September 30, 2016
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
Do any of you remember a film from about 35 years ago called "Being There"? It starred Peter Sellers and Melvyn Douglas—who were both Jewish, by the way—and was based on a novel by controversial Holocaust survivor Jerzy Kosinski. It was about a mentally challenged middle aged man trained as a gardener who finds himself, accidentally, suddenly enshrined as the economic and social guru of the president of the United States and a media icon. It's about, well, being there, being in the right place at a particular time. You could say that two other films, Woody Allen's Zelig and the classic Forrest Gump were more or less modeled on Being There, fine examples of how sometimes just showing up is all that matters.
We can see many examples of this phenomenon in our own lives: people who seem to succeed just by being in the right place at the right time. It's certainly not true that most of us are just taking up space in this world, for everyone is created in the image of God… but there are times when you do wonder a little bit about whether some folks have achieved great heights simply by showing up.
But perhaps this isn't the right approach to the question of what it means to simply be there. Without venturing too far into Zen Buddhism—or, as we say on the Too Jewish Radio Show, Zen Judaism—perhaps we should explore what simply being present, truly present, can mean in our world.
Read more: Being There - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Sermon Nitzavim 5776
September 9, 2016
Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon
It’s the 15th anniversary of 9/11 this coming Sunday, a decade and a half since the horrific events that traumatically changed our world in so many ways. For over a decade I chaired the 9/11 commemorations here in Tucson, and usually our own Temple Emanu-El hosted the annual multi-faith service held in memory of those who died, and recognizing the first-responders and others who assisted the victims and their families. It was an honor to do so, but to be honest we began that interfaith effort because we realized in that crisis that we had a true poverty of religious community from which to respond. I have made many good friends and met outstanding colleagues because of those 9/11 services, but as all things seem to do, those efforts have diminished over time. The last of those annual events here was two years ago. It was moving and beautiful, but no longer well-attended. People move on…
A few observations from the perspective of 15 years.
Read more: It is All Us: 9/11 Fifteen Years Later - Rabbi Samuel M. Cohon’s Sermon Shoftim 5776