Tag Archives: NFTY

Don’t Let the Light Go Out! Finding New Meaning in Familiar Words

menorahChanukah time:  the smells of foods cooking in oil; the beautiful lights which increase night by night; the sounds of songs and prayers being sung and chanted. I love it all.

One song in particular resonates quite powerfully for me this year. In truth, it has been among my favorites ever since I first heard back in 1983.  A newly ordained rabbi, I travelled with friends from New York City to Tanglewood in the Berkshires of Massachusetts for a Peter, Paul and Mary concert.  Word was that Peter had written a new song with a Chanukah theme. I was intrigued – and as always, excited to see and hear PP&M.  PPMUnbeknownst to me, one of my friends recorded the concert, including Peter’s new song. I spent most of the ride back to Manhattan winding and rewinding the tape as I tried to capture the lyrics on paper.  Once home, I grabbed my guitar as I worked to figure out the chords. I was pumped!

Light one candle, for the Maccabee children. Give thanks that their light didn’t die!

I loved it from the very first time I heard it from the stage that evening in Tanglewood’s shed.

 Light one candle for the pain we endured, when our rights to exist were denied.

 The song took our people’s sorrowful history and linked it to life in the world we inhabit today.  What a great teaching tool!

Light one candle for the terrible sacrifice, justice and freedom demand.

 The song doesn’t just link us to our past, it forcefully challenges us to live our values in the present.

Light one candle for the strength that we need, to never become our own foes.

Oh how these words stab at me against the backdrop of our day-to-day national political discourse.

Light one candle for those who are suffering, the pains we learned so long ago

We Jews know the pain of being called “other.” We dare not remain silent. We must raise our voices, together with people other faiths to stem the tide of hate and vitriol being spewed across our land.

Light one candle for all we believe in; Let anger not tear us apart.

The venom and bile of the Presidential campaign and in the halls of Congress do not represent the America I dream of. I know I’m not alone.

And light one candle to bind us together, with peace as the song in our heart. 

Peter’s words were tearing at my heart soul with a new urgency.  Singing Light One Candle in a time of terror, but even more, against the backdrop of the discourse across our nation as Presidential candidates such as Donald Trump and others posit hateful stances towards “the other” – in this case, Muslims at large. I felt my heart cracking. Light one candle for the pain we endured, when our rights to exist were denied.  Even as we grapple as a nation, and as a world, with the horrors of ISIS and other terrorist groups, we dare not allow ourselves to fall prey to absolutist xenophobia and hateful demagoguery.

In the song’s final stanza we ask:

What is the memory that’s valued so highly. That we keep alive in that flame? 

We challenge ourselves:

What’s the commitment to those who have died, that we cry out: “They’ve not died in vain!”

We must gird ourselves:

We have come this far, always believing, that justice will somehow prevail

In these days of physical darkness, and this time when fear, hatred and intolerance are being offered as public policy and a national value, let us remember:

This is the burden, and this is the promise; And this is why we CAN not fail.  (Forgive me Peter Yarrow, a slight emendation)

Many are linking the hateful verbiage, especially within our political discourse with “the pains we learned so long ago.” We dare not lose sight of the message Peter Yarrow implanted within his Light One Candle.  For me, it’s more than a folk song.  As I sang with our Cantor and community this past Friday night; and again with our Kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade students and parents just this morning, I hear these words as a call to action. This is not just a link to the past.  It’s a call in our present so that we may look towards a just and peaceful future. In the words of Peter’s refrain:

Light One CandleDon’t let the light go out, It’s lasted for so many years!  Continue reading

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Israeli Adventures

By Louis Stein

We’re re-blogging this post, which originally appeared on the NFTY in Israel B’Yisrael Blog on July 14, 2014. Louis is currently on one of their trips. During the year, he and his family take part in the life of Temple Shalom. Louis is a leader in SHAFTY, our Temple Youth Group.

The week started off flying over to Israel after a long week in Eastern Europe. After seeing the dark days of Judaism, we finally see the triumph of the Jewish people, and it is incredible. Tel Aviv was so beautiful. We toured around the city briefly with a highlight of putting our feet in the Mediterranean Sea. After a night in Tel Aviv, we packed up and headed south to Eilat and the Negev Desert. A long day of travel was followed by a windy night sleeping on the rocky desert floor. The nex1t day was followed by hikes and a swim in the Red Sea where we got to snorkel and see the beautiful reef. Everyone had a nice relaxing time at the beach, which was much needed for the long hike up Har Shelomo (Mount Solomon) which was a struggle for many people. It was a long, rocky climb filled with sweat, blood and tears, but in the end it was absolutely worth it. The view looked over Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel and was incredible. The whole trip in the Negev was difficult, but bonded everyone together on a whole new level. We travelled the next day to Jerusalem for a well-deserved, relaxing Shabbat. The trip so far is incredible and worthwhile, and I love every minute of it.

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Beginning Elul Reflections

For the past few days, I’ve been with high schoolers from all over New England at NFTY-Northeast’s Summer Institute, held at Eisner Camp in the Berkshires. It’s been such a great time.

Each morning and night, the participants and faculty all gather together for services. Last night, as we all sat together on the broad Universal Lawn, the service leaders invited the participants to go take a short walk during silent prayer. I have always found this technique a really effective one to conjure up those most personal prayers and reflections. As the participants wandered, I noticed a whole bunch of them headed toward the lake. There is something about getting to stare into some water that brings on a prayerful moment, I suppose. To get to look at something natural and beautiful, there is nothing quite like that to help us reflect on what’s really important in our lives.

In this Jewish month of Elul, as we enter into focused attention on ourselves and our relationships, we need spaces conducive to those reflections. The High Holidays are made all the more meaningful when we do that work now. Our participants, while at camp, get that space built into their experience here. Still, when we are able to craft that time and space in our regular work and home, we give ourselves a gift.

Where are those special places for each of us? And, are we spending time there right now?

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