2017 May 18 by university
So many people have called or emailed me to say how sorry they were to hear that UCI Law School Founding Dean and beloved University Synagogue member, Erwin Chemerinsky, will be leaving Irvine for a new position as Dean of the Law School of UC Berkeley. This is a wonderful opportunity for Erwin and we’re excited for him, his wife, Catherine Fisk, who will be a tenured law professor at Berkeley, and their daughter, Mara. Erwin’s legal brilliance and his incredible talent as an
2017 May 4 by university
Every so often, we hear of someone who has performed an incredibly selfless act. We read a story in the paper or watch it on television, and we smile with admiration at his/her profound altruism. Our faith in humanity expands and we are reminded of the pivotal role that one person can play in the lives of others.
In our tradition, “Pikuach Nefesh”/saving a life is one of the greatest mitzvot. We save one life and we rescue a whole world of friends and family, including children and descendants not yet born. Saving one life saves a world, says our tradition. Continue reading »
2017 May 1 by university
At High Holiday services, I spoke a bit about the Jewish mystical tradition of Gematria. Each Hebrew letter, in Kabbalah, is assigned a numerical value, so that this Jewish year 5777 equals 26 (the total of 5 + 7 + 7 + 7) and 26 also equals Adonai/YHVH (Divinity) as well as 6/3/17 – the date of our 30th anniversary Gala dinner. It’s “bashert” – June 3, 2017 will “align the cosmos” for an incredible celebration!
Obviously, I’m not speaking literally, but I am celebrating with transcendent and overflowing joy. I am kvelling, as I know so many of you are, that University Synagogue has shaped our Judaism and that of the Jewish future for 30 years!
We will be honoring at our Gala our three founding Presidents and all those who joined in the early years of our congregation. Even if you don’t know David Sandor, Carol Richmond or Hinda Beral well, even if you don’t like Gala dinner dances, even if you are not the most active University Synagogue member, I’m asking you to be with us. (Invitations were mailed last week. If you didn’t get one or misplaced it, go online to www.universitysynagogue.org and sign up or call the office.)
2017 March 1 by university
Anti-Semitic incidents across the country over the last few weeks have alarmed not only the Jewish community, but all people of conscience. Bomb threats called into Jewish Community Centers and Jewish day schools, as well as cemetery desecrations, are the work of a few deranged people, tragically influenced by the growth of the “Alt-Right.” All of us had hoped that the religious and racial bigotry of white supremacists had decreased over the last 50 years, but unfortunately recent political events and personalities have exacerbated this moral stain in our country and around the world. As Jews, we need to demand that our elected representatives from Congress to the White House speak in the most forceful and decisive ways with zero tolerance for hate.
2017 January 31 by university
Whether you are a Republican, Democrat or Independent, whether you voted for President Trump or not, the callous and unvetted way in which his latest Executive Order was issued displays an appalling lack of empathy, governmental experience, and historical memory in regard to refugees.
For Jews, treating the stranger with dignity is essential. Hospitality – hachnasat orchim – is one of our primary values. We have been Continue reading »
2016 December 30 by university
Today, I want to focus on gratitude. Here’s another daily spiritual exercise. Ask yourself and your children and grandchildren “For what am I grateful today?” It’s a simple question, but it can be a profound one, as well. In our tradition, we’re asked to say 100 blessings a day! (I’m only asking you for one.) It’s Jewish tradition’s way of cultivating awareness and gratitude for all of the blessings in our lives. Continue reading »
2016 December 6 by university
It’s difficult to be an immigrant (as so many Muslims in America are) and it’s hard to be a Muslim these days in America, as well. We are all frightened by Muslim terrorists all over the Middle East (especially in Israel), as well as those in Europe and the United States. Last Friday night, at services, before Kaddish, we remembered the victims of home-grown Islamic terrorism on the first Yahrzeit of the 14 people murdered in San Bernardino.
But we also know that a Muslim registry or barring all Muslim immigrants is not the answer. Knowing our Muslim neighbors will decrease Continue reading »
2016 November 29 by university
Israel sustained substantial damage from the hundreds of fires whose origin was both negligence and arson over the past week. Thankfully, no lives were lost, but there were hundreds of injuries like smoke inhalation. Terrorism was one of the causes, but too many people have focused on Palestinians as culprits only and have forgotten that they have been victims, too.
