Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Open Letter to Rabbi Joshua Lesser, Congregation Bet Havarim


I was quite moved by your Facebook page post on August 15, 2012 on welcoming people into our Jewish congregations. As someone who has not always felt welcome in different Jewish shuls (synagogues), I felt confident that I could at least get myself through your front door because – at minimum – I knew I would be welcomed by you. With only two Shabbats left before our most holy set of days, I offer a few items you can do with your congregation (if you have not already done so) to realize the warmth, welcome, acceptance and safety your post promises.

The first one is obvious; circulate the post in your congregation: all members, all volunteers, and all staff. Encourage them to really read the post and to consider what they can do to make the promise live.

In your homilies (sermons), weave in stories about Jewish diversity; directly state that the assumption that all Jews are “white” is completely false and that the assumption that all Jews of color are converts is equally false. Remind them that we have always been a "mixed multitude" (Exodus 12.38) and that, according to one midrash, we would not have what we now call rabbinic Judaism were it not for a brown skinned man named Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai.

Additionally, speak to them about hospitality. Remind them that it is as important to greet the people they have never met as it is to greet and rekindle relationships with people they have not seen since last year. Also remind them that there are members who can be a little too eager; therefore, if someone is holding onto a newcomer's hand a little too tight, check to see if a guest needs rescuing.

Lastly, share with congregants that asking someone if they are Jewish is offensive and antithetical to halacha (Jewish Law). Yes, I am aware of standalone writings that quibble about what portions of certain prayers converts ought not to say. However, the oldest writings say a convert is completely Jewish and not to be reminded of their conversion (Yevamot 47a, Bava Metzia 4.10). This would also be the perfect time to remind people – again – that not all people of color are converts. Questions that pry into our status are the most frequent and are perceived as being highly invasive. Speaking for myself, I feel as if I am being asked what color underwear I am wearing. You could also use it as an opportunity to raise to consciousness that there are plenty of members that look like them who are converts as well as spouses of another faith active in the congregation and no one ever asks them for credentials. Personal stories are shared, or not shared, over time as a part of people getting to know each other and building community.  

Thank you, Rabbi Lesser, for entertaining my thoughts. I will not be able to join you during this year's Days of Awe due to commitments in Washington, DC. However, I hope my travels permit me to visit Atlanta and share services with you and your congregation in the coming year. 

L'Shana Tova Tikatev v'Taihatem!
(may you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life for a good year!),
Sabrina Sojourner

(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2012


Jews for Justice Black Lives Matter Erev Hanukkah 5575

(I was honored to be one of the speakers. I share with you my remarks)

Thank you, Rebecca, and I thank all of the organizers, speakers, and all of you for being here this evening. I am your shamash for the evening, and I’ll explain what that means in a moment.

I begin by inviting you to join me in song. Some of you know this song in Hebrew. Some of you know it in English. Some of you know it in both and some of you don’t know it as all, and that’s all perfect. However you know the song, sing it. If you don’t know it, you’ll catch on to the melody or words and can sing, hum, or yai-dai-dai or la la la along. And, I have a special message for those of you who have been told some variation of “It’s better if you don’t sing.” I want you to sing and I want you to sing loud! This is not about what’s pleasing to human ears, this is about what’s pleasing and healing to us – personally and, for those of you who believe in a Divine being, The Divine One only cares about our willingness to raise our voices – not about human assessments of the quality of our voices.

Yah, prepare me, to be a sanctuary
Pure and holy, tried and true.
With thanksgiving, I’ll be a living
Sanctuary for You. (three rounds)

What does it mean to be a sanctuary for The Divine One? What does it mean to be a sanctuary for justice? For hope? For peace? Are you prepared to be a reservoir for a vision of an America - a world in which all lives matter? I’ll repeat that: Are you prepared to be a reservoir for a vision of an America - a world in which all lives matter? And if you are not ready, and most of us are not, this is the time to intentionally prepare. If you think you’re ready, but not completely sure, this is the time to intentionally prepare. And, for those of you saying, “Yeah, I’m ready, I’ve been ready all my life!” You may be ready but are you prepared? Have you done the internal work? Are you willing to do the ongoing internal work? Are you prepared to move out of binary thinking and into the universe of complexity? Expansion?

Who do you fear, and why do you fear them? Does that fear have any basis in reality? Where does bias, prejudice, and discrimination live in you? Who are the people you make fun of because of their size, their seeming lack of mental acuity? Their ethnicity or accent? What are the broad and sweeping beliefs you hold about White people? Native American people? Women? Lesbians? Gay men? Bisexual people? Transgendered people? Latino women and men? Asian women and men? How does colorism shape your familial relationships? Friendships? Your concepts of beauty? What long ago hurts are running you? What are the ways that the oppressor sees you that you see as being true about you, or about people you love? I stand before you, not as an accuser, but as shamash. To put it simply, I don’t want my heart broken again. I see and feel the promise of this moment in our national and global community, and I am not the only one. As I was listening to the radio this morning, I heard a young Asian man say that making Black Lives Matter was important to him because if Black Lives Matter, then all lives will finally matter! Kein y’hi ratzon – may it be so.

