As congregations across Long Island prepare for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, which starts sundown Friday, Jewish clergy prepare for this very important sermon. This week's clergy give a preview of what they will tell congregants on this High Holy Day.
Rabbi Leslie Schotz, Bay Shore Jewish Center, Bay Shore:
On Yom Kippur, we fast and become aware of who will live and who will die. Jews have a right to exist. Along with the war in Israel, there is also a backlash of anti-Semitism in Europe. I plan to juxtapose how, on one hand, we are particularists to Judaism and the Jewish people. On the other hand, we are universalists committed to making the world a better place. I give two sermons for Yom Kippur. One is on the eve of Yom Kippur and the other on the day of Yom Kippur. The second sermon will focus upon the centrality of Jerusalem for Jews.
One conclusion I come to at the end of the High Holidays is that Jews are looking for guidance, support and inspiration regarding being Jewish and the state of Israel. What has happened for many years is that rabbis have shied away from the topic of Israel because it is controversial. I don't think we can do that anymore. It is not just about Gaza, but also about anti-Semitism at large.
Rabbi Emily Losben-Ostrov, Sinai Reform Temple, Bay Shore:
This year for the High Holy days, I am delivering a "sermon series" with a focus on identity. It is my practice to preach about our homeland every year during this sacred time, specifically on Yom Kippur. For me, it is imperative to always speak about Israel and all the more so to do it at the holiest time of the year.
As I am putting the finishing touches on my Yom Kippur sermon, it is my intention to specifically address, in some way, the conflict from this past summer. I've been exploring different avenues and ways to discuss and reflect upon what happened, and I plan to weave in some personal perspectives from individuals who were in Israel during those painful and scary days. I also intend to address what it means to be a Zionist in our day and age.
It is my hope that the take-away from the sermon will be similar to many of the other sermons that I have preached about Israel, which is that even from afar we are obligated to make a difference and be involved in what happens in our homeland. Furthermore, not only do we have the ability to work for peace, but we must also always attempt to do so. When it comes to speaking about Israel, one of the greatest hopes I have is that all who are physically and financially able to visit Israel will be inspired to do so.
Additionally, as with all of my sermons on Israel, I hope that the one I will give this Yom Kippur will inspire people to stay informed about what is going on in Israel and encourage others to show support for Israel through both words and actions.
Cantor Zachary Konigsberg, Jewish Center of the Moriches, Center Moriches:
The main focus of my Yom Kippur sermon will be the spiritual journey we are supposed to be taking at this time of year. We need to be looking inward to ourselves and the community. We look to improve upon ourselves and the community and to strive for a better year to come, which is customary at this time of year.
We look to our shortcomings and work to overcome our deficiencies. We all wish to improve ourselves spiritually and morally. I may briefly mention Israel, as it remains in our overall consciousness. It is an especially stressful situation. Israel has been through particularly difficult times, and we hold it very dear in our hearts.
I do want to make sure we are showing support for Israel, and we have already talked about the situation there quite a bit in the regular Sabbath services. My congregants are aware of what is going on.
Although there are differences of opinion, it is reasonable to have faith that someday the world will have peace. If all human beings started treating each other with kindness and rejected violence, if we each made it our goal, we would live in a world of peace, even without divine intervention.