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December 11, 2009     Heritage Florida Jewish News
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December 11, 2009

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HERITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, DECEMBER 11, 2009 By Gary Rosenblatt Jewish Week NEW YORK--Most morn- ings now, I wake up with the sounds of Kaddish in my head. It's not surprising. For the last seven weeks, my psyche has been focused on the tra- ditional mourners' prayer, Which I've been reciting at least six times a day in my mother's memory. My life seems to revolve around, and focus on, getting In the year of mourning tosynagogueontimemorn - " normal responsibilities ofour ing, afternoon and evening-- being prepared to lead the services, and concentrating my thoughts on the concept of elevating, my mother's soul through the recitatioo of Kaddish. It's a new and compelling routine, but I'm not com- plaining. In fact, I think the approach our rabbis devised for mourning a close relative is brilliant psychologically, first separating us from the Letters To The Editor HERITAGE welcomes and encourages let- ters to the editor, but they must be typed or printed and include name and phone number. We will withhold your name if you so request. Please limit letters to 250 words. Due to space limitations, we reserve the right to edit letters. Send letters to P.O. Box 300742, Fern Park, FL 32730. Or e-mail to Heritage broadens its scope Dear Editor: I have been a subscriber to the Heritage Florida Jew- ish News for more than 20 years. I hav e always enjoyed reading it, writing articles, meeting and enjoying the staff at the news office. In- stead of writing to complain about the paper, I wanted to tell you I have really noticed a change in that the Heritage has broadened its scope to include much more national and international" news that pertains to Jews and Israel. It means more work for your staff, I'm sure, but I now read it literally from cover to cover. I still enjoy the community news, but I find the changes refreshing in what is already the best Jewish news in the entire state. Keep up the good wor.k. I'm a subscriber for life! Valerie C. Kahn Maitland By Arthur Waskow PHILADELPHIA (JTA)--As the U. S. Senate is taking up the issue of climate policy, the world's governments are trying to shape international policy at a crucial conference starting this week in Copen- hagen. The governments will take vigorous action only if the grass-roots pullic insists on serious change. Chanukah, the festival of energy conservation, will overlap the Copenhagen con- ference. It is a period when we recall that one day's oil met eight days' needs; when we honor grass-roots action that transformed society despite elephantine top-down power centers; when we Celebrate "Not by might, not by power, but by the Spirit, Breath of Life." We encourage you to take action--before, during and after Chanukah--rooted in the following Seven Principles that should underlie Jewish and interfaith efforts to shape U. S. and world policy on heal- ing the climate crisis. 1. Our planet hs always been a living demonstra- tion that "YHWH Echad" ("the Breathing Spirit of daily life for the week of shiva, and then gradually restoring us to "normal" life through an extended period of less intense but restrictive mourning--30 days for a spouse, sibling or a child, and 11 months fora parent, one who gave us life. At a time len one is vulnerable to depression and a profound sense of loss, the mitzvah of Kaddish--the ancient Aramaic prayer that praises God and makes no mention of death-- gives the mourner a sense of purpose, the feeling he or sh is able to do something tangible for the loved one,When the inclina- tion may be to withdraw and turn inward, we are given a task to fulfill that involves being with others, taking part in. a minyan three times a day and reciting a prayer that, according to tradition, benefits the soul. The ritual expression a fel- low congregant might greet you with after hearing you chant the Kaddish--"may the neshama [soul] have an aliyah [literally, an elevation]"--is profound. It underscores the belief that we in this world still have a connection with and active role to play in the fate of our departed relative, whose spirit can be raised and enhanced by our prayers. And the expres- sion suggests to me that our own neshama, too, can be lifted through the experience, making us more compassion- ate, reflective and humble in the face of life's realities. There are countless laws and customs associated with the year of mourning, from not shaving for the first 30 days (as ifI needed an outward sign of my grief) to moving one's seat further back in synagogue to refraining from social situations. Rabbis have various inter- pretations about how strictly to adhere to, say, not listen- ing to music, or going to the theater or movies, weddings or partieg for the year. They sometimes distinguish be- tween public events and pri- vate enjoyment, likewatching afilm at home rathe r than go- ing out to a movie theater, or determine how many couples, if any, one can share a meal with on Shabbat. So far I've been listening for my mother's voice in my head to guide me, and it's been working, "Be respectful, but don't overdo it," she would say. And "think about other people's feelings." That includes seeking out fellow mourners in the syna- gogue, as we are a lonely group, by definition, a part of the congregation yet also apart. Ours is an exclusive club of sorts, bound by loss, yet at some point in life everyone becomes a member. In the 24 years since I observed the year of mourning for my father, I've increased my admiration for regular shul-goers, who attend services daily, year in and year out. And I recall that a kind word, a smile, a recognition of another mourner's status can go along way toward easing the sense of isolation--for both of you. One friend who knew my mother told me he is grateful when he hears me say Kaddish because it brings back warm memories of her for him. That commentwas such a comfort, and deeply appreciated. My brother and I have been shar- ing our thoughts--a comfort in itself--and comparing our shul-going experiences. I'm grateful to be acknowledged by others after leading the ser- vice or reciting the Kaddish, but it doesn't always happen. I still haven't came up with a proper response when people ask, "how are you doing?" They mean well, but what am +I supposed to say? That I am still in a bit of a fog, but doing the best I can? Not only is every day different, but one's mood can change in a heartbeat. There are moments when I can tell a story about my mother and smile at the memory. Other times I can be at work at my desk