It can be so, if we understand we are a wedge for a change in the social order of common sense and conventional wisdom. Black Lives Matter, to be truly revolutionary, MUST be about the lives of Black men and Black women. Black Lives Matter, to be truly effective, MUST connect the dots to the lives of our Latino, Asian, Native American and working class white brothers and sisters. Black Lives Matter, to be socially innovative, MUST challenge heterosexist and sexist norms that marginalize the humanity of lesbians, gay men, bisexual people, transgendered people, queer people, people with disabilities, our elders, and our young people.

For Jewish support of Black Lives Matter to really make a difference, the discussion of racism, classism and sexism MUST come home. We need these discussions in our communities, our synagogues, our institutions, our homes as an analysis and challenge of our assumptions about our history as a people and the richness of our heritage.

I know not all of you observe Hanukkah, so I’m making a personal invitation for you to light candles this week, whether it be once, many, or every or only a few intermittent nights. Here’s why: Twice I’ve referred to myself as shamash. Shamash is the name for the candle used to light the candles of Hanukkah. Technically, it is the servant of the other candles, and its own light is important precisely because it is of service. It is of use. Once it has done its job, it sits in the menorah to add light and joy. I know that some of my words have caused some, if not each of you, to be uncomfortable. That discomfort is pointing to the place to start in dedicating or rededicating yourself to be of service to a larger purpose. My words are intended to spark the will in you to be of service, to be of use for a larger purpose.

We are on the cusp of a transformational moment, though I have been here before, I really believe that this time can be different. To fulfill the promise of this moment, we must do the work we are demanding our society, our country, our global communities to do. We want more justice and less bias in the world, we must burn down the internal wall between us and our unexamined fears and attitudes regarding all we see as other, and dismantle those thoughts and emotions. We want more love in the world, we must burn down the internal wall that keeps us from loving and having compassion and patience for ourselves. We want more peace in the world, then let us burn down the internal wall around our rage so that we harness that energy into constructive action.

This week, as we light the candles of Hanukkah, or we light candles to chase away the dark, let us use those lights for joy and for opportunity. The joy, I hope is easy, if for no other reason than the beauty of the flame and how it illumines the space around you. Use candle lighting to consciously begin or continue the dedication of your internal temple. Develop practices such as holding paradox, connecting the dots to all forms of oppression, having patience and compassion for yourself so that you can break binary thinking and have compassion and patience for others. These are just a few of the practices that will serve you and us for the long haul.

Let this evening serve you. If nothing else, remember the rich sound that surrounded us as we joined our voices together, and it was truly more magnificent than I imagined. For all our different approaches, nowhere was there a false note. That kind of perfection only happens in moments. For one moment those who knew and those who had no clue joined with those who had voice and those who had been shut up or shut out to create something bigger than all of us. So, let this evening be a reminder of what is possible when you are willing to be the shamash, the one who is of service, of use to the moment, to the vision, and to the movement toward that vision

Tonight, we light the first candle of Hanukkah together. Let it signify our public commitment to the personal work of building or rebuilding our internal temple so that we can be of service, of use to the larger purpose of Tikkun Olam, repairing the temple of our world. And let us say: (Amen!)

Consider supporting Sabrina's efforts to create a broader vision of who we are and can be: Living Whole and Complete is a collection of poems and essays that explore spirituality, love, heartbreak, culture, resilience and much more. Sabrina is also available as a guest shaliach tzibur, cantorial soloist, speaker, educator, artist-in-residence or facilitator for your community, school or conference. Contact othermadthoughts@ssellc.net 

(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

Gluten-free Dairy-Free Blackberry Crisp Cobbler

It’s been a while, and there is plenty of time later to share the whys. It is a cloudy day in DC this Shabbat, so I am already baking! One of the things I love to bake is something that will be Shabbat dinner dessert that can also serve as Shabbat morning breakfast!

I love blackberries, and have great memories from when I was a kid: My mom would send my sister, Sandra, and me into our backyard with a large bowl or her Dutch oven to pick blackberries. It was an easy assignment. Between us, we probably ate as many as picked. Nonetheless, we always made sure the container was full so that my mom could make a big patch of blackberries and dumplings. For lots of reasons, I can no longer eat that way. Yet, my love of blackberries and some kind of yummy dough has continued.

