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  • Writer's pictureRabbi Jeffrey L. Falick


Like many (probably most) of you I open up the news sites of the big "papers" every morning. I read the Free Press, the NYTimes, the Washington Post, parts of the Wall Street Journal, Haaretz, Yediot Achronot, and... well you get the picture.

I don't watch cable news or engage much with social media, which is perhaps why my head has not exploded yet.

Lately, it feels like I'm not just swimming in it, but that I'm drowning in it. As I scan the headlines and read the stories—so many with some Jewish or Israeli or Israeli-Jewish theme—I range from tears to anger to visceral fear. I also veer in and out of moral hesitation. All of it growing more intense with the ongoing debates among my fellow rabbis about what positions we should or should not vocalize, endorse, or condemn. I think you get the idea.

"Shver tsu zayn a Yid," as my grandfather used to say. It's hard to be a Jew.

He was right, of course. But he was also wrong. 

Being a Jew can also be a profound blessing, particularly given the opportunities it affords us to come together in times of deep sorrow and fear.

Rabbi Wine believed that as one of the "older tribes" of humanity, Jewish bonds are largely familial (even for those just now joining the family). Considered this way, we can appreciate that being Jewish also means having a set of shared "family" rituals. In difficult times these can draw us closer for mutual solace, comfort and—if only for an hour or two—some shared joy.

It's been said that antisemitism is the only real glue holding all the Jews together. Sometimes that rings true. Yet I would rather look at the Jewish glass (or should I say, kiddush cup?) as half full. I believe it is the sense of family that really holds us together. And just like our own families, we feel closer to those with whom we share the most. That's precisely why those of us with a humanist inclination gravitate towards our Humanistic Jewish family, especially at times like these.

And that's why this Friday night we are going to gather for the largest congregational Shabbat dinner we've had in quite some time—a Shabbat Shira, a Shabbat of Song—and we are going to sing our hearts out.

The Jewish thinker Ahad Ha-am wrote, "More than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish people."

We may not keep Shabbat in the most traditional of ways, but when we need it, it's never more than a week away.

This week, perhaps, we need it more than ever.


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