RSS

Once Upon a Time, on a Board

This is a small story. It so happened that, for a short time, my wife (I still can’t say “late wife” and suspect I never will) and I were on the board of The Jewish Federation of Brevard and Indian River Counties. My wife and I. That makes this an ancient story as well.

For a short period of time, Lee and I fit that stereotype the world often holds, and holds against, Jews – we were professionals who had our own business and were, seemingly, doing well for ourselves. A stereotype held by much of the non-Jewish world and, in my experience, held onto by many American Jews as well. As a child, in a temple in Charleston, South Carolina, a city with the oldest reform temple in the United States, there too, not fitting the stereotype, we were reminded, constantly, even I, a student of ten years old, that we were not really members – we were there by the grace of the board and my father laboured weekends on the grounds, on the building, to gain entrance for my brother and I to Hebrew school, and for our tickets to the High Holy Days. But, now, now were were in. We were courted. We were voted onto the board. It didn’t last long.

This came to mind as I was party to a conversation regarding a menorah lighting, for Chanukah, in Viera. It could not be held where it has been for the last few years. In a large rotunda in the middle of a shopping area, two hundred people would be too many. It is a hazard. The Christmas tree lighting, we were told, only attracted sixty-five. Maybe that’s because Christmas trees are everywhere. Christmas is ubiquitous. But one has to strain ones neck, squint ones eyes, ask for field glasses to find a menorah.

That same area has a Night of Lights parade, or called some such thing, that blocks the traffic in several directions, detours people over four miles, results in congestion and accidents. I know this as I was stuck in that traffic, detoured, and crawled past the accidents. They have this every year.

And so someone asked if there was not a Jewish Federation which could speak to this. Perhaps talk to the powers that be and ask them to look at this fairly and logically. Here was my reply.

Brevard and Indian River. Jewish Federation. Unfortunately, that group, and their board, are as filled with hate as many other groups. I used to be on their board and eventually resigned in protest.

Here is that story.

We did much, while were were there, and maybe we were on the board for a year, to build the food pantry and make it accessible to everyone. And to promote the yearly Jewish Festival. After, a visible, welcoming group, a group that opens the door to understanding, even if it chooses to hold on to traditions, is less frightening, less mysterious. Create your own narrative so others don’t create it for you.

Then, at one meeting, charity came up, as it often did. This was after a long discussion about how to make the Federation into something that more people would want to join, and donate yearly, to. Yearly memberships were down. I suggested this was because people felt the Federation wasn’t doing anything for them, was not something that benefited their lives or that they could see benefited the lives of others. What were we doing so that people could see their money was being used well?

The discussion moved from that to making calls to past members, instead of just letters. That would do it, was the thought. That would increase donations.

Then, charity. A request to have a fundraiser for a charity in Israel. An open ended charity. No specific plan for the money. They would do with it as they saw fit when the need arose.

I asked if there was not at least a focus for the charity. Medical? Educational? Why did I want to know?

Why? I wanted to make sure the charity, our money, wasn’t going to be building houses in the West bank, or buying ammunition. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to be used to shoot Palestinians.

I recall there were twelve people on the board. I recall being stated at intensely, quizzically, unbelieving, by at least four. Then, a reply. “Why? It’s not like they’re people.”

I do not recall what Lee said. (Here I am tempted to say, “She of blessed memory,” as is cuswakemeuptom, but I do not want her laughing at me.) I do not recall because I was shocked and collecting my own thoughts but I remember she spoke at length, angrily, with heart, and tore into them in a way, considering their faces, they were not accustomed. We resigned that night.

At the core, here, I believe is a problem with what it means to be Jewish. And not just for me, but what it really means. Chosen. Not chosen because we are better. Not chosen to hold our noses high. Chosen by God, if you believe in such a thing, because we can do the hard work of bringing Tikkun to the world. Tikkun Olam. To make a heaven of Earth. To collect the shards of kindness into which the world has been shattered and bring them back together to recreate the vessel of heaven. Right action, Buddhists call it. Repair the world. Which is why a Jew should stand up for everyone. Which is why Jews were at the forefront of civil rights, why there are six Jews listed among the dead on the Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery. Freedom Riders. Which is why Rabbi Heschel marched to Selma right next to Martin Luther King. Which is why we should not be for war. Which is why we should stand against poverty, against violence, disenfranchisement, and hate of all kinds, against all people. Tikkun is worth giving your life for.

This stand, and such is the pity, does not make me welcome in many temples. It often leaves me feeling lonely not just as a Jew in the United States, but also among my own tribe. And while I do not necessarily believe in God, or a god, I hold that concept in my heart. Tukkun Olam.

And that is a story from ancient history.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 17, 2016 in Culture, philosophy, Religion, Social

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Prayer to the Earth for Yom Kippur

Adam Byrn Tritt

We open our mouths to proclaim how beautiful the world is, how sweet life is and how dear to us you are, Lady, Mother of All Living.

We stand here today to remind ourselves that we are all part of this web of creation. We are all linked, so that what any of us does affects all of us, that we are all responsible for the Earth. That we are all responsible for each other. We have chosen to be here today as a symbol of our commitment, our awareness of this connection.

Even so, we forget our promises and our duties.

