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A Message From Rabbi Josh

 

Haverim,

In this week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, we encounter the anxiety of the Israelites when Moses is delayed in returning from Mount Sinai.  Some of the Israelites demonstrate their anxiety by acting out and seeking the unhealthy alternative of worshipping a golden calf and then there were others who despite their fears acted in faith waiting for a return to normalcy.  I have great compassion for both sets of people, but I know which ancestors I seek to align my behavior with.

And in this moment of our global pandemic, I have tremendous compassion for those of us who are being run by our panic and those of us who are seeking a grounded and centered presence. And likely, we vacillate.

When the current administration was elected, I had the Esther-like sense that this is the moment that we have been created for.  As an LGBTQ-founded community, we have lived through times of oppression with resilience and resistance.  We created a Jewish spiritual home in a time when many doors were closed to us.  We could have created a golden calf, but instead, we created sanctuary.

We then shortly after, lived with the specter of AIDS, where our synagogue and other queer Jews were further marginalized. Our founders responded with AIDS Chayim, a compassionate and loving response to people living with AIDS. When others shunned, we opened our hearts and created resources and offered healing. While people succumbed to hysteria, despite our fear and the unknown, we chose love and loving-kindness.  

Many of our loved ones suffered and died, but we offered dignity, witness and community. We did not do this without grieving, but we did not allow that grief to become molten fear.  We kept moving forward, attracting other renegade and courageous souls seeking authenticity, justice--and sanctuary.  This is the soil from which we have emerged.

So, now in the face of Covid-19, how might we respond? Can you understand why I might wonder if this is the moment for which we have been created?! 

We understand that isolation and hiding is deadening to the soul. Even in the face of prevention, we can find ways to develop a sense of belonging and companionship. Community is a cornerstone of who we are. We must ensure that the most vulnerable, whether by age, mental or physical wellbeing, are not invisible, but at the forefront of our response to these times. For people feeling this moment powerfully, email Agatha at awalker@cbhatlanta.org as I have set times next week for pastoral check-ins to ensure your wellbeing. And in the case, our immediate needs exceed my capacity, we are in the process of creating multiple ways of connecting.

We have a deep sense of spirituality that has developed over the years, which now meets the test of a technological era. We have the blessing of the capacity to be with one another virtually.  We can pray together, engage in rituals together and create virtual sanctuary together.  We will find ways to celebrate Shabbat, lifecycles and holy days together. 

We may be waiting for a sign that normalcy will return like the Israelites awaited Moses’ return or Noah for the land to dry, but in this liminal time, which may stretch on, we will build the sanctuaries that we have always built under restricted times.  We will resist and we will persist. 

Do not despair.  We will respond powerfully to this moment together. While these times might change us, we may discover a part of our roots as a congregation and that in unexpected ways this was the moment for which we were created.  

With love and care,

Rabbi Josh

Mon, July 6 2020 14 Tammuz 5780