Human Rights in the Dominican

The following is adapted from a sermon I gave on Friday, January 29, 2016 at the Reform Temple of Forest Hills, my synagogue. It reflects in words and pictures the powerful experience I had in the Dominican Republic to challenge the bigotry that exists forcing Dominicans of Haitian Descent into losing their nationality and even their homeland and my amazing opportunity to work with AJWS to challenge it. (Photos look best on computer over a handheld device)

BaseballIt was the Dominican Republic championships. The season of baseball in baseball crazed DR had come to down a best of 9 – yes, a 9 game – playoffs between the two powerhouse Santo Domingo teams – the Tigers and the Lions. On our only evening off during my trip with AJWS, five of us had managed to somehow get tickets.

Because both teams share Juan Marichal Stadium, the fans were divided into sides of blue and red at home plate. The rivalry was strong and we enjoyed empanadas in our seats and an intense game of béisbol.

It was 4-4 in the 6th inning. As I watched the collection of peripheral major leaguers, minor league prospects, and local standouts, I couldn’t help but think of another baseball player: Ignacio Gabriel.2 Baseball Stadium

3 IgnacioIgnacio doesn’t have a baseball card or a ranking as a prospect. He was a 17-year-old I had met a few days earlier. Ignacio was charming, confident, and friendly. The youngest of 4 brothers, his family was too poor to send him school and so he worked thanklessly in the sugar cane fields. But he had a passion. He loved baseball. And he was good. His right handed power arm caught scouts attention and at 14-years-old he was signed by the San Diego Padres to their Dominican training camps. This was a lifeline for his family. The meager signing bonus allowed him to provide food and clothing to his family. His fastball kept getting better and touched 94 MPH. Everything was unfolding like a dream for Ignacio. Except one thing. Ignacio didn’t have his official identity card. Continue reading

Transparent Judaism

Transparent is the best Jewish show on television. The premise and goal of the show is not about Judaism at all. Most obviously, it is about Maura, a recently out trans woman and the ramifications of her revelations to her three children. It is also about the three sexually diverse adult children who are extraordinarily selfish (actually all the main characters are pretty self-absorbed) and each engages in different sexual explorations as adults (and also in flashback as teenagers). Brutal, honest, complicated, awkward, and real.

However, the family is also Jewish. And they are real Jews.

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Modern Sins

Al ChetWe live in a fascinating time full on new ways to wrong ourselves, others, and the planet. These are Modern Sins.

Below is a collection of a few modern sins I’ve come up with in the format of the Yom Kippur prayer “Al Chet Shechatanu…” “For the sins we’ve committed.”

What are the modern sins you are guilty of?  Post one in the comments below.

Al chet shechetanu… For the sins we have committed…

  • For turning off The Daily Show before the interview if I don’t know the guest.
  • For still having not watched The Wire.
  • For checking Facebook instead of living my day.
  • For buying Iced Tea every morning when I can make it for pennies and just as quickly as the time it takes to go to Starbucks of Dunkin Donuts.
  • For using “Rabbi” Google instead the wall full of books to do Jewish research.
  • For having 1000 TV channels, Netflix on Demand, an iPad, the entire Internet, satellite radio, dozens of books and magazines I haven’t read in paper form and digitally and ever saying, “There’s nothing to do.”
  • For pretending that text messaging or a Facebook chat is equal to a phone call. For pretending a phone call is equal to seeing someone in person.
  • For being more interested in the new iPhone than in the situation in Syria.
  • For deleting voice mails half way through.
  • For caring more about the plight of Walter White than the plight of…anyone else, anywhere.
  • For texting – or adjusting my GPS or setting the radio or using the Internet or trying to figure out what that mystery button does or getting too deep into conversation or watching the scenery – while I should been driving (or biking or walking)
  • For Skyping while not wearing pants.
  • For buying something “As seen on TV” and getting upset when it doesn’t work
  • For pretending you have a phone call in order to get out of a face-to-face conversation
  • For acting like watching the movie is as good as reading the book
  • For ever using phrases like “No homo,” “I’m not a racist,” or “jk” to cover up something that really is bigoted
  • For the fact that Duck Dynasty and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo are hits
  • For using your phone – for ANY reason – while sitting in a dark movie theater
  • For posting all those FarmVille and Candy Crush updates and invites.
  • For saying, “The email must have gotten lost,” when you know you never sent it
  • For not donating blood, being an organ donor, having your bone marrow tested if you are physically able.
  • For typing LOL when you really didn’t
 For all these sins, may we work to change our ways and then probably Tweet about it (#ModernSins).
Add your own Modern Sins below.



