Earlier today the United States Senate voted 65-31 to repeal the policy known as Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. DADT forced gay men and lesbian women serving in the US Armed Forces to choose between the honor, dignity and responsibility of serving in the US Military and living lives in hiding. When I served as a Chaplain Candidate Program Officer in the US Navy was only about a year old. The policy was already having a powerful impact, forcing people to choose between closet and career. At that early stage of the policy chaplains were in a bind – – be a safe person to talk to, help people cope, follow policy? Difficult, difficult decisions.
Fast forward to today and victory – – people can serve for all the many reasons that men and women choose to serve in the US Armed Forces: love of country, patriotism, desire to help others, discipline, earn money for an education, dedication, love of brother/sister soldiers/sailors/airmen/marines. One’s sexual orientation no longer has to be a factor. Freedom. Freedom.
Judaism teaches us that all human beings are created in the image of the Divine, whether men love women, women love men, men love men or women love women. There are a variety of opinions within organized Judaism about the place of homosexuality in Judaism, but halakha and human dignity are not the same thing.
זה היום עשה הי - zeh hayom asah A – this is the day that G-d created, a day of rejoicing.
Some links on the repeal of DADT:
Rabbi Rachel Gurevitz on why repeal of DADT is a spiritual victory
NYTimes news story
Service Members United
Twitter stream on DADT
Once again Memorial Day has come to the United States. For many people the day corresponds to the beginning of summer, bbq, sales, a day off from work and getting together with friends. Memorial Day includes these things for many people, but we need to remember the original (and I say most important) reason for the holiday – to remember the members of the armed services who gave their lives in battle, in conflict, or in training.
Regardless of politics and political opinion about the wars, actions and conflicts in which the United States has engaged. we can support the men and women who serve in the armed forces.
Many years ago, I had the privilege of being in the US Navy Chaplain Candidate program. I became part of the Naval Reserves. I trained and served with men and women of passion, patriotism and devotion to call. Rabbis have served in the US military services since the Civil War, and Jews have served since the Revolutionary War. I am no longer in the Navy, yet I remain forever changed by the short time I served.
On this Memorial Day, let us remember all members of the armed forces of all faiths who sacrificed their lives. We think especially of the Jewish soldiers, airmen, marines, sailors, coast guardsmen who have died. A list of those who have died since September 11, 2001 is provided by the Jewish Welfare Board Chaplain’s Council.
Organizations Supporting and about Jews in the Military
Jewish War Veterans
Jewish Welfare Board Jewish Chaplains Council
National Museum of American Jewish Military History
Support Our Soldiers - send packages and encouragement to Jewish service members. (An effort of the Jewish War Veterans.)
The Brave – a listserv for families with members in the military
Links to some other posts on Jews in the military
I pray that the day will come soon when no country will need to send its children into battle and when armies are unnecessary, for then the words of the prophets will be evident all around – “Nation will not lift up sword against nation and they will not make war anymore. All will sit under their vines and fig trees and none will be afraid.”
I’m waiting for Tefillin. Yep. I took the plunge and bought a new set of tefillin. According to the tracking on USPS.com, they have made it through customs and are on their way to me. What fun it will be to get them and use them for the first time!
So many things are going on in the world – in Israel, in the US and elsewhere. Life has been so crazy – filled with work, reading, learning, teaching that I have had no time to post.
One of the things which I enjoy about the rabbinate is the opportunity to teach people at all ages and at various levels of knowledge.
This past shabbat a young person who I have been teaching (as rabbi of the congregation and sometimes his classroom teacher as well) since he was 6 years old became a bar mitzvah. What a joy it is to be part of a youngster’s life (in an appropriate way), contributing to their sense of Judaism and their Jewish identity.
Today, I worked with 4 other b’nai mitzvah students (including a dad who is learning to lein (chant torah) along with his son!). Encouraging them to continue studying Torah, to persevere through the challenging elements is one of the aspects of teaching/tutoring which comes up almost constantly. I hope that the hours I spend with them adds to their learning, their sense of self, their pride in being Jewish and their later life as Jewish adults. B’eztrat Hashem (G-d willing).
May our teaching increase learning and love of Judaism.
Through Zackary Sholem Berger I learned that the Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly has finally put its responsa (also called teshuvot) online, a great contemporary halakhic resource.
Go and study!