Believing that the interests of the Jewish People are strengthened by a healthy rabbinate and the cooperation of the rabbis in the work of the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, the Board of Rabbis of Southern California seeks to:
Promote and nurture the growth of rabbis on both spiritual and professional levels,
Foster a sense of Klal Yisrael among the different denominations, and
Once again, our hearts - and those of all the people Israel - are crushed by the horrific terror attack that took place in Tel Aviv Wednesday night. When sitting to sip their coffee and eat birthday cake on a summer evening, four Israelis were murdered by Palestinian terrorists disguised as Orthodox Jews. Our hearts ache for the two children who witnessed the murder of their father, Ido Ben Ari and the injuring of their mother - as well as for all the children and loved ones of those who were killed. We pray for the healing of those, as many as 20 people, who were wounded in the attack.
As we enter into Shabbat followed by Shavuot, when so many of us light yarzheit candles for our loved ones, our candles join the yarzheit candles lit at the site of the shooting in Tel Aviv, and we remember the souls of:
Ido Ben Ari, age 42, from Ramat Gan, a husband and father of two, an esteemed reservist, who worked for Coca Cola;
Ilana Neve, age 39, from Tel Aviv, mother of four, who was celebrating a birthday when she was killed;
Michael Feige, age 58, from Givatayim, father of three, the head of the Israel Studies program at Ben Gurion University of the Negev; and
Mila Mishayev, age 32, from Askhelon, a daughter and sister, who was soon to be married.
When prose feels inadequate, we turn to prayer, and to poetry to express our anguish and grief.
Below are a few prayers and poems you may wish to share with your community. (If you have found or written other prayers, poems, or reflections, please send them to us so that we can share them among colleagues.)
The first prayer is based on the Asher Yatzar, the prayer for the human body, rewritten for the healing of the Jewish people.
By Rabbi Ilana Grinblat:
Baruch Ata Adonai Eloheinu Melech Ha’olam ahser yatzer et am yisrael v’umot ha’olam b’chochmah uvarah bahem mishpachot, mishpachot, yeladim, yeladim. Galui v’yadua lifnei kiseh k’vodechah sh’im neherag echad mehem o nifga echad mehem, kulanu koavim. Baruch Ata Adonai, rofe amenu v’amei ha-olam u’mafli la’asot.
Blessed are You, God, our God, Ruler of the world, who created the people Israel, and the peoples of the world with wisdom, and created in them interconnected families and children. It is clear and known before the throne of your Glory, that if one Jew, if one innocent person is killed or injured, all of us are pained. Blessed are you, our God, please heal our people and the people of the world and work your wonders and let us say Amen.
To Bend Light
by Alden Solovy
To the Terrorist You who would hold the sky captive, The sea prisoner, The land in chains...
You who hide in caves, Retreat to the wilderness, Disappear behind false names and forged papers...
You who smuggle guns and arms, Hide rockets in cities and bombs in homes, Build weapons against the innocent and the bystander...
You whose designs are destruction, Whose plans are fear, Whose joy is hate...
You who harden your hearts And wrap yourselves in death... What evil has robbed you of your love, Your compassion, Your goodness, Your humanity? What lies have invaded your minds So that you choose to die in order to kill?
We who love our lives and liberty Stand firm and strong against terror. We will defend our nation and our people. We will protect our land and our homes. And we pray for you to find hope and comfort In lives of peace.
When Great Trees Fall
by Maya Angelou
When great trees fall, rocks on distant hills shudder, lions hunker down in tall grasses, and even elephants lumber after safety.
When great trees fall in forests, small things recoil into silence, their senses eroded beyond fear.
When great souls die, the air around us becomes light, rare, sterile. We breathe, briefly. Our eyes, briefly, see with a hurtful clarity. Our memory, suddenly sharpened, examines, gnaws on kind words unsaid, promised walks never taken.
Great souls die and our reality, bound to them, takes leave of us. Our souls, dependent upon their nurture, now shrink, wizened. Our minds, formed and informed by their radiance, fall away. We are not so much maddened as reduced to the unutterable ignorance of dark, cold caves.
And when great souls die, after a period peace blooms, slowly and always irregularly. Spaces fill with a kind of soothing electric vibration. Our senses, restored, never to be the same, whisper to us. They existed. They existed. We can be. Be and be better. For they existed.
June 10, 2016
Voter Registration Campaign
Eighty years ago, Abraham Cahan wrote, "there were no elections in the country from which we had fled. The ballot box and all it represented was the sacred hope for which many of our countrymen in Russia had martyred their lives."
Voting in open and free elections is a truly precious gift.
Therefore, the Boards of Rabbis of Northern and Southern California, along with other religious groups, have agreed to promote a non-partisan Voter Registration Campaign in the lead-up to the June 7th California primary election. Many view this primary election as potentially shaping the future political scene of our country. Though California’s role in previous primaries has not been very great, this year things are dramatically different. That is why a group of rabbis have gathered to make certain that the Jewish community participates at a very high level.
