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A Word from Senior Rabbi Craig Marantz

The splendid action of Rio's Olympics and the wild ride that is our presidential election season have provided sufficient distraction these last two weeks. But, meanwhile, southern Louisiana and Mississippi are inundated by historic flooding. And, constant brush fires this summer have made the western United States a living inferno. Thousands of homes have been destroyed. Even more people have been displaced. Some have died. In Baton Rouge, there are caskets floating down the street. Out west, we see the charred remains of that which was precious and irreplaceable. So much destruction. So much devastation. The media has been accused of not paying enough attention, but, if true, they are not alone. I confess my own diversion. Losses abound, but as they come into focus, I realize I haven't yet done enough to make these losses matter. If this applies to you as well, then let's do something about it.

In response to the flood, there are some important ways to help.

  • Learn More: Some 30 Jewish families have lost their homes, and many more have damage to their belongings. Read a blog entry from Anna Blumenfeld Herman, director of URJ Henry S. Jacobs Camp--a Reform Jewish summer camp in Utica, MS and may her words inspire action.

  • Tzedakah:The Jewish Federation of Greater Baton Rouge is collecting funds to help local Jewish families start rebuilding their lives.

Donate to their Baton Rouge Flood Relief. It's easy!

  • Volunteer: NECHAMA, a nonprofit organization that provides natural disaster response and recovery services, is seeking volunteers to help on the ground in Baton Rouge. Volunteer to join them.

And, in response to the brushfires, contribute tzedakah like I have to the following organizations:

  • Redwood Credit Union (RCU) is now accepting financial donations to aid relief efforts and assist the victims of the 2016 Lake County fire (in Northern California). 100% of your donations will go directly to support relief efforts and those affected by the Clayton Fire.

  • Inland Empire United Way has established a Fire Relief Fund for the collection of financial donations to help residents impacted by the Blue Cut Fire (in Southern California). Please join them in helping their neighbors to recover and rebuild their lives.

The wisdom of Torah enjoins us not to stand idly by while our neighbors suffer. (Lev. 19:16) Rabbi Harold Kushner adds that suffering is "part of the chaos left over from creation and our task is to respond to that chaos and seek to correct it"--tikkun olam. And for good measure, the Pirke Avot encourages us: "Lo alecha ham'lacha ligmor, v'lo ata ben chorim l'hibatel mimena: It is not our duty to complete the work, but neither we are not free to desist from it." (Pirke Avot 2:21.

Thus, in this spirit of generosity and service, I say: "Zaznu! Let's get moving..." An additional note: Cantor Friedman is turning 50! In honor of her special birthday and in acknowledgement of the events Rabbi Marantz discusses above she offers the following:

As we near the High Holidays and begin our period of sacred reflection, I can't help but feel incredibly grateful. I'm blessed with a wonderful family, congregation and job. And so, in answering Rabbi Craig's charge, I would like to sponsor a gift card drive for the Jewish community of Louisiana. I will match your Target gift cards dollar for dollar, up to $300.00. Cards can be purchased on Sunday mornings (or during the week) at Emanuel Congregation, which helps out the Temple as well. Please join me as we share our blessings with others.

-Cantor Michelle Drucker Friedman

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