or riding home on the bus and a vivid recollection of my mom--of a simple image or the sound of her voice--will come to me out of the blue and bring tears to my eyes. And there are questions from my young grandchildren that I can't answer. Where is Seven principles to help heal tr pl, 'net the universe is One")--but the climate crisis invites us into the clearest awareness in all human history of that truth. The planet is in this as One; policy must reflect that. (Underlying Jewish principle: the Sh'ma, especially the tra- ditional second paragraph on rain and crops, etc.) 2. The cost of spewing carbon dioxide and methane into the atmosphere must be greatly increased, by taxes and/or "cap & trade" that require payment from the car- bon producers according to the damage they are causing. (Underlying Jewish principle: Exodus 21: "If a bull gores a man or a woman to death, the bull must be stoned to death, and its meat must not be eaten. But the owner of the bull will not be held respon- sible +. If, however, the bull has had the habit of goring and the owner has been warned but has not kept it penned up and it kills a man or woman, the bull must be stoned and the owner also must be put to death. However, if payment is demanded of him, he may redeem his life by paying whatever is demanded.) 3. The pool of money this brings in must be used to pre- vent damage to the poor and middle class through higher costs of fuel and energy. The climate healing fund should be used in rebates, more for the poorer people, etc. (Un- derlying Jewish principles: tithing, gleaning and obliga- tory tzedakah to assist the poor, orphans, widows, the landless) 4. Big Coal or Big Oil have great political power, but their power must be limited so they cannot distort needed policy in order to expand their own power and profits. Important example, the EPA must con- tinue to have power to enforce carbon dioxide limits upon coal-burning power plants. (Underlying Jewish principle: resistance to top-down unac+ countable powers Pharaoh, Antiochus, Rome) 5. Insidethe United States, industries and regions thai: are specially endangered by climate/energy reform (e. g. coal mining, oil drilling, autos) must be given special help for retraining in green jobs. (Underlying Jewish principle: Maimonides' eighth and high- estapproach to tzedakah: Help the poor to end their own pov- erty by providing capital, etc.: a fishing rod, not just a fish.) 6. Outside the United States, poor nations must be given major help by the rich for two purposes: pursu- ing economic development through non-fossil pathways, and meeting urgent crises already swamping/flooding/ scorching them. (Underlying Jewish principles: Again, Mai- monides eighth and highest approach to tzedakah: Help the poor to end their own pov- erty by providing capital, etc.: a fishing rod, not just a fish.) 7. Public policy must start encouraging what we usually think of as "personal" choices for non-climate-destroying practices: Much more restful and reflective time for faniily and neighborhood, much less "productionconsumption" time. Frugality in energy use, eating less meat. Simplicity in life,path. More money for learning, arts, etc.; less for making Things. Taxes, sub- sidies, wages/hours laws, etc., are all ways of encouraging these directions. (Underlying Jewish principle: Shabbat, traditionally an earth-healing as well as human-healing practice, was a communal commitment, not just indi- vidual choice.) Of these principles, we sug- gest the following yardstick for measuring proposed U. S. policies: Do they promote American energy indepen- dence and security, and the healing of our planet by: Immediately ending all gov- ernmental subsidies to the production of oil and coal? Radically and swiftly reducing the burning of oil and coal from all sources, foreign and domestic? Simultaneously using all possible measures to build an energy base for the American economy on solar, wind and other sources of waste-free, sustainable en- ergy and on urgent steps for energy conservation? Making "green jobs" and the creation PAGE 5A Bubbe now? Can she still see me? Can she hear me ifI talk to her? Will I ever see her again? In their innocence, they articulate the imponderables that we adults grapple with but have learned to avoid asking, even of ourselves. My year of mourning has a long way to go, I've only just started on this journey that connects the past to the present. I take each day as it comes, emotionally exhausted at times from the awareness of my fragile state or just worry- ing about the next minyan, but grateful for the opportunities for prayer and reflection and especially for the mitzvah of saying Kaddish for my mother. May I be worthy of honor- ing her good name, always. And may the neshama have an aliyah. Gary Rosenblatt is editor andpublisher of the New York Jewish Week, from which this column is reprinted with per- mission. He can be reached at /Editor's note: Orlando's community minyan, held Monday through Friday, 7.'45 to S:30 a.m. at the Hebrew Day School, is a much-appreciated resource for those who need to say Kaddish. Please sup- port the minyan with your presence and active partici- pation, so that people in our community can, like Gary Rosenblatt in his, find a warm and welcoming place when they need it most.] Jewish community ignores female leaders at its peril of a green infrastructure the central focus of transition to a new American economy? Giving aid to poor nations to pursue a non-fossil path for economic and social devel- opment? If the Jewish commu- nity and other American faith communities undertake this effort, not only Chanukah, which means "dedication," but our lives as a whole can become a practice of Rededica- tion to the One. Rabbi Arthur Waskow is the director of The Shalom Center, as well as the author or editor of many books on Jewish practice, eco-Judaism and U. S. public policy. By Rebecca W. Sirbu NEW YoRK (JTA)--A re- cent survey by the Forward of 75 major American Jewish communal organizations found that fewer than one in six are run by women, and that those women are paid 61 cents to every dollar earned by a man. I was not surprised to read this, only saddened again by the realities of the Jewish community. It is past time that the Jewish community welcomed women into leadership roles and valued our contribution.s. If we don't do this, we will lose the next generation of Jewish leaders. I know this because I almost left myself. I did not encounter overt sexism until I entered rabbini- cal school in 1994. That year, I was told in a job interview for a position at a bureau of Jewish education, "What are you in rabbinical school for? You should just get a degree Peril on page 23A Dry Bones A OUSTION www.drybonesblog.oom