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Tishah B'Av

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What do we read when there are no good words? As I thought about the text to teach following the tragedy at Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, my mind fixed on the nine murdered. Murdered in their church, a holy sanctuary of God. Murdered because of who they were – because of the color of their skin.

I turned not to the five scrolls of Torah, but to the book of Lamentations, called in Hebrew simply Eicha. Alas! Lament!

It is a text full of sorrow and outrage and pain. While the text itself was written in response to the destruction of the First Temple in Jerusalem in 586...

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On this holiday weekend, due to a confluence of special days — Independence Day, the 17th of Tammuz and Shabbat — American Jews will have the opportunity to both celebrate our religious freedom and retrace what we did when it was threatened.

The 17th of Tammuz, a little-known fast day, commemorates the breach of Jerusalem's walls by the Romans that led to the destruction of the Second Temple — and, eventually, to another chapter of the Jewish Diaspora. The day also marks the beginning of the three-week mourning period leading to Tishah B’Av.

The 17th of Tammuz falling on...

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Throughout Jewish history, the three weeks before Tishah B’Av have been mournful, even dark. The Babylonian Talmud (Yoma 9b) explains that the Second Temple was destroyed because of “baseless hatred” (sinat chinam). This year, with Hamas rockets and tunnels terrorizing the State of Israel, the day of remembrance took on additional meaning.

Hamas is waging a brutal war against Israel’s very existence. The tunnels are intended to inflict terror and death on Israel’s southern border communities. Israelis and Jews everywhere realize that these threats must be ended. But Israelis know...

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Quite often, I remember my great bobe and zayde (grandma and grandpa) and the little village in Belarus they left to make a life here. I never saw the inside of their village, but I do remember my visits to their home as a child, and can still feel the bristle of my great zayde’s mustache on my cheek when he kissed me and greeted me. I feel called into Jewish activism by their legacy. And tonight I hear them and their generation speaking to me. They are asking: What did you learn from us? What did you learned from what has occurred to us in Europe and then here in the U.S.? What was the...

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Many people wonder why Tishah B'Av continues to matter in modernity. This solemn day of fasting commemorates the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and exile from the land of Israel. Why continue to mourn these losses in an age when the Jewish people have regained our homeland and rebuilt Jerusalem? After traveling with American Jewish World Service to the Thai-Burmese border this past winter, however, I have rediscovered in Tisha B’Av an eternal call to remember oppression and to act to overcome it.

During my travels with AJWS I had the privilege of meeting with some of the...

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