Rabbinic Reflections: Issue 101

March 11, 2022 (8 Adar II 5782)

Oseh Shalom

Dear Friends,

I hope this correspondence find you doing well, in good health and good cheer. We hope that you will be able to join us this Shabbat for our hybrid services at 10:30AM, which will take place both in person as well as on our regular Zoom prayer link. We continue to build our in-service attendance each Shabbat, and we are grateful for your participation, in whatever manner works for you!

Please make sure to join us for Purim fun, including the reading of the Megillah, costumes, music, and Hamantaschen on Wednesday, March 17th at 7:30PM.

While teaching in a Jewish high school is often rewarding, it is also sometimes frustrating that our students do not have more literacy in ancient texts and Jewish ritual practice. Nonetheless, there are so many ways that these students amaze us each day! As we lead into Shabbat, I wanted to share with you a letter to the President of the Ukraine, written by the school's Politics Club. It is a text that weaves historical knowledge and Jewish values in a seamless and inspiring manner.

To the Honorable President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy:

We, the American Jewish high school students of the Politics Club of The Leffell School in New York State, are listening to your plea and standing in awe of you, President Zelenskyy. While the Ukrainian border is being violated with Russian missiles and maneuvers, your steadfast will and astounding commitment to your country have elevated the Ukrainian nation to the zenith of world opinion. Although he is the last to realize, Putin is puny, today, and eternally, and his legacy will NOT be “restoring the USSR.” Rather, his footprint will be on the wrong side of history, disconnected from the Russian people who reject his endangerment of all humanity and are ashamed of his murderous ways. As we, The Leffell School students learn world history and know the repercussions of fascism, we condemn Putin’s actions and are shocked to see how dissociated he is from the mighty currents of civil evolution and the great “arc of the moral universe,” which, through war-torn centuries, ultimately “bends toward justice.”

Despicably, “President” Putin said that his goal is to “de-Nazify Ukraine.'' How dare he compare the courageous, spirited, and innocent people of Ukraine to the guilty monsters who sent our relatives directly to the gas chambers! Putin said this in an attempt to rally the Russian people against Ukraine. One mistake: Nobody is believing him. Just a few days ago, Russian missiles landed near the Babi Yar memorial site which honors 33,000 Jews massacred in cold blood by Nazi German soldiers during WWII, and tens of thousands of Soviet POWs, communists, Ukrainian nationals and Roma executed in that infamous ravine during German occupation. As Jews and brethren worldwide feel the effects of this bigoted attack, it becomes even more apparent that Putin is utterly heartless and incapable of understanding the issues in his actions.

It is said in Pirkei Avot 2:5 (Ethics of our Fathers), "In a place where there are no men, strive to be a man.” While Putin continues to act irresponsibly and unsympathetically, as a reckless bully, you, President Zelenskyy, have been an inspiration and Jewish role model to all. Not only are you publicly denouncing Putin, but you are also standing up to him, face-to-face under threat of assassination.

As we enter the months of Purim and Passover, we retell the story of the heroic Jews who, thousands of years ago, stood up to and triumphed over evil leaders. So too, may you overcome these terrible trials. It is our hope that as we gather around the Passover table with our families in the coming weeks and years, we, too, will retell the victory of the Ukrainian people against a maniacal, abusive Russian leader.

During this harrowing crisis of sovereignty, as women and children flee and citizen-soldiers die, we reiterate, with the entire human family in unity, global recognition, President Zelenskyy, of your heroic leadership. As Jews, we have seen the effects of a fascist dictator and know the repercussions of sitting idly by. Resistance over appeasement: your courage sends a message of hope and reverses the mistakes of history.

Just as you stand up for all 45 million Ukrainian citizens, we, the Jewish community, will not be silent. Our words are only a sliver of the support you are giving to your people and the entire world with every moment of resistance. A main Jewish value is the idea of Tikkun Olam (repair the world) and you, President Zelenskyy, along with all 45 million Ukrainians, are most certainly fulfilling your obligation to making the world a better place. May we all rise as one to meet and triumph over this challenge.

Yasher Koach to our student writers and may this Shabbat indeed bring to the Ukraine and the entire world, full blessings of Shalom

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Eric L. Wasser, EdD.
201 562 5277

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