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Ritual: A Tool for T'shuva

My childhood synagogue was just down the street from the shore of Lake Michigan. Like we do here in Petoskey, everyone would head to the beach just after services on Rosh Hashanah morning. Feet in the sand, connected to the earth, I would listen... my rabbi would say a few words, and then quiet... leaving us to our private reflections. I always took this part of Tashlich very seriously. I tried to be honest with myself, which was especially difficult as a teenage girl. I would think about my year, consider those who I had harmed knowingly and by accident. Then toss my crumbs into the water and watch as they floated away or were eaten by seagulls... but I knew that this ritual was just that,

The Israel Pendulum: Empathy and Caution

Over the summer I met a woman who grew up in Israel, served in the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF), and witnessed the complicated effects of the conflict first hand. Let’s call her Talia... Her entire life, Talia was taught not to trust the Palestinians, as if every Palestinian person were dangerous and wanted to do harm to all Israelis. She believed these things to her core, because she was never able to actually meet Palestinians, or learn what their lives were really like. When she was old enough to serve in the IDF, Talia was stationed in the Gaza strip. That is where she encountered the difficult reality that Gazans face on a daily basis; access to clean water was lacking, sewage not prope

Struggling: a condition of being human

It has been just over 18 years since the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Many of us in this room remember exactly where we were when we heard the news. I was in my sixth grade history class. My teacher had a tiny, black and white TV behind his desk where he would typically watch the news on his break. He turned it on and the whole class crowded around to watch in horror as an airplane crashed into the side of the World Trade Center. This attack spread fear and caused trauma all over this country, but those who suffered the most were the first responders and the families of those who died in New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon. Earlier this year, a bill was proposed to continue the Victims Compen