In fact, many of the firefighters were Israeli Arabs, and Palestinian President Abbas sent fire trucks and personnel to fight the fires, as well. Haifa – the city with the most positive interaction between Arabs and Jews – suffered the most. Trees, for both Jews and Arabs, represent
2016 November 22 by university
Not only in the press and on TV, but at social gatherings, services and adult education classes, the dominant topic continues to be the Presidential election. There’s so much uncertainty, confusing rhetoric, the appointment of Breitbart’s Steve Bannon as chief adviser, alt-right triumphalism and the KKK victory parade that, for the first time that I can ever remember, Jews are actually worried not only about issues like Israel, abortion, the Supreme Court and gay rights, but for their own place in America.
Even centrist Jewish organizations like the Anti-Defamation League have made very strong statements against Bannon, and the ADL’s new Continue reading »
2016 November 10 by university
To those who voted for Mr. Trump, our President-Elect, it’s a good day. It will take political commentators a long time to figure out “how” and “why” he won and how most of their predictions were wrong.
Surprisingly (or not), I have been incredibly busy consoling congregants. All through last night and today, I’ve received emails, calls and text messages from those who are grieving, angry and frightened at Mr. Trump’s triumph.
2016 November 1 by university
Each year, I have the honor and pleasure of attending a conference in Washington, DC of former White House Fellows where members of the President’s administration (Cabinet members and sometimes the President and Vice President) speak, along with Senators, Continue reading »
2016 September 29 by university
One of the gedolai ha-dor (giants of this generation) has passed away. Still a visionary at age 93, Shimon Peres believed that “imagination Continue reading »
2016 June 15 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
For the last few days, I’ve read and listened to commentators trying to discern whether the murder of 49 innocent victims in Orlando was due to Islamic radicalization, bigotry against the LGBT community, mental instability or lax gun laws. The answer is not which one, but, yes, all!
2016 February 4 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
We had a wonderful class with our Madrichim/High School students two Sundays ago. I asked the students to create the curriculum by telling me what they wanted to learn about Judaism in relation to issues about which they are curious and concerned.
They came up with the following topics: Continue reading »
2015 December 29 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
During the five weeks from late November to the beginning of January, people celebrate two holidays that we share with all Americans – Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – and two that belong to separate religions – Hanukkah and Christmas. The first two remind us of gratitude and renewal and the second two – although distinct in many ways – share a belief that good will triumph over evil and that hope will prevail over fear. Continue reading »
2015 December 29 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
We’re all frustrated by the world’s inability to deal with the threat of ISIS. Islamic radicalism is a perversion of Islam, but there are still too many Muslims around the world who ignore its distortions out of fear or indifference. Because Islam has not yet created a liberal religious movement, those who wish to find spirituality in their faith are often forced into congregating with traditionalists who reject modernity, embrace textual literalism and yearn for a Messianic Caliphate. Continue reading »
2015 November 17 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
This Friday night, our “Shabbat Alive” service will be joyous, as always, but we will also grapple with some serious issues. We’ll enjoy baseball legend Tommy Lasorda (bring your friends, children and grandchildren to Shabbat dinner and services to meet him), but we’ll also set aside time to reflect on Paris, to honor veterans on the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, to remember the tragic assassinations of President Kennedy and Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin (both of which occurred in November) and to rededicate ourselves to working for a world of peace and justice. Continue reading »
2015 September 8 by university
I’m looking forward to seeing all of you at High Holiday services. It will be a time of celebration, personal renewal, introspection, apologizing and forgiving. Let’s “party hard” on Rosh Hashanah – counting our blessings, appreciating ourselves and those around us (and telling them how important they are) and vowing to try new things in the New Year. Let’s get into the “spirit of 76” (5776) and make it a good, even great, year. Let’s not wait for good things to happen – let’s make them happen! Continue reading »
2015 August 1 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
A few months ago, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, President of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, spoke at University Synagogue. She proudly mentioned many of the exciting innovations that our movement has created in the past – the first Bat Mitzvah ceremony in 1922, havurot, women rabbis, LGBT equality, inclusivity for intermarried couples and so much more. She described how our movement has influenced Reform and Conservative Judaism, as well, and how those movements often want Reconstructionist Judaism to experiment with new ideas first in order to test the waters for them. Continue reading »
2015 June 26 by Rabbi Arnold Rachlis
Today is our wedding anniversary and Ruti and I could not have received a better present than the Supreme Court’s decision on marriage equality. It’s a reminder that love is wider than prejudice and fear and more inclusive than some of the more myopic, inherited religious, cultural and legal traditions of the past. Continue reading »