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Removing the Stumbling Block

In last week’s Torah portion of Kedoshim we read the important commandment: ‘You shall not curse the deaf nor place a stumbling block before the blind.’ It is a teaching that we take to heart all these years later as we try to make life easier – not harder – for those who live with challenges. It has us acknowledge that those who are physically or emotionally struggling deserve our added attention and empathy. 

I spend a lot of time thinking about those in our community whose life is hard because of the challenges they live with day after day. Maybe they have a hard time getting around. Maybe they cannot see so well. Maybe they do not hear well. Maybe they struggle with anxiety or depression, a learning disability or are on the Autism spectrum. There are so many of us battling quietly, even secretly and the prospect of making it through another day feels outright daunting.

I am proud of the wonderful work that KI is doing around inclusion. We are guided by the inclusion committee and its fearless leader, Ellen Sklaroff. 

For us, inclusion is read broadly. We take it seriously. Are we inclusive of those who look different, come from a different place, pray differently, observe differently, those whose sexuality is not the same as ours, whose relationship to Israel is different than ours or whose politics are different than ours? Can we find the humanity in each other? KI is meant to be a place of safe haven for all who choose to align themselves with our remarkable community, especially those who know what it feels like to be excluded. 

Who among us has not been pushed aside at least once because we dared to be different? Indeed, our people as a whole have been made to feel like outsiders time and again and thus the need to ‘welcome the stranger’ and create a congregation for all feels extra imperative. Especially in 2023, when so many feel alone or feel as if they are languishing, the need to create a spiritual home that is welcoming and kind is so very crucial. 

This week’s portion or Emor in fact makes clear that many have been rejected from institutional Judaism from the very beginning. We read a long list of those disqualified from offering at the great Temple: ‘No at all who has a defect shall be qualified…no man who is blind or lame, had a limb too long or too short, no man who has a broken leg or arm…’ It’s true: For too long Judaism was an exclusive club, in which full acceptance and participation was reserved for the few. Today we are working daily to change that and to validate the Jewishness in your life and your heart.

May we continue to raise each other up and strive for a community – and a world – of greater understanding and peace.