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These Hallowed Fields: An Intention for Camp Ramah

These Hallowed Fields: An Intention for Camp Ramah
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor Many generations of souls have played here, learned here, grown here. Some never leave. Friends, mentors, loves - this holy place has been home for thousands and thousands. For me, it's been a Berkshires, Nyack, Ojai, Palmer, Monterey journey. My grandmother, parents, sisters, and children have known this summer air, sing these holy songs, feel this Jewish pride. It is real and it is magic. May the power of Ramah continue spreading throughout the world, one whole person at a time. May these shining, happy young faces know that their hearts are connected to a tradition born of educator-dreamers, made real by thousands of grateful others. May the joy and love of Ramah, carried by these lucky children and adults, influence their communities, and through those blessed communities, the world. Thank You, Holy One, for the gift of this holy place. #ramah#CampRamah#ramahforever

The Day After Charlottesville

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The Day After Charlottesville
Rabbi Menachem Creditor Huffington Post - 08/14/2017 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/the-day-after-charlottesville_us_599209efe4b063e2ae058204

In the aftermath of a horrific day in Charlottesville, there is an image I ask us to hold onto.

It is not the KKK in their hateful robes, not the tweets of a President who demonstrates more outrage when his daughter’s handbags are no longer carried by Nordstroms than when torch-bearing White Supremacists and American Nazis ravage a college campus and community in Virginia. The sound reverberating in our souls should not be the calls of “Jews will not replace us“ chanted enthusiastically by the “Unite the Right” hate rally in Charlottesville yesterday. These bands of bigots gathered in defense of a statue of Robert E Lee in a park that once bore his name but has been renamed Emancipation Park. The degradation of human beings, African slaves, that his military genius sought to perpetuate was their allegiance. And it …

Our Cherished Litany of Loss: Tisha Be'av 5777/2017

Our Cherished Litany of Loss: Tisha Be'av 5777/2017 © Rabbi Menachem Creditor
You, Jerusalem, (God, Your name burns my mouth.) golden watch-towers, heart-pulsing sacred stones, center of the universe, lion’s share of all the beauty that could be…
millions clamor for Your love… …You, O Jerusalem
Eternal City, why do You sit alone?
I miss You so very much. I miss You in Your absence, long for You because You are not here, because I am not there, with You. That is about me, not about you. I mourn for myself when I mourn for You.

An Intention for Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat Before Tisha Be'av

An Intention for Shabbat Chazon, the Shabbat Before Tisha Be'av
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor This is meant to be the saddest Shabbat of the year. May that be so. May our vision ("Chazon") defy the limitations of our pasts and lift our whole world with determined hope and defiant light. May our hearts be strong enough to see suffering where it endures, acknowledge it, address it, and thereby banish it forever, in fulfillment of the verse: "Sacred Love is without end when Divine Compassion does not cease." May we truly see every other, knowing that the destruction of the past is less possible when we look into each other's eyes. In this way, the way of deep seeing and divine compassion and sacred love, may comfort be closer than we imagine. Amen. #shabbat #chazon #9av #BuildOnLove

Among the Mourners of Zion: What Rabbis Do

Among the Mourners of Zion: What Rabbis Do
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor My heart is just beyond broken for the loss for our brothers and sisters Yosef Salomon z"l, 70, and his two children Chaya Salomon z"l, 46, and Elad Salomon z"l, 36, murdered this past Friday night in their home while celebrating the birth of a new grandchild.I just left the Tent of Mourning in Elad, Israel, where many, many people are in shock and mourning. Tears streaming down my face, barely able to speak, I will never forget this wretched, awful day. I sat with Yosef's son, whose baby was born last week. This new father was still wearing the hospital bracelet, and his son's bris will take place during Shiva. As it turns out, this young man has worked at Camp Ramah in the Poconos, and had friends in common with some of the rabbis with whom I'm traveling. All I can see in my mind's eye is his sad eyes. Some of these words were written before the visit took place, and all of them will …

The Beginning of the Flourishing of Redemption

Tears. Free flowing tears. I was just witness to such pain, such ravage. I've been here before. But this time overwhelmed even more. It's one of those encounters that rabbis hold onto for Yom Kippur sermons. But this real moment is not a story for me to choose to use at my leisure. That is the definition of privilege, and life is too short. I just met with 3 Syrian refugees being treated at the Galilee Medical Center. Please, take a moment and say that out loud. Israel has brought in 3,000 Syrian refugees in need of medical treatment. We spoke with these 3 men, each of whom has suffered serious injuries and is recovering under the care of Israel. And it is actually Israel, the government of Israel, that made the decision to offer this care at this scale. This is a government owned hospital. I'm so very proud of my homeland for demonstrating these middot, these deep humanitarian values. The three patients were willing to share their stories with us, and I saw their faces ch…

