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!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Orlando Memoriam and Action Plan

This is a letter I sent to my synagogue community yesterday about the horrendous events that occurred in Orlando this past weekend.

Dear Temple Beth El Family,

I am heartbroken over the senseless loss of life that has occurred at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. I am also angered by the overt and ongoing prejudice that this act represents.  Together with all Americans of good will, I am moved to ask you to join me in standing up to hatred and bigotry wherever we find it.

This grim and horrible terrorist attack on an LGBTQ nightclub in Orlando leaves me shocked and stunned, and we as a nation must acknowledge the tremendous pain that we feel: as individuals mourning with families who have lost loved ones and as a nation again brutally wounded by anti-LGBTQ violence. And at the same time, we are again perplexed as to why we cannot find an answer to the scourge of gun violence.

We must support members of the LGBTQ community, across the nation, in our city, and in our congregation. At a time when they hoped to observe and celebrate Pride Month, they confront grief. At a moment when the LGBTQ community is emerging from the fearful shadows of prejudice, they face disaster. We must let them know that we support them against homophobia, racism, and the fear of the stranger. Like our ancestors who wandered through the desert, we, too, sometimes wander through the wilderness, trying to discover the way toward social harmony and tolerance.

Let us begin to take strength in the teachings of our tradition, that each of us are made in the image of the Divine, and therefore each of us deserves respect, dignity, and honor. Then we can respond as people who decry such violence and prejudice, and do what must be done.

Further, let us respond by offering more than prayers and thoughts. Let us pledge to stand up and speak out against racism and homophobia wherever it appears: whether at work, in our families, in letters to the editor, and in any other place where we observe those afflictions. This is how we begin to make our stand for anyone who suffers from the hate and fear of others.

Please call or write me if you have any questions or concerns.


Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Thank You, Donald Trump

(The following message represents my opinion only, and in no way reflects the synagogue for which I work, nor any non-profit organization with which I am affiliated.)

Thank you, Donald Trump.

Yes, though some have expressed great concern over the candidacy of Donald Trump for President, I think Mr. Trump deserves our gratitude for many lessons he has taught us in the past twelve months or so.

Thank you, Mr. Trump, for helping expose how much more progress our country needs to eradicate racial, religious, and ethnic intolerance. We thought we had advanced in the struggle against hatred, bigotry, and xenophobia. After all, since the moment, 90 years ago when the United States once decided to close its borders to large waves of immigrants, our nation nonetheless found ways to welcome the stranger and increase its acceptance of religious, ethnic, and foreign minorities. Seeing the mindless anger and passions among the people whom you have incited at your rallies with anti-Muslim and anti-Mexican speech, however, has demonstrated that nativist and xenophobic passions still rule the hearts and minds of many Americans, and that our work in the realm of tolerance is nowhere near complete.

And thank you, Mr. Trump, for bringing forth the same prejudicial emotions about Native Americans as well. We see your audiences decrying those who proudly possess Native American ancestry, and it is recalled to us how the struggle for rights of this beleaguered minority must be continued.

Thank you for reminding us that gender equality in America is still a goal to be achieved.  Your sexist insinuations, your degrading of women, your betrayal of the notion of a truly egalitarian society, your willingness to accept women earning 20% less than men, your willingness to endorse the sexual objectification of women: all these have moved many in this country to rededicate their efforts to bring equality to our land.

Thank you for helping us remember the reasons our nation finally entered, fought, and won the second World War.  World War II was, in part, a struggle against authoritarianism, which we sought to overthrow.  You know, as messy as democracy may be, we adopted it as our nation’s system of government 240 years ago. Since then, our country has fought against fascism many times, and thanks to your authoritarian rhetoric and dictatorial approach in your public demeanor and your campaign, you remind us once again of the values that led us to choose to be ruled in democratic ways, and to follow the rule of law.

Thank you for encouraging us to advocate for increased voter registration, convenient and early voting, and ‘getting out the vote’ efforts on election day.  By erecting virtual and real roadblocks to polling places, you and fellow extremists across the nation have energized Americans to widen the voter rolls and bring disenfranchised people to the polls.

Between now and election day, I feel confident that there will be many ways to offer our gratitude to you for enlivening our passions and bringing people together to engage in social justice and social action activities. I am sure we’ll will thank you many times for impressing upon us the preciousness of democracy, the need for citizen involvement, and the preciousness of all of Earth’s children, not simply the ones who look like you.

(The preceding message represents my opinion only, and in no way reflects the synagogue for which I work, nor any non-profit organization with which I am affiliated.)