Welcome! I am Rabbi Jonathan Biatch of Madison, Wisconsin. "Pulpit Perspectives: My Observations as a Congregational Rabbi" is published every two weeks to reflect my observations about life in my congregation and with my members. The opinions expressed here are solely my own. I invite you to join the dialogue!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Racism in Good Old Boy Land: This is Not the Pursuit of Justice

The Torah tells us "Justice, justice must you pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20).  From this statement, our Sages infer that we are intended not merely to observe this sacred obligation when it's convenient, or when the opportunity presents itself.  We are to pursue justice without being asked, and with great enthusiasm.  It's terribly sad that in  2012, those sworn to uphold the law cannot seem to find the same level of fervor.

I am writing, of course, about the situation in Sanford, Florida, and the abhorrence that I feel while observing the apparent cover up of the Sanford Police Department in their handling of the Trayvon Martin case.  Insufficient investigation.  Disregarded witnesses and evidence.  Release of information obviously intended to discredit the dead young man.  Is this any way to run a police department?

I did not know whether I should have expected a "Law and Order" kind of process.  But that would have been refreshing.  Lenny Briscoe - a Jewish character played by a Jewish actor Jerry Orbach, of blessed memory - we miss you.

We are approaching the holiday of Passover, and we are reminded of the lot of the slave.  We know what intimidation and persecution are about.  We understand servitude to masters who profess different philosophies and beliefs.  And because we understand these things, we must empathize with those in our day who are persecuted and harassed, and seek to alleviate their sufferings.  I hope that the tragic death of Trayvon Martin will cuff us on the side of the head, and make us - as a society - realize that there still is a lot of work to be done to eliminate prejudice, racism, homophobia, and anti-Semitism.

As we sit around our Seder tables this year, wonder with your friends and relatives about ways to reduce prejudice and hatred; make a commitment to join one more discussion at work or at Temple on ways to build bridges with others; vow to not remain silent when one of your colleagues or friends makes a racist joke; be there for those who are persecuted and oppressed.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Be Happy - It's Adar: GoToMyMinyan.org – A New Way to Pray

I am usually not one to support cutting-edge technology at its product launch, but this month I must let you know about a new Internet-based web service that may make worship more convenient in this busy era of ours.

GoToMyMinyan.org is a new web service that takes the place of getting in the car, driving through possibly difficult weather, finding a far-off parking place, and going into the synagogue.

From the comfort of your home or office computer – or from a 4G mobile device using the GoToMyMobileMinyan app – you can avoid the hassle, save time, and still pray with worshipers who really care about close-knit community.

Just log on, adjust your screen for a minimum of nine fellow worshipers, and begin to pray:

The Synchro-Sound feature provides real-time participation.  Any participant can virtually “lead” the minyan by clicking or tapping on the Rabbi-Cantor tab; only one leader per session, please.  Alternative Video Outsourcing provides secondary video sources, such a Torah scroll for reading on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays; or a song sheet for supplemental music lyrics.

You can extend your worship experience with the optional OnegOrganizer App.  With this feature, you can order individual oneg Shabbat or other holiday food packages to be delivered to your fellow worshipers while you pray, then be ready to conclude worship with a cup of grape juice, wine or schnapps, challah, gefilte fish, cake, cookies, or any other oneg Shabbat food from GoToMyMinyan.org’s extensive Oneg menu.

So for a peaceful and hassle-free worship experience, sign on and subscribe to GoToMyMinyan.org.  When you get to their home page, look in the upper right corner and click on the image of the menorah for a special discount.

Please note: GoToMyMinyan.org should not be confused with GoToMyMignon.org, the online discount steak-purchasing cooperative.