But there is something else: The Secretary of State in California has sent out an official notification that expected turn-out will be higher than usual. That means longer lines at the polls...and that means that this will place a disproportionate burden on the elderly, the infirm, the handicapped, and the poor. For that reason we strongly urge the members of your respective communities to strongly promote a Voting By Mail campaign as well. VBM will guarantee that everyone’s vote will count and be counted. Thus, a "Register to Vote and VBM" combined undertaing is both the right thing to do -- and a necessary thing to do.
Time is very short. We suggest that promoting this campaign begin as soon as possible - and that it continue through the month of May.
We must all work vigorously to enhance the opportunity and the will to enter the voting booth. Let us exercise the right and privilege of ours to vote, and let our ballots be cast for justice and peace.
Statement in Response to Shootings in San Bernardino
We, members of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, deeply mourn the tragic deaths of the fourteen innocent victims of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino. Our hearts break for those lost lives. Our hands go out in compassion and consolation to their families and friends. We condemn all acts of terror, whether here in the United States, in Paris, in Beirut or in the land of Israel.
As Rabbis many of us have long standing relations with leaders of all faith. We cherish these relationships, including our connections to Imams and other leaders in the Muslim American community. We know that they share the concern of Americans that terrorism is a threat to us all. We stand with our Muslim partners in rejecting those who claim to speak in the name of Islam promoting violence and hatred.
As Jews, who too often suffered persecution because of our faith, we cannot abide religious bigotry. We implore all to uphold human dignity and religious understanding, and remind ourselves that, no matter our religious beliefs, we are all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.
December 15, 2015
Statement of Support
The Board of Rabbis of Southern California affirms the valuable contribution that Orthodox Women in leadership positions provide for our broader community. We also reassert that no matter how strongly we may disagree with others, we need to embrace and show mutual respect for all Jews, regardless of their ideological affiliation.
November 5, 2015
Statement on Attacks in Israel - Sabbath of Solidarity - Kavannah
The Board of Rabbis of Southern California condemns the recent attacks on innocent civilians in Israel. We recall the words from the Psalmist to seek comfort and inspiration at this time. "Pray for the well-being of Jerusalem; May those who love you be at peace." (Ps. 122)
We are outraged, concerned, and deeply saddened by the waves of attacks that persist in Jerusalem and in Israel throughout these last few weeks. We are shaken by the horrific images portrayed in photos, videos, and words that reveal the severity of the attacks. More than a call for international recognition and repudiation of the violence, we call for a swift conclusion to the violence and return to the path of peaceful resolution of all territorial and political conflicts.
We share with others the belief that there is no legitimate reason to purposely target men, women, and children going about their daily lives. There is no justification for the bloodshed on a path toward resolution of conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
We remain steadfast in our support for the Israeli people, the Israeli Defense Forces, and the dedicated work of professionals who bring healing to the victims and their families of these heinous acts of terror.
SABBATH OF SOLIDARITY WITH ISRAEL
Join us for a special Shabbat where we stand together, as the Jewish people, with Israel during this time of violent turmoil.
Rabbis and leaders of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist movements are joining with the Conference of Presidents in declaring October 16 - 17 as a special Sabbath of Solidarity with Israel.
Joining the effort are the Union for Reform Judaism, Central Conference of American Rabbis, United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, Rabbinical Assembly, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, Rabbinical Council of America, as well as the National Council of Young Israel and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities.
Synagogues throughout the country will add special prayers to their services and pray for the cessation of violence.
We also hope you will visit Israel, express public support for Israel in the media and to elected officials, and maintain contact with Israeli friends and relatives.
Rabbi Rick Jacobs, URJ President said, "Our hearts break as our people are viciously attacked in communities throughout our beloved Jewish State. Our North American Reform Movement joins in solidarity with our people everywhere as we pray for a peaceful Shabbat that leads to a safer and more secure State of Israel."
Kavannah for Shabbat of Unity with the People of Israel
By Rabbi David Wolpe
El Maleh Rachamim -- Compassionate God, We pray not to wipe out haters but to banish hatred. Not to destroy sinners but to lessen sin. Our prayers are not for a perfect world but a better one Where parents are not bereaved by the savagery of sudden attacks Or children orphaned by blades glinting in a noonday sun. Help us dear God, to have the courage to remain strong, to stand fast. Spread your light on the dark hearts of the slayers And your comfort to the bereaved hearts of families of the slain. Let calm return Your city Jerusalem, and to Israel, Your blessed land. We grieve with those wounded in body and spirit, Pray for the fortitude of our sisters and brothers, And ask you to awaken the world to our struggle and help us bring peace.
We invite people around the world to recite this kavannah in unity with the State of Israel this Shabbat, October 17, 2015.
Statement on Charleston Church Shooting from the Board of Rabbis of Southern California
We members of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California, the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles, ache for those who were murdered, for the families of those whose lives were taken, and for the members of the Emmanuel AME church of Charleston.We have all lost a colleague in the death of the church’s Pastor, South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pickney.
Seventy years after the end of World War II, when the Nazis vicious anti-Semitism and racism fueled a time of hatred and a colossal loss of life, we yearned then for a time without crimes of hate.May the day come when the forces of good overcome the evil that people can do, a time of justice for all, a time where each can worship his or her God in peace, when we are able to sit under our vine or fig tree, with none to make us afraid.