Over the summer, I took advantage of Costco’s great prices on fresh blackberries to play with several recipes. This is the winner. It is based on a recipe on Rachelle Himmelman’s blog Gluten Free Baking By Rachelle. The primary difference is that I use a lot less sugar. I like the tartness of berries and do not seek to cover it up. Additionally, raw sugar granules are larger. I know that granule size makes a difference in salts and how I use them, so I am making the same assumption about sugar. To adjust the sugar, simply double my suggestions. I also take an extra step to accommodate my pesky egg-yolk allergy. Rachelle's recipe says "fresh or frozen". So far, I have only used fresh, though I keep frozen as a possibility. With winter about to settle in, I’m sure I’ll resort to frozen and let you know how it goes. It you get there first, let me know!

The reason I added “crisp” to the name is because the topping does not produce the thicker pie or almost biscuit-like crust I associate with cobblers. The lighter, crisp-like topping has also become one of the reasons this is now a go-to recipe. All ingredients are certified kosher, certified gluten-free, and soy-free. I am using a new flour blend. Once I have used all of it in a variety of recipes, I'll give you my report! In the meantime, use your favorite blend!

ENJOY!

Prep time: 15-20 Minutes
Cook time: 45-55



Ingredients
For Filling:
  • 4 Cups Blackberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/4 Cup Raw Sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon Gluten-free all purpose flour

 For The Topping:
  • 1/2 Cup Raw Sugar minus 1 tablespoon (if changing, 1 cup)
  • 1 Cup Gluten-free all purpose flour
  • 1 Teaspoon Baking Powder
  • 1 Whole Egg, cold from the frig
  • 1/2 Cup Dairy-Free Shortening, melted. Note: I use one or a combination of these: refined coconut oil (does not add coconut flavor and seems to neutralize sulfites), certified to be responsibly harvested palm or red palm oil, or - if no one has a nut allergy - a really good almond paste. Yes, you can use a soy-based shortening or butter if those are not issues.

 Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a medium sized bowl add blackberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1 tablespoon flour stir until ingredients are combine and there is no longer any sugar or flour on the bottom of bowl, set aside.
  3. In another medium bowl add 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, 1 teaspoon baking powder, lightly stir with a fork to combine, once combined make a well in the center of your bowl and add egg, stir until your mixture becomes small crumbs. Note: I beat the egg first, then place it in the well.
  4. Place blackberry mixture in a ungreased 11x7x1.5 inch pan or 2 quart baking dish.
  5. Pour crumb topping and spread evening over the blackberries.
  6. Drizzle the melted shortening on top of crumb mixture and bake for 45-55 minutes or until golden brown. DO NOT OVER BAKE!


Consider supporting Sabrina's efforts to create a broader vision of who we are and can be: Living Whole and Complete is a collection of poems and essays that explore spirituality, love, heartbreak, culture, resilience and much more. Sabrina is also available as a guest shliach tzibur, cantorial soloist, speaker, educator, artist-in-residence or facilitator for your community, school or conference. Contact othermadthoughts@ssellc.net 



Sunday, September 21, 2014

Love Your Neighbor: A Deeper Meaning

Last night (September 20/Elul 26, it was my honor to join others to give d'var t'filah (short commentaries on prayers) related to the themes of Selichot. My theme was "forgiveness." As some of you know, forgiveness is important to me and the message is universal - I hope. 

הַרֵֽינִי מְקַבֵּל/ מְקַבֵּלֶת עָלַי אֶת מִצְוַת הַבּוֹרֵא: וְאָהַבְתָּֽ לְרֵעֲךָ כָּמוֹךָ.
A few years ago, as I was working on my project of excellence for my master’s, I had several quotes that were my pillars and one of them  was “I take upon myself the commandment of my Creator: to love my neighbor as myself.” The quote appears in (Siddur Sim Shalom) and is based on the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19.18). Rabbi Akiva considered this the essence of Judaism, and The Divine One considered it so important that there are many variations of this phrase throughout the Torah.

Have you ever noticed that, sometimes, when you live with something a long time, you discover something new – unexpected about it? (That can happen with people, too.) So, it was in living with “Hareni m’kabeylet…” One day I was chanting it in the Hebrew and when I finished, I stopped. I was frozen in place because it suddenly hit me... I said out loud, “Oh my G!D! You expect us to love ourselves. My G!D, You assume that we love ourselves.” Then, there was another realization “Dear G!D, You want me to love me.”

There are many things that discovering the underlying meaning of “love your neighbor as yourself” opened for me, and I close with three:

Perfection belongs to the realm of the Divine. By giving up my quest for perfection, I've recaptured the joy of doing the things I like to do, allowing me to do my best and that, with the exception of paying bills, “good enough” often works for most of the things I don’t like to do.

