On Monday, September 10 I attended first day Rosh ha-Shana services with my congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir. (http://www.leyvhair.org/) At the Aliyah to the Torah, we read the first verses in the first chapter of Genesis, which spoke G-d creating the Heavens and the Earth out of the void, the nothingness.
It hit me-that is the same premise of Quantum Physics, that the so-called “solid matter” we see and feel around us is really trillions of atoms; and these atoms by themselves are really bundles of energy, a wave until you look upon it, not solid mater either. Just as in Quantum Physics, the World, the so-called “solid matter,” came out of no-thing-ness. It’s great how these spiritual teachings mesh well together.
Here is one of the episodes of Conversations Across Time I performed in on Thursday, where I portrayed Rabbi Stephen A. Wise.
Thursday, I went to a taping of the show Conversations Across Time, on PhillyCAM (channel 66 on Comcast, channel 29 on Verizon). There I portrayed Rabbi Stephen Wise, one of the leading figures of the Jewish Community in America, a counselor to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and leader of the Zionist movement. With one person playing FDR and the other playing Hermann Goering, we discussed the situation with the tRump regime in America today, with such topics as the recent New York Times op-ed by the “anonymous” White House staffer (we speculated it might be a group of them); the book Fear by Bob Woodward, which shows the tRump White House to be a madhouse; the possibility of impeachment, which is all fraught with politics as is everything else in DC; and the 25th Amendment, whereby supposedly the Vice-President and a majority of the cabinet might decide that the President is not physically or mentally capable of carrying out his duties, and would force him to give up the office to the Vice-President. (Pence would like that; he thinks God has anointed him to be President.) We cannot count on the hope that sensible people in the right office can save us; only we the people, conscious of the issues at stake and voting accordingly, can save this country. Contact PhillyCAM at https://phillycam.org/.
Friday, I attended the dinner-cruise aboard the Spirit of Philadelphia , of the Philadelphia chapter of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, the organization of African-American trade Unionists, founded by A. Philip Randolph, who was America’s leading African-American trade union leader. (I’m Recording Secretary of the Philadelphia chapter.) we held our awards ceremony then:
The A. Philip Randolph & Bayard Rustin Leadership Award went to Sam Staten Jr., International Vice-President of LIUNA (Laborers) and Business Agent of LIUNA Local 332.
The Rosina Tucker Award went to Carla M. Insinga, Director of AFSCME District Council 90.
The A. Philip Randolph & Bayard Rustin Outstanding Activist Award went to Boise Butler, President of ILA (Longshore workers) Local 1291.
The President’s Award went to Dionne Gary, of District 199CC of AFSCME (hospital and health care workers).
Saturday, I went back to PhillyCAM, where I sat in the audience of The Chef Trek Adventures, a cooking show produced by my friend Delmer Gill, who allowed me time to go on stage and speak about my writing career. Delmer’s web site is http://cheftrek.net/.
On Monday, September 10, I had the honor of giving the appeal speech on the first day of Rosh ha-Shana of my congregation, Leyv Ha-Ir. Here it is:
I am a Jew by Choice.
I grew up in a small township upstate in Pennsylvania, where I attended a small Methodist church in the countryside. It didn’t connect with me, all that Sunday School teaching didn’t take with me; I could never accept the idea that THIS was the only way to get to Heaven. I always had a fascination with Judaism, the Jewish people and Israel, and I always wondered what it would be like if I was Jewish.
In early 1990, I began the process of converting. At the Israel Independence Day festival of that year, I found a booth for people interested in joining a Reconstructionist congregation coming together in Center city Philadelphia. The reason I chose Reconstructionism is its belief in being both traditional and modern at the same time, and the belief that being a Jew is not just about religion but being part of a culture, a “tribe.”
My life in Leyv Ha-Ir has been important in this conversion process, taking part in the discussions of the congregation, taking part in services, and being adopted by the members. For my Jewish education, I took a series of courses, the Reform course out of the UAHC, and the Reconstructionist course, “Jewish, Alive, and American,” run out of the Rabbinical College in Wyncote. I discussed also with the rabbi, Geela Rayzel Raphael, and she outlined an informal plan of education-reading the Encyclopedia Judaica in the Paley Library of Temple University, visiting a variety of synagogues to see the variety of Jewish worship (along with the commonality), studying Kashrut, and reading the book Basic Judaism by Rabbi Milton Steinberg.
On the Sunday after Yom Kippur in 1994, I went through the Mikveh and emerged a full-fledged Jew. Four years later, I joined in an adult B’nai Mitzvah class, and I received the Bar Mitzvah in March 1998. Last year, I fulfilled my dream of visiting Israel. I took the plane to Tel Aviv, and took the bus to Jerusalem. The driver pointed out to me the various spots in Jerusalem, and then drove me close to the entrance to the Kotel. I washed my hands, put on my kippah, wrote the little note to place in the cracks in the Wall, and placed my hands on the Wall-I had no other prayer, that was my prayer. I look forward to going back again.
Leyv Ha-Ir has been, as I always say, better than a family to me. We have our Friday evening services, with our wonderful Rabbi Julie, our lay led services for Saturday morning and Friday evening, and our educational programs that Julie leads, to further our vision of our Jewish life. we hope you can support us and join us as we continue the journey.
On Monday, September 3, I took part in the Philadelphia area’s Labor Day march and family celebration. The march began with a rally at the Sheet Metal Workers’ hall, 1301 South Columbus Boulevard, with Labor leaders and elected officials speaking:
Josh Shapiro, Pennsylvania Attorney General;
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenny;
US Congressman Bob Brady, and John Greer, who has long been active in organizing the parade, along with Jim Moran;
Jerry Jordan, President of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, and Randi Weingarden, President of the American Federation of Teachers;
And, last but not least, the working men and women of Philadelphia, and their families.