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Between You and Me



Two weeks after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, in February, I accompanied 12 students to the March for our Lives in Raleigh.  Shortly after, one of our teens organized a rally for students here in Asheville.  Inspired by their passion for change, their stories of being afraid at school and a deep conviction that all life is precious, I feel a shared responsibility to keep the issue of gun violence in the forefront of our minds.

I’ve been a rabbi for 22 years and a student of Tae Kwon Do for the last nine.  On the surface, it appears counterintuitive, but the two identities really do complement each other: the discipline, the ritual, the cultivation of awareness and character each demands feeds the other.  I practice mostly because martial arts are mind, body and spirit practices that teach deep respect for others and cultivate the qualities of perseverance, self control, indomitable spirit, integrity and courtesy. Despite having earned a third degree black belt, I’ve often still wondered whether I should rest more easily because I’m better equipped to defend myself.  As a martial artist, I walk taller and more confident when I’m alone at night.  But should I ever be in danger, would my training really be sufficient?

I had a memorable encounter with a visiting 6th degree master instructor early in my practice at a Tae Kwon Do tournament.  “At your skill level, do you feel confident you could defend yourself against anything, even if someone pulled a gun on you?”  I inquired.  His response floored me. “Yes, because I never leave the house without my pistol.”

Guns are a game changer.  Americans are 5% of the world’s population and we own 50% of the world’s guns.  In such an environment, it seems the only credible defense against a gun is another gun.  At the same time, studies are inconclusive whether putting more guns in the hands of good people is a good or a bad approach to gun violence.  Folks who study gun violence think the difficulty or ease with which guns can be acquired has more to do with changing the number of crimes committed with firearms.  In addition, we know painfully well from the school shooting in Florida that the authorities are not responding even when people who have guns are on FBI watchlists.  Addressing the scourge of gun violence has to be comprehensive and decisive.

I believe Parkland revealed to us too late to be prophetic that gun violence is a public health issue.  More than 210,000 students have experienced it at school since Columbine in 1999.  Those students will never be the same.  But I’m glad I am hearing their voices and I will join with them in making Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High be the tragedy that inspires us to do something collectively that will be sane and smart.  We Americans are good at tackling tough issues.  Remember how we radically changed American mores around tobacco, got people to start wearing seat belts and addressed the issue of drunk driving.  And our society is better for it. For all our sakes, now is the time to act on gun violence, too.

The Lotte Meyerson Tikkun Olam Committee



Upcoming Scheduled  Lotte Meyerson Tikkun Olam Events:

  • 1st Friday each month from 1-3 pm @ MANNA – CBHT volunteer team.  Contact Sandra Layton to help.
  • 3rd Friday each month @ noon – CBHT Vets shelter meal serving.  Contact Hilary Paradise to help.
  • May 23 – June 2– current Room in the Inn host week at St. Mary’s Episcopalian Church.
  • August 26 – Sept. 2., Next RITI host week @ CBHT (contact Sherrill Zoller for more information.
  • Monday, August 20th, @ 4:30 -next L.M. Tikkun Olam meeting.

Sanctuary Housing

Our pledge to support the Unitarian Church in their endeavor to provide sanctuary continues.  To date, approximately 30 congregants have completed one or more shifts.  Several other churches and synagogues are participating as well as a group of retired Peace Corps folks.  There are 4-hour shifts during the day, and an 8 PM to 8 AM shift as well.  This has been a gratifying and enjoyable contribution for the volunteers.

If you are able to provide some hours, please call the volunteer coordinators, Jackie Itzkovitz  or Ellen Fisher.  A background check is necessary and Craig has the forms.  The cost is $18.  If you are unable to give of your time, you might consider donating an Ingles food card, or making a donation by check to the Unitarian Universalist Church, making notation that it is for Sanctuary.

“When a stranger sojourns with you in your land you shall not do him wrong.  You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God.”

