My Kaddish for Black Lives and All Victims of Gun violence

I was really touched and humbled by the attention that my prayer has gotten that I decided to re-record it in my recording studio AKA my dining room and with an iPad. In the previous version of this Kaddish it was dark and I used my travel guitar. This time it’s daylight and I’m using a full size guitar.

I wrote this version of Mourners Kaddish for all who have been killed by gun violence, for all unarmed people who have lost their lives at the hands of police and for people who have no one to say kaddish for them and please remember Black Lives Matter.


Yitgadal v’yit-kadash sh’mei rabba
B’allma dee v’ra chir’utei

Dear God lift me up in my time of need
Please show me how to live and love in peace
I want to live in a world full of hope
But it’s hard when there is so pain

v’yamlich malchutei,
B’chayeichon, uv’yomeichon,
uv’chayei d’chol beit yisrael,
Ba’agala u’vizman kariv, v’imru, Amen

Adonai, Adonai I praise your holy name
Turn my sorrow turn my pain and show me the way
Adonai, Adonai we bless your name
So that One day may there be peace for us all

Oseh shalom bim’ro’mav,
hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu,
v’al kol yisrael v’imru, Amen

Misheberach/HaKadosh Baruchu

My summer of music continues. I’ve been expressing myself more with music these days and finding inspiration in Jewish prayers and text to express my frustration with all of the violence in the world. I find myself in a unique position of learning to be a rabbi, learning what it means to be a leader in the Jewish community, and feeling like an outsider in the Jewish community, because no matter what I do, I am often not seen as Jewish or somehow seen as less than Jewish. And many of the Jews closest to me whom I love dearly will never understand what it is like to be a black women/person in America and turn on the television, Twitter, Facebook, etc and see people that look like me being killed. I feel broken and often feel hopeless, so what do I do…I pick up a guitar which seems to help.

MIsheberach Avoteinu
Misheberach I’moteinu
Please bless those in need of healing
HaKadosh Baruchu

May the one who Blessed our Mothers
who Blessed our Fathers
We need you to hear our cry
HaKadosh Baruchu

The God of Wholeness
The God of Wonder
Please teach me and give me strength
HaKadosh Baruchu

El Shaddai Adonai
I need you to heal the world
And make it right

I want to live in a world full of song and hope
Where my children can play and not have to cope
Please bless us and give us healing
HaKadosh, HaKadosh, HaKadosh
HaKadosh Baruchu

Kaddish

I wrote this version of Mourners Kaddish for all who have been killed by gun violence, for all unarmed people who have lost their lives at the hands of police and for people who have no one to say kaddish for them and please remember Black Lives Matter.

 

 

Yitgadal v’yit-kadash sh’mei rabba
B’allma dee v’ra chir’utei

Dear God lift me up in my time of need
Please show me how to live and love in peace
I want to live in a world full of hope
But it’s hard when there is so pain

v’yamlich malchutei,
B’chayeichon, uv’yomeichon,
uv’chayei d’chol beit yisrael,
Ba’agala u’vizman kariv, v’imru, Amen

Adonai, Adonai I praise your holy name
Turn my sorrow turn my pain and show me the way
Adonai, Adonai we bless your name
So that One day may there be peace for us all

Oseh shalom bim’ro’mav,
hu ya’aseh shalom aleinu,
v’al kol yisrael v’imru, Amen

I Have No Words

I have no words for the horrific tragedy in Charleston and I spent much of the weekend trying to make sense out of it, even though I knew that I could not. Like most Americans I was in shock and in disbelief, and like some Americans I hold in my heart the long and painful history and memory of the brutality endured by blacks in this country by racist white people.

I have inherited the memory and know too well the history of slavery, Jim Crow, The Tuskegee Study, the bombing of and burning of black churches, police brutality and Black Lives Matter. I grew up listening to stories from my parents and my elders about what they endured growing up in the south.

When I was barely four years of age a white woman pushed me as I walked up a hill from the playground because she did not want me playing with her daughter. I still remember running home. I was crying and my arms were bloody from the fall. My mother who was very pregnant with my brother grabbed a knife from the kitchen and then went looking for this woman. Years later I asked her why she grabbed the knife and she told me “If a woman would push a child, I had no idea what she would try and do to a pregnant woman.”

I’ve been called nigger, I’ve been called black bitch, and other phrases that indicate that someone only sees me for the color of my skin and not as a person. And here I sit, it’s 2015 with another memory that I can share with my parents, and my grandparents.