Forgiving someone for doing whatever it is that I believe they have done to me is my gift to me. I may still need to grieve whatever it is that I have actually or think I have lost, and that is easier to do without the bile, the poison, the venom of anger or hurt or resentment. I've learned that holding that kind of emotional pain only hurts me and keeps me disconnected from the Divine.

Lastly, I need to forgive me for being fooled, for being vulnerable to someone I did not know was not worthy of my trust and still hold onto my willingness to be vulnerable. I need to forgive myself for making simple mistakes, for not making the bed, for not exercising, for not being (at Adas Israel) as often as I want, need, or ought to be. I discovered that when I forgive me, I have more compassion and love for me, which means I have more love and compassion for all of my neighbors: those sitting next to me, those living next to me, and all those I have yet to meet.



Consider this special opportunity to support Sabrina Sojourner's contribution to a broader vision of who we are and can be: Living Whole and Complete is a collection of poems and essays that explore spirituality, love, heartbreak, culture, resilience and much more. Sabrina is also available as speaker, educator, artist-in-residence or facilitator for your community, school or conference. Contact othermadthoughts@ssellc.net 

(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Follow Justice Where It Leads

NOTE: I use "racial" identification only as is needed to deepen the discussion. All the names are pseudonyms. Some details have been modified or left out to protect people. None of the participants were patients or residents in any facility.

This past week, I facilitated a current events discussion with a diverse group of men and women who were age 70 and older. Of course, one of the items of discussion was Michael Brown and the events of Ferguson, MO. The discussion caused me to reflect differently on this week's Torah portion. In the moment, I translated the beginning of Deuteronomy 16.20 as  "Justice, justice you shall follow".

As people expressed their feelings, thoughts, and absolute confusion, August, a white male, started getting physically tense, then burst into tears. I looked to Rachel, his wife and sitting on his right, and Richard, a Black male friend sitting on his left. I understood from their nods and their pats on his pack that he just needed a few moment. So, I said to the group, "Let's just hold August with our thoughts; let him know he's safe and can share with us if he wants." Rachel asked if I would sing something. I chose a niggun (wordless melody) and those who new it joined me. 

As we finished, August caught my eye and nodded. In the silence, August softly said, "I am so sorry. So very, sorry." He looked up at Richard and around the room at the gathering of people he knew and many people he did not know. He did not hurry as he spoke or as he took in his surroundings. He shared pieces of his story growing up in the south, some of what he had been taught about Black people "anybody who wasn't White and Christian - Protestant!" He admitted that he "didn't have much regard for women until I met my wife. She made it clear that if I wanted to be with her, I was going to have to change my ways."

"Thank G!D he did!" 

We all chuckled, then August continued. "For a long-time, I held onto those beliefs. Sometimes, they still creep in, if I'm not careful. If I don't stop and say 'wait a minute! What's really going on here? What am I missing?" He closed by saying that seeing the police in Ferguson brought him back to the worst of times; the things he had done or watched and hadn't stop. "I'm a different man. That's why I feel so much shame." He couldn't believe that it was still happening; couldn't face that it wouldn't change before he died. "Are we ever going to learn?"

After a few moments, a Black woman rose and said. "August, no White man or woman has ever apologized to me for anything." She went on to speak of the stress of living with racism, the familiarity that White people assume with her, including assuming that she is "stupid, ignorant or both!" 

And, so it went around the room, one person at time, moved to share their story about grappling with the way others perceive them, the ways in which they do not know how to fit in, and the helplessness, anger and fear that can accompany such situations. Age, gender, race, culture, sexual orientation, "not knowing what it means to be White," faith - it was all there.. Though we ran over our time, no one left until everyone who wanted to had a chance to speak. When, that time came and there was no time left to do anything more than wrap-up. I spoke about Shofetim and how the Hebrew word "tirdof," most often translated as "pursue" can also mean "follow"; that maybe in this much more complex world it is a better translation because it speaks to individual as well as collective justice and collective as well as individual responsibility. 

"What we did here today, by listening to one another without judgement or recrimination, was to poke some big holes in some of what divides us so that we can better see one another as another human being with a story to tell, a lesson to teach, a heart that's been wounded, an apology to give or receive. I offer the possibility that in seeing each other beyond our assumptions, we heal ourselves as well as each other. We see much more how we are alike even as we maintain our beautiful rainbow of differences." Knowing they expected one more song, I sang "Wonderful World" and was so happy that they joined me.

Follow justice - not just pursue it. By following justice, you may discover that some solutions lay in hearts of people willing to share their stories AND hear the stories of others. Healing may be seen by some as a poor substitute for justice. However, when justice is not even a speck of light at the end of a long, curvy tunnel, healing may be the balm that makes waiting possible. 


