This morning I want to look back at some things I have discussed recently.
A couple of weeks ago I discussed the controversy at Hamline University, a private liberal arts college in Minnesota, over the display of a reverential picture of Mohammed receiving revelation from the Angel Gabriel. This 14th-century picture was shown as part of a survey course on global art. Some Muslims, though not all, believe it is forbidden to make or look at depictions of Mohammed. The professor acknowledged this. She let students know both in the syllabus and in class that the picture would be displayed and allowed students to opt out. None did at the time, but a Muslim student in the class soon after filed a complaint. The school’s president put out a statement that the professor’s actions were “Islamophobic” and said that concern for student sensitivities must supersede academic freedom. The professor, an adjunct, was not rehired for the second semester and filed suit. After the lawsuit was filed, the university withdrew both its accusation of Islamophobia and its decision not to rehire the professor.
More recently the university faculty council voted 71-12 to ask the president to step down. They say they no longer have faith in her ability to lead the university.
In my sermon this past Shabbat morning I expressed concern about the direction the new Israeli government planned to lead the country. One of the things that I discussed was that younger, well-educated Israelis, who overwhelmingly do not support the new government and are the ones who are responsible for the “Startup Nation” mentality that has made Israel so prosperous, might leave the country. Earlier this week, two Israeli tech firms (one of which, Papaya Global, has clients in 160 countries), announced that they were pulling their money out of Israel Eynat Guez, co-founder and CEO, said “foreign investors had been calling with concern about whether Israel’s democracy was crumbling. “Just like in Brazil, Venezuela and Hungary, no leading investor or financial institute will let his billions stay in a country with a crumbling democracy,” she said. She added, “Let’s say this loud and clear: Startup Nation without a democracy cannot stand.”
Last night in my “Contemporary Jewish Controversies” class we discussed whether COVID and Zoom had changed Judaism forever. If you missed the class but want to see the discussion, the video is available here.
We are once again having a sponsored Kiddush after services this Shabbat. If you are planning to attend, it is really helpful for you to register at https://forms.gle/NRsUTeaCutfXX46g7. If you have not registered and decide at the last minute to attend, you will of course still be joyfully welcomed. However, advance registration helps us to determine how much food to prepare for Kiddush without being wasteful. Your assistance is appreciated -- from weekly experience I can tell you that filling out the registration form literally takes less than 30 seconds.
As a reminder, I am having drop-in hours on Thursday afternoon from 2 to 4 at the shul. You do not need to make an appointment -- that would negate the whole point of drop-in hours -- but I’d urge you to check and make sure I am there regardless as sometimes there are unavoidable pastoral or other emergencies which might take me away from the building.
As always, if I can do anything for you or you need to talk, please contact me at email@example.com or 301-977-0768 rather than through the synagogue office. I am happy to meet you at the synagogue by appointment. I have been spending more time in the synagogue recently but if you want to speak with me it’s best to make an appointment rather than assuming I will be there when you stop by.
Rabbi Charles L. Arian