Shalom from Sunny San Diego!!!
It was certainly a shock when I walked out of the airport last night to temps in the 60's as opposed to the 30's. Once I checked into the hotel, I laid down for a much needed night of sleep. After a nice morning breakfast with Rabbi Steven Lebow, I am now able to write some of my reflections from the American Jewish World Service Alumni Institute. Learning with a group of very committed and engaging rabbis from across the spectrum was enlightening, educational and amazing!
Ever since I became involved with AJWS, I have been in awe at the mission not only of Ruth Messinger, the President of AJWS, but also of my many colleagues and friends I have made along the way who share a common passion - that is equality for all humankind. In my experiences so far as a rabbinical student and rabbi, I have learned that there are a variety of ways that one can define or discuss the word "equality." As far as I am concerned, and for the purposes of this blog, I am referring to every human being on Earth having the ability to feed their families, have quality drinking water, and to live a life free from strife and violence.
Jewish tradition and Jewish texts are filled with the idea V'ahavtah L'reiacha Camocha, "Love your neighbor as yourself." Justice or equality for all is NOT a politically based agenda. Justice or equality for all is a Jewish value...after all, part of living Or Lagoyim, "a light unto the nations" means exemplifying what it is to treat others with kindness, love and respect. It is NOT necessary for any of us to agree with every decision one makes. It IS necessary, however, for each of us to respect the right that others have to make their own decisions that make sense for them in their lives - even if we do not understand.
When my rabbinical delegation traveled to the Eisenhower Executive Office Branch (EEOB) of the White House, we were able to meet with several important members of the White House Staff. During these lobbying sessions, we were focusing on the support for LGBT rights worldwide as well as fighting against Gender Based Violence worldwide. These issues ARE important to our government...and I hope my assumption that these are important issues for all Jews is correct. I am sure no one would support violence against other human beings, even if they do not understand or agree with a person's lifestyle.
What I learned from our trip to the White House was that these issues are important to our government and I stand side by side many colleagues - men and women - who believe it is of utmost importance to bring these issues to our community. Although we focused on international problems, this is certainly extremely valuable and important for us in our own individual communities here in the States.
AJWS has now embarked on the "We Believe" Campaign. I encourage every one of us to visit the www.ajws.org website to learn about this new campaign, all of the important pieces and also to support it. There are a variety of ways to do so...just go to the website and check it out!
I am sitting now, in a session at the Biennial focused on "How to Make our Preschool Parents Leaders in our Congregations." I have learned quite a bit so far - some great ideas...and I will bring some of these ideas back to Temple Kol Emeth for sure!!! I hope to blog later this evening - or maybe even a video blog (a vlog as my good friend Adina M. Konikoff says) tonight!