Eikev 5773: No More Strangers

July 26, 2013

Cantorial Soloist Marjorie Hochberg, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

I recently watched an HBO special starring African-American comedienne, Wanda Sykes. Among other comments she made about growing up black in a mostly white society, one was especially memorable to me. She said her mother would not let Wanda and her siblings dance in the car. Picture it: a great song comes on the radio. Wanda and her brothers and sister kids starting grooving to the beat. And their mother slams on the brakes. She would say, "There is no dancing in the car. Either we are driving or dancing, but not both." She would continue, "White people are watching you."

"White people are watching you." Today, in the wake of the Trayvon Martin case, those words seem ominous. A little over a week ago, a Florida court acquitted George Zimmerman of charges of 2nd degree murder and manslaughter in the death of 17 year-old Trayvon Martin. Many of us heard this verdict on television as it was delivered from the Florida court. More than any other verdict in recent memory, this one has spurred a flood of discussion, commentary and criticism about many issues, including the nation's gun laws, the state of the nation for African American youth, and race relations in general in our country.

Read more: Eikev 5773: No More Strangers

Sh'lach L'cha 5773: The Why Factor

May 31, 2013

Reverend Canon John E. Kitagawa, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

Shabbat Shalom!

I am very pleased to be with you once again, and I am honored be here at the bimah to address you. My starting point this evening is a little unusual, so please bear with me. All Episcopal clergy in Arizona have seen a video featuring Simon Sinek talking about How Great Leaders Inspire Action . Sinek's premise is rather simple. He uses the "Golden Circle" to illustrate. Imagine a target with a bull's eye in the middle, with two concentric circles around it. He labels the center "Why", the next circle "How", and the outer ring, "What". Sinek says most people are pretty clear about "What" a company or organization does, "How" they do it, but tend to be fuzzy about "Why" they do it. He goes on to use this simple construct to explain Martin Luther King, Jr's. ability to succeed where others had failed. Sinek's contention is that King succeeded because he focused on the "Why" rather than on the "What" or the "How". Many of us remember his "I Have a Dream" speech (08.28.1963).

Read more: Sh'lach L'cha 5773: The Why Factor

Vayigash 5771: Welcoming Interfaith Families

December 10, 2010

Rabbi Jason Holtz, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

My grandmother, in just a little more than two months, will be 99 years old. She still lives on her own, more or less independently. My grandfather passed away back in the spring of 2003. When he died, they had been married for over seventy years. That's uncommon fact #1 about them. The second uncommon fact about them is that they were an interfaith couple. He was from an Orthodox Jewish family and she was from an Italian Roman Catholic. That is not as rare today, but when they married, now closer to eighty years ago, it was quite uncommon. After the wedding, much of his family wanted nothing to do with him. His father disowned him. For me, I have had almost no contact at all with my grandfather's family of origin. Looking back, I sometimes wonder what might have been if his family was a bit more accepting. What sort of relationships would I have with cousins that I don't know even exist? What family memories would there have been?

Read more: Vayigash 5771: Welcoming Interfaith Families

Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach 5771: A Pull to the Past, A Push into the Future

April 22, 2011

Rabbi Jason Holtz, Temple Emanu-El, Tucson, AZ

My laptop computer is old and will soon be replaced. It made it all the way to three years of age—which in computer years is a fairly average lifespan. I decided to replace it not with another laptop, but with a desktop and an iPad, which my wife describes as an iPod Touch for the elderly. I went to get the iPad at an Apple Store about two weeks ago and ended up waiting over two hours in line for it. This, by the way, was weeks after the new model was released. But such was the demand and interest for it, that people waited patiently outside the store for hours. And when I left the line was no shorter. The interesting thing about the release of this new iPad though is that many of the customers are simply upgrading from the old iPad released about a year ago. Technology wears out quick, but really? People who switch benefit from a device that shaves a few centimeters of width off and has two cameras instead of only one. For that they wait in line for hours and shell out a not insignificant amount of money.

Read more: Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach 5771: A Pull to the Past, A Push into the Future