FROM THE HEART WITH RABBI LIEBOWITZ

Whatever is has already been, and what will be has been before;
and God will call the past to account
(Ecclesiastes 3:15)

Dear Friends,

The above quote from Kohelet a.k.a. Ecclesiastes (or as tradition would have it King Solomon) expresses the perennial angst about the inevitability of cycles; everything from wide lapels to old TV shows returning (X-files, Will and Grace etc.) Yet, I can’t help but notice, to quote the sixties refrain, “the times they are a changing.” One case in point is the invention of Uber, a new and indispensable travel service that is convenient, cheaper, and faster than a Taxi. With a few touches of an iPhone screen, this car service will pick you up, know your number, and appear on the screen indicating just how far away the driver is and how long it will be till his or her arrival. As you have already posted your credit card in cyberspace, there is no need to pay or tip the driver. The result? A recent New York Times article revealed the angst of the ever diminishing fleets of yellow cabs in Manhattan. (I can’t help but think of my dear old dad, a onetime cabbie doing a 360 in his grave.) Uber is being followed by at least a handful of similar services, like LYFT. (I learned about this in Miami last week as Shelli and Josh wedded their lives together. Mazal Tov! Hank and Marla!)

Speaking of my dear old dad, I recall watching an episode of Star Trek in which Spock and crew were miraculously beamed out of a burning spacecraft. This was circa 1972. My father, up until the beaming out, was enthralled with the show. When the characters vanished in a haze of light and then safely
re-materialized, my dad exclaimed, “What the heck was that?” I tried to explain this unfamiliar concept of 23rd century transporting, but in vain. Disgusted, he turned off the TV never to watch Star Trek ever again.

When we age, new situations arise that challenge us and our way of doing things. Some rightly so, while others not so good, like a colleague of mine who last Rosh Hashanah put up a computer screen above the pulpit so that everyone with their iPhones could text one another with their comments (hopeful not too cynical and appropriately civil) on the screen. I am still in wonder at the idea, trying to wrap my mind around it. Shades of dear old dad’s reaction to Star Trek I suspect. What goes around comes around!

American Judaism is going through other changes as well, not dissimilar to some of the challenges facing Churches. Increasingly, the market place values drive religious choices. What can be called “Vending Machine Judaism” has invaded our culture. Institutional connection to synagogue and Church has diminished. Millennials are no longer joiners. Their community is often virtual, skyping, and instant.

The Pew report revealed an ever growing number of “Nones,” as in “I belong to none of the above religious communities.” It has now been followed by the “Dones,” that is to say those who were supportive and are no more. Many of our own folks have become habituated to vending machine Judaism in which you hire a temporary rabbi, sometimes with no real credentials (what we in the trade call a “rent-a-rabbi”) or teacher to train a child for Bar/Bat mitzvah, which will take place in a faux community, often a hotel venue. Many other examples, traditional and non-traditional have followed in which loyalty and fidelity has taken a nose dive.
Not to despair as Ecclesiastes has promised, “what will be has been before.” In the meantime, I hold fast to my appreciation to those of you reading this, for your constant and abiding support of Temple Judaism. Many of you are not frequent attendees of services and other programs offered. As one member, most devoted said to me, “There are prayers and then there are payers. I am a payer.” It’s a start, but not a finish. A temple thrives not merely by dollars, but by spiritual currency as well. As a community, all of you are quite good in a pinch to support a minyan when death arrives and solace is to be provided. Sadly, our steadfast commitment is ebbing. Accompanying “Vending Machine Judaism,” is “show time” Judaism in which participation is no longer a habitual practice, but a sometime happening. Prayer is an exercise. One would not expect to go but once or twice a year to a health club and think that it would provide physical well being.

Many of my colleagues have bought into “show time” Judaism with dog and pony shows to lure members into the Temple on special occasions. I recognize the temptation and have alas, given into it from time to time. I look forward, perhaps naïvely to a cultural realization as to what real community, real faith is about. A commitment that finds expression “from the time we rise up to the time we lay down.” I pray as did Solomon “What will be has been before.”

Wishing one and all the best,
Rabbi Yossi Liebowitz, D.D.

Spartanburg Green Congregations Chapter of South Carolina Interfaith Power and Light

Let’s Be Doers by “Caring for God’s Creation”

Spartanburg Green Congregations is pleased to present an evening with Newt Hardie and The Trees Coalition
February 2nd, 7:00 PM at Central Methodist

The Trees Coalition is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit group located in Spartanburg, South Carolina that was formed to educate & inspire communities to care for trees, especially those planted along the streets and trails. The Trees Coalition is an expansion of the Kudzu Coalition, a group that pioneered herbicide-free kudzu removal. We are a mix of volunteers and paid landscapers who train and work alongside neighborhoods, churches, and businesses to provide help in caring for their trees.

Mission
• To educate the community on the threats to and proper care of roadside, trail, park and green space trees.
• To engage the community in providing proper tree care, including the removal of invasive plants.
• To enhance community trees by hands-on activities to improve the health of our trees.
• We do NOT plant trees in new areas.