Consider this special opportunity to support Sabrina Sojourner's contribution to a broader vision of who we are and can be: Living Whole and Complete is a collection of poems and essays that explore spirituality, love, heartbreak, culture, resilience and much more. Sabrina is also available as speaker, educator, artist-in-residence or facilitator for your community, school or conference. Contact othermadthoughts@ssellc.net 

(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2014

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Elul Day 2: You are Dear and you are One

Dear One, 

How are you? What are you doing to take care of yourself? When was the last time you allowed another to do for you? When was the last time you closed you eyes - not on your way to sleep - and checked in with your body? Your heart? Your soul?

In the Torah (first five books Christianity's Old Testament), we are told to love our neighbor as we love ourselves (Leviticus 19.18). A few years ago, as I was considering this commandment, it occurred that the underlying assumption - commandment - is that we love ourselves. I am fascinated that the Divine One expects that we will love ourselves.

As you begin your Elul journey of reflection, think about how you treat and regard you. Many of us talk a good game about self-care and having a balanced life - and don't practice it! If you are a supervisor or boss, and you are wondering why your staff is so burned out, I invite you to start with self assessment. I once had a boss who came to work sick, despite an organizational policy that required people to stay home when ill. Of course, other staff also came to work sick. Once, I happened to catch him needling someone who was sick to go home. 

Out of exasperation he said, "Why won't you go home? You are here against company policy!" 

I spoke up and said, "Because you come in sick and work all day against company policy." It took a few moments, however, he did turn to the ill person and tell them to go home. After that, the boss worked from home - though not all day - when he was sick.

I referenced this theme in my published Hill Havurah Rosh Hashanah remarks two years ago. It's always timely, especially this time of year as fall begins, as we prepare for the High Holy Days, as we face all the changes that seem more poignant with the winding down of the spiritual and secular years.

Reflection does not take as much time as you might think. Start with one to five minutes - wherever you can find them. It doesn't have to be a sitting meditation. I have a friend who loves to sweep during her five minutes. I have found washing rice a grounding, three to five minute meditation. Stare out window (not your computer screen). Close your eyes and give attention to how you are breathing. It can be that simple to start or to expand how you care for you. 

When you finish reading this blog, close your eyes and take a deep breath, filling your diaphragm, not just your lungs. Release the breath slowly to the point just before you need to inhale, then repeat a few more times before going to your next activity.



Consider this special opportunity to support Sabrina Sojourner's contribution to a broader vision of who we are and can be: Living Whole and Complete is a collection of poems and essays that explore spirituality, love, heartbreak, culture, resilience and much more. Sabrina is also available as speaker, educator, artist-in-residence or facilitator for your community, school or conference. Contact othermadthoughts@ssellc.net 

(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2014

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rosh Chodesh Elul Day 2: Arise Awaken

Arise awaken
to the blessings of Elul!
An elegant alarm is Tekiah
tumbling down 
carefully or hastily
constructed 
Jericho style walls
protecting the heart. 
Refreshed
Heart turns.

Arise! Awaken!
to the promise of Elul   
Soul swoons to Shevarim
sighing 
almost crying 
deep is the longing 
to return.

Arise! Awaken!
to the work of Elul!
Defenseless is the mind to the
urgency of Teruah
now ready 
now turning to
return.

Arise! Awaken!
to the cleansing of Elul
Tekiah Gedolah!
soaks the body to the bones
every cell 
arising 
awaking
turning
to return.




Consider this special opportunity to support Sabrina Sojourner's contribution to a broader vision of who we are and can be: Living Whole and Complete is a collection of poems and essays that explore spirituality, love, heartbreak, culture, resilience and much more. Sabrina is also available as speaker, educator, artist-in-residence or facilitator for your community, school or conference. Contact othermadthoughts@ssellc.net 

(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Rosh Chodesh Elul Day I, Transition

The end of Av
The end of mourning
   at least for some

For all 
Release grip on reigns
Control is illusory
    we know
    we know
Move with the ride
To stand in transition
    our 30 day walkabout
    our 30 day reflection 

Your heart will whisper 
Divine secrets:
    You are precious!
    You are enough!


(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2014

Sunday, August 24, 2014

We Ought Not Seek to Make the Whole World Blind - An Open Letter to ColorofChange

Dear ColorOfChange.org Organizers, Moderators and Supporters,

I sent you a comment on your website. However, from reading the message after it was submitted, it seemed it could be awhile before I received a response. So, I now write to you publicly because I am concerned about your petition to GoFundMe to take down the campaign for the Ferguson, MO police officer who shot Michael Brown. Most of my friends know I have a campaign on GoFundMe. However, I write because this is bigger than my campaign - or any one campaign on GFM.

