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Remembering Rabbi Schaalman

So much to say. So little space. Three matters, in particular.

First and most importantly, I say farewell to Rabbi Herman Schaalman, z"l. I have known Rabbi really for just seven months. I fell in love with him at first sight, and I always found joy in his presence--to sit, as they say, at the feet of a master. Sharply intelligent, warm, and full of grace my new friend Herman made me feel so welcome. Eighteen days ago, it was hard enough to bid farewell to Mrs. Schaalman, z"l, so I know it must seem near impossible now to have to say goodbye to our beloved Rabbi. I take comfort in the abundant love that flows from the Emanuel community for Rabbi and Mrs. Schaalman and their precious family. And, I also know that Rabbi's legacy lives indelibly in our commitment to lifelong Jewish learning and making our world more just and compassionate and our collective affection for OSRUI and your enduring dedication to our congregation. Going forward, we will do all we can and more to remember Rabbi and Mrs. Schaalman for blessing. And, we'll wrap our lasting love around you, Susan and Charlie and Mickey and Roberta and your beautiful children and grandchildren.

Second, please consider the following testimony by Rae Kushner, z"l, a Nazi-era refugee and grandmother of Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and confidante: "We wanted to go to Africa, to Australia, to Israel. We would go anywhere we could live in freedom but nobody wanted us. Nobody opened their doors to us. Nobody wanted to take us in. So, for three-and-a-half years we waited until we finally got a visa to come to the United States. ... For the Jews, the doors were closed. We never understood that. Even President Roosevelt kept the doors closed. Why? The boat, St. Louis, was turned back. What was the world afraid of? I don't understand. Thank God, now we live normal lives with our family and friends. But this question always stays on my mind."

And, Mrs. Kushner's question is on my mind, too. I don't think any of us would deny the importance of safety and security within our borders. And, creating well-conceived, broad-based, critically-thought policies and practices to ensure such peace is an absolutely necessary discipline in this age of terror. But impatience, questionable preparation and poor communication at the highest levels of national leadership are catalyst to gratuitous havoc in our land and blemish the legacy of Lady Liberty (and our own Emma Lazarus) that summons us to open our arms to the good and oppressed, who yearn to breathe free. Ignoring this call may doom us to repeat our history of standing idly by. So, we must get moving. For starters, we are inviting the local chapter of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society to come and educate us. We'll keep you posted on this and other related steps.

Third, and lastly, on behalf of Betsy, Jared, and Cara, I want to thank you all for creating such a beautiful celebration for us last Shabbat. Your presence brought wider communal and familial witness to Jared's becoming Bar Mitzvah. And, I am over-the-moon to have consecrated my fiftieth birthday with you. Collectively, you marked this precious moment of dual passage with music, friendship, generosity of spirit, tzedakah,and hospitality. Thank you for these gifts, especially welcoming so warmly our family and friends from elsewhere. And, special thanks to Mark Warnaar and Susan Bertocchi and your team and Rachelle Sheffer and our dear Sisterhood for delighting us with great food and for serving the moment with such love.

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