From Rabbi Lieberman

  • “Let’s All Pull Together”

    Posted ‍‍יא שבט ה תשעו - January 21, 2016 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    downloadI write these words in early January, as we approach the commemoration of the birth of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. On January 18 the Falmouth community will gather for its annual King Breakfast, sponsored by No Place For Hate (Falmouth), and to engage in a Day of Service to honor Dr. King’s legacy.

    Some have noted, and lamented, that this annual event is one of the very few occasions when our community truly intermingles, when people with different colored skin break bread and converse together. The Cape community is, overwhelmingly, white and many of us have few, if any, meaningful relationships or even interactions with our neighbors who are people of color.

    We are living in an time of heightened awareness of the lingering and pernicious legacy of slavery and institutionalized racism, both of which contribute to the distance we keep from one another. As part of its mandate to educate and combat prejudice, No Place For Hate (Falmouth) is engaged in an exploration of issues pertaining to race and prejudice, all part of an effort to raise consciousness and to help our community see and understand itself more clearly.

    Every February we are presented with an opportunity to deepen our understanding of the African-American experience through the observance of Black History Month. The Woods Hole Black History Month Committee (WHBHMC) is dedicated to celebrating and educating the Woods Hole community and the community at large about African American history and culture. The committee is responsible for planning and putting on events during the month of February. Past events have included art exhibits, speakers, musical groups and the annual Harambee. What is Harambee? WHBHMC tells us, “Jomo Kenyatta was the first prime minister and later first president of Kenya. He led the East African nation to independence from Britain in 1963. He adopted the slogan “Harambee!” which is Swahili for “Let’s all pull together!” to encourage whites and Africans to work together for the development of Kenya.

    We honor this concept during our Black History Month celebration by “pulling together” all members of the community for a potluck feast in which we can enjoy great food while interacting with wonderful people and sharing a spirit of togetherness.  Join us in our annual ethnic potluck feast celebrating everyone of every race! Enjoy multi-cultural arts, delicious food, and live music.”

    Harambee will be held on Thursday, February 25, beginning at 4:00 PM, at MBL Swope Center. For more information about this and other Black History Month events being held in Woods Hole, visit this website:

    I plan to attend the Harambee celebration and I hope you will join me! Small committed steps can lead to meaningful connections, the kind of connections Dr. King envisioned when he famously said: “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.”

  • Immigrants

    Posted By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off

    1892_small_fullsizeI’ve had a song running around in my head for days now. It’s called “City of Immigrants” and it’s written and sung by the talented Steve Earle, a songwriter, musician, recovering heroin addict, record producer, activist and actor (Treme, The Wire). Here is the song’s first verse and chorus:

    Livin’ in a city of immigrants
    I don’t need to go travelin’
    Open my door and the world walks in
    Livin’ in a city of immigrants
    Livin’ in a city that never sleeps
    My heart keepin’ time to a thousand beats
    Singin’ in languages I don’t speak
    Livin’ in a city of immigrants

    City of black
    City of white
    City of light
    City of innocents
    City of sweat
    City of tears
    City of prayers
    City of immigrants

    [From the album Washington Square Serenade, 2007]

    There is no denying that, with the exception of our Native American brothers and sisters, every single one of us is either an immigrant or descended from immigrants, people who were fleeing the worst kinds of oppression or seeking a better life for themselves and their families. Whether our grandparents arrived in steerage at Ellis Island or our ancestors stepped off the Mayflower, there is no denying that our nation is, and always has been, a nation of immigrants. Which is precisely why the fear-mongering and anti-immigrant rantings of any of a number of would-be presidential candidates–much of it aimed at Moslems–are so deeply disturbing.

    A recent editorial (12-11-15) published in the online edition of The Forward states:

    “There have been plenty of denunciations of Islamophobia, and of Trump specifically, and they have come from the left and from the right. That’s a good first step. But the only way to improve—or legitimately try to improve—public discourse is for good people to, publicly and confidently, say what they are for.