I was walking to Temple needing some inspiration. Over the course of a couple blocks I saw these signs. For me, they told a story and gave me a little lift.




Shana Tova.

Moving – Things That Stay the Same

moving-house12 months later and, as Yogi Berra said, it is Déjà vu all over again. I’ve moved cross country. My stuff is delayed (and I stand by my original post on “Stuff”). Constant change and transition is tough and many of us are not cut out for it.

What makes it especially challenging is nothing is obvious and easy. From where to get lunch to where are my black pants, there are few consistent things in a new town with a new job with an empty apartment. The change is the main constant.

So with all the things that change, let me focus on what has stayed them same.

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I Preferred the Book

bibleThe Bible is inherently cinematic. it has the global story filled with dramatic tension, complicated personal lives, special effects, war, comedy, power, surprises, and much more. It is Game of Thrones with more violence and sex, but without Peter Dinklage.

So when The History Channel’s The Bible miniseries was announced, I was curious to see how a modern television version might put out a sweeping run of biblical stories. Along with millions of Americans, I watched the 10 hours of The Bible and I found those key elements – it was dramatic (the overbearing score reminded me of that), intense (the constant violence made sure I knew that), and passionate (all the shouting made sure I was aware they were playing IMPORTANT characters).

ht_mark_burnett_and_roma_downey_bible_lpl_130227_wgThe Bible was produced by Mark Burnett (from Survivor) and Roma Downey (from Touched by an Angel) as a….well, passion product. They hope to bring over a billion new readers to the Bible. To help you on your journey there is the companion website, and they have created a merchandising machine – a companion novelization (Stephen Colbert had something to say about that), soundtrack,, DVD (on sale today!), mobile app, and more. Their “passion product” has also become a money making machine.

But while they attempted to make a family-friendly, marketable Bible for today, there were some areas of significant concern. And areas where I would have wished things were different.

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Why All the Red Matters to Me

HRC LogoA beautiful post by Rabbi Eleanor Steinman of California Faith for Equality on the recent mass changes in profile pictures on Facebook for Marriage Equality. I get quoted.

Check out her whole blog for her personal recap of going to DC for the Supreme Court hearings on Prop 8 and DOMA.

And also check out some of the incredibly creative varieties of the Marriage Equality logo here and here and few selected images below.

mawwage-equality yoda-equality matzah-equality peanuts-gay-marriageopposed-to-marriage-equality

The Boy Scouts of America Bigotry Reconsidered?

scouts-620x412As has been well-reported, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) are reviewing their policy  this week on discriminating against gay scouts and troop leaders. Supposedly, they are considering letting each indivudal troop make their own policy.

I am dubious of the whole enterprise. With Mormon and Catholic money at the center of BSA funding, I doubt they would allow such ‘immorality’ in the organization they fund. What would national Boy Scout events look like with religious conservative troops enacting such a ban and tolerant, diverse troops having gay scouts and leaders? Still, any step forward is a step. Even ‘separate, but equal’ is better than ‘nothing at all.’

Will this be like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ – a stepping stone to openness? Or will this be like ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,’ a panacea that was used to keep stall equality for EIGHTEEN years? So I began to think more about it…

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