Bridging the Gaps That Divide Us: Coping With the Tragedies in Aurora and Bulgaria

We mourn the twelve victims and fifty-eight wounded in the senseless slaughter in Aurora. We also mourn the suicide bombing which murdered five Israelis and two Bulgarians, and wounded dozens of Israelis in Bulgaria.

These two horrific events are tied together chronologically and also on a communal level. These tragedies potentially could provide us with a catalyst to change the harsh polarization that is affecting both the American and Israeli society.

Today, deep political divides have polarized communities in America and Israel. Opposing sides lash out in anger and vitriol, fragmenting our societies.

These tragedies occurred at precisely the time of greatest sadness for the Jewish people. During these three weeks Jews worldwide remember their persecution from the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE to the Holocaust and today’s terrorism.

The Jewish Sages tell us that these Three Weeks of sadness were precipitated by national strife. Baseless hatred and disunity destroyed Jerusalem and caused the expulsion of Jews from the Holy Land. It set the stage for the next 2000 years of numerous persecutions.

The tragedies in Bulgaria and Aurora did not occur because of the current state of strife. Rather, attempting to help us all cope with the emotional impact of these tragedies can help us bridge the gaps that divide us.

A nationwide realization that people on all sides of these divides have been deeply affected by these events can help us see our common humanity. This understanding can help us begin the process of healing the disturbances caused by our divisions.

Let us transform stri

fe into unity. Let us conquer fear with compassion. Let us soften this period of loss with acts of kindness and caring. Let us add to the healing over the tragedies and ensure that the loss of life results in some positive growth in society.

May God comfort the families and friends of victims, heal the dozens of wounded, and bring us all peace and unity.


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Music Man: Detroit Jewish News Profile

Thank you Detroit Jewish News for the fantastic profile in this past week’s edition. Thank you to the article’s author Robin Schwartz, and Rabbi Jason Miller who suggested the idea.

Below is reprinted from

Music Man

Jewlicious Festival Founder’s Detroit Roots

Rabbi Yonah Bookstein recalls picking up a guitar for the first time at age 10, in the late 1970s, as a Hillel Day School student growing up in Detroit’s Palmer Woods neighborhood.

His late father, Marvin Bookstein — a bluegrass musician who played six different instruments — taught young Yonah the fundamentals, opening his eyes and ears to the beauty and power of music. He spent his early years attending concerts, going to Detroit’s Orchestra Hall, and attending chamber music festivals; so it’s fitting that Bookstein, now 42, of Los Angeles is the force behind Jewlicious. The nonprofit organization hosts hip seasonal music festivals in California that attract hundreds of young Jews from across the country.

“Music unifies and inspires people,” Bookstein says. “One of the reasons I got so into creating musical events is that music was an integral part of my life as a child.”

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