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Different, Mindful Actions=Different, Better Results – Rosh Hashanah Day 2 (09/22/17)

Rabbi Neil SchumanHayom Harat Olam, Hayom Ya’amid BaMishpat…(The New Machzor, page 310)

“Today marks the creation of the world. One this day, all the world’s creatures stand before G-d in judgement…”

Today is Judgement day, but it appears as though our sentence has already been announced publicly.

When I started composing this speech on Friday September 8th, it was the Friday before Irma reached Florida. Three major hurricanes could be seen from one satellite photo.

Hurricane Irma approached the Bahamas, followed by Hurricane Jose approaching the Leeward Islands, both at Category 4. Hurricane Katia was threatening the southwestern Gulf of Mexico.

This Sunday, I just saw a picture of three hurricanes again: Jose, Lee and Maria.

This may indeed be something we have never seen before, and unfortunately, that’s real news!

Whether these are God’s judgment or the living planet is sending us a message, we need to listen.

We blow the shofar to waken ourselves from our spiritual malaise, but it seems as though the Shofar has already been blown.

The first Shofar blast was sounded at Charlottesville, and became even more shrill when the White House commented “There are good people on both sides!” No, President Trump, people ranting “Jews will not replace us” are not good people!

The shofar blast calls to us, “Awake!” to the resurgence of dangerous white supremacism, white nationalism, Neo-Nazism in our country.

The second Shofar blasts were sounded by the hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria that wreaked havoc over Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. These storms call on us, “Awake!” to the truth of global climate change and to speak out against our leadership that chooses to deny the issue.

The third Shofar blast came from our Attorney General, dashing the fragile stability of The Dreamers and other immigrants, documented or not.

We hear the wailing of heartbreak and sorrow in deportation sweeps and in the cancellation of the DACA exemptions.

These actions are cruel, and all of us, descendants of immigrants, should feel for these people. We know only too well the stories of Jews fleeing Nazi Germany and DP camps with nowhere to go, no place to seek refuge.

When I worked as a kosher supervisor at a Bakery four years ago, I met many Latinos that paid ten to fifteen thousand dollars to be smuggled into our country just to earn a minimum wage. It reminded me of stories of Jews paying traffickers to flee over the Alps during the Holocaust or Iranian Jews who had to get smuggled out to their country because of the Ayatollah. Today’s immigrants too left their homelands for a reason; they are fleeing starvation, poverty and, frequently, severe violence.  Our hearts should be open to them, just as others were open to us.

These are our Shofar blasts. The earth and the oppressed are calling out to us. We need to do something, and we need to do something different than what we have been doing until now.

Someone once said: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over again and expecting different results. If we want to see different, better results, then we all need to be doing something different, something outside of our comfort zone.

Attend more rallies for peace and equality.  We see the same people over and over again at these events, but now that we need to do things differently, we need the uncommon attendee.

Write or join petitions to our congressmen and leaders. Be brave enough to forward petitions on Facebook and other social media. Attend gatherings in mosques to stand up against Islamophobia.  Bring reusable shopping bags to cut down on our carbon footprint.  Buying locally sourced fruits and vegetables works as well for this, and organic vegetables are better not only for us, but for the earth as well.  It’s extra money, but we’ll be doing something different, and hopefully we’ll get different results.

Many organizations and individuals are moving out of their comfort zones as well:

For the first time, the Jewish Community Relations Council is protesting against a concert series.

The campaign, called Roger Waters is #OutOfTune with New York, includes a website ( in which New Yorkers are asked to sign a statement that says Waters’ “anti-Semitic and anti-Israel messages are not welcome in New York”.

It calls upon him to “stop using his musical platform to spread vicious propaganda and lies about Israel,” to “cease employing classic anti-Semitic imagery during your performances” and to “end your cultural boycott of Israel and embrace true peacemaking.”
Our Assemblyman, Charles Lavine, based upon Nassau County’s decision not to do business with companies that support BDS, called on the promoters of the Roger Waters concert at the Nassau Coliseum to contribute their corporate profits for the event to groups that actually promote peace in the Middle East. I applaud our Assemblyman for standing up for what we believe in.

Likewise, Billy Joel, whose father is Jewish, wore a Jewish yellow Holocaust star on his jacket at a concert after Charlottesville.

We’ve never seen much Jewish identification from Joel, but now he left his comfort zone to make a powerful statement.

Even the Rabbis of Long Island joined together to publish an ad in Newsday opposing the feeble and inept response of our President to the events of Charlottesville. The ad said as follows:

“We are heartened by the majority of politicians who are appalled by the recent rise in our land of anti-Semitism, racism, Islamophobia,
homophobia, and hatred. Their statements remind us what truly makes America great. At the same time, we are deeply disturbed by the
President’s words that have not, in our view, adequately and justly placed blame where it lies for the rise of anti-Semitism, racism and hatred of
others. This is not the time for moral equivocation, but for an embrace of the clarity of moral vision that President Washington expressed two
and a half centuries ago.”

Great things occur when one’s willing to make changes in their life:

No Room For Small Dreams, Shimon Peres’ posthumous autobiography was just released this month.

In it he describes the story of how Israel, at barely 8 years old, started to become a nuclear power.

Ben Gurion and Peres received a promise from France for the material and technological assistance need to build a nuclear reactor, but the financially strapped Israeli government wouldn’t give its support. They thought the idea, at this nascent point of Israel’s development was ludicrous.

So Ben Gurion and Peres, on their own, fundraised half the amount they’d need (over $5 million in 1956) from private donors.

Peres also couldn’t get the domestic technological support they’d need. Israel’s Weizmann Institute, the most prestigious scientific institute in all of the country, responded that Peres “was dreaming irresponsibly, that surely such an effort would lead Israel down a dark and dangerous path.” The University’s president made sure Peres understand that “his institute would play no role in whatever he intended.”

Undaunted, Peres turned to Israel’s young scientists coming out of yet, unheralded, Technion University in Haifa. They agreed to support the project.

Next Peres needed a project manager, but nobody in all of Israel had practical knowledge of building a nuclear reactor. Peres chose someone responsible and reliable that he felt could learn what was needed for this project.

But that was not enough:

“The Technion students went off to France to study nuclear engineering—and I joined them, not as the leader of the project but as a peer.

Chemistry and nuclear physics were challenging subjects, to be sure, and I came to them without any previous training. But I felt it essential to gain a degree of mastery in the science that would be driving the project.

In previous endeavors, I had come to understand that in addition to a clear vision and strategy, true leadership requires intricate knowledge—a facility with the granular details of every aspect of the mission. If I were to lead a group of scientists and engineers, I had an obligation to understand the work I was asking them to undertake. And so, alongside these young physicists, I spent day and night studying atomic particles and nuclear energy, and the process required to harness its power.”

Peres was truly a visionary. He was also someone willing to take risks and step out of his comfort zone to make great changes.

If we want to see change in our world: ecologically, politically, along the lines of race relations, we’re going to need to up our ante. We’re going to need to do things, we haven’t done before. G-d willing, by doing things differently in this coming year, we’ll see different, better results for our community, our country, for all of humanity and for our planet as well.

Shana Tova

Rabbi Neil

Manetto Hill Jewish Center
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