to hear about racism and white privilege, even when it hurts to listen.
This summer at URJ Camp OSRUI, I’m segel (faculty) for Tiferet, a program for budding artists. I wish I had gone when I was a kid! These middle school chanichim (campers) spend hours a day in studios pursuing their passion in music, dance, theater, visual arts or digital arts, under the guidance of talented specialists who are masters of their craft.