I have no words…

But for some reason the Beatles song Let It Be started rolling around in my mind. My spiritual director might say that it was God talking to me. I’m not sure..The song kept playing in my head so I grabbed my guitar to learn the song. The more I played and sang the song It provided me some comfort.

Sometimes I guess it’s OK to have no words:

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be
And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

And when all the brokenhearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer, let it be
For though they may be parted
There is still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
There will be an answer let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom

Let it be
Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

And when the night is cloudy
There is still a light that shines on me
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be
I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be,let it be
There will be an answer, let it be

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, yeah, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be

 

The Badges We Wear

On my way to my second full day of Chaplain Pastoral Education (CPE), I realized I needed to get some gas. While pumping gas I was wearing my chaplain intern badge and my kippah, which made me think about the badges I wear and have worn in my life. It made me smile and think about how sometimes the more things change the more they stay the same.

As a chaplain I will wear a badge, and a beeper and a kippah. At times I will be on call, and will have to stay overnight at the hospital. I flashed back to another time in my life where I was required to wear and to do most of the same things listed above. In my twenties I was a military police investigator, I had a badge, and a beeper. At times I was required to be on call, I spent several nights sleeping at the police station but this time around I won’t have to carry a weapon; I think my kippah is a good replacement for a gun.

When I finished pumping I went into the Shell Gas Station. Inside the station there was Indian music playing in the background and the cashier was of Indian descent with a very thick Indian accent

She said to me, pointing at the top of her head “How do you keep that on your head.” I smiled, it was refreshing to hear that type of question, instead of the others I usually here. I told her I had clips which helped to keep in place. She said again pointing to her head “What if you have no hair. How does it stay in place. The men come in here all the time, they have no hair and I wonder, how does it stay on their head?” I told her I didn’t know and that it just stays on. As we parted she again pointed to her head and told me that she liked mine, referring to my favorite watermelon Kippah.

As I start this journey of my rabbinic formation it’s fitting that this week’s Torah portion contains the priestly blessing. A blessing for well being, sustenance and peace

May God bless you and keep you. May God smile upon you and be gracious with you. May God look with favor upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26)

Encounter with a Thin but Very Fit Bearded Man

I just finished my first day as a Chaplain Pastoral Education student, which included an all day orientation. After a long day of sitting and being oriented to Holy Redeemer hospital I found myself quite thirsty so on my way home I stopped and walked into a local grocery store, as I was walking I was feeling quite professional, I was wearing my brand new Chaplain badge and a kippah (yalmukah). While in the store a thin but fit bearded man in Jeans and a baseball cap came up to me from behind. I turn and he says with an accent that I now hear as southern I could easily replace his sneakers with cowboy boots, “Are you Jewish” I turn to face him square on and reply with a confident “yes” thinking to myself it should be obvious with the Kippah. Then he says  “Do you go to a synagogue around here?” To which I replied “No I go to a school around here, it’s the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College” He then says “Do you speak Hebrew?” I say to him “modern skills are not that great, I’m more of a text person” Now after all of this I could feel that he got his questions answered and begins his exit and prepares to walk off off as if that’s the end of the conversation and I say to him “Well, what about you…” He looks at me very puzzled as if I am not allowed to ask him any questions, “…Are you looking for a shul to go to around here he says with a very clear “No, I go to Young Israel have you heard of it?” I say “Yes…is it Modern Orthodox” And he says “no, it’s Orthodox.” And that was the end of my encounter with Thin Orthodox man. On the scale of things I’ve had worse conversations with Jews who feel entitled to ask questions but this one was interesting. Maybe because I am now feeling more comfortable in my rabbi skin, or maybe because this man felt very comfortable walking up to me; a stranger, a female and asking me a bunch of questions and he seemed confused when I then turned around and asked him a question but I guess I should be happy you didn’t question my Jewish identity.

Interview with Sandra Lawson: Vegan Exercise Enthusiast

Below is an interview that I did with Viva La Vegan this past summer and they finally featured it.

