I hope you are all having a good summer. I have had the good fortune of getting some time off to spend traveling and hanging out with family and friends.
This summer has brought good news and bad. The bad news is that we are consistently reminded that our country has not overcome the legacy of racism. As you know, eight people were gunned down by a disturbed white supremacist at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtownCharleston,South Carolina. I was privileged to be invited to speak at a service in honor of the victims of the shooting at St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Church in San Bernardino. The good news is that this horrible massacre has prompted denunciations of, among other things, the Confederate flag flying on state Capitol grounds and being sold by such retailers as Walmart or Amazon. May the discussion be ongoing as it addresses the underlying values represented by this flag.
The bad news is that too many people around the world continue to suffer from the consequences of sectarianism and war. Today, there are some 50 million refugees around the world displaced by violence and prejudice. Many have fled the brutality of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The Rohingya, a Muslim minority in Myanmar, have risked their lives and those of their children by undertaking a treacherous journey by boat to escape persecution at home. Brutal civil wars have displaced hundreds of thousands from South Sudan and the Central African Republic. Most of these refugees are barely living at subsistence levels.
The good news is that sometimes tolerance and respect for diversity win out. In a landmark decision, the Supreme Court this summer legalized same sex marriage. The Reform movement has long been an advocate of LGBT rights and, in 2000, the Central Conference of American Rabbis passed a resolution in support of same gender officiation. As the Religious Action Center of the Reform movement states:
Each of us, created in God’s image, has a unique talent, with which we can contribute to the high moral purpose of tikkun olam, the repair of our world. Excluding anyone from our community lessens our chance of achieving this goal of a more perfect world.
I realize that not all congregants will agree with me on the following matter, but I was pleased with another piece of summer news: the Supreme Court also upheld the Affordable Care Act. This legislation, while imperfect, has provided 8-11 million previously uninsured people with health coverage. The Reform movement has supported the Affordable Care Act just as our tradition has advocated for broad access to health care. Indeed, Maimonides, the 12th century rabbi, physician and scholar, lists health care as number one on the list of most important communal services that a city must offer its residents. So I applaud the Supreme Court’s wisdom in not denying insurance to millions of needy Americans.
Your High Holy Day packets have been mailed out to you because, in the blink of an eye, the New Year will be upon us. As we approach the month of Elul leading to Rosh Hashana, let us recommit ourselves to tikkun olam – to repairing our world – so that next summer, there will be less bad and more good news to share.