the prophets' boutique [a #poem]

the prophets' boutique [a #poem]
© rabbi menachem creditor walk with me
through downtown Jerusalem
this Friday afternoon
see through these wide, crying eyes
the miraculous art
of Ben Gurion's dreams:Hebrew lotto signs
ever-present Jewish cranes
King George's great synagogue
(though the truly great ones
never need to say so) can't take one step
not even one
without noticing it allmanhole covers and exquisite flowers
spikey signs and rabbinic schwarma
overwhelm meyears ago, I sat right here
soldiers and Pre-Shabbat shoppers
passing by (maybe the same ones!)
I wept then and weep now
over their very existence
each of them a treasure. (three Israeli girls just asked two chabadniks if they could put on tefilin. that's new.) King David could have never imagined
the prophets' boutique
he founded. I just can't stop seeing
can barely imagine blinking
I'd miss something These broken stones feel somehow stable beneath my feet. They're always shifting, …

My Souvenir Prophet 

My Souvenir Prophet 
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor How is any of this possible? As I type on a smartphone hooked up to the Tel Aviv/Jerusalem bus Wi-Fi, I reflect on my first almost-24-hours in Israel on this, my 30th pilgrimage home. From that first trip for my post-high school gap year on Nativ Israel, to this one coleading the AIPAC #Progressive #Rabbis Mission to Israel for the fourth time, my eyes and soul keep being overwhelmed by.... well, everything. Perhaps what typifies this trip was a strange, brief encounter that happened on the street just an hour ago. I stood with with my sister and baby niece on the sidewalk next to the site where Yitzhak Rabin z"l was assassinated. The site has become holier to me than the Kotel for many, many reasons. Just over 2 years ago, I brought my children to this place on a Shabbat morning, and watched as they gleefully played with the pigeons, my precious Jewish children laughing with enduring Israeli doves. For me, that made this place holie…

for whom and how Torah is given

for whom and how Torah is given
© rabbi menachem creditor

It is not for those inhabitants of comfortable, air-conditioned halls of study that spiritual practice was devised.

Those luxurious palaces of meaning are furnished with chairs and tables, bookshelves and coffee makers. Those seeking mastery there sit and pore and pour. They arrived at the doors of depth by choice. The depths from which they call are real and can be thorny, but by dint of their very access to the recorded treasures of the spirit, they have already made it.

No, dear ones, Torah was not given for them.

No, Torah was given for the souls waiting in hot, cramped, subway stations, challenged to be kind to each other while sweating in discomfort, making effort to not push each other aside in search of cooler air.

Wait. No, not for them, actually.

Torah was given for those poor souls outside the subway station, clothes melting off them in the sweltering heat. Yes, the messages of the holy Torah were given for those who …

Attacked from Within: A New HuffPost Piece

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Attacked from Within Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Huffington Post - 07/12/2017
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/59669d63e4b0524d8fa7fab1 In just a few days, I leave for Israel, ready to co-lead the AIEF/AIPAC Progressive Rabbinic Mission for the fourth time. These amazing trips have been defined in different and profound ways each summer: the Gaza war, the Iran Nuclear “deal,” and stabbing and ramming terrorist attacks. I have returned after each mission more committed to Israel’s security, more aware of the existential threats Israel faces, more appreciative of the inner dynamics of Israel’s society. I had hoped this summer would be a calmer trip. But, to my great dismay, this year, we rabbis head to Israel assaulted by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, an arm of Israel’s government. READ MORE HERE...

On Independence: Freedom For

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On Independence: Freedom For
© Rabbi Menachem Creditor 
"We men and women are all in the same boat, upon a stormy sea. We owe to each other a terrible and tragic loyalty." - G.K Chesterton
If I am to emancipate myself, we must emancipate each other. But, if I am to emancipate anyone, I must see each and every other anew, be(come) open to the possibility that someone besides me is in pain. And, if I am to(come) open to the possibility of the pain of another, just acknowledge my own.  Today, what is independence? We should desire no rockets' red glare, no gleaming empire. We should desire no borders that keep out young Afghani students, nor leaders who despise the free press. Are the rights to threaten and discriminate an independence worthy of the sacrifice of the men and women who defend us? 
And what of the flag, colors of America's freedom. For whom does that banner yet wave? For three fifths of some of us? The answer is far from clear, two hundred and forty-one year…

Opening Prayer for One America Movement Board Meeting (6/29/17)

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Opening Prayer for One America Movement Board Meeting (6/29/17)(c) Rabbi Menachem Creditor http://werepair.org/oneamerica/

Dear God, Creator Who Binds us All to One Another,

We ask for Your help this day. We know that there is no rest for the righteous. So we do not ask for rest. But we do ask for Your strength in our spirits as we engage in this sacred work as sisters and brothers.