Interview with Sandra Lawson: Vegan Exercise Enthusiast

Sandra_Lawson_lift
Why Vegan?
How and why did you decide to become a vegan?
So first of all, I am 44 years old and I started lifting weights when I was 18, and have been lifting consistently since I was 21. In my 20s I became a power-lifter, and was able to pack on a ton of muscle and gain a lot of strength – often out-lifting a lot of men that I knew.In my mid-20s, I became a vegetarian and a Personal Trainer, and in my 30s, some friends persuaded me to enter my first bodybuilding competition. None of us knew anything about being a vegetarian and competing as bodybuilders. There was some information out there but not a lot, and all of my friends and fellow bodybuilders were all omnivores and so I acquiesced and started eating fish. I cannot even begin to tell you how much fish (mostly Tuna) and how many egg whites I ate for that first competition.Well, needless to say I got very bored with that diet and could not eat it any more of it. As my love of the sport of bodybuilding grew, so did my meat consumption and I threw out my vegetarian diet completely. I stopped bodybuilding to go to graduate school but continued to lift and eat meat. I continued my weightlifting regimen and working as a personal trainer and over the course of a few years my healthy diet deteriorated and I gained 40 pounds. I knew I needed a change and I felt like crap. I wanted to go back to being a vegetarian but for some reason I didn’t.Then one day in February 2009, I saw Rip Esselstyn on the Today Show and that changed my life. On the show, Esselstyn talked about being vegan and eating a strong plant-based diet and offered a 28-day challenge to try the vegan diet. I didn’t have any serious plans to be a vegan, I just wanted to follow his plan for 30 days and get back on track to at least being a Vegetarian. From February to May or June, I dropped 30 pounds and eventually lost over 40 pounds and I became a committed vegan. Although I became a vegan for vanity reasons, and health, I have since stayed a vegan for ethical, environmental and religious reasons.

How long have you been vegan?
Over 5 years.

What has benefited you the most from being a vegan?
My health, my energy, I also feel more compassionate.

What does veganism mean to you?
Veganism is my life.

Training
What sort of training do you do?
I lift weights, cycle and run on trails.

How often do you (need to) train?
I lift weights about 4 to 5 times a week, run on the trails several times a week. Cycling is more like bike commuting.

Do you offer your fitness or training services to others?
Yes.

What sports do you play?
Not currently playing any sports.

Strengths, Weaknesses & Outside Influences
What do you think is the biggest misconception about vegans and how do you address this?

I think the biggest misconceptions are that vegans are weak and we don’t get enough protein. I try to educate people about how muscle is created and that all food contains protein, and by eating a variety of food loaded with nutrients, I am getting what my body needs – including enough protein.

What are you strengths as a vegan athlete?
My strength is my strength. I am proving that one does not need to eat animals or animal by-products to be strong and athletic.

What is your biggest challenge?

Can’t think of one.

Are the non-vegans in your industry supportive or not?
Yes.

Are your family and friends supportive of your vegan lifestyle?
Yes.

What is the most common question/comment that people ask/say when they find out that
you are a vegan and how do you respond?

The biggest question I get is, “How do you get your protein?” My answer depends on how the person asked the question. If they are sincere, I will be sincere in my answer.

Who or what motivates you?
Me.
Sandra_Lawson
Food & Supplements
What do you eat for:

Breakfast – Fruit.
Lunch – Mostly fruit but maybe a salad.
Dinner – Mostly salad or it could be something else.
Snacks (healthy & not-so healthy) – Love vegan pizza.

What is your favourite source of:
Protein – Spinach, kale, broccoli, beans.
Calcium – Same as above.
Iron – Same as above.

What foods give you the most energy?

Dates and bananas.

Do you take any supplements?

Nope.

Advice
What is your top tip for:

Gaining muscle – Lift weights
Losing weight – Eat plants and lots of them and exercise.
Maintaining weight – Eat plants and lots of them and exercise.
Improving metabolism – Eat plants and exercise.
Toning up – Exercise.

How do you promote veganism in your daily life?

Not sure if I am promoting veganism. People who know me, they know that I am a vegan. I think I provide a good example of how to be fit and without eating animals.

How would you suggest people get involved with what you do?

They can contact me through my website, or on Twitter.

Voices from African-American Jews on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sandra Lawson, a military veteran and social activist, calls Atlanta home. She is currently a student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.

I grew up in a pretty typical black family in the 1980’s. We had a picture of King on our wall and my parents had records of a few of his speeches. My parents were not activists. They grew up poor, as sharecroppers in the South, but they instilled in me a black pride that one could hear in the song from James Brown’s “Say it Loud! I’m Black and I’m Proud.” King helped my parents see a better future, not just for me and my brother but for themselves as well.

As a rabbinical student, and a child of southern sharecroppers, I see King as one of the most prophetic voices ever and he reminds me of why I want to be a rabbi which is to help to make the world a better place for all.

Here are other voices from Jews of Color from Bechol Lashon