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Back on The Air

It’s fun to be back on the air.

It’s been a long time since my radio show at Cranbrook high school. I have amazing memories of bringing my records every other week to play during the radio show. We transmitted about one mile from the basement of the dorms.

Later at Long Beach Hillel with a bunch of students we started KJEW Radio. Boaz put together some computers, programs and equipment and we were broadcasting online. A bunch of students had short lived shows, including one on Jews and sports, and a Love Problem call in show. We were just way ahead of the curve. It was 2005.

I also played around with Podcasting in those days, but my podcasts were just classes that I was teaching on campus. There were no interviews, or production for that matter.

With the pandemic in full swing, I’m starting a new project called Together With Rabbi Yonah. Every week you can join me for inspiring conversations with fascinating people. The new series is being carried by The Jewish Journal.

As you know, people of all backgrounds have been devastated by the pandemic and Together is dedicated to bringing light and healing to our world.

Together on this program we will meet some amazing people, and share advice and insights to help us live better, love better, and save lives.

In addition to our incredible

guests, In addition to our incredible guests, I’ll answer your questions, highlight organizations that are making a difference, and I’ll share a short story to open our hearts. Please send me your comments or questions to rabbi @ pico shul.org

Please watch us on Facebookor on YouTube.

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How to Use Summer for Spiritual Growth

There is spiritual growth that can only be accomplished in the summertime

From the moment that Passover started, the Omer clock started, the countdown started to Shavuot. That period of self-reflection and character improvement has now passed. The full moon of Sivan is already here. Are we supposed to be doing anything “special” in spiritual matters now, or do we just chill out?

There is nothing to chill about.

Like a farmer ensuring that their crops are nourished, weeded, and protected, summer is the perfect time to nourish and protect our spiritual lives.

  • Take a trip into nature to deepen your Yirat Shamayim, our awe/fear of God, by studying the wonders of God’s incredible creation.
  • Grow your own food to develop gratitude and patience.
  • Exercise to fulfill the obligation of guarding our health and create joyful endorphins.
  • Longer days means we can dedicate more time for Torah study.
  • And longer days means no conflict between your work obligations and Shabbat starting.

And I am sure you can come up with some more ways — I would love to hear them!

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Saying Psalms in a Mosque: A Jewish, Muslim, Christian Collaboration

In an era of increasingly incendiary divisions  —  creating bridges becomes even more important.

Marking the twenty-fourth anniversary of the Khojaly massacre, a group of Jews, Muslims and Christians gathered at a local mosque to offers prayers and words of consolation over a tragedy that occurred half-way around the world. We did so to show solidarity with the victims, survivors and the people of Azerbaijan and to demonstrate that religion can be a powerful force for compassion and healing.

The event, jointly sponsored by the King Fahad Mosque, Pico Shul Synagogue and Azerbaijan’s Consulate in Los Angeles, marks the second annual event in Los Angeles commemorating Khojaly. The first event was held last year at Pico Shul Synagogue. We were honored to have the participation of Christian, Jewish and Muslim leadership including Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez of the Centro Cristiano Bet-El, Father Eamon Kelly, L.C., Vice Chargé at the Pontifical Institute Notre Dame of Jerusalem Center, Hypin Im, President and CEO of Korean Churches For Community Development; Rabbi Mel Gottlieb, President Emeritus of the Academy Of Jewish Religion; Steve Gilliland, Director of Interfaith Outreach for the Church Of Later Day Saints; Reverend Oliver E. Blue of Holman United Methodist Church; Rabbi Dov Cohen, Veterans and Prison Chaplain; and Imam Abdul Hafiz, Federal Muslim Chaplain of the Society to offer Prosperity & Peace. This remarkable collection of leaders and personalities is thanks to the dedication, friendship, and devotion to tolerance of Azerbaijan’s Consul General in Los Angeles Nasimi Aghayev and Mahomed Khan of the King Fahad Mosque.

Seated left to right: Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez of the Centro Cristiano Bet-El and Mahomed Khan.

Seated left to right: Rabbi Yonah Bookstein, Bishop Juan Carlos Mendez of the Centro Cristiano Bet-El and Mahomed Khan.

Standing in the mosque and reciting Tehillim, Psalms, I looked out at a large crowd assembled in the sanctuary. The diverse group included dignitaries from elected officials, Consul Generals, Honorary Consuls, FBI and LAPD representatives, as well as members of various ethnic communities.  There were Jewish and Muslim children whose parents want them to see that they should not fear diversity, but respect other’s religions.

The facts of the Khojaly massacre are tragic. On February 26, 1992, Armenian armed forces attacked the town of Khojaly in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region. Witnesses and survivors have described in details the massacre, during which six-hundred unarmed civilians, including women and children were murdered. It was the largest massacre in the conflict. To this date, none of the perpetrators of this massacre of civilians have been tried, and even some hold positions of leadership in Armenia.

After hearing from a survivor of the event Ansar Usubov and watching a filmed interview with Durdane Aghayeva, another survivor, we stood together in silence and then prayer. I recited a Hebrew prayer in memory of the victims standing together with a Bishop, Imam, and a Catholic Priest.

After the event, we sat down together for a meal in the mosque’s social hall. One table with a Halal dinner and another table with Kosher catering. We dined and discussed the event and strengthened our resolve to speak out against intolerance and hate, and work towards forging ties of peace and harmony.

While we can never bring back those who were gone, hopefully this event will help prevent future tragedies and bring healing to Azerbaijanis and the world.

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Mishkan and Microchips

Moshe assembled the entire congregation of Israel to give the second set of tablets. He proceeded to recount in detail what G!d wanted of them which includes keeping the Sabbath holy and a detailed review of the construction of the Mishkan. Why does God spend so much time on the details of the Mishkan, and why does the Torah repeat them? And what does this have to do with bringing everyone together?

Our sages teach us that the intricacies of the Mishkan were such that without everything in place, it would not work. Think of the Mishkan like an advanced computer chip. If everything isn’t lined up and in place, the chip will not function. It can be 99.9 percent perfectly aligned – but if just a fraction of the chip isn’t properly fashioned, it doesn’t process anything. Without every details in place the Mishkan too would not function.

The Jewish people are like the Mishkan. Each person has a unique purpose and all of our efforts are required to fulfill the spiritual mission of the Jewish people. Everyone is integral part. We can’t assign the work to only the righteous, the rich or the rabbis, because each one of us in endowed with special talents and an intrinsic value that others do not have.

The Jewish people’s true light to the world cannot shine brightly without all of us.

Shabbat Shalom