Jun 16, 2016

After Orlando

After Orlando
(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Dear Chevreh, 

Yet again. Again. Gun violence. But more. Bigger. the biggest in American history. And targeting the LGBT community. On a Latino-themed evening. 

And for us, on Shavuot. Many of us still reveling (and tired) from the amazing East Bay Tikkun Leyl Shavuot. I found myself frustrated by the inability to share thoughts, read the thoughts of others online due to the traditional observance of the Holiday. 

My reflection about how it felt at Netivot Shalom Sunday morning, are well represented in this Times of Israel article by Amanda Borschel-Dan, which covered my work with Rabbis Against Gun Violence. This article, by Rob Gloster, in this coming week's J Weekly brings many Jewish voices together in response to the attack on Pulse, upon the LGBT community, upon us all. 

Chevreh, I'm writing for several reasons. 

The Filibuster on the floor of the Senate last night, led by CT Senator Chris Murphy, joined by 40 other senators, including 2 Republicans and one Independent, marks a symbolic moment. And I believe Netivot Shalom can continue to play a role in the healing and cultural shift our nation needs so very badly. 

We must, as a faith community, reach out to our Muslim sisters and brotherswho are victims of hate, provoked in part by the media's (and some politicians') readiness to identify the attacker (yemach shemo, may his name be forever erased) as a Muslim terrorist. Our sold out interfaith Iftar this Sunday demonstrates that we are well-positioned to make a difference in this important way.  (Thank you, Serena Heaslip and many others for supporting this beautiful event for the 9th annual year!)

In truth, every act of gun violence is terrorism. Our willingness to label whiteattackers "lone wolves," black attackers "thugs," Muslim attackers as "terrorists," and our unwillingness to hold our elected officials and gun manufacturers legally accountable is something we must call out. As we say every Shabbat: 

"we have not come into being to hate, or to destroy/ we have come into being to praise, to labor, and to love."

Chevreh, I'm writing to us all because I'm hearing from many congregants that it's hard to have hope. I therefore write to remind us all that hope is a commandment, and the worst sin is despair. Every headline has its own focus, but we are called to envision and build a future that surpasses expectations.  Again, we pray every Shabbat:

"May we see the day when war and bloodshed cease, when a great peace will embrace the whole world."

This will, we are sad to acknowledge, not be the end. Hope will continue to be an effort, and countless lives have already been irrevocably affected by the racism, homophobia, gun-worship, and civic/political inaction that combine to incite and fuel the current American Gun Violence epidemic. 

I remain determined to do my part, as an American rabbi. I am deeply grateful that Netivot Shalom has continued to support my work in the Gun Violence Prevention world, and invite you to strengthen your resolve and involvement as we continue fulfilling Jewish tradition's instruction to labor for the welfare of society.

This week, in fact, marks the one year anniversary of the attack on a Black Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Rabbis Against Gun Violence, in coalition with many other organizations, has named this Shabbat "Stand Up Shabbat" and has prepared this set of resources. I will recite one of the prayers from this packet this Shabbat morning.

For now, friends, we will do more than pray. We will love each other even more, reach out to our fellow Americans, call friends and loved ones, call our elected officials, and build "Olam Chesed" the world of Love we know can and must become real. 

In the spirit of this week's Parsha: "Naso / may we be counted" among those who are upstanders for justice. 

Jun 14, 2016

We're done praying. Join the movement. Join us at Rabbis Against Gun Violence.

A few things are clear, having been forced into tense contemplation by the now-over holiday of Shavuot: We're done praying. The attack on Queer people in Orlando - the worst gun massacre in American history - during the one year anniversary week of the shooting massacre in a Black Charleston church, is a tipping point. Here's part of what that means: any elected official who votes with NRA will lose their seat - including Democrats. Here's another thing that's clear: we're done with moments of silence and we're done with prayers. If faith isn't something we practice with our bodies, the blood spilled in this American ‪#‎GunViolence‬ epidemic is on our hands. We don't have to live this way. Join the movement. Join us at Rabbis Against Gun Violence. Tomorrow will be too late. We've got work to do. Stand with your LGBTQ brothers and sisters. And get moving. This election we take our lives back from the ‪#‎NRA‬.

