Why I am writing a blog? I have some things to say about the human story throughout the world. This is beyond politics. This is about resilience, strength and the power of community as well as the vitality and courage of individuals who have stood up for others.
Over the years, I have written many articles on a variety of issues. But they share common themes. They are stories of the plight of refugees, the suffering of people in the Holocaust and more recent genocides, the strength of the human spirit, and courageous people who have made a real difference.
Over my life, I have had the privilege of bearing witness to the human condition as a teacher, camp director, rabbi, humanitarian activist and dean. I have seen the best of people and certainly some of the worst things that we can do to each other. I know that we have advanced medically, technologically and scientifically. However, have we advanced as moral beings, since the time of the first two brothers in the Book of Genesis, where Cain kills Abel? Is killing and persecuting each other part of our human nature? Can we overcome that? I reflect a lot on people who are filled with goodness, compassion and an ethic of pursuing justice and wonder why those people and values are not more appreciated in our culture.
During the past two years I spent extensive time working with refugees for my book, Refugees in America: Stories of Courage, Resilience and Hope in Their Own Words. Listening to the eleven people featured has deepened my commitment to helping those who come to America’s doors to find a welcoming home. I will be writing much more about refugees and their plight.
In my blog, I will be writing about people who are having a truly positive impact on this world, but get little attention. These are people of moral courage who risk home and often their lives to help others, people who most often work in the shadows rather than the glare of the media, people who will inspire us all.
I will also be writing about people with Down Syndrome, like my youngest granddaughter Ayala. We have done a lot for people with disabilities but we have a long way to go. I will explore how we can better shape a society where people who have physical, mental, emotional or psychological disabilities have full and equal access and be treated with respect and sensitivity.
I will be sharing my thoughts about living in these socially and politically turbulent times. How do we get through if we are struggling with anxiety and loss of hope? How do we find the good in the midst of all this chaos? How do we connect with our own gratitude for the blessings in my life? How do we shape lives that give us meaning, and deeper connection to other people?
The focus of my blog is to raise questions, not to always provide answers. We often fail to ask the most compelling questions as they can threaten the status quo, including our own. How does one shape the “right” questions that don’t result in the same answers but rather allow us to find creative answers and solutions to some of our most intractable problems: whether it be about public education, the homeless, the lack of mental health services, the disparity of income, and poverty. I believe that there are answers if we can find the deepest, most challenging and pertinent questions to ask.
It is already forty years ago that I was ordained as a rabbi. Forty years! The cliché that life goes by in the blink of an eye is so ridiculously true. There have many wonderful, joyful times and times of anguish, both personal and over the political and social strife. For me, however, the core of being human is to not remain indifferent or stand idly by, but to be an advocate for justice, equality, rights and dignity for all. As the title of this blog says, it is simply not enough to lament injustice. We must speak out for justice.
So, I ask you, taking the liberty of quoting from one of my favorite movies, Dead Poet’s Society, which starred the inimitable and unforgettable Robin Williams, “What Will Your Verse Be?” How can we contribute our own verse and speak up for others in need? How can we make a difference? What will you and I do to ensure a just world for the next generation?
Sign up for my blog and let’s explore together. What will your verse be?