We, as leaders of the One America Movement, dedicate ourselves to rebuilding our country, to repairing our world, and, perhaps most importantly, to we promise do all of this together.

We stand against the callousness that manifests as a readiness to see “the other” as “less than.” Mindful of Your Image in the faces of every human being, we are acknowledge that every voice on every side of every issue is obligated as one to start the work of reweaving the fabric of America faster than anyone might unravel it.

Your many Names are One, and so shall we be.

Please God, help us keep fierce feeling alive in our souls.

a new essay on HuffPost: "On the Outside Looking In: Reflections of a Jew Wounded by Israel"

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On the Outside Looking In: Reflections of a Jew Wounded by IsraelRabbi Menachem Creditor http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/5952cacbe4b0f078efd985a9 Today hurts so very terribly. Love shouldn’t hurt like this. With twin efforts to tyrannize the Western Wall and to weaponize Jewish conversion, the State of Israel is actively hurting the Jewish People, and it is worse than wrong. It is not wrong born of ignorance. It is knowing, willful abuse within our Jewish family. I was having a hard time formulating the thoughts of my aching soul, and so I turned to a colleague and friend, Myra Meskin... continue reading here

a new essay on HuffPost: "A Very Bad, No-Good, Rotten Day For Zionism"

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A Very Bad, No-Good, Rotten Day For ZionismRabbi Menachem Creditor
After decades of political brinkmanship and hand-wringing, countless tears and letters and protests and arrests, after multiple Israeli Supreme Court decisions and governmental committee commitments (not to mention thousands of Israeli leaders’ posturing at American Jewish fundraising events as supporters of Jewish pluralism), Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu today froze plans to dedicate a pluralistic prayer pavilion at the Western Wall. This is a betrayal of trust on every level, and there is no turning back. It is likely that many establishment well-intentioned American Jewish leaders will respond vocally to today’s horrific decision (some already have), but will then sit, once again, at the table with Israel’s leaders, pretending (even to themselves) that they aren’t being skillfully used as a PR shield for Netanyahu’s craven betrayal of Jewish values in our very home, once again. Today is a very bad, no-go…

A new TOI piece from Camp Ramah: "When it All Comes Together"

When it All Comes Together

http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/when-it-all-comes-together/#
I sat with a dozen boys and their counselors, singing to them and telling them stories. Harga'ot are a sweet bedtime ritual at Camp Ramah, and I've been part of this beautiful practice many, many times. But tonight was different in a few staggering ways, and the least I can do is share the gratitude welling up in my heart through these words.
The songs were an eclectic blend of Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, Garth Brooks, Rabbi David Paskin, and Joey Weisenberg, mixed in with one or two of my own. The story was my favorite, a defining one I learned along my journey towards becoming rabbi. The setting was the children's Mo'adon (lounge) at Camp Ramah in Northern California.
One song was a musical adaptation of the classic Chassidic story of a young boy who whistles during prayers instead of reciting the Hebrew words. People around the boy (including the Rabbi) are annoyed, but the  boy explains…

Grace, Grace... Please, God, Grace...

wind and spirit [a #poem]

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wind and spirit
(c) rabbi menachem creditor
stars of the sky glimmering, shining, sometimes hidden
their light graces, each in its own unique way, long after their time has passed.
clouds and closed eyes obfuscate
but
with enough wind and spirit awaiting light
will shine through it all.

When the Desert Sings: Bamidbar

The Way Up [a #poem]

the way up
© rabbi menachem creditor
for samyou might think these
tears of descent
and yet, as they fall
everything ascends raw sounds pierce the air
beyond and before words
quiet trembling,
familiar disequilibrium,
a promise made once again...new moment
new possibilities
new lifefinding a new perch
made easier
with each shed hot droplet. #BuildOnLove #life #chooselife #cry #live #love #returnagain

Can't stop, won't stop. Making welcome bags for Refugees, as part of the East Bay Tikkun Olam Chesed Day! #RefugeesWelcome #refugeecrisis #chesed #tikkunolam

Those Whose Hearts Call

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Those Whose Hearts Call
Rabbi Menachem Creditor To look from the outside at Congregation Netivot Shalom, one would think that an army of employees were behind the scenes, creating and implementing our vibrant programs and ritual life. The glory of our community is the ongoing commitment to participatory leadership. Yes, the tasks involved in leading an institution, supporting our 400+ membership, and maintaining our beautiful building on University Avenue - Berkeley, surpass the capacity of our historic model. The needs are just too much for the infrastructure we currently have in place. But that will always be the case, even when our system catches up with the needs we know about. But isn’t that glorious? To be a community that “invites you to engage in a cross-generational discovery of Jewish inspiration and purpose,” as our mission statement reminds us, means that we desire to grow and dream and build and love more and more. Which means that, if we’re blessed to succeed in our missi…