By Stephen E. Lipken
Bet Am Shalom Synagogue’s Rabbi Lester Bronstein, revealed that his Rosh Hashana Theme in his sermon to his White Plains congregation, will be T’ruah, “the broken shofar call, part panic and part call to action, leading to T’Kiah Godolah, the final long Shofar blast, ultimately getting to Tikkun Olam, ‘repair of the world.’”
Rabbi Bronstein co-incidentally is a board member of “T’ruah,” a New York City organization of 1800 rabbis and cantors advocating Human Rights in North America, Israel and the occupied territories.
“This idea will resonate this year, because all people from the Right to the Left and Middle are feeling broken. It is not the old concept of ‘broken,’ because people do not agree or talk to each other. You are seeing a re-emergence of outrageous hate-inspired voices getting their day…If there was ever anything to bring the Republican and Democratic Jews together, [Charlottesville, VA], this is it…
“On August 16 White Plains interfaith clergy wrote a letter of gratitude to Republican Senators who stood up even at the risk of standing up to the President of the United States, to call for moral equivalency between hate groups and the people who protested them; everyone from John McCain, the Left side of the Republicans to Ted Cruz on the Far Right. They all spoke as one voice.
“If you say to some rabbis in August, ‘What are you going to speak about tomorrow,’ if he/she is honest, they would say that they were going to talk about Charlottesville. But a month from now, there might be new cataclysmic events. We are in quicker news cycles, the reflection of a larger cataclysm.”
Bronstein cited an example of those rabbis who wrote their High Holiday Sermons before 9/11, one and a half weeks before Rosh Hashana. “Some Rabbis who wanted to discuss Teshuva (repentance) were roundly criticized by their congregants; others threw out their sermons and started over.
“You have to talk about the same thing every year—what are the big values that kept us over the years and how do they apply to each crisis coming at us? We have to speak out…You must deal with congregants’ pain, letting people know how you feel about them and sharing their anxiety,” Bronstein concluded.
Bet Am Shalom, 295 Soundview Avenue, White Plains, is a Reconstructionist Synagogue, comprised of 425 households. Rabbi Bronstein has led the congregation for 28 years.