Shabbat Shalom from Rabbi Ain – August 18, 2017

Reflections on Events from this past week:
In 1893 a fiction writer and satirist was reflecting on the role of journalists and newspapers and shared the following “The job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” I think the same could go for a rabbi today. To be a rabbi is to speak to the afflicted and comfort them and remind the comfortable that they might to be afflicted. As a Rabbi and as a Jew it is clear that there are times that we cannot be silent. We must not sit on the sidelines when we see hatred and vitriol in our streets and in our communities. Our tradition is one that understands the past, engages with the present, and dreams about a better future. Therefore, I was not surprised when I had conversation after conversation this week, in the walls of the synagogue (and on many a Facebook wall) about the challenges that we are facing, as Jews and as Americans, in our country, with individuals from SPS.
Earlier this week I received an email from a member of SPS who wrote the following:
“When one sees the horrific images that have come out of Charlottesville and the response from President Trump one can be full of despair, but then again when one hears the words of Heather’s mother and sees the response last night from the people of Charlottesville and also from the people who have come out against Trump one can replace despair with hope.
“What do you suggest, Rabbi, as to our response to all that is going on as Jews and as Americans so that we can turn around the feeling of being helpless and just standing by?  I remember people saying that it’ll never happen here and I always disagreed – it can happen anywhere with the right set of circumstances and apparently we have these conditions now.”
Here was my response to her, which included what I shared earlier this week, on my personal Facebook post.
“As you wrote, these are trying times for our country, for us as Jews, and for all of us-members of humanity. What I think we need to do is simultaneously condemn the hate and continue to speak to those who seem to think what is going on is “ok enough.” We cannot completely separate into our separate corners. But, we cannot be silent.
For Tevye said “on the other hand.” At this moment, we must remember that there is no “other hand” and there is not “another side.” The fact that the President of the US made an equivalence between the Neo-Nazis/White Supremacists who are only marching to display their hatred, bigotry, racism, and antisemitism (since let’s be real, this isn’t a “right/left”/ “democrat/republican” policy debate) and those who are counter protesting for the dignity of human beings (a sacred value in our Torah), is beyond appalling. There is no other way to view a swastika. I just am speechless.”
Similarly, I received an email from another member of SPS who wanted to share an interview with Herman Cain, with me. The interview rejected the idea that President Trump is racist and that “liberals” are in fact just upset about the loss of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy. He asked for my thoughts on the interview.
My response was the following
“At this point, whether President Trump is racist or not is not the point for me. His lack of moral leadership throughout his presidency (and candidacy), culminating in this week’s events, is the problem. The criticism of President Trump is far from “just” the liberals. He is being criticized from the left and right-from lawmakers, business people, governors, and more. The Jewish community from the Reform to the Orthodox movement have universally rejected the “both sides” argument of the president, since this is a time to rise above the childish question of ‘they hit me first’ to what are the values that are being espoused.
This has absolutely nothing to do with Hillary Clinton, and the assumption that is does, is trying to shift the conversation about what is right in front of us-there are Neo-Nazis/White Supremacists marching in our country and raising their voices in a way that is an affront to all that we stand for and have stood against, every time we say “Never Again.” I have an expectation that my president will stand up loudly and proudly, and reject that.
Over the past 72 hours there has been article after article, statement after statement, from throughout the country, from all sides, rejecting any moral equivalence in the actions last week. Here are different articles from the Jewish world which demonstrate how the breadth of our community is approaching the events of this week.
First Hand Accounts:
Individual Leaders:
Finally, there has been a discussion among parents, what do we say to our kids?How do we explain what is going on? There are many levels to the issue. How do we explain that Jews are a target? How do we talk to our kids about the importance of inclusion of all people in our country?
Here are helpful links for parents of children:
We, as Jews, believe deeply in the sanctity of all life-We believe that all of us were created Betzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and we must remember that. We must hold up those values and we most promote them. Tomorrow, we will have the honor of hearing from Josh Orenstein, a SPS student who will be a Junior in high school this fall, reflecting on his recent pilgrimage to Eastern Europe and Israel, a trip which gave him insight into the depths of evil as well as the beauty and creativity of our people.  I will follow his remarks and a brief question/answer period with my own thoughts on this week and what the Torah can teach us. 
Finally, as we begin shabbat, may the memories of those who died in Charlottesville by a White Supremacist, and then yesterday, in Barcelona due to a horrific terrorist attack because of ISIS’s murderous ideology and their threat of Islamist violence, be forever a blessing and may we all be able to celebrate shabbat in peace.