We gossip, we mock, we jeer.

We quarrel, we are unkind, we lie.

We neglect, we abuse, we betray.

We are cruel, we hate, we destroy.

We are careless, we are violent, we steal.

We are jealous, we oppress, we are xenophobic.

We are racist, we are sexist…

View original post 127 more words

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Yom Kippur as Manifest in an Approaching Dorsal Fin

Adam Byrn Tritt

It is Yom Kippur. A Monday. I have taken the day off work to walk, meditate, think. I have taken the day of work so I could go to temple the night before and not worry about the time, the hour, how late it was getting, when I would need to get up.

We asked our friends to go with us. In our back yard, playing with clay, our conversation set on cognates and religion. I mentioned the Buddha of compassion, Amitabha, and the other name for him, Amida. How the Amidah is the name of a prayer of compassion during Yom Kippur. How it relates to the fruit, almonds, as the ancient Hebrews saw the almond as a symbol for watchfulness, promises and redemption. How the part of the brain which we know to be the seat of our ability to see things in a global, compassionate way…

View original post 4,612 more words

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 11, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Let’s Burn Something Down Tonight

Let’s burn something down tonight.
Let’s find something old,
Something we used to think
We could not survive
Without, something significant. Let’s
Set it on fire.
An edifice we marveled at,
Something we looked up to,
Tall and strong, in
Admiration of power,
Importance, and potency.
Something we knew was forever,
Now, wondering
Why we ever thought
We couldn’t do without it?
Let’s burn it down.

Let’s set fire to something
That used to be the foundation of
Our being. Something
That would never occur to us
Could sink, erode,
Decay beneath us,
Leave our feet with no solid ground.
Something we built our entire lives on
But fell away. Let’s watch what’s built on it
List and lean,
Topple and crash by our own hand
Instead of the slow destruction of
Sand and rust.
We can be our own gods,
And end it with our own hands.
Let’s burn it down.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 1, 2016 in philosophy, Poetry, Social

 

Tags: , , , , ,

To Succeed in Life, You have to Actually Show Up OR How David Pastorius still owes me Eighty Dollars

I was reminded of this today. The first rule to success in anything is showing up.

Adam Byrn Tritt

This is not going to be a masterpiece. I am not saying I have, in the past, managed to create such but, If ever I had, this isn’t going to be it. No exemplar this. I’m just mad.

Yes, I know, some of you are saying I should use the word angry instead. Nope. Not this time. I’m just too mad.

Irresponsibility. Complete lack of follow-through. Zero respect for me or my time. And it is rampant.

And this last week, I had had enough. Here is what I posted as my status on Facebook the other morning.

“I will indulge in a moment of complaining and excoriating (which I shall confine to Monday mornings, though, I like Mondays) as I dislike being taken, as I abhor dishonesty and irresponsibility. Such went the way of my recent electric bass lessons for which I waited so long, for which money was…

View original post 766 more words

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Peacocks

When I think of peacocks
I think of you and
There are so many peacocks
Here. Their colors are
Everywhere. You are
Everywhere. Teal, turquoise, and
Azure surround me as
The color of you. Your eyes,
Electric blue, Blue –
The eyes on a feather,
Royal, The color of Sky and
Oceans of blue,
Sapphires of blue,
Everything your eyes see
Makes everything I see
Iridesce with,  flash with
You,  Now
Everything reminds me of peacocks.
When I think of peacocks
I think of you.

(for Arlene)

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 24, 2016 in Poetry

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Hair

I don’t know why I’m reading this tonight. Maybe it is seeing my kids after a year absent – seeing in the light of their eyes the omnipresent brightness of their mother. Maybe it is Sadie asking her questions, continuous, into the deep morning. Maybe it is part of the work of grief, the carrying of the weight in the dark to the mountain-top that is never reached.

Of everything I have ever written, this is the one I think of the most. Not the longest, by far. Maybe nearly the shortest. But the one that lives on my mind.

I was asked, by Murshida VA, what three things would I have someone know about grief.

I took a day to answer, then three things came at one. It has no schedule. It doesn’t end, or heal. One simply incorporates it into one’s life – a wound, a laming, to which one adapts, with which one lives, from which one learns, and with which one may become stronger. It cannot be controlled, anticipated, prepared for – it will be different each time and come in different ways. I will now add a fourth. It is the price of love – never shut it away and you will be able to love more, and again, and see love in all things. Those who cannot grieve cannot return to love, cannot return to grace.

Adam Byrn Tritt

I had pulled the car out of the garage and set up a chair.  Months earlier I had purchased a Norelco family hair cutting kit, and electric razor and attachments, for next to nothing at a garage sale. I had no idea why, but I brought it home, and now, now, it was plugged in and ready to be used.

The chemotherapy had left your hair in clumps.  It fell into the shower drain, left bits on the pillow, left itself on the couch. Each bit that fell, you cried. I watched as you turned once, as I held you up in the shower to see your hair on the drain.  Out of the shower, you stood, facing the mirror, clutching at your hair, pulling it out in clumps, tears falling, falling into the sink with the strands from between your fingers.

Hats you didn’t like. The scarves you used…

View original post 559 more words

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 24, 2016 in Uncategorized

 
 
%d bloggers like this: