Prayers After Boston Marathon Terrorist Attack

Driving yesterday afternoon I heard on the radio that two bombs had gone off at the Boston Marathon and I immediately said a private prayer. Then my thoughts quickly turned to the people I knew who were running the race. I was on my way to the Jewish Community Center and as soon as I got there I sent a text to a mutual friend to make sure a friend who was running in the marathon was okay. I immediately got a response that she and her family were fine because she had finished the race so quickly (her personal best) and crossed the finish line 15 minutes before the bombs went off.I then went on Facebook using my phone to check on another friend, Noam Neusner from Washington D.C., who runs the Boston Marathon each year. His Facebook page was already filling up with concerned friends asking if he was okay. Noam’s wife Andrea, who waited over ten hours to hear from her husband in New York City on 9/11, then posted that he had finished the race several minutes before the explosions and was fine. Then his own posts began at about 4 PM to let people know he was fine: “Hi everyone I’m fine. Didn’t hear explosion, but it’s bad. Pls pray for the victims, this is bad.”An event like the attack at the Boston Marathon changes the narrative. How interesting that the marathon runners are now reporting their finish times as “20 minutes before the blasts,” “15 minutes before the blast,” and so on. And I’m sure there are runners who are thinking of how fortunate they are to have not been running faster as their slower pace kept them from being affected by the explosions.

Continue reading

Jewish Learning Opportunities During the Omer

It is customary to study Jewish texts – mostly commonly Pirkei Avot – during the period of time between Passover and Shavuot. Many take the opportunity to occupy themselves with Torah study in the late Shabbat afternoons when the days are longer. The sages believed it was a worthwhile practice and would keep people focused on Sabbath observance.

Here are four opportunities for online study during this period:

 

TORAH DAILY
I launched the Torah Daily Facebook page after reading Jennifer Preston’s article in the New York Times about Jesus Daily. I was convinced that there was a need to provide spiritual and inspirational texts and quotes from Jewish wisdom. With the encouragement and assistance of the leadership of Clal’s Rabbi Irwin Kula, Rabbi Brad Hirschfield and Rabbi Rebecca Sirbu, I created the Facebook page and invited friends and colleagues to follow it. It quickly gained a following and then one of my colleagues in Clal’s Rabbi’s Without Borders fellowship program Rabbi Juan Mejia worked with me to create the Spanish language version called Torá Diaria. Torah Daily has close to 1,000 followers on Facebook, which is nothing close to the 17.5 million fans Jesus Daily has but it’s become a dependable source for inspiration. Several rabbis and Jewish educators contribute meaningful lessons to inspire Torah Daily’s followers. The almost daily posting of quotes from Jewish wisdom can be shared with friends on Facebook and discussed using the Torah Daily Facebook page as a forum. I described the need for Torah Daily in a Huffington Post article.

 

Huffington Post - Torah Omer Learning

 

Continue reading

Ani Ma’amin – The Most Meaningful Yom Hashoah

Today is Yom Hashoah, the annual day of remembrance for victims of the Holocaust. While it is still morning it has already been the most meaningful Yom Hashoah experience for me.I actually had a feeling that Yom Hashoah 2013 wouldn’t be like past experiences. On Thursday, February 7 of this year the Shoah hit me like never before. I was freezing cold as I stood over the ravine at Babi Yar in Ukraine with two dozen of my rabbinic colleagues. Our shoes sunk into the snow as we stared out into the forest where 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation between September 29–30, 1941.
The memorial at Babi Yar

 

This was not my first visit to Babi Yar. I had visited there eight years earlier, but this time was different. I have visited concentration camps and seen gas chambers, but this was different. Our brief memorial program consisted of lighting candles, throwing flowers into the ravine, reading poems, singing songs and reciting prayers in tribute to the memory of those who perished on that site. But it was the music that did it for me.

So too was the case for me yesterday in the late afternoon. It was the music. My friend Hazzan Daniel Gross, the cantor at Adat Shalom Synagogue, is a gifted opera singer, composer and musicologist. The grandson of Holocaust survivors, Dan recognized there was a need for a Yom Hashoah liturgy so as part of his senior presentation in the H.L. Miller Cantorial School of the Jewish Theological Seminary he wrote one. Continue reading