Emor 5775: Around the World in 85 Days

May 8, 2015

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

It is a pleasure to be back home on the bimah of Temple Emanu-El after my three-month sabbatical trip around the world. I am very grateful to the congregation, to our Board, and to our president, Bonnie Golden for the opportunity to take this time away, and to Rabbi Appel, Rabbi Seltzer, Marjorie Hochberg, Margie Kendle, and our entire staff for caring for the needs of our congregants during this period. I have been back for three weeks, but this marks the first opportunity I have had to discuss my Sabbatical from the bimah. It was amazing, but it's also a little hard to summarize briefly.

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Tribute to Dr. Steve and Ruth Dickstein

May 16, 2015

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon

My friends, it is a special honor to speak about the manifold contributions that Dr. Steve and Ruth Dickstein have made to Temple Emanu-El, and to our entire community. Just listing their many, many programs, projects, and great works requires a good deal of time.

But in order to do this properly, to acknowledge the remarkable depth and breadth of their giving to our historic temple and to this community, it is necessary to understand the true nature of avodah, of sacred service.

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Chukat 5775: Human Decency and Chance

June 26, 2015

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

I must begin tonight by noting that things changed quite a bit in the United States during the last two weeks while we were on summer vacation. This week we learned that the US Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, has guaranteed gays and lesbians the right to marry everywhere in America, and to have all the benefits of married status. It has been a long struggle, and today a large majority of Americans strongly approve of this course. In effect, 37 states already have gay and lesbian marriage, including Arizona, so this measure impacts only 13 more states, but it is still a momentous and long-awaited change, and we are delighted. Now the law of the land now not only permits gay and lesbian marriage, but no doubt will further prevent discrimination against gays and lesbians in general. We know that in Judaism we are all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God, and this guarantees that here in America we are also all able to sanctify our marriages publicly and legally in the holiness of Kidushin. While I have long performed same-sex ceremonies, these now will have the status of legal marriages everywhere in United States, and that is something to celebrate.

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Balak 5775: Separation, Our American Jewish Currency

July 3, 2015

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

While the economy of Greece melts down in debt and the European Union struggles to choke down panic about the Euro, there is also some odd stuff going on relating to the US Treasury and our currency—only it’s not quite as serious a challenge as they are facing now in Europe. It turns out that our biggest American issue right now is that our Orthodox Jewish Secretary of the Treasury, Jack Lew, decided that after almost 240 years of American history it’s high time for our currency to have a woman represented on a bill, and he has chosen to redesign the $10 bill to do just that.

In truth, we have had ill-fated versions of US coins with women’s images on them before. Remember the unfortunate debacle of the Susan B. Anthony coins that were supposed to supplant dollar bills long ago? And Sacajawea is on a dollar coin, too, although that also had problems with public acceptance and use. Unlike people in most countries, we Americans have a problem using any coins larger than a quarter, and we prefer, if we are going to spend cash, to use paper bills. And so Treasury Secretary Lew had decreed that we are going to change the image on one of the bills we actually do use, the $10 bill, to the image of a prominent American woman.

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Matot/Masei 5775: Israel and America: Iranian Bombs, Ad Campaigns, Alliance, and Jewish Unity

July 17, 2015

Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

There has been lots of news this week about President Obama’s potential nuclear deal with Iran, a 15-year pact between the US and the other Big Five nations plus 1—Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the plus one, the European Union—and the Iranian terror sponsors themselves. The agreement comes in the face of strong Saudi Arabian opposition. You might not have heard much about that, but in fact Saudi Arabia, and most of the Arab world, is terrified that Persian Iran will get a nuclear bomb, and the Saudis have been very quietly, and very expensively, lobbying everyone they know in Washington to attempt to stop it. They are horrified that Shi’ite non-Arab Muslims will have the bomb, and the Sunni and Wahabi Arabs of the Saud family kingdom will not. The Iranians just flat out scare them to death, and they are sharing that fear with our governmental leaders here in America.

Read more: Matot/Masei 5775: Israel and America: Iranian Bombs, Ad Campaigns, Alliance, and Jewish Unity