Jun 7, 2016

Interfaith letter to Obama re: Central American migrants - deadline Wednesday 6/8

Dear Chevreh,

I invite you to join HIAS in signing the attached interfaith letter to President Obama, urging him to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Central America with fair and humane solutions such as granting Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for El Salvador,  Guatemala, and Honduras. Text of the letter is pasted below. Along with our partners in the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, we are seeking sign-ons from national and local faith-based organizations as well as faith leaders. Please share this opportunity with anyone who might be interested.

Click here to sign prior to Wednesday, June 8 at 12pm EST.

An early chag sameach!

Kol Tuv,
Menachem

............................
Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Rabbi, Congregation Netivot Shalom
Chair, Rabbis Against Gun VIolence (#RAGV)

To join Rabbi Creditor's email list, send a blank email to thetisch-subscribe@yahoogroups.com!
 
***

Interfaith Letter re: Central American Migration

June 2, 2016

President Barack Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Honorable Jeh Johnson
Secretary
U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Washington, DC 20528

Dear President Obama and Secretary Johnson,

As faith leaders and faith-based organizations from many different traditions, we write out of grave concern for the dramatically escalating violence that has precipitated a humanitarian crisis of refugees fleeing El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras (an area known as the “Northern Triangle”). Together, we call on the U.S. government to grant Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to those in the U.S. who have fled El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras and immediately cease detaining and deporting children, families, and individuals from these families seeking protection here. TPS affords the Administration an important tool to extend temporary protections, and a shield from deportations, to extremely vulnerable populations. We cannot sit idly by while our Central American brothers and sisters are returned to the very violence that has forced them from their homes. Instead of continuing unnecessary detention and dangerous deportation policies, we must carry on our nation’s proud history of hospitality and moral leadership.

As people of faith, our concern stems from shared values rooted in our sacred texts that remind us to love our neighbor and welcome the sojourner among us. The Torah tells us: "The strangers who sojourn with you shall be to you as the natives among you, and you shall love them as yourself; for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 19:33-34). In the New Testament, Jesus tells us to welcome the stranger, for "what you do to the least of my brethren, you do unto me” (Matthew 25:40). The Qur'an tells us that we should “do good to...those in need, neighbors who are near, neighbors who are strangers, the companion by your side, the wayfarer that you meet” (4:36). The Hindu Taitiriya Upanishad tells us: “The guest is a representative of God” (1.11.2).

Children, families, women, and men are fleeing violence, forced gang conscription, human trafficking, and sexual exploitation in the Northern Triangle. Human rights violations in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras are compounded by the inability of these governments to protect their own citizens. The Northern Triangle’s death toll in 2015 tallied nearly 17,500, a higher death toll than most ongoing armed conflicts. Since 2005, in Honduras alone, murders of women and girls have increased by 346 percent, and murders of men and boys have grown by 292 percent. With a homicide rate of 57 per 100,000 people, Honduras suffers 10 times more homicides than the world average and four times the number of homicides than the average country in the Americas. El Salvador and Guatemala have the top two highest homicide rates in the world for children. Indeed, El Salvador recently overtook Honduras as the murder capital of the world. Officials recorded 6,657 people murdered in El Salvador in 2015, a 70 percent increase from 2014. In El Salvador, the homicide rate of 104 people per 100,000 people is the highest for any country in nearly 20 years. In addition, a serious and pervasive armed conflict within Guatemala has led to soaring levels of additional violence, making Guatemala’s homicide rate the fifth highest in the world. These extreme levels of violence encompass all corners of society and those who are deported after seeking asylum are at exceptionally high risk because they fled specific threats or attempts on their lives.

Due to the obvious need for legal recognition of these severe circumstances in the Northern Triangle, we call on the U.S. government to fully recognize these trends as a humanitarian crisis deserving of Temporary Protected Status. The region’s neighboring countries – in particular, Belize, Costa Rica, Mexico, Nicaragua, and Panama – are already dealing with a 1,185% increase in asylum applications from El Salvadorans, Guatemalans, and Hondurans. The United States has moral and legal obligations under international and U.S. law to “non-refoulement,” which ensures that individuals seeking protection are not returned to territories where their life or freedom would be threatened.\

The risk of deportation from the United States to the Northern Triangle countries is tangible and profound, and faith communities across the Northern Triangle struggle to protect returning individuals, while also addressing the root causes of violence. DHS Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has made women and children from this region, who recently fled to the U.S. and were not granted asylum, a priority for enforcement and has already sent many of them back to a region with endemic violence and persecution. Between January 2014 and September 2015, at least 83 nationals deported back to El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala were reported to have been subsequently murdered, with 45 murders in El Salvador, 35 in Honduras, and three in Guatemala. The United States has already taken important steps to recognize the need for protection for citizens of Northern Triangle countries by collaborating with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to expand screening and admissions for qualified Central American refugees. However, this program is not yet fully operative, and families and individuals whose lives are at immediate risk often have no other option than to seek protection by fleeing. In the midst of this humanitarian crisis, scaling up enforcement efforts, limiting access to due process, and expanding detention of vulnerable populations is the wrong approach.