Leviticus 19:33-34

Jackie Itzkovitz

Helpmate – CBHT Sisterhood’s Social Action Project

In a recent letter, Helpmate let us know what our support means as Helpmate transforms and saves lives.  “Helpmate staff and volunteers answered the phone more than 3,000 times last year responding to people in crisis.  They provided direct services to more than 2,500 victims of domestic violence.  141 adults and 86 children were protected from imminent danger by staying in our shelter.”

You can make a difference in the lives of those staying at the Helpmate shelter.  We have been asked to provide the following items:   • Toothpaste  • Coffee –   To Brew in a Coffee Maker (not Keurig Cups) • Hair Brushes • Alarm Clocks • Shampoo and Conditioner

By supplying just one or two of these items we can assist Helpmate in working with our community to eliminate abuse and fear by providing safety, shelter, and support for people who have been victimized by domestic violence.

You can drop off your items anytime at the Temple.  Just leave them in the Helpmate Basket in the Dave Hall Gallery behind the coat rack.   Please continue to help Sisterhood show our caring support to those who are experiencing domestic violence by providing these items.

Should you have any questions please e-mail or call Gail Sobel or Alyse Wolfson.

Between You and Me



Years ago, rabbis everywhere were writing sermons on the intrinsic wisdom of the instructions one hears in advance of every airplane flight you’ll ever take. “In case of emergency, oxygen masks will drop down in front of you. Place the mask over your mouth and nose. If you are traveling with a child, please attend to your mask first, then the child’s mask.” For airline travel as for life, it is true that we cannot be of service to those who rely on us if we allow ourselves to become compromised. And conversely, we are twice the caregiver when we practice self-care.

Recently, I took a flight and an additional piece of that instruction struck me as having a life message hidden within it. “Although the bag may not inflate, oxygen is flowing to the mask.” What the flight attendant doesn’t tell you is that the masks are continuous flow masks. In an emergency situation, you will probably breathe fast enough to inhale all the oxygen flowing into it, preventing any excess to gather in the bag. Obviously, they are hoping to prevent people from thinking if they don’t see a full bag, the mask mustn’t be working.

In general in life, how many times do we make the mistake of thinking something isn’t happening because we don’t “see” evidence that it is? An ugly painful scab conceals healing happening on the skin underneath it. A medicine or a lifestyle change may be benefitting us even before we start to feel better. But knowing that “oxygen,” in this broad sense, is flowing even if the bag may not be full is a vital instruction for things much more important than that. It is a reminder that life requires practice having faith and being patient.

Oftentimes I sit in meditation thinking to myself, this is a waste of time, I could be doing something on my “to do” list. But when I’m able to meet something challenging later on in the day with equanimity and strength, I realize the nourishment of my practice was at work. We may wonder if all the love and support we gave our children, students, or friends actually matters to them. Isn’t it also true that at times, perhaps months or years later, you learned that call, touch, or word we said made all the difference to them? In all these ways, we exercise faith that oxygen is flowing without needing to know beforehand it’s filling the bag.

Equally vital is this lesson: The next time you seem to think your bag is empty, pause and ask yourself whether that is really true. It may just be that the bag isn’t full at the moment. But the truth is, until our last breath, oxygen is flowing, in the physical and spiritual senses. We have more to offer and more that continues to sustain us. And if we wait a little while, patiently and faithfully, we will see and know the bag was never empty at all.

 

Between You and Me



At services recently, I shared that this is the third year I’m renewing the same New Year’s intention: to create more space in my life to experience joy. In these challenging times, experiencing an abundance of joy seems ever more elusive. Rebbe Nachman of Bratslav, a well-known Chassidic personality who suffered from severe depression, some say bi-polar disorder, decided the medicine for his blues was joy. He taught, “Mitzvah g’dola l’heyot b’simcha. It is a great mitzvah to be b’simcha, joyful.” He also believed that some joy can be derived from looking into our own lives. But a more expansive experience of joy is also available to us. We can magnify our joy by stringing together the joys that are all around us.

