My wedding speech at Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner’s wedding

interI wish the newly-wed couple mazal and bracha. And while I was not asked to perform the wedding (the venerable Rabbi Haskel Lookstein had that honor) I figured that I would pen a small speech that could have been said under the giant chuppah:

Ivanka and Jared we are proud to be with you today as you join together as husband and wife. The chuppah that we stand under today is open on all sides. Some say that this reminds a couple that their home should be open to guests as the home of the first Jewish couple, Abraham and Sarah. It’s a beautiful custom that I hope you will follow.

Today, an open chuppah also reminds us that we live in a society that is transparent, open source, one click away from Twitter or Facebook.

With the world’s media focused on the life you choose to

live, you are in a perfect position to bring renewal and meaning to the Jewish community. You can celebrate Jewish holidays and values while inspiring the world. Make a Chanukah party benefiting orphans, create a Tu B’Shvat Seder with a local organic farm, build shelters for the homeless before Sukkot. Create a Yom Hatzmaut event that let’s us feel what a miracle it is to have a Jewish state.

Ivanka and Jared – your love and devotion to each other will be infused with holiness and blessing, and you and your childrens’ lives imbued with meaning and fulfillment, by weaving Judaism into the fabric of your new life. May you be blessed to build a faithful Jewish home that inspires the Jewish people and the world.

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17 of Tammuz and Healing the Planet

earth
Today is the 17th of Tammuz – historically a Fast Day, and day of introspection and mourning.
From OU.org

“The 17th day in the Jewish month of Tammuz, Jews the world over fast and lament to commemorate the many calamities that have befallen our people on this ominous day.
The purpose of such fasts in the Jewish calendar is, according to Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov’s Book of Our Heritage, “to awaken hearts towards repentance through recalling our ancestors’ misdeeds; misdeeds which led to calamities…” “

Recently – The Kovno ghetto was liquidated on this day in 5704 (1944) and in 5730 (1970) Libya ordered the confiscation of Jewish property.

We have a really hard time imagining that our actions can have such massive consequences in spiritual realms. However, we easily believe that our actions count when it comes to social justice or ecological terms. We recycle, we are turning to green products, we write letters about injustices in the world that we are not committing, but feel obliged to help stop. We are on the forefront of efforts to save, preserve, defend and believe that our actions however small – have an affect.

When it comes to the spiritual realm, we balk. We figure that what they said 2000 years ago about people not caring for one another, or people worshiping idols as causing the destruction of Israel – well they were just trying to pull a lesson from inexplicable tragedy. Really, we have no idea why these terrible things happen, have happened, still happen.

And it is partially true – we do not know the “why” of modern tragedies. However, we do know the “why” of ancient tragedies because our prophets told us so. Today we are poor, without prophets, without vision. However, we can look back to those ancient days, reflect upon the nature of what happened to the Jewish people, the pain they suffered, and seek in our day to fix that which was broken.

The 17 of Tammuz is not a call for everyone to keep the Sabbath – though that would be great to have a day where the world rested. Today we are offered a chance to work on the issues that created the tragedies of old, and renew our effort to change ourselves and the world. Baseless hatred caused the end of the Second Temple – animosity between Jews that was so great it destroyed us.

Showing love for our fellow Jews, and for humanity today – and every day – bring the spiritual balance back to the world that we lost so many generations ago. Kindness, compassion, caring, honoring – if we can infuse our world with more of this spiritual goodness, we will reap the benefits. The spiritual acts that we perform have global impact. An act of compassion for another person will bring peace faster than all the bottles we recycle. Transcending our own selfish needs and recognizing the humanity of the other – the 17th of Tammuz is a call to action in a spiritual campaign to heal the planet.

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60-4-60: LA Celebrates Israel’s 60th

Check out these programs in LA for Yom Haatzmaut – all part of a week long program 60-4-60, organized by our partners in 60bloggers, Let My People Sing, and Jewlicious Festival sponsors Oyhoo and Craig n Co.

THURSDAY, MAY 8th, Eat, Drink, and Be…The 60-hour celebration begins with a provocative Israel-themed salon hosted by the Professional Leadership Project.

Faith Jam for Israel: A multi-religious ‘jam session’ with choirs from COR AME, Beit Tshuvah, Zimiryah Chorale and special guest artists Mare Winningham, Rick Muchow, Craig Taubman, Yuval Ron and more.

FRIDAY, MAY 9th, Friday Night Live hosts the Consul General of Israel and hip hop sensation Hadag Nachash for an unique Shabbat celebration of Israels 60th.

SATURDAY, MAY 10th, One Shabbat Morning: The Josh Nelson Project and Michelle Citrin and youth groups from throughout the city perform.

Be a part of history at the Gala Concert at the Kodak Theater with Israeli superstars Rami Kleinstein, Noa, and Idan Raichel for this Israeli Independence Day Concert. Special guests: Larry King, Kirk Douglas, Rabbi Yonah and Rachel. -)

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This holiday of redemption

Last days of Pesach. Focusing on the redemption, the crossing of the sea, Miriam and dancing, the Ball Shem Tov meal at the end of this holiday. This holiday where matzah shortages in chain supermarkets in California made the news. This holiday where Obama and Clinton duked it out, with Basketball and Hockey playoffs, and hundreds of religious Jews praying mincha at Disneyland together. This holiday that people speak of in the past tense while it is still going on. As in, “my Passover was great” when they mean the seder, and not the holiday. Or do they mean the holiday. This holiday that converged with Earth Day, meaning you could eat your matzah and represent for the earth – it was the convergence of all things crunchy. This holiday where I explained that the cup of Eliyahu is not really for Eliyahu, but that it represents the fifth cup – not four – that some rabbis in the Talmud believed needed to be included in the seder. The argument was solved by the compromise of the fifth cup. And they wrote that when Eliyahu comes to herald the Messiah and this and other questions will be answered, we will know how many cups we were to drink at the seder. Hence it became Eliyahu’s cup. Not Eliyahu in the some Santa Clause kind of way, swooping down on the Jewish homes to swig some bad kiddush wine. I mean what kind of junk did we teach our kids, and what did they feed us? And this holiday where the Muslim Student Union at UCI unveils another outrageous campaign against Jewish students by proclaiming that there is a Holocaust in Palestine and how can Jewish organizations think this meshugass is going to go away by playing patty-cake with the chancellor – it won’t – its gonna get a whole lot worse before you kick these shmucks off campus. And this Holiday where the Hebrew Hammers powered only by sheer will won 14-6, by not swinging the bat. Where they partied on Matzah Pizzas much like the one pictured here. This holiday where all kinds of clever marketing gimmicks were in the works, but the Matzah Song hit a chord. This holiday where we came to the realization that we are all slaves to high oil prices. This holiday where Amy Winehouse is sitting in jail again. This holiday where the weather is wacky and and the stars of aligned, and the Tigers win four straight games. This holiday where you cling to the hope that you can change the world in some significant way by speaking about it at the Seder Table, but you know, deep down, that talk is cheap, and words cheaper, and that the only thing to do is act. Mitzvah. This holiday is about the act. The act of redemption. This holiday where you come up with wonderful ideas because you are elated and high on life, and that you realize that you’ll never get everything done in your life that you hope to. Happy Passover. Happy Redemption Days. and Shabbat Shalom.
Matzah Pizza courtesy of Ben Perelstein