June 18, 2015
Helping the People of Nepal
The Board of Rabbis and The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles ask you to remember the victims of Nepal’s recent earthquake. Our prayers go out to all those who are suffering. Here’s how you can help.
April 29, 2015
Board of Rabbis Members Join In Declaring a Day of Religious Pluralism in Los Angeles
In keeping with Los Angele’s standing as the most ethnically and religiously diverse city in the nation, April 21, 2015, was declared a Day of Religious Pluralism in the City of Los Angeles. City Council Councilmembers Mitch O’Farrell and Mitch Englander partnered with the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission and prominent representatives of the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh and other faiths to take a stance against persecution and hate.
Five members of the Board of Rabbis of Southern California were participants in the formal program. Board President Rabbi Morley T. Feinstein led off with a unity prayer, while Rabbi Sharon Brous, Rabbi James Kaufman, Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky and Rabbi Mark Diamond each represented the Jewish community during the reading and presentation of the proclamation to the City Council. Executive Committee member Rabbi Susan Goldberg and Vice President Jonathan Freund were also in attendance.
As Councilman O’Farrell stated, "This effort comes at a critical time, as we witness a rise in extremism, persecution and serious violations of human dignity across the globe. Three of the major genocides of the 20th Century - the Armenian Genocide, the Holocaust and the Rwandan Genocide - are commemorated in the month of April. A show of unity on religious pluralism in the City of Los Angeles will send a powerful message to the international community."
Statement on Copenhagen Attacks from The Board of Rabbis of Southern California
Sadly, terror has again struck in the heart of Europe. Mirroring last month’s Paris attacks, first an attack against artists and writers at a café, and secondly, in a place where Jews gather, a holy site of worship and community. The Copenhagen Synagogue was attacked while a Bat Mitzvah was being celebrated, the other at a moment heralding freedom of speech and humanism. We condemn these terror attacks and mourn the loss of life. We pray that the injured police officers and all who were harmed will have a complete and swift recovery.
We reach out across the seas to Denmark in our hopes for healing. We send our voices of support to the Danish Jewish community, and to the families of the victims. We remember the Danes’ great acts of moral conscience during the Shoah, and lift up the hope that anti-Semitism and terror will be driven out of the European continent. May justice, freedom, and peace long reign.
For as we learn from the Ethics of our Fathers (1:18): "the very world exists because of truth, justice, and peace, as it is written, ‘In truth, justice and peace shall you judge in your gates’ [Zechariah, 8:16]”
February 16, 2015
Board of Rabbis of Southern California Expresses Outrage Over Paris Attacks and Extends Sympathy to Victims’ Families
The Board of Rabbis of Southern California joins with Jews and people of good will everywhere in expressing our outrage over the terrorist attacks perpetrated in Paris this past week, while extending its comfort and sympathy to the families of those murdered.
We are saddened by this explicit act of violence both against the values of freedom and liberty, and singling out Jews as victims, in these horrific acts. We value diversity and free speech and religious pluralism, which we must uphold here in America and defend across the seas. Just as France lives by the maxim “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity,” so do we hope to defend the pillars on which society rests: justice, truth, and peace.
We mourn those who died, especially the police officers, and honor the courage of 24-year-old Muslim grocery clerk, Lassana Bathily, who saved more than a dozen hostages during the siege at the kosher supermarket.
May the hopes and prayers of all humanity unite to make Paris and all cities beacons of light, filled with justice and equality for all, in the words of Isaiah, "Paix, paix, dit-il, pour qui s’est éloigné comme pour le plus proche! Je le guérirai, ainsi parle l’Eternel; Peace, peace, to him that is far off and to him that is near, says the Eternal…and I will heal him.”
January 12, 2015
Board of Rabbis of Southern California Strongly Condemns Murder of Rabbis at Prayer in Jerusalem
We share the grief of good minded people around the world who condemn terror, and who are aghast at the brutal murder of Rabbi Moshe Twersky and three other rabbis in Jerusalem today. Attacking innocents in a house of worship is a cowardly act of violence whose sole intent is to cause death and suffering.
Rabbi Twersky was the son of Prof. Isadore Twersky of Harvard University, and the grandson of the noted scholar Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. Rabbis Aryeh Kupinsky, Kalman Levine, and Avraham Goldberg also died in the heinous act. Their loss is our loss, and we mourn with their families.
May the day come when we can beat swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, a day of peace for all God’s children.
November 18, 2014
Board of Rabbis Learning Sessions Online
The Board of Rabbis makes available all of its learning sessions, including the Hartman Beit Midrash Series, Leaders on Leadership, and the High Holy Days Conference keynote addresses and breakout sessions. There are currently 23 sessions available, on video or audio, featuring some of the foremost rabbis and scholars in the Jewish world: Avi Weiss, Rick Jacobs, Yitz Greenberg, Arthur Green, Donniel Hartman, David Wolpe, Mimi Feigelson, Yosef Kanefsky, Noam Zion, Yehuda Kurtzer and more. Visit our YouTube channel to see the full range of offerings.