What We Do
• Educate neighborhoods, churches, businesses, and students regarding proper planting, pruning & mulching practices.
• Educate all on identification of and on removal of non-native invasives trees such as Tree of Heaven and Chinese Parasol
Tree; and vines such as ivy, kudzu, and wisteria; and shrubs such as privet, elaeagnus, and leather leaf mahonia with and without
chemicals.
• Offer kudzu removal education through Kudzu Kollege.
• Encourage completion of the Clemson Extension Tree Steward Class.
• Facilitate activities such as Trees parties to provide hands-on education and beautify local areas including gateways and
intersections throughout the community.

In Memoriam

January 17, 2017

We are sad to note the passing of longtime member Stanley Nabow. Our condolences go out to the entire family. The funeral will be held this Wednesday morning at 11 o’clock. More details will follow. Currently we are anticipating two mourner’s minyans in the evening at 7 o’clock Wednesday and Thursday at the home of Sandy and Robert Nabow with a concluding Minyan at services on Friday. I encourage one and all to please convey your condolences to the family.

Updating Temple Directory!

It’s a new year, and the temple directory is in need of an update. Several of you have given us new addresses and/or phone numbers as well as email addresses, and we will be updating your directory listings in the upcoming weeks. If anyone else has any changes that need to be made to the directory, PLEASE let us know as soon as possible. We list addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays, and anniversaries. If you are okay with the Rabbi and Jan having your cells numbers, but only want your land line number listed in the directory, just let us know. We can list whatever you’d like in the directory copy that goes out to congregants while keeping other information private in the copy that we keep here at the office for the Rabbi and Jan.

Also, your phone numbers are added to our calling post list so that you can receive via phone call important and last minute messages and information so please make sure we have your correct number(s).

Please let Jan know of any changes that need to be made before January 20th. Thank you!

864-582-2001

Remembering the Struggle for Freedom Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, January 16, 2017

TWO PROPHETS, ONE SOUL: REV. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. AND RABBI ABRAHAM JOSHUA HESCHEL

By Harold M. Schulweis

More than a coincidence of calendar couples the anniversary of the births of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., January 15 and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, January 11. Two men from different geographies, color, creed, theological background were joined in a spiritual kinship whose legacy address our own times.

Heschel, a Polish immigrant, scion of a long line of Chasidic rabbis, Professor of Jewish Ethics and Mysticism at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America and King, an American descendant of slaves, a compassionate protector of the oppressed, charismatic orator, writer and theologian, marched side-by- side from Selma to Montgomery to protest the pernicious racism that poisoned America and humiliated its African-American citizens. A host of white citizens, filled with venomous hate, surrounded the marchers, jeered and spat upon them. But as Heschel declared later: “When I marched in Selma, my feet were praying.” It is important not only to protest against evil but to be seen protesting. Faith in the goodness and oneness of God is powerfully expressed through the language of feet, hands, and spine.

Heschel and King, these two contemporary prophets remind us to eschew the invidious “one downsmanship” that compares one people’s sufferings against another. Comparative victimizing is a divisive exercise that diminishes the anguish of our pain and replaces empathy with insensitivity. King and Heschel were united in the kinship of suffering and the shared vision of great dreams. Strengthened by the tradition of both biblical testaments, they defied the killers of the dreams quotations out of their bodies.

Describing Heschel as “one of the great men of our age, a truly great prophet”, Martin Luther King declared: “He has been with us in many struggles. I remember marching from Selma to Montgomery, how he stood at my side…I remember very well when we were in Chicago for the Conference on Religion and Race…to a great extent his speech inspired clergymen of all faiths to do something they had not done before.”

At that conference Heschel reminded the assembly that the first Conference on Religion and Race took place in Egypt where the main participants were Pharaoh and Moses. Moses’ words were: “Thus saith the Lord God of Israel, let My people go” and the Pharaoh retorted “Who is the Lord that I should heed this voice and let Israel go.” That summit meeting in Egypt has not come to an end. Pharaoh is still not ready to capitulate. The Exodus began, but we are still stranded in the desert.

It was easier for the Israelites to cross the Red Sea than for men and women of different color to enter our institutions, our colleges, our universities,”How can we love our neighbor”, Heschel asks rhetorically when we flee from him and leave him abandoned, congested in the neglected ghettos of the inner city?

After the assassination of King, Heschel said of him “Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America. God has sent him to us…his mission is sacred…I call upon every Jew to hearken to his voice, to share his vision, to follow in his way.
The whole future of America will depend upon the influence of Dr. King.”

King and Heschel speak to our community in the diction of the ancient prophets. They dare remind us that while “some are guilty, all are responsible.” That moral responsibility transcends class, creed and race. Heschel and King taught us that the opposite of good is not evil but in- difference and that silence in the presence of evil amounts to consent. They charged us to transcend the cleavages that distract us from the solidarity of our goal, and to publicly stand together against the twin evils of racism and anti-Semitism.

The calendrical coincidence of their birth anniversaries calls upon us to resurrect the moral passion and wisdom that in- fused their lives. Our celebration of their birthdays offers testimony to the immortality of their influence. Their creeds, dogmas, pigmentation, like ours, are different. But our tears are the same.