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Noah Fitzgerel

This post is adapted from a sermon given at Temple B'nai Shalom in Fairfax Station, Virginia on January 12, 2018. Watch the full sermon. 

On Erev Rosh Hashanah at Temple B'nai Shalom, Rabbi Amy Perlin spoke of the centrality of memory to her rabbinate and to this community. She said to the congregation:

“Memories are how we explain who we are today, in light of who we were once upon a time.” 

So many of my sweetest Jewish memories come from this place, and from this community.

I remember shul-ins and Purim carnivals, right behind those folding walls. I...

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Stop sign spraypainted with the word HATE

On Monday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its annual report on hate crimes. The latest report, which summarized data collected by law-enforcement agencies across the nation, shed light on the number of hate crimes that occurred in 2016.

The report reflects several troubling trends. As the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) noted, the number of hate crimes increased from 5,850 in 2015 to 6,121 in 2016. Fifty-four percent of religious-based hate crimes targeted Jews. Moreover, the ADL points out that the number of religious-based hate crimes targeting Muslims increased...

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Two young boys fighting/wrestling

In this week’s Torah portion, Tol'dot, we read about Isaac: “The man grew rich, and he went on growing all the richer until he was exceedingly rich” (Genesis 26:13).  Amid a famine, God blesses Isaac with abundance. His lands and estate are fruitful.  

This portion is replete with contrasts and binaries. Despite abundance, we encounter scarcity. Alongside fruitfulness, we find barrenness. In this portion, we are charged with questioning the institutions, ideas, and practices in our day that divide and exclude people.

First, we learn that Isaac's wife, Rebekah, is barren....

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Transgender pride flag with words "protect trans students"


October is LGBTQ History Month, when Americans across the country remember and celebrate individuals who have fought for the inclusion of all members of the LGBTQ community.  

The fight is ongoing in the nation's capital and in state legislatures across the United States. While Americans have witnessed many victories for the LGBTQ community in recent years, we also continue to confront great challenges. In particular, transgender and gender non-conforming Americans continue to experience discrimination in housing, employment, education, and other facets of American life....

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Rosh Hashanah is about taking stock of one's year: a time for reflection and introspection. The opportunity to reflect does not begin at Rosh Hashanah, however. Rosh Hashanah comes after the month of Elul, when Jews begin to ritually account for the year that has passed. And yet, Elul is just as forward-looking as it is retrospective. Elul is about preparing to face ourselves during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During this holy week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we atone for our sins—we hold up a mirror to our individual and communal blemishes—in the hope of re-orienting...

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