Your granddaughter has been nagging me to write about what you taught me, how you directed my growth as a Jew. It has been hard for me to put this into words. But this morning when I could not sleep it came to me. To say that Judaism was a vehicle for social action is too easy. For to you, social action was a vehicle for Jewing. I know that term is unexpected to you. When you walked this earth it was only used in the pejorative. But a teacher of mine since your passing has helped me reclaim it from the haters and baiters and bring it back into the light.
For you, coming out of the end of the ‘classical Reform’ period, we were American Jews who applied our Judaism to our lives as good citizens of this country and this world. The words “social action” were not to be separated from our process of Jewing. See how the term Jew can be used as a positive verb? I learned early at your knee that the Synagogue was our recharging station. If, in the world our role was Tikun Olam as in to repair, then in the Synagogue we were to re-form, re-state, re-new and re-charge our batteries for the good fight. It was our place to sing and pray and listen to your magnificent calls to action. You spoke of brotherhood week in a way that made us want to be brothers with all people. You spoke of the American dream and made it Jewish. You spoke of civil rights as a Jewish ideal and you spoke of a war on cults as a war to save the souls of a generation.
I learned at your knee that Jewish HolyDays are not times of separation but of celebration. They are the times to celebrate freedom and unity of purpose. Passover powered our fight to free slaves everywhere whether bound by chains or by poverty. Sukkot sang the song of the earth and our relationship to her and to all who walked upon her. We gleaned Dr. Efromsyn’s farm and you read to us from Torah about our responsibility to the poor, and the stranger. Hanukah was lit with the lights of difference and acceptance. We proudly lit the lights and comically sang the songs. And you told the story in your own way. I learned that the lesson of Hanukah was not political power, it was religious rights. It was ringing the bell of freedom throughout the land.
You sat with priests and ministers and spoke of the priestly benediction and ministering to the downtrodden. When you marched with a Reverend in Selma, it was a joyous religious duty. When you spoke to congress on the dangers of cults your words rang out in religious fervor to protect the children and the idealism of youth. You spoke with love of the two Abrahams, he of the Bible and he of the Gettysburg address, sharing your love of the land and people and the faith of the one and your love of the land and people and the hope for the other. Pop, you always walked the walk, and showed me how that walk was the Jewish walk.
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