We Have Seen This Before

And if a stranger live with you in your land, you will not do him wrong. – Leviticus 19:33

Possibly the most frequently repeated commandment in the Hebrew Bible is “welcome the stranger.” One of my colleagues, Rabbi Michael Latz, finds it in some form in 36 different places. It is often bolstered with the logic, “for you were strangers in the land of Egypt,” (e.g. Leviticus 19:34) which brings to mind Hillel’s version of the Golden Rule: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellows.” (Shabbat 31a)

Today the news is full of suspicion for the Syrian refugees fleeing the disaster of Daesh (aka ISIS, but follow that link to find out why I am not going to call them “Islamic State” anymore.) One of the men who murdered hostages in the Bataclan Theater in Paris carried a Syrian passport and now the cry has gone up: “Don’t take them in, they may be terrorists!”

In places connected to Syria by land masses or the Mediterranean, I can understand the fear. But here in the United States, the border for Syrian travelers is well-defined: it’s a secure area in airports and seaports, and no one gets through unless U.S. Customs and Border Security says they get through. Refugees are subjected to special screening by various offices of several different departments of the government, any of which can turn them down. The process takes 18-24 months; it’s no quickie. If you want to learn more about it, you can do so here.

There was a time in the past when people were desperately trying to flee an evil regime, and we Americans took it upon ourselves to see them all as undesirables: wrong religion, possibly spies, maybe saboteurs! Our ports were firmly closed to them. We actually turned away whole shiploads of them: refugees not wanted.

It emerged, after the war, that the Nazis had manipulated the whole thing: they sent agents to Cuba to aggravate antisemitic feeling there and in the U.S., and spread rumors that some of the refugees were “a criminal element.” Eventually the ship returned to Germany, and the refugees went to the camps, most of them, to their deaths.

Let’s not make the same mistake twice. Check thoroughly everyone who applies for refugee status, by all means, but do not allow Daesh or any other evil regime to manipulate U.S. policy.

And remember, my fellow Jews: we were once strangers fleeing the land of Egypt.

Image: “Women and children Syrian refugees at the Budapest Keleti railway station” taken by Mystslav Chernov. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

A Word to Readers in France

I am sick to hear of the terrible violence in Paris. As Shabbat falls here in California, know that you and all France are in my prayers tonight. You will be in our thoughts as we sit at the Shabbos table.

May all who suffer be comforted, and may peace soon be restored in your beautiful country.

Kosher Food


One of my favorite blogs is Rachel Mankowitz’s The Cricket Pages. She just published a post about her memories around kosher food, which I share with my readers. Enjoy.

Originally posted on rachelmankowitz:

When I was nine or ten years old, not long after my family started to keep kosher, we went to a hotel up in the Catskills for Presidents’ weekend. It was a skiing resort, basically, and it was kosher. I’ve worked hard to block out the skiing portion of the trip because it was truly harrowing, but there was also an outdoor ice skating rink, and an indoor pool, and a theatre where the last gasp of the Borscht Belt came to perform. But most of all, there was the food. They made fake scallops from halibut, cut into rounds, and whenever they were on the menu, that’s what I ate. The waiters were convinced I was lying about my age, because I could have had a hamburger and French fries, or spaghetti and meatballs and I chose this?

But I’d grown up on seafood, at my best friend’s house…

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A Note to Readers

I am down with one of my periodic bouts of sciatica. Sometimes it gets out of control. During those times, the worst thing I can do is sit at my computer.

I have a number of things I want to do and cannot right now. The first is to get back to you about the class I proposed. Another is to answer some questions too involved for me to address via my phone from an exercise mat on the floor. The last is new posts.

I am catching up on my reading, and if I find goodies to share I will do so.

I hope to be back after Shabbat. Don’t worry about me; this is a nuisance, not a tragedy.

I wish you all Shabbat Shalom!


Leonard Nimoy – “You and I” – A Poem for Elul and All Times


Rabbi John Rosove’s blog is well worth reading on a regular basis. This particular entry, with a poem by Leonard Nimoy z”l, is particularly appropriate for Elul.

Originally posted on Rabbi John Rosove's Blog:

It’s been six months since we lost Leonard, and his family misses him dearly, his gentleness and intelligence, his profound interest and concern about the world, his very large heart, curiosity, and penetrating mind, his simple loving presence.

This poem of Leonard’s below came to me from a friend. I had not seen it before which points to one of Leonard’s virtues – his modesty and humility. Though he knew what were his strengths and gifts, he didn’t talk about himself that way. He spoke rather about ideas, the creative process, the arts, world events, politics, and his family.

Leonard’s poem is part of a longer work that he published in 1973 that included a blend of poetry with black and white photography.

Given the poem’s theme, it is particularly appropriate for us to read now, during this season of Elul, the Hebrew month preceding the High Holidays. I post…

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