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

Mission on the Border

December 28, 2018

In my recent post on the Rabbis Without Borders blog, I share some stories from a recent immersion experience with the Kino Border Initiative in Nogales: We are a group of ten rabbis and educators, organized by Rabbis Without Borders colleague Charles Arian and hosted by a Catholic organization whose vision is humane, just, workable migration between the U.S. and Mexico. We adopt the language of their mission and strive to fulfill it. Humanize is to recognize the humanity and individuality of each person we encounter at the border. Accompany is to be present with people on their journey. We cannot change their situations or solve their problems; we can listen, reassure them we care and they are not alone. Complicate is to acknowledge the … Read moreMission on the Border

Taking a LEAP

December 4, 2018

My recent post on the Rabbis Without Borders blog is a reflection about beginning my tenure as a Rabbi Samuel T. Lachs fellow: This week I’m going back in time to my college days by taking a leap forward to become a student again in Philadelphia. Less than a month after celebrating the 25th anniversary of my ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary, I learned that I’d been accepted into the 2018-19 cohort of the LEAP Fellowship, created by CLAL and the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. The focus this year will be on the development of Jewish life, culture and thought in modern times across North Africa, the Levant, the Arabian Peninsula, and Central and South Asia. … Read moreTaking a LEAP

Thumbs Up for Resurgeons

November 15, 2018

Many of you heard or read the story of my fall. Not the season; the incident involving two dogs, one leash, a fire hydrant and Hailey. In that story, I try to emphasize the uplifting encounter with Hailey and downplay the injury to my thumb. In this installment of the story, I will also attempt to focus on the positive outcomes of spending nearly three hours at the doctor’s office. First, the nurse asks what happened, and she takes notes on the intake form on her clipboard. I tell her about the fire hydrant and how tightly I grasped the leash to protect Luna. I give her the DVD with my X-rays from the emergency room, and she leaves to upload them. Another nurse arrives … Read moreThumbs Up for Resurgeons

If you see something…do something! 

November 1, 2018

My recent post on the Rabbis Without Borders blog is a reflection on how an act of kindness from a stranger lifted my spirits after I fell: My physical bruises are nearly healed. The swelling in my thumb is still noticeable but I have enough mobility to be able to write and type these sentences with only minor discomfort. When I fell, the pain was so great I cried out in anguish, like a wounded animal. Then, even as part of my brain was aware I was broken and bleeding, I was able to stand, unwind Luna’s leash from the fire hydrant, and keep running. Overcome as I was by fear for Willow, my recently rescued dog, when I glimpsed Hailey’s car slowly descending the hill … Read moreIf you see something…do something!