Ordinary people do not find joy in all things at once, since there are many different sorts of joy. Take a wedding. Some people are happy because of the good food, meat and fish and all kinds of good things. Somebody else is happy because of the musicians. The parents are happy because their children are getting married. All sorts of happiness are present. But, no one is rejoicing in all those pleasures together; they’re just taking them in one after another. Then, of course, there is the one who really takes no pleasure at all in the wedding. This guest is busy suffering with jealousy that this person wound up with so-and-so.

But, the truly great and complete joy is when you can rejoice at all things together. This can only be done by looking upward to the root of joy, from which all good things come. There, in the root, all is one, and there you can rejoice at all of it together. That is truly great joy, shining with a very bright light. By joining things together, linking one joy to another, the light of joy itself grows greater. Its strength grows by the fact that each joy, as it touches the next one, gives forth an extra sparkle of light. The more joys are linked, the brighter those sparklings. So, when all of joy is joined together, the brilliance is truly incredible.
(Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, Likkutei Moharan II 34)

This is what sacred community offers: a place where we find we can link simchas together and increase the brilliance of our joy. I’ve seen this happen before my eyes. Recently, I greeted a congregant before services and it wasn’t long before it became apparent she was distressed, worried and generally not in a good place. By the end of services, there was a visible transformation in her. If she had chosen to stay home, perhaps her worries and unhappiness might have eaten away at her even more. But at temple, she seemed to tap into the joy in the music, the gladness of the people around her, the possibility to connect to the Root of All Joy until her worry was replaced with lightness and light. May our Temple continue to lighten and enlighten all of us.

President’s Message



I sat in the back at temple on a recent Friday. Not in my usual spot near the front, and not on the bimah; someone else was taking a turn. We were expecting a call from one of our kids, who was coming home for the weekend and would need a ride, so we wanted to be able to slip out. It was such an unexpected pleasure.

I inadvertently ended up being surrounded by friends. I had a new friend on one side of me and my husband on the other, and I had old friends, from the temple and from life, behind me. It felt familiar and comfortable, and I found myself easily relaxing into the service, able to put the hectic week behind me. Billy and Sarah Kim helped by contributing their soulful music and Rabbi’s sermon about Israel moved me. I prayed and I meditated. I had a chance to observe how everyone else was enjoying the service. We were observing Ed’s father’s yahrzeit, and I felt the full force of community when we stood along with others who were doing the same, and the rest of the congregation stood to honor and recognize our loss. That is always so powerful for me. I laughed, along with everyone, when a visitor said he never thought he would hear a Beatles song in a synagogue. Were you there? We sang John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’—so beautiful. It was really just a typical Friday service, but it fed my soul. I felt so grateful for that quiet time of spiritual renewal.

Souper Bowl Sunday was that same weekend. Dave Hall was bustling with activity when I arrived with the Board’s soup entry. Everyone was busy warming up their soup and decorating their tables, and the friendly, competitive banter had already started. “Ice cream soup? No way, that’s cheating!” As the religious school kids started pouring in, it was clear how proud they were of their contributions. Families sat around at the center tables and talked. Everyone, young and old, tasted soup until they were just too full to take another sip. The space was filled with people talking and laughing and enjoying each other. The Souper Bowl is always one of our best social events, bringing people of all ages together. I felt so grateful for that boisterous time of socializing with my community.

Reflecting back on that weekend, I realize that we all have opportunities to find what we need from our temple. It may be spiritual or social; it may be learning or doing. It may be lifecycle events, but it is so much more. We are so fortunate to have staff and volunteers who make all of this possible!

For me, the best definition of community involves both giving and receiving. Have you found both at Beth HaTephila? I hope that you’ll take a look at the Engagement Committee (formerly known as the Membership Committee) article in this month’s Menorah and consider how you might get involved.

As always, please don’t hesitate to contact me to talk about this or anything else you want to share.

Shalom,

Karen

March, 2018