It is so easy to be - and stay - caught up in the moment. I want justice for Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and so many more than could be named in one publication. I want to be able to drive or walk down the street of Any Town, USA and not fear for my life. I want the women and men of color I know to be safe wherever they go. I do not want to have to worry about the group of white kids that may be following us. If we are arrested, I want us to make it to jail without harm and I want us not to die in jail. I want not to have to second guess the transactions I witness or experience for their fairness and equanimity. If I am lucky, I will be able to experience that on a continuing basis in my lifetime. However, I know that's a big, big if.

Still, in the moments I am able to stand beyond my own fear and pain, I want to do what I can to break they cycle of tit for tat. Cycles of rage and anger give birth to cyclones of rage and anger. It is as if we are all being run by the oft quoted and oft misunderstood "an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth..." (Exodus 24.20). I have often heard it used to justify personal revenge, state executions, killing doctors who perform abortions, and much, much more - each of which is far from its meaning.

The underlying message is to judges and, with our system, to juries not to be persuaded by the status or lack of status of either party in their evaluation of the facts in front of them. I know that evaluation has not always worked in our favor as women (we come in all colors, shapes and sizes), children, LGBTQ people, men of color, or poor white people. The failure is due to the irrationality of feelings and the failure of the system to teach judges and juries to distinguish between their own feelings and the case under their consideration. The underlying principle is sound. A robust and well paid defense of the police officer MUST be met by a vigorous and exacting prosecution of that officer. If the prosecution falls Michael Brown, then it also fails the officer and our society. 

Take down the petition. Use your rage and the rage, anger of signers toward a constructive purpose. Start a GFM campaign for Michael Brown (or other aptly named) Scholarship Fund for the family members of those exonerated by the Innocence Project and/or killed by police officers... Raise money for victim services funds or to establishment or enhancement of mental health services in poor, rural and other underserved communities. 

We could raise money to support the development and distribution of a curriculum to turn MLK Day weekend 2015 into a national weekend of dialogue, conversation and education to begin the process of designing the just and equitable America we want. Among all of us, I am sure there are many ideas for ways in which the energy can be channeled. 

I know my position will not be popular with many, if not a lot of people. I also know there will be people who will mistakenly think I am taking sides with or against them. Everybody has and is entitled to their interpretation. I just happen to agree with Mahatma Gandhi. In seeking justice, we ought not seek to make the whole world blind. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I'll Take 'Caring Too Much'

Like many people, I was deeply distressed by the news that kidnapped Israeli teenagers Eyal Yifrach, Gil-ad Shaar and Naftali Fraenkel had been found dead; that they most likely had been killed shortly after they had been taken. In a conversation about the news with someone I thought I knew, I added my ongoing concern with the fate of the kidnapped Nigerian girls

"Well," he said, "that's none of my concern. I don't care about that."

"How can you say that," I countered - unable to hide my astonishment. "They are part of the human family. What is happening to them is horrible."

"That's your problem: You care too much about too many things you can't do anything about." 

I took a deep breath and released my shock. One more breath and I was fully present. "Your assessment is correct," I said. "I do care about the outcome of a lot of things that are not in my control. Still, when you ask me to put yourself, someone you love, or an issue whose outcome is important to you and me in my prayers, I do. When you were stressing out about how to handle a sticky situation with your family, I listened and heard your desire NOT to handle the situation the way you always had because you really wanted a result that would work for your family and not just you. I can see by your face you know the big ticket item I could pull out - but I won't. My point is you have benefited from my caring. So, how dare you throw it in my face as a weakness. However, I do thank you for letting me know what you really think of me. Lastly, if the choice is your brand of personal or tribal selfishness or caring too much I'll take caring too much any day. Every day. Every time."

The narrow heart my colleague showed is, undoubtedly, similar to the heart that Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito and his colleagues used to decide in favor of Hobby Lobby and their desire to exclude covering certain forms of birth control, even though they hold investments in such items, from the health insurance they offer their employees. Now that a "religious exemption" has been codified for businesses, look for suits that allow them to avoid hiring or serving women and gay people on the basis of their religious beliefs. While the justices were clear that the religious exemption could not be used to justify race-based discrimination, it wouldn't surprise me if there are more than a few lawyers analyzing the language of the ruling to see if there is space to get a camel through that needle's eye.  

There is a midrash (rabbinic story) about the moment the waters of the Sea of Reeds closed on Pharaoh, his soldiers and horses (Exodus 14-15), drowning them all. In short, it says that the angels cheered at the sight and the Holy One silenced them, saying "They, too, are my creations." 

I know we are all creations of the Divine One, including those who do not believe in a divine entity. Sometimes, all I can do is be a witness to another's suffering and pain or joy and happiness; praying that the former decreases and that the latter increases. If that causes me to be labeled as "caring too much" it is a small price to pay for owning my humanity and honoring the humanity of others. When the world is turned upside down by acts of terrorism, human selfishness or hate, like U.S. Soccer goalie Tim Howard, I do what I can to save what can be saved and stay mindfully aware of my surroundings in hopes of being ready for what comes next. Fortunately, unlike Howard, I don't end up with as many bruises or sore muscles. Today, though, my heart aches for the families who have lost their sons and the families wondering why - after two months - their daughters are still missing. 


