Synagogue as Sanctuary

While there may be great disagreement regarding the direction in which our country is heading, I suspect that we would all agree that we live in “interesting times”. By and large, higher numbers of individuals are sensing anxiety; some are palpably fearful. “Fear” is a powerful motivator. However it often blocks out “mindful” behavior. It’s easy to forget our ability to express our disagreements with civility and allow ourselves to slip into emotionally couched comments which leave our “opponent” feeling insulted. On an extreme level, this can lead to public expressions of Xenophobia and specifically, anti-Semitism.

There’s good reason to feel strongly about our current political climate and to have a need to share our thoughts and feelings. While our synagogue is subject to sanctions if we officially engage in party politics, the fact that we function as a sanctuary means that we owe it to our members and even those beyond our walls to serve in this capacity. We also have a responsibility to express our religious beliefs and values that are the bedrock of civilization.

Like so many others – including members of our Social Action Committtee – I’ve been motivated to become much more active in serving those in our general community who may be under potential censure and verbal or physical attack. Some months ago I agreed to serve on the “Of One Soul” Committee (referred to as “O1S”). This is a sub-committee of the Sonoma County Interfaith Council which draws together both clergy and lay members from a large spectrum of different religious denominations. “Of One Soul” was formed to combat discrimination against members of our Moslem Community. It aims primarily to educate the general community about Moslems; their beliefs and practices and the degree to which Moslems, like many other minority groups that comprise our country’s population are “humans” like us and that the vast majority – like any other immigrant population – simply want to serve as loyal and productive citizens of our country.

We have formed a sub-committee from this group under the (current) name “Safety Pin Subcommittee” of which I currently serve as chair. Given the heightened sense of division and emotionality in the United States, our essential mission is to develop non-violent ways to prevent bullying in a variety of social settings, regardless of the particular ideology, dress, race or religion of the one under attack. In other words it would include coming to the aid of someone who is being bullied for their support of our current administration. While there is still much work to be done, our committee has provided three workshops to provide training in non-violent intervention. Our hope is to schedule future trainings as long as the need persists.

On a personal note. I want you to know that if you would like to discuss the religious or spiritual dimensions of our current situation to give me a call (707) 889-6905 to set up a time to share and examine the broader issues. In some ways I believe that as human beings, God has tested us from the very creation of humans to see if, despite our differences, we can learn to bear compassionate hearts for one another: to see ourselves as members of a great family.

Shalom,

Rabbi Mordecai Miller

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