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Rabbi's Corner


Rabbi Paula sees Jewish
practice as an ongoing, joyous celebration of God and ourselves.

Rabbi Paula was honored with the Tony Hill Award at the 35th Annual Martin Luther King Convocation on February 11, 2019. The following was her acceptance speech.

I want to thank so many people for this great honor. Those of you who nominated me and wrote letters of support, my Temple Beth El family. And all of you who have been partners in stirring up our shared public life in this amazing community. My family, including my amazingly supportive husband, my loving son, my loyal brother and his wonderful partner who are here this evening.

Tonight, we are honoring the memory of two men who stood up and spoke out whenever they saw injustice, insensitivity, inequality. Two men with the vision to keep going, even when others might have lost hope. Two peaceful warriors. Both of these men faced adversity. And both of them taught that love, not hate, is the way forward. Do we really know how remarkable this is? Because honestly, these days I’m finding it hard. Hard to stay in the struggle and not become enraged at what we are seeing.

It doesn’t help when my inbox is filled with political emails such as:

“Did you hear what Mitch McConnel just said?”

“Demand Governor Resign Over Blackface Photo”

“Condemn Rep. Steve King for White Supremacist Remarks”

Or “they want to be able to LYNCH LGBTQ people”

I know that these messages are sent by organizations that are working to mobilize us. They stir up our outrage. And, we can’t just get angry. Just like Tony Hill and Dr. King, we organize. We reach out to the people we work with and we say, what are we gonna do about this? We sit together, in sanctuaries, at cafes, sometimes in jail cells, and we share our stories our dreams and our plans to create change.

And we remember the legacies of hope and love and courage we hold so dear.

This is one reason I chose COPA* as the recipient of the $500.00 gift. I have learned so much about effective strategy, the importance of organizing across differences of faith, race, and economic class. And the preciousness of our stories, our understanding of why we need to work together. The patience it takes to stay in, especially when we don’t always agree about everything.

Last year, my husband and I traveled in Vietnam. Talk about a humbling experience, we were received by open hearted, generous people. I like to say it would have been easier if we’d gone when Obama was president, at least we could have said we learned something from that tragic war.

We spent some time at the Temple where the Vietnamese, Buddhist spiritual leader and teacher, Tich Nat Han, became a monk. We walked around the beautiful lake, sat in the meditation hall and spoke with some of the monks and nuns. This Temple is where Thich Nhat Hanh is now living his last days or weeks before he dies. This man, who protested against the war in Vietnam and taught that “Peace is in Every Step”. As we honor and remember Tony Hill and Dr King this evening, I want to close with these words from Tich Nat Han.

“If you see someone who is trying to shoot, to destroy, you have to do your best in order to prevent him or her to do so. You must. But you must do it out of your compassion, of your willingness to protect, and not out of anger. That is the key.

*COPA-Communities Organized for Relational Power in Action, local Industrial Areas Foundation affiliate.


We are an active part of the larger community.  

Thoughts from Rabbi Paula—February 2019

Having Joy in Our Lives

People began arriving an hour before the event was scheduled to begin. We had planned for about 500 people, and as more time passed we realized that every seat in the social hall and the sanctuary were filled.

We were gathered to learn about The Book of Joy, by Doug Abrams. We were inspired by video clips of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama and Bishop Desmond Tutu, discussing their relationship, the suffering in the world and how they stay connected to joy. All of us were in the room for the same reason—to deepen relationship, acknowledge the suffering in our environment, and find pathways into joy, lifting up this precious gift in our traditions.

The rabbis teach that when Adar enters, joy increases. This year we have two months of Adar. Jewish leap years don't happen every seven or every four years—they happen as part of a nineteen-year cycle. The extra Adar happens when there is a leap year—we add a month to preserve the lunar properties of the calendar. This means that we celebrate our holidays during the same season every year. Seven in nineteen years are leap years, so we get an extra measure of joy every two‒three years on average. An extra Adar is added in the 3rd, 6th, 8th, 11th, 14th, 17th and 19th years of the cycle.

And this year, we can use an extra dose of joy.
  Joy that we feel celebrating with our community, our friends and family.
  Joy we feel when we work together to bring joy to others, some we may know and total strangers.
  Joy we feel when we learn and grow.
  Joy we feel when we take a deep breath and appreciate what is going well. 
  Joy we feel when we reach across a divide and find common cause, to build a more just world.
  Joy we feel when we pause for an astonishing sunset.
  The month of Adar (Adar 1) begins on the evening of February 5. Let’s use these two months of Adar to find our joy.

                   ‒Rabbi Paula Marcus

Mon, February 18 2019 13 Adar I 5779