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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Happy Birthday Linda Brenner

Dear Family and Friends:

Our dear friend Linda Ross Brenner just had a significant birthday.  Here's the tribute I videoed for her.  It's a bit crudely filmed, but I'm no Max Klaben in that department.  

Happy birthday Linda.



Friday, August 23, 2013

A Family in Our Community Needs Your Help

Ethan Kadish is a 13-year-old boy in great need of the Reform Jewish community’s help.
On June 29, 2013, the afternoon peace of Shabbat at URJ Goldman Union Camp Institute(GUCI) in Zionsville, IN, was shattered by a lightning strike that left three campers unresponsive on the athletic field. Thanks to the skill, courage, and quick thinking of the GUCI staff, all three campers made it to the hospital and survived this unimaginable tragedy.
This heartrending incident tested the GUCI family, the URJ camp community, and the entire Reform Movement, but none more than the families of the injured campers. Their strength has been nothing short of inspirational. Two of those families’ children, thankfully, recovered and returned home; one even returned to camp. The third camper, Ethan Kadish, remains hospitalized in Cincinnati, OH.
To date, Ethan’s recovery has included a series of successes that began with his survival and includes milestones like opening his eyes, breathing independently, and responding to stimuli. Ethan is in the care of a fantastic medical team and undergoes several hours of intense physical therapy every day. His family looks forward to the day he will return home, but they recognize, too, that even once he’s home, his challenges will continue. Ethan will require regular therapy and constant medical care, which, once he leaves the hospital, likely will not be covered by insurance. Ethan and his family face a long, hard, and, yes, expensive road ahead.
The Kadish family’s remarkable strength comes largely from their faith – faith in the healing power of God, faith in the skill and wisdom of Ethan’s physicians, and faith in the support of the URJ and GUCI communities. We are pledged to maintain that support, ensuring that throughout the challenges ahead, their faith in our communities will not waver.
This week – the week before Ethan was to have celebrated his bar mitzvah – a fundraising campaign in his honor has been launched with HelpHOPELive, a nonprofit organization that assists the transplant community and those who have sustained catastrophic injury. The funds will help Ethan’s family meet immense financial challenges associated with uninsured therapies, home modifications, and other injury-related expenses. All contributions made in Ethan’s honor will be administered by HelpHOPELive, specifically and solely for his injury-related expenses.
Our tradition teaches that Kol Yisrael arevim zeh b’zeh (all Jews are responsible one for the other). Indeed, together with HelpHOPELive, the Reform Jewish family can honor Ethan and his family, sending a strong message that we stand together with all of them during this time of need.
To make a charitable contribution by credit card, please call 800.642.8399 or visit Ethan’s page at helphopelive.org.
To make a donation by check, make checks payable to: HelpHOPELive and include this notation in the memo section: In honor of Ethan Kadish. Mail to:
2 Radnor Corporate Center
100 Matsonford Road, Suite 100
Radnor, PA 19087
Contributions are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law. This campaign is being administered by HelpHOPELive – a 501(c)(3) nonprofit providing fundraising assistance to transplant and catastrophic injury patients – which will hold all funds raised in honor of Ethan in its Great Lakes Catastrophic Injury Fund.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

John, Woodie and Henry

Dear Family and Friends:

A while ago I wrote a piece about John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."  I've recently been seeing retros about Henry Fonda which certainly bring to mind that great movie.  Here is a recap of that post.



Sometimes being a late-night person pays off, at least in the “Watching Old Movies On TV,” department.  The other night I revisited the saga of Tom Joad and his family as they made their trek westward out of the 1930’s Oklahoma dust bowl to the California line.  Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” never hit home with me like it did that night.  Granted, It was late and I was tired, but I sat mesmerized watching Henry Fonda come home from prison only to find that his family had lost the farm to the dust and the bank.  It broke my heart to see those old farmers kneel down and scoop up handfuls of dirt and remember that their fathers and mothers were born and died on that land.  Tom Joad’s grandfather refuses to leave, holding on to a handful of dirt saying, “this dirt is mine…. It ain’t worth nothin’…but it’s mine.”

This is a tragic story of folks being forced off of their family’s land, and making their way to a new place, living on a hope and a prayer.  It’s the story that prompted so many of Woodie Guthrie’s songs.  He was an “Oakie,” and “Dust Bowl Refugee (one of his song titles),” when he wrote, “Do Re Mi,” and told us that “California is the Garden of Eden, a paradise to live in and see.  But, believe it or not, you won’t find it so hot, if you ain't got that Do Re Mi.”  And out of his dust bowl came, “Pastures of Plenty,” and “I’m Goin’ Down That Road Feeling Bad (and I ain’t gonna to be treated this-a way).” In, “I Ain’t Got No Home,” Guthrie wrote the saddest of verses saying, “My brothers and my sisters are stranded on this road. It’s a hot and dusty road that a million feet have trod.  The landlords threw us out and drove us from our door.  Now we ain't got no home in this world any more.”  Along with the better known, “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You,” Guthrie put Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath” to music with “The Ballad of Tom Joad.”  These are sad songs of poverty and suffering, but all with a glimmer of hope and great determination. 

One of our Torah portions came to mind as I sat in my family room glued to director John Ford’s incredibly powerful visual masterpiece.   How much like the Joads must Abraham have felt when he heard the words “Lech Lecha…” as he was ordered to leave the land of his birth?   How heroic to grit you teeth and pack your belongings and hit the road. I also couldn't help but think of the tragedy happening for all those modern-day, dusty refugees leaving their homes, like those in Afghanistan who made their trek to the Pakistani line. This is not a comment about our war in Afghanistan (that's a thought for a future blog post), but it certainly is heartbreaking to see anyone who, “Ain’t got no home in this world anymore.”

I encourage you to go out and rent “The Grapes of Wrath.”  See if it doesn’t help you understand the plight of the refugee and the heroism of the pioneer.  God knows our ancestors filled both of those roles throughout our history; refugees from Egypt, Spain, Russia, Poland, Yemen, Ethiopia, etc.  And heroic pioneers called Chalutzim, who left the lands of their birth with nothing but a dream, and came to Eretz Yisrael to build that dream in the form of kibbutzim.    They too scooped up handfuls of earth and said, “This land is mine!”  They understood the power of a personal relationship with land, the strength and satisfaction that comes from working the land, and because of that, the magnitude of the tragedy of being uprooted from your land. John Steinbeck and Woodie Guthrie understood and taught all of these lessons well. They just didn’t know how Jewish their message was.