In this Torah portion, Re’eh, Moses tells the Israelites that if they worship idols, they will be punished. Moses explains the laws of kosher food, and he details the three pilgrimage festivals: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

Friday night services are at 6:15 tonight and Shabbat morning services begin at 9:15 am tomorrow morning. Candle lighting is at 7:30 pm.
Please note: Rosh Chodesh Elul (where we begin sounding the Shofar) is this coming Tuesday and Wednesday. Morning Minyan will begin at 7:45 am. Please make an effort to be there since the end of the summer is often a challenge as more and more people are out of town.

Thought Question: In this week’s parasha, we read the following:

“And you shall tear down their altars, smash their monuments, burn their asherim with fire, cut down the graven images of their gods, and destroy their name from that place”-this verse will lead us into a conversation about statues and monuments in our world today.
August 22nd: 

Congregational Rooftop BBQ 
We’ll fire up the grill & prepare your burgers & franks just the way you like it! Sides, dessert, of course, plus soda & beer. (If you’d like something else B.Y.O.B. – wine must be kosher!)
Member: $18 per person (children under 13: complimentary)
Guest:  $25 per person
Advance reservations required. Call 212-593-3300 or email 

Flywheel Cycle Event: Renew your Body and Soul for the New Year
Join us at Flywheel Sport’s East 60th Street Studio for a full-body workout through indoor cycling in support of Sutton Place Synagogue’s Young Professionals Programs. The 45 minute ride followed by a post-ride reception will prepare us for a confident, joyful & healthy start as we get ready to think about the High Holiday season!
Flywheel Sport’s East 60th Street Studio
203 E 60th St (60th between 3rd and 2nd Avenues), New York, NY8:00 pm – Check-in
8:20 pm – Pre-ride “soul” session with Rabbi Ain
8:30 pm – Flywheel Ride
9:15 pm – Post-ride refreshments
$36 for a bike ticket
Ticket includes clip-in shoe rental, complimentary water and towel and a post-ride reception


That afternoon there will be programming throughout the day from 1-7 pm for people of all ages as we come together, reconnect, and introduce SPS to those looking for their Jewish community!
There will be lots to do that day including:
*Menʼs Club football party *Interactive food demos *Kids K-4 interactive cooking program and Kadima and USY (5th-12th grade) kick-off event *Shofar blowing class *Pre-school kids concert and Family Center Craft Studio Demo *Documentary (Hava Nagila) *High Holiday Crash-Course with Rabbi and Cantor *Baby Boomers Rooftop Happy Hour
Stay tuned for more details and plan on bringing friends!
SPS Southern Civil Rights Journey Feb 4-6, 2018! 
Throughout this year we will be learning about key moments in Jewish history. One important time for us as American Jews was the role we played in the Civil Rights Movement. Join members of SPS as we travel to Atlanta, Montgomery, Selma, and Birmingham as we recreate the steps of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and discuss issues that are still relevant today. Click for itinerary highlights, cost, and travel information and Registration Link. If you are interested in going, please let Rabbi Ain know.
SPS December 2018 Multi-Generational Trip to Israel! 
We are planning a trip to Israel for December 2018. This trip is great whether you have been to Israel already or not and will be guided by David Keren, an excellent guide who has lead an SPS trip in the past. We hope you will join us as we celebrate our relationship to the Jewish Homeland!
Highlights will include:
  • Two days in Tel Aviv where we will learn about the founding of the state and visit with many different communities that live in Israel today
  • An Off-Road Jeep tour competition in the Golan Heights as we understand geo-political issues of the day
  • Meeting with an artist in Tzfat
  • A Visit to a Chocolate Factory
  • Tours of Jerusalem-both modern and ancient, with a special b’nai mitzvah ceremony in the Egalitarian section of the Kotel as well as time to explore the new shops and restaurants
  • A tram ride to the top of Masada and wading in the depths of the Dead Sea
  • Special shabbat services and dinner with lone soldiers (IDF soldiers who have made aliyah who are living in Israel without their family)
  • An archaeological dig
  • A New Year’s Eve dinner in Jerusalem!
We are having an information session on September 12 at 7 pm at the home of SPS members Ross and Erica Levine. If you would like details about the location of the information session or about the trip itself please email me.

Shabbat shalom,
Rabbi Ain