Synopsis of Speech to Temple Kol Emeth during Sukkoth
Sept 20, 2002
As I took my seat thoughts of the holiday surfaced in my mind.
This holiday of Sukkoth commemorates the third and final festival
in the Jewish exodus from Egypt. Passover, the first, celebrates
the people of Israel escaping from Egypt. Shavout, the second, recognizes
the entering into a covenant of Israel with God at Mount Sinai.
Sukkoth, representing that time Israel wandered about the desert,
encamped in temporary huts (Sukkoth) and evolving from a nation
of slaves to one of a free and self-reliant people awaiting entrance
into Canaan, seemed to draw parallel to my own past wanderings which
had annealed and changed me in preparation to what I had I recently
The service was wonderful. There was much interaction between
the congregation, the speakers, the choir, the cantor, and of course
Rabbi Lebow. When it was my turn to address everyone, the Rabbi
made a short statement in support of Separation and my stand to
protect it. I stood and walked to the pulpit and began an almost
entirely different speech than I had prepared. I did touch on parts
of what I had presented to the Board, mostly my fear of theocracy.
What came from my heart at that moment though was a deep connection
to my fellow Jews in the Temple. As I spoke, I could see my grand
mothers Molly and Gussie taking passage, in steerage, on the way
to America. I could feel the camaraderie of all the grand mothers
and fathers of the congregation coming to America to be free to
believe in God the way they knew to be right. "Let them all live
and be well," Molly would say. "Let the gentiles believe what they
want. It's "nish ga felached" (not so bad). We too can believe what
we want here."
And so I talked about Immigrants coming to America. I spoke of
our ancestry escaping tyranny and senseless hatred always believing
in the hope that is American Democracy. I spoke of how the Jews
in America, never losing their faith, used education to carve a
home here. How our ancestral love of knowledge and God must always
be diligently protected because just living in America doesn't guarantee
it. We must continually work to maintain it. We must diligently
work, in light of the external theocratic threats of Sept 11th and
the internal theocratic threats of anti-scientists, to stand up
and keep all our rights of belief safe.
The surrealism of the other day surfaced as I spoke. The congregation
became individuals that I spoke with directly. Each one separately.
Each one connected. I saw my wife, Peggy, and my friends Dennis
and Deborah, not Jewish but meshpucha (not related but still connected
all as one) with all. I saw Ellen and my child sitting near many
different ethnic people, some maybe Jewish some maybe not, but all
meshpucha (not related but still connected all as one) and I felt,
really for the first time, what I had been only felling in my mind,
that we Americans would survive, our democracy intact. I saw individuals
as Americans saying yes.