The United States has a legal and moral responsibility to not return children, families, and individuals that have been subject to persecution to extremely violent territories. We pray that you may find compassion and ask you to immediately stop the detention and deportation of children, families, women, and men seeking protection from El Salvador, Honduras, and Guatemala and extend TPS designations for these countries. Now is the time to respond to this humanitarian crisis with fair and humane solutions. As people of faith, we urge you to think about the moral imperative to love our neighbor, welcome the sojourner, and care for the most vulnerable among us.

Sincerely,

Click here to sign prior to Wednesday, June 8 at 12pm EST.

Jun 2, 2016

Orange Isn't Enough

Orange Isn't Enough
(c) Rabbi 
Menachem Creditor

Can a color change the world? 
It cannot bring back the dead. 
For those do I weep...
And yet we all know how little weeping will do.
If tears had the power to make the difference, 
there would be no more suffering.
Guns. Wretched, terrible things.
Money. Horrible, corrupting thing.
These Orange images,
fierce eyes, lit landmarks,
survivors, children,
scarred by Gun Violence
over and over and over 
and over and over and 
over and over and over 
and...
and.
We will wear the color of the hunted.
We are all, each, all
hunted.
Hunted by the responsibility to end madness,
the idolatry of a weapon.
Our American culture is being twisted by the scared,
manipulated by greedy, faceless, gunmakers
and weak, bought politicians.
To say it is enough is to say too little.
It is more than enough.
It was always too much.
To say enough with every next Gun Violence death 
is a national blasphemy.
Offering tears and prayers.
Posting updates, 
temporarily change your color one day a year
is habituated enabling.
To what should we say enough?
To our patience with 91 Gun Violence deaths every year, 
3 Newtowns a day.
To what should we say enough?
to standing still and silent,
to allowing ourselves to become numb.
If 128 school shootings since Sandy Hook 
haven't already brought every elected official 
to take responsibility for society's welfare
to be repulsed by our uniquely American gun-fetish culture
to say no to the NRA,
then there is one more place to say enough.
Enough of you. It's time for leaders who save lives.
And, dear sisters and brothers, if you vote for someone who isn't clear on Gun Violence, then it's on you. On us.
Some are guilty,
but, in a democracy,
all are responsible.
God's images are needlessly dying every day,
hurting themselves and others.
Enough.


Jun 1, 2016

A Prayer for the #UCLA Community after a #Shooting

A Prayer for the #UCLA Community after a #Shooting
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor

Please, please, please God, let this end! Make us servants that finally remember that to serve You is to save each other.

May there be no more violence. May these unceasing tears find their ways into the walls and halls and servants of justice. And if those who are called to lead do no not chart a path toward life, toward safety, toward common sense, remind us that we choose our leaders. We choose our leaders. These coming days this coming year, every vote and every law and every lobbiest - they are called now and tomorrow, and forevermore: choose life.

In the name of all our fallen, innocent students and teachers and pastors and caregivers and police officers and young black men and women and mothers and grandfathers and nurses and fathers and children: it is enough. It is more than we can bear.

Guns are ugliness. The right to defend oneself is not to be corrupted into the freedom to kill another, to worship a weapon. We must repent. There is no other way.

Please God, be with us as we cry yet again, mourn yet again, and redouble our resolve.
Your images have been slain yet again, in yet another bloody blasphemy of our societal fetish for violence, our cultural thirst for blood.

We will not become numb. We will feel every death as if it were the first. We will rise, we will act, and we will not stop until this accursed Gun Violence epidemic ends.

Be with us, Please, O God. This hurts so very much. Please, be with us. Hold our hands. Help us be strong.

Amen.

#shooting #Gun #GunViolence #WearOrange #NotOneMore #notanaccident #nomore @everytown 

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