Three weeks ago my congregation, my community learned a hard truth that we had known in our minds, but not experienced in our hearts. That violence does not affect other people and other families, but something that touches us all. Three weeks ago, a young man, Seth Rich, 27 years old, was shot dead in the prime of his life on the streets of Washington, DC. Three weeks ago my congregation lost one of its children.
Seth, grew up here in Omaha, attending Central High and Creighton. He moved to DC to follow his dreams, working on the front lines of our democracy at the DNC. Seth believed that everyone in our country, no matter their economics, religion or the color of their skin had the right to vote. Seth wanted to make a difference in the world around him and we honor his memory not with our tears, but with our vote.
Yet if Seth could speak to us today, he would undoubtedly tell us that our response to violence must be colorblind, that our response to hate must be love, our response to bigotry must be diversity.
A story found in Jewish tradition told about how a man in a boat began to drill a hole under his seat. His fellow passengers protested. “What concern is it of yours?’ the man responded, ‘I am making a hole under my seat, not yours.’ The other passengers replied, ‘This is so, but when the water enters and the boat sinks, we too will drown,’ [Leviticus Rabbah 4:6]
The pain and suffering that we see on the news and in our neighborhoods, is not someone else’s problem, but our very own. Every time our country has sought to find the courage to overcome adversity we have done so together; not as black or white, rich or poor, Christian or Jew; but as one nation under God indivisible with justice for all.
I stand before you today as a son, a husband, a rabbi, but most importantly a father. I am here because of my children and the country I hope they inherit. A country that does not discriminate based on gender, race, religion or sexual orientation. A country where no child goes to bed hungry. A country where a hard day’s work is paid a fair and equitable wage. A country where every child receives a first rate education. A country where parents do not have to worry about the safely of their children at school.
We are here today because we want to leave our children a more perfect union than how we found it.
There is a beautiful story told by Rabbi Meir that God wanted proof that the Jewish people would cherish his most precious possession, the Torah, The 5 Books of Moses. God asked the Israelites for guarantors that the tradition would be upheld. The people responded, “Our ancestors will be our guarantors”. God responded saying “they are not sufficient”, so God asked again and the Jewish people responded saying, “our prophets will be our guarantors”. Once more God said “I have found fault with your prophets. Who shall be your guarantors? The Israelites, newly freed from bondage, looked toward heaven and said, “if you give us your most prized possession, your Torah, we will offer you our most prized possession, our children will be our guarantors”. With that God responded by saying “since you have offered me your children, I will give you My Torah”
The Torah teaches us that our children are our greatest legacy. They will carry on the values we teach them.
We will be judged by the world we leave our children. We should choose leaders who care about our families, our children and our grandchildren as much as they care about their own; and that is why “I am with her”.
My daughter last Tuesday night asked me who that man was on TV, I told her Bill Clinton. She responded, “isn’t he married to the president?”
Keyn yehi ratzon – May It Be Gods Will.
יְבָרֶכְךָ י, וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ
May God bless us and guard us
יָאֵר י פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וִיחֻנֶּךָּ
May God shine his face upon us and be gracious to us
יִשָּׂא י פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ, וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם
May God lift up His face upon us and grant us peace
And let us say Amen
Sharon Brodkey says
I’m kvelling with pride! What an honor you have done for our congregation, our community and our country!
Linda Novak says
Very nice. Proud to have you as Beth El’s rabbi.
Charlotte Zipursky says
Rabbi, how proud we can be to say “he’s our Rabbi. Those are the lessons he teaches us”
You were right on target. No one could misunderstand your message.
Tell Na’ama that it’s the year of the woman and she’s just in time.
Tuffy and Helen Epstein says
How fortunate we are to have you as our Rabbi.
Sara Duncan says
Amazing and perfectly stated. So proud to stand with you and vote for “her.” Also, proud to say you are my beloved cousin. Love, Sara
Pamela Epstein says
I was so proud to have you speak today at North High School. Your message and words were inspirational for all. So happy to call you a friend!!!
Lisa Epstein says
So proud of Steven and proud to say he is our Rabbi. You truly are an amazing human being Rabbi Abraham.
Ellis Goodman says
Thanks for the fantastic inspiration….
Karen Pollak says
Sara Juster says
I miss being part of Beth El. Thank yo Rabbi Abraham!
Steven Dloogoff says
Beautiful comments. I was Bar Mitzva at Beth El, my sister and her husband were married at Beth El and our parents were members of Beth El 80 years ago. As a young married family we brought our daughter up at Temple Israel, and were active members of the Omaha Jewish Community. Proud to have been a part of the Omaha Jewish community.
I now live in Miami, Florida and I’m actively working on Hillary’s campaign to help her win an important swing state!
Joanie Bernstein says
I am not a member of Beth El. However, my husband and I are proud to have you as part of our community. Thank you for your perfect words.
Marlene Kahn says
Thank you, Rabbi Steven……as I read your words, chills ran thru me….of how you put so much love into your words and thoughts….and even though I do not live in Omaha anymore, I still have lots and lots of roots there with family and friends alike and I truly associate you, Rabbi, as my “other” rabbi…
Steven, I’ve known you for over 30 years and this is by far the most proud I am of you, thanks to your wonderful parents and grandparents.
Melissa Mulreany says
Wise and inspirational! I’m proud to know the child that grew into this leader and lucky to have his loving parents as neighbors and friends. Bless you, your family, and America!
Danielle Epstein Sherman says
If we lived in Omaha, I know that my family would belong to Beth El. The synagogue did the best thing it could have done in hiring you. May you stay in Omaha and bless Beth El with your thoughtful wisdom for a long, long time.
Stan & Evie Mitchell says
“Gut gezugt” – well written, well spoken and meaningful. May it come to pass.
We are very proud of you.
Sorry we could not have been there to hear it delivered in person.
Lourdes Secola says
I am still digesting your words….. I feel proud for your presence at such an important event.
As a bereaved parent, your message touched me deeply….
As a student of public health, your cry to protect our children from going to be hungry resonate with our efforts to ameliorate food insecurity.
As a concerned citizen, may we find peace and security in our midst in our life time.
Thank you for your important message. Thank you indeed
Karla Cohen says
Rabbi, I love your ability to speak from your heart and into ours. Your words stir up feelings of love, hope, and faith in mankind. Very proud you’re our Rabbi.
I’m with you…..with ‘her’.