January 15, 2021
I have a confession to make… I really enjoy writing this Chai-lights Shalom Y’all newsletter! The opportunity to review the weekly Torah portion and apply the lessons learned to things relevant to our San Antonio community energizes me.
I have a second confession to make… I was not looking forward to writing this week’s!
Now, to be fair, it’s not that I didn’t want to write this week’s, rather, I have been weighed down by the feedback I received on last week’s column.
For those of you who don’t know me yet (which I hope will change as we navigate through these COVID-times), I sincerely believe that the Jewish Federation is tasked with providing a space for every member of the Jewish community whether they support the left or the right, religious observance or a secular lifestyle, traditional values or progressive ideals.
As I have shared over the last few months in many virtual online meetings, every Jewish agency has its constituency, membership, or community to which it is dedicated. Our local synagogues have their members, our JCC, JFS, SAJSS, and all the other Jewish organizations have the community members they each respectively service, but the Jewish Federation is the only local organization whose responsibility is to the entire Jewish community no matter what they believe, how they practice, or who they support.
So, when I penned last week’s column, it was very much with the intent to be politically neutral, but still hold those responsible for storming the Capitol accountable for their actions. Anyone who crosses over the line of taking the law into their own hands, whether as an individual or mob, and decides that the law of the land no longer applies, and who chooses to force their unilateral will on others, brings us all into very dangerous territory.
We read in this week’s Torah portion Va’era, that Gd “hardened” Pharaoh’s heart. Many scholars have been critical of the verse, and even of Gd, because the phrase at first glance seems to set up Pharaoh to oppose Moses’ plea to set the slaves free from their bondage. However, others read this verse (me included) that Gd’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was Gd’s removal of outside forces influencing Pharaoh’s decision. Gd was allowing Pharaoh to make the decision that he believed was the right one for himself.
People were created in the image of Gd. We have the innate ability to know what is right and wrong, and we have the ability to grow from our mistakes, misunderstandings, and even failures, because we are on a lifelong journey of self-discovery and growth. The fact that we can believe in different things is what makes us human.
It is not for the Jewish Federation (and certainly not for me as its executive) to sit in judgement of anyone’s personal beliefs, thoughts, and/or feelings. However, it is also not for Federation to ignore transgressions when they occur, whether that is storming the Capitol, promoting BDS, or standing by when any wrongful act is committed.
The Jewish Federation is the tent which shelters all other Jewish tents in San Antonio. I believe that there are times where Gd will harden our heart too, in order to make sure we are doing what is right for the right reasons, and not because outside influences are trying to sway our position.
I look forward to your thoughts and feedback on this week’s column and sincerely appreciate your candor, because no matter what, the Jewish Federation is: