To Bow, Or Not to Bow?

April 17, 2019

On the Rabbis Without Borders blog, a reflection on praying at the Roswell Community Masjid (RCM) after the terrorist attack at the Al Noor Mosque and Linwood Islamic Centre in Christchurch, New Zealand: “I arrive nearly an hour early for Jumuah (Friday afternoon communal prayers). I want to visit briefly with the Imam and other friends before the service, because I know I’ll be rushing home after the prayers to finish preparing for Shabbat. I sit toward the back of the women’s section, close to the southern wall. Just as the Imam begins his remarks, a woman rushes in and sits beside me; she greets me with a whispered Asalam aleikum and a smile. We rise for communal prayer, and I take a step backward toward … Read moreTo Bow, Or Not to Bow?

Morning Exercises: Prayer

March 24, 2019

On the Rabbis Without Borders blog, I continue my series of posts about my morning routine. This past week’s reflection is about prayer, specifically my singing of Psalms every morning: “I didn’t plan to return to the subject of poetry, or even that of prayer, in this blog post. But since waking up to the news of the horrific shooting in New Zealand on Friday, I’ve been doing quite a bit of praying every morning, so it seems only fitting to write about prayer this week. Usually, my morning exercise of prayer is dominated by the poetry found in the book of Psalms. I have a few favorites, and favorite lines in each one, and favorite melodies for a few of them. I sing or … Read moreMorning Exercises: Prayer

Morning Exercises: Movement

March 15, 2019

It’s always dark when the dogs wake me in the morning, and switching to Daylight Savings Time hasn’t changed anything. I’m not ready to rise, but dogs are creatures of habit and need to get moving in the morning. I have a few minutes between when they shake themselves awake and make their way to the front door. I use the time to turn on my phone flashlight, pull on my slip-on sneakers and zip up my jacket, because it’s always coldest before the dawn. Check the pockets for poop bags. Clip the leashes onto their collars—this usually takes me a few tries, because my fingers are not yet awake—clasp both leashes with my left hand so I can turn the deadbolt and door handle … Read moreMorning Exercises: Movement

Morning Exercises: Poetry

March 7, 2019

“If poets ruled the planet, we’d still be living in caves, and we wouldn’t care about anything except writing.” —Janet R. Kirchheimer This was just one quotable line from Janet’s response to an email I sent to her, in which I confessed that I’d been writing poetry to procrastinate grading papers and answering emails. Janet, the CLAL teaching fellow who manages the LEAP program, is a poet, so I knew she’d understand my predicament. It’s been one week since I returned from Philadelphia, where I attended numerous lectures and seminars at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies. I crammed a lot of learning into three days, attending not only the LEAP program but also a lecture in the Religion and the Global … Read moreMorning Exercises: Poetry

Hidden Figures: Homeless in Suburbia

February 21, 2019

In my recent post on the Rabbis Without Borders blog, I reflect on what I learned during the 2019 Point-in-Time Homelessness Count. Although I volunteered for the first time in 2017, and I blogged about that experience, this time was different for me. Then, I was assigned to a team that covered a few square miles of Alpharetta, where I’d never been. This year, I stayed within a few miles of my home in Sandy Springs:  “This year, I volunteered to be on a team that would survey the area just west and north of my neighborhood in Sandy Springs. Because I encounter homeless people regularly, at least during daylight hours, I thought I’d be helpful finding where they seek warmth from the near-freezing temperatures at … Read moreHidden Figures: Homeless in Suburbia

Walk around the Block

February 14, 2019

“Our life is a walk in the night, we know not how great the distance to the dawn that awaits us. And the path is strewn with stumbling blocks and our bodies are grown tyrannous with weeping yet we lift our feet. We lift our feet.”  —Rachel Kadish in The Weight of Ink, p. 51 This morning the mourners will get up from sitting shiva and take a walk around the block. This tradition, an act that literally propels the mourners outside and returns them to daily activities, is also symbolic of the change in a mourner’s spiritual state, from deep and overwhelming grief to a kind of sub-surface sorrow, one that allows for the return to daily life. I will not accompany them, as I … Read moreWalk around the Block

Wandering in the Desert

January 24, 2019

My recent post on the Rabbis Without Borders blog is a personal reflection on the spiritual journey I took in the desert in Arivaca, Arizona: Shortly after sunrise on the second morning of our visit at KBI’s retreat house, Father Pete Neely arrives to take us to Arivaca. There is frost on the windshield as we pile into our rental cars, but when we arrive at the Bueños Aires National Wildlife Refuge the temperature is reaching into the sixties. During the hour-long drive from Nogales we see vistas of wide-open desert, rugged mountains rising up along the horizon, towering cactus plants and yellow traffic signs warning us we’re traveling through an open range area. In Arivaca, a desert town of approximately 600 residents that was founded … Read moreWandering in the Desert

My Day in Court

January 17, 2019

Bearing witness in the federal courthouse in Tucson, I begin to understand how complicated the issue of immigration is. The court proceedings of Operation Streamline may be efficient, but there is nothing easy about observing the criminal prosecution of frightened, desperate people. In Nogales we learned about the criminalization of immigration. We heard about the desperation of migrants that traversed dangerous terrain and entered the U.S. to find safe haven and freedom, who were being detained in Eloy Detention Center until their court hearing in Tucson, and then being deported as swiftly as possible. KBI’s educators had prepared us for this experience, explaining the intricacies of the law, encouraging us to take notes and jot down questions for the judge, who would meet with us … Read moreMy Day in Court

Praying at the Wall

January 9, 2019

Before I built a wall I’d ask to know What I was walling in or walling out, And to whom I was like to give offence. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, That wants it down.  —Robert Frost We begin our walking tour of downtown Nogales at the DeConcini Port, before crossing an overpass and gazing at the lines of cars and trucks waiting to cross into the U.S. on the highway below. We make our way toward the pedestrian waiting area to stand alongside the building and learn about the wall, and immediately notice the disparity between this port of entry and the beautifully renovated Mariposa checkpoint, where we travel between Mexico and the US with ease. The building looks like a … Read morePraying at the Wall

Hands on Fire

January 3, 2019

After parking our rental cars at the Shell gas station in Nogales, Arizona and walking across the border into Nogales, Sonora on the shoulder of the road, we arrive at the comedor (lit., dining room). At 9 a.m. the building is nearly empty, except for staff and volunteers wearing yellow vests, who are preparing the food and setting the tables that will soon be occupied by more than 100 migrants. I can’t imagine how we will all fit inside this room, let alone how anyone will manage to move once the room is filled with people. Our guide on this Monday morning is Joanna Williams, KBI‘s Director of Education and Advocacy, and she introduces us to Sister Cecilia and Victor. Sister Cecilia, who coordinates all programming … Read moreHands on Fire