Consider this special opportunity to support Sabrina Sojourner's contribution to a broader vision of who we are and can be: Living Whole and Complete is a collection of poems and essays that explore spirituality, love, heartbreak, culture, resilience and much more. Sabrina is also available as speaker, educator, artist-in-residence or facilitator for your community, school or conference. Contact othermadthoughts@ssellc.net 

(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

A Legacy You Do Not Want to Continue: An Open Letter To Dan Snyder

Dear Mr. Snyder:


I write in response to your often stated sentiment of the proud heritage and history of our Washington Football team. It seems to me you are being very selective in your expression of historical pride. What about the historical shame of our team? Are you embracing that as well? After all, you must know that:
  • Washington was the last NFL team to integrate because George Preston Marshall, owner and President, was the leading opponent to including African Americans in the NFL and on his roster. 
  • Marshall famously said, "We'll start signing Negroes when the Harlem Globetrotters start signing whites." Marshall was apparently unaware that, in the early days, owner Abe Saperstein was also a substitute for the team and that Bob Karstens was signed by the Globetrotters in 1943.
  • Washington integrated in 1962 only because then Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy and Interior Secretary Stewart Udall threatened to revoke the 30-year lease of D.C. Stadium (now Robert F. Kennedy Stadium). And, 
  • the foundation that bares Preston's name cannot use any of its funds to support or employ "the principle of racial integration.."
I, of course,  am not the first writer or lover of sports to point out to you these items and more. One of the most thoughtful pieces I remains, not surprisingly, by Dave Zirin and Zach Zell.  

So, I pose questions to which I do not know the answer and you may not have considered. From one Jew to another, I ask: 
  • Do you, Dan Snyder, really want to continue this horrible, soul wrenching legacy? 
  • Do you fully understand that historical pride is one of the underlying assumptions that has caused, and continues to cause, most of the horrific acts in human history? 
  • Is the legacy of your inaction for the sake of "historical pride" what you want to leave for your children, your children's children and your children's children's children? 
  • Most importantly, if the name is the source of pride and celebration as you claim, would you say to someone of American Indian or indigenous heritage, "Hello R*ds**n!"? Or, if you could not recall their name, would you ask "What was the name of that R*ds**n (guy or gal) we met the other day?"
I hope the answer to at least one of the above questions is "no" and that the answer is loud enough that you will be prompted to take corrective action. I also hope that your love for your children will give you pause to consider what your actions say to them about bias and prejudice. I can only hope that the Holy One, Blessed be the One, has enough of your mind, enough of your heart and enough of your soul that you are compelled to be the transformative agent of change the moment, the issue needs.

Respectfully,
Sabrina Sojourner

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(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2014

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Joyous Pesach Recipe 7

Remember to remember. Welcome with open heart. Embrace being welcomed, regardless of the heart. Bring joy. Bring wonder. Forget what you think you know about The Story to discover what still needs discovering. Remember to remember that you do not know this ritual, this night, this time. 

Remember to remember our story. Remember to tell the story as if you were there. Because, you were there. We were there. Alongside each other. Waiting. Hoping. Giggling with anticipation. Prayerful. Awed. We were there. You were there. Remember to remember to tell your piece of Our Story. 

Remember to remember sorrow. Embrace sorrow. Let her comfort you. Let her open your heart to sweetness. Honor what is gone. Mourn what is gone. Grieve what is gone. Let sorrow comfort you. Let the smiling faces, inviting aromas and savory flavors comfort you. Hold them alongside your sorrow. Remember to remember to embrace life.

Remember to remember joy. Cook with joy. Serve with joy. Read with joy. Sing with joy. Laugh with joy. Fill the space whatever space you find yourself with so much joy that it must dance out doors and windows into our neighborhoods, communities, localities, the nation, around the globe and into the universe! Let it touch as many souls as possible along the way so that their joy also increases. Remember to remember to increase joy.

Remember to remember your narrow place. With curiosity, examine your narrow places, your constrictions. Ask them, what do you bring me? Ask them, how do you harm me? Ask them, why did I create you? Ask them, how did I learn you? Ask them, how do you protect me? Ask them, why do you hurt me? Examine, with curiosity, your narrow places. Remember to remember to prepare yourself to move into openness.

Remember to remember you. You are the key ingredient to your joyous Pesach. 
Remember to remember to welcome you and to allow yourself to be welcomed. 
Remember to remember to tell your piece of Our Story. 
Remember to remember to embrace the fullness of your life. 
Remember to remember to expand your joy. 
Remember to remember to prepare to move into openness, no matter how open you currently may be.
Remember to remember your openness. 
Remember to remember you!  