    Here’s our modest contribution: The United States has always defined itself as a country of immigrants. It has drawn enormous strength from that identity, and that narrative—indeed, it’s been a cornerstone of American exceptionalism from the country’s earliest days. This impulse has afforded us, the children of immigrants, both safety and opportunity: to live freely; to worship openly or, if we choose, not at all; and ultimately to give back to this country in ways that have made it stronger. We must demand that immigrants of all kinds, including Muslims, receive the same opportunity—for them, for us, and for the America we all need. Our identity as a country of refuge has to be constantly renewed, for all of our sakes.”

    As Jews our collective memories of victimization, of fear, of crossing borders in order to survive –often without documentation–are too immediate and precious to ignore when we see others demonized with hateful rhetoric and reduced to an “other” deemed unworthy of our concern and support. Ugly, hateful and threatening forces of intolerance are being unleashed in our nation and we would do well to find our voice and articulate freely and often, what we deem to be the American values vital to uphold.

  • A Tempest in a Coffee Cup

    Posted ‍‍כח חשון ה תשעו - November 10, 2015 By in Rabbi's Thoughts With | Comments Off I write these words we’re several weeks away from Thanksgiving, but the “Christmas Wars” have already begun. The first salvo was fired at Starbucks Coffee.

    Joshua Feuerstein—a self-described “American evangelist, Internet, and social media personality”—rages in a widely-seen video against “the age of political correctness” and the new seasonal coffee cups at Starbucks. What’s the issue? The cups are all red (with the Starbucks logo in green)….no snowmen, no snowflakes, no manger scenes, no Christmas trees. This is, apparently. anathema to the likes of Joshua Feuerstein, who accuses Starbucks of engaging in the “war on Christmas”.

    In a salient essay in The Atlantic Monthly on this issue, Emma Green writes:

    “There are many, many ways in which the erosion of an American Christian mono-culture has created fascinating, difficult challenges for Christians. [...] But coffee cups are not one of them. Rhetorical bluster about coffee cups distracts from the real, difficult questions of religious liberty and freedom of expression—including workplace hiring and discrimination, wedding-vendor services, or contraception insurance—and diminishes the seriousness of those questions by association. Feuerstein’s challenge to “all great Americans and Christians around this great nation” to “take your own coffee selfie” is a silly social-media campaign. This is a situation all but defined by choices and freedom: the choice to buy coffee from Starbucks, the choice to facetiously trick baristas into saying something that aligns with Christian cultural preferences, even the choice to speak out against the company on social media. Coffee-cup outrage is flimsy when paired with real conflicts of conscience that have led to years-long lawsuits and businesses shutting down and significant public protests—and it is shameful in light of the violent persecution of Christians around the world.”

    As Jews around the world prepare to light the first Chanukah candle on Sunday evening, December 6th, we would do well to remember that at the very core of the Chanukah story lies a bloody and determined battle for the right to worship as we deem fit. Despite the sad history of the Hashmonean dynasty that descended from the Maccabees and which sought to suppress religious diversity, we do not embrace a religious vision that calls upon us to impose our beliefs–or our dreidel-laden coffee-cups–  on our neighbors….and it is not “politically correct” to expect of our neighbors an understanding that American culture is polyglot and religiously diverse.

    So, as we drift deeper into the “holiday season”, I will lift my seasonal-red Starbucks cup in a toast to “political correctness’….as beautifully defined by the writer Neil Gaiman:

    “I was reading a book [...] yesterday which included the phrase ‘In these days of political correctness…’ talking about no longer making jokes that denigrated people for their culture or for the color of their skin. And I thought, ‘That’s not actually anything to do with ‘political correctness’. That’s just treating other people with respect.’

    Which made me oddly happy. I started imagining a world in which we replaced the phrase “politically correct” wherever we could with “treating other people with respect”, and it made me smile.

    You should try it. It’s peculiarly enlightening.

    I know what you’re thinking now. You’re thinking ‘Oh my god, that’s treating other people with respect gone mad!’”

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