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Security Matters To Us All

2017 March 1 by

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.

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Be Grateful and Show It

2016 December 30 by

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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 »

Mourning/Morning In America

2016 November 10 by

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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.

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Radical Islamic Terrorism, Hatred of Gays, Absurd Gun Laws and Mental Illness in Orlando

2016 June 15 by

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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!

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Contemporary Judaism for High School Students

2016 February 4 by

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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 »

Thank You To Our Non-Jewish University Synagogue Members

2015 December 29 by

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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 »

Where Are The Moderate Muslims? Here!

2015 December 29 by

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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 »

Combating Hatred with Love, Liberte, Egalite, and Fraternite

2015 November 17 by

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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 »

Shana Tova – Getting Into The Spirit of (57)76.

2015 September 8 by

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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 »

The Future Is Up To Us

2015 August 1 by

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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 »

MAZEL TOV! LOVE IS LOVE!

2015 June 26 by

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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 »

The Synagogue as a “For-Prophet”

2015 June 1 by

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We know that synagogues are called “not-for-profit” institutions. Like so many charities, they work to educate, uplift, inspire and heal us and our society. We need to sustain Jewish life through synagogues, for no other Jewish organization has the ability to reach us in as intimate and lifelong a way as a shul.

Good congregations have purpose, vision and dreams. They want to remind people to care – ethically and lovingly – about life and relationships and they help us to guide our children, grandchildren and ourselves in forming and maintaining values. Good congregations encourage us to see our lives in community and not alone and they are an important corrective to the all-too-human tendency to just “look out for number one.” Continue reading »

All Lives Matter – From Nepal to Slepak

2015 May 1 by

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Last Shabbat morning, before Mourners’ Kaddish, I spoke of the 1400 dead in Nepal. As I write these words, the number has risen to 4000 and may continue to rise much higher as the rural victims are counted.

The United States, Israel and many European and Asian countries are sending funds, food, equipment and personnel to aid in this tragedy. If you would like to help, please donate online to American Jewish World Service. Continue reading »

Celebrating Israel

2015 April 1 by

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Recently, I wrote about the Israeli elections. I’m sure that similar discussions will take place around Seder tables this month, as we all strive to make Judaism meaningful by having it address contemporary concerns. Some of these discussions will be heated, which, of course, proves their worth. We only express passionate opinions when we care about the issues involved, and we all care about Israel and its future. Continue reading »

An Unforgettable Day.

2015 March 17 by

Mitzvah Morning

This Sunday, March 22, is one of those days at University Synagogue that no one should miss. At 9:00 a.m., we will do the work of Tikkun Olam at “Mitzvah Morning,” preparing food, assembling toiletry packets, supporting those who defend our country and so much more, as children and adults, of all ages, gather to serve those in need. There’s always high energy, throughout our synagogue, with a dynamic personal and communal sense of purpose and responsibility. For more information, click here. Continue reading »

Tommy Lasorda, Mohammed Wattad, Jack Miles and A Lot of Jews!

2015 March 1 by

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One of the most impressive programs for which University Synagogue is known, across the country, is our “Distinguished Speakers Series.” Usually on Friday nights with a Shabbat Alive service, important people with something to say travel to University Synagogue from around the world to enlighten us with topics ranging from Bible to politics, Talmud to Israel, archaeology to history, Midrash to humor, religion to sports and spirituality to psychological well-being.

In fact, these are the topics of our speakers from now through January 2016. Over the years, we’ve had poets and writers, Knesset members and US Senators, filmmakers and scholars, rabbis and journalists, psychologists and lawyers – men and women from a variety of disciplines, religions and races – each with a compelling story and topic. Continue reading »

Erwin, Muslims, Purim and Archaeology

2015 February 20 by

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There’s so much going on at University Synagogue in the next ten days, so don’t miss any of it.

Our own Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of UCI Law School, will moderate an acclaimed and chilling documentary on the Eichmann trial on Wednesday, February 25 at 7:00 p.m., at the synagogue, sponsored by our own Orange County Jewish Film Festival. (And Erwin will be back on Sunday, March 22 for “The Biblical Trial;” so, sign up now.) Continue reading »

Merci Beaucoup, Paris. Now The Real Work Begins

2015 January 13 by

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Last week, I wrote about “Je Suis Charlie” and, the next day, another tragedy happened at the Hyper Cacher Kosher grocery. Seventeen victims – cartoonists, police and Jewish shoppers – created a perfect storm of rage and resolve to finally oppose Muslim extremism and terrorism as a shared human and global responsibility.

It’s naïve to believe that the murders have nothing to do with Islam, as some commentators have declared, but also bigoted to believe that most Muslims secretly support terrorism. Continue reading »

“Je Suis Charlie”

2015 January 12 by

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The forceful response by political and religious leaders around the world, including Muslims, to the murder of a dozen people at Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris is most hopeful. Even more impressive were spontaneous vigils by ordinary citizens declaring that the pen is mightier than the sword and that free speech should never be silenced by violence.

“Theocratic fascism” is the ideology of Muslim extremists, not Islam, and, hopefully, mainstream Muslims will realize that they are threatened more by Islamic radicals than by depictions and cartoons of the Prophet. Continue reading »

Rabbi Harold Schulweis

2015 January 1 by

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December was full of violence and tragedy – in Australia, Pakistan and New York. As the new year starts, however, we all want to find hope, light in the darkness, as Hanukkah proclaims. But wishing alone won’t do it. If we want safety and security, peace and justice, we have to work for them.The painful murder of two policemen in New York wasn’t simply a deranged reaction to Ferguson, Cleveland and Staten Island, but another instance of senselessly resorting to violence to solve problems here and around the world. Continue reading »