(c) Copyright Sabrina Sojourner 2014

Friday, April 11, 2014

A Joyous and Gluten Free Pesach: Recipe 6 Chicken Liver Pate

Chicken Liver Pate
I first came across this recipe in the Washington Post. At the time, I was keeping an Italian Sephardic kosher kitchen and occasionally cooked poultry with butter. Don’t worry, I never brought it to anybody else’s kosher or kosher-style home.

Thursday, night, I made it for the first time parve. I am thrilled with the results and excited to share with you. The great thing about this recipe is that you can make it early in the process and forget about it as long as it is refrigerated in an airtight container. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes before serving. It can last in the frig up to 1 week, if properly covered. 

For Pesach, serve with homemade gluten-free matzah. Of course you can use regular matzah! For homemade, try this Karaite recipe courtesy of the Post.  

Ingredients
3 tablespoons coconut oil, plus ¼ cup, softened
1 pound chicken livers
1/2 pound mushrooms, cleaned and coarsely chopped
1 bunch scallions, white and light-green parts, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup dry white wine
1 medium clove garlic, mashed
3 Tablespoons fresh basil
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
1/4 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse crystal sea salt to taste
20 Turns fresh ground pepper to taste

Preparation
  1. Melt the 3 tablespoons of coconut oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the livers, mushrooms and scallions; cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the livers are browned. Add the wine, garlic, powdered mustard, herbs and lemon juice. Increase the heat to medium-high; bring to a easy boil and cook, uncovered, for 8 to 10 minutes, until the liquid is gone. Transfer the mixture to the bowl and allow to cool.
  2. When it has cooled completely, but not cold, place in food processor bowl and add the 4 tablespoons of softened coconut oil. Pulse several times, then scrap sides. Process for 15 seconds, then scrap sides. Taste and add salt or pepper to taste. Then process until smooth. Taste again and adjust seasoning, if needed. Transfer to 2 ½ to 3 cup bowl (or mold); cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Can be refrigerated for up to 1 week in an airtight container.
Cocktails anyone?
I found this great site called The Sipping Seder. The recipes are related to the items on the Seder plate. I only tried the karpas recipe. It was easy and fun. 

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Joyous and Gluten Free Pesach: Recipe 5 Leg of Lamb

Grilled Butterflied Leg of Lamb Recipe

The longer you marinate, the more intense the flavor.

Ingredients

1 butterflied leg of lamb (around 5 lbs)*
2/3 cup lemon juice
2 to 6 minced garlic cloves, chopped (to taste)
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup Dijon mustard (1½ T dry mustard, 2 T waters, 1 T white wine, ½ pinch kosher salt)
1/4 cup red wine reduction** or 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1 section of ginger root, sliced (¾ to 2 inch, to taste)
1/2 cup brown sugar
40 turns fresh ground black pepper or 1 teaspoon ground black pepper (to taste)
1 kosher teaspoon salt (to taste) 

Preparation

  1. In a medium large bowl, mix together the chopped garlic, red wine reduction or balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, brown sugar, Dijon-style, ginger, salt and black pepper. Allow to stand while you continue to work. 
  2. Cut excess fat from the lamb, then place the butterflied lamb fat-side down in a flat container deep enough to hold it and the marinade. Stir, then pour the sauce mixture evenly over the lamb. The lamb should now be lightly coated and resting in the marinade sauce. 
  3. Cover with foil or plastic wrap. Leave in the refrigerator to marinate, covered, for 8 hrs or overnight (up to 36 hours). Turn, occasionally.
  4. When ready to cook, preheat grill to medium heat or oven to 300. 
  5. Brush a small amount of oil on the grate of the grill or grate of a roasting pan.
  6. Drain the marinade from your shallow container into a saucepan and bring to a boil on the stove.
  7. When ready, place the lamb on upper grate of grill so as to cook using indirect heat, and let it grill for 40 to 50 minutes, or until it reaches the minimum internal temperature of about 145 degrees F (63 degrees C). While it grills turn the lamb over occasionally to ensure best results.
  8. If oven roasting, place lamb on middle shelf and allow to slow roast for 1 hour or until it reaches the minimum internal temperature of about 145 degrees F (63 degrees C). 
  9. Allow meat to sit for 10 minutes. Slice to desired serving size and cover with warm marinade sauce. Alternately, you may place the sauce on the table for people to ladle for themselves.
Notes: *If you choose to be adventurous, you can buy a whole leg of lamb and butterfly it yourself. It's not as hard as you might think. There are videos on YouTube!
**I often save that little bit of red wine in the frig, adding more, then simmer on the stove until it is the intensity I want.