Monday, September 2, 2013

Drasha Diamond Number 2

Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelekh 2013:  There are, by one estimate, twenty-four (24) ordained rabbis who currently reside in the Land of Enchantment. There are, by another estimate, about 12,000 Jews who reside in the State of New Mexico.

Using these estimates, Abq Jew calculates that there is one rabbi for every 500 Jews in our state. While some may see this as way too many rabbis - Abq Jew sees this as way too few Jews.

Not all our Jews are practicing Jews, and not all our rabbis are practicing rabbis. But we've certainly got a drasha (see A Murder of Crows) of practicing rabbis here.

And many of our drasha give excellent drashot (i.e., sermons).

By which Abq Jew means drashot that are well written, clearly delivered, and (of course) with whose major points Abq Jew generally agrees.

And starting ... in AprilAbq Jew endeavored to highlight some of these excellent drashot as Drasha Diamonds.

The response from the non-Rabbi Flicker members of the New Mexico rabbinical community (or their followers) has been ... well, there hasn't been a response. Yet.

Abq Jew remains hopeful. In the meantime ... here is another Drasha Diamond.

Drasha Diamond Number 2
Parshat Nitzavim-Vayelekh 2013
Rabbi Arthur Flicker
Congregation B'nai Israel

This week was a powerful reminder of the fight for civil rights, the progress we have made and the actions still necessary to make our country the nation of true equality and justice that it should be.

This week we marked the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington. Over 250,000 Americans of all races, creeds and religious perspectives joined together between the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial to protest the racism and discrimination that constricted life in America for racial, sexual and religious minorities in this country.

The highlight of the afternoon was the “I Have A Dream” speech by Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

The March proved to be a watershed mark in the Civil Rights Movement. Many White Americans had assumed that an assembly of that many Black people would surely lead to mob actions and riots. The racism that permeated America had created an evil, fearful vision of Black people. In preparation for the calamity that most assumed would occur, thousands of national guard and regular army soldiers had been deployed around Washington.

Instead, as Americans watched the march on TV, they saw well dressed, well behaved, completely peaceful people – people representing all of the races, nationalities and religions of America – marching, cheering, listening and being human! It doesn’t surprise us today, but 50 years ago, most Americans never expected to see what they saw.

And then there was the speech. Dr. King delivered one of the greatest speeches in American history. It moved everyone who listened. More importantly, it has continued to touch us and move us every time we hear it.

The march and the speech moved America. While the Civil Rights struggle had been waged for nearly 100 years, after the march and the speech, laws were passed, legal decisions were made and America began to change in ways we never expected.

Now, fifty years later, we look back and can say, with some degree of satisfaction, America has overcome a great deal. Legal discrimination no longer exists. Legal deed restrictions, school quotas, job discrimination no longer exists. Neighborhoods, schools and work places are integrated in ways we couldn’t imagine fifty years ago.

Yet, there is still discrimination – in law and in practice. And there are those who want to find ways to re-exert the power and authority of White Christian Americans.

First, as the legal turmoil swirling around New Mexico regarding marriage rights for same sex couples illustrates, there is an entire group of people – those whose sexual orientation is gay, lesbian or transgender – who have not benefitted from the progress for equality that has been made since 1963.

It is time for them to have full equality. While it is wonderful that step by step, the right to marriage is being given in parts of New Mexico, civil rights are not rights that should be given piece meal or should exist only in some parts of the country. Civil rights belong to everyone in America in every part of America.

The time has come for America to grow up and accept the fact that gay, lesbian and transgender people are just that….people. They are entitled to the rights and privileges for which America stands. As Dr. King said about Blacks fifty years ago, America has given them a check with insufficient funds. It is time for America to provide all the rights of citizenship to ALL the people of America.

It is also important that we do not take the progress we have made for granted and allow America to backslide to limit rights or opportunities. You may have noticed that none of the Republican Congressional leaders attended the commemoration on Wednesday. Although the organizers invited them weeks ago, they all claimed prior commitments. I find it interesting that while they could not re arrange their schedules to commemorate the greatest anti racism event of the 20th century many of them had no problem at all re arranging their schedules on less than a weeks’ notice to attend the funeral of one of the twentieth century’s greatest racists, Strom Thurmond a few years ago.

We also find certain state legislatures are attempting to place restrictions of voting rights. They are doing so under the guise of protecting the voting process from fraud. However, no one has been able to prove any fraud. So the real purpose of these voting laws is to prevent some people from voting. And it is clear that the people whose voting rights are being restricted are the same people for whom 250,000 people marched 50 years ago and about whom Dr. King had a dream.

America has made a lot of changes for the better since that march 50 years ago. Colleges no longer have quotas limiting Jews, or Catholics or Blacks. Deed restrictions are gone, opening up neighborhoods to the diversity that makes America great. Racial and sexual discrimination in the work place is now illegal.

We see the results of that march everywhere we turn as young people of all races, creeds and colors learn, play and grow together. It is wonderful.

However, Dr King’s Dream, America’s Dream, has not yet been achieved. Racism still exists. Sexism still exists. Discrimination, while more hidden, still exists.

We have not yet created an America in which all people are judged by the content of their character rather than the color of their skin, or their sexual orientation or their religious perspective. And until we do, then we must continue to march and continue to dream so that we can have the America for which those heroes marched 50 years ago, and for which that great American inspired us with his dream.


Rabbi Arthur Flicker was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio. A graduate of Northwestern University, with an MA in Jewish History from the Ohio State University, Rabbi Flicker was ordained by Rabbi Rueben Luckens in 1990.

Prior to coming to Congregation B'nai Israel, Rabbi Flicker served congregations in Tyler, Texas; Cincinnati, Ohio; and Columbus, Ohio. He always been active in community affairs, having been awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Spirit Award by the Cincinnati Baptist Ministers Conference.

In Albuquerque, Rabbi Flicker has served on the board of the Samaritan Council, the Public Safety Partnership, the Governor’s Homeland Security Religious Advisory Taskforce and as a Chaplain for the Albuquerque Police Department.

A former public school teacher and coach, business owner and synagogue administrator, Rabbi Flicker brings a unique collection of skills to the rabbinate. Partnering with volunteers within  the congregation, Rabbi Flicker has brought diverse services and programming to our community. He has also encourage the participation of members of all ages in our religious services. 

Dear Rabbis of New Mexico,

Abq Jew knows who you are - and cordially invites you to send him your best drashot for publication in this Abq Jew Blog. Even (especially?) if you're not one of those practicing rabbis, Abq Jew encourages you to share your wisdom (and, if you can, wit,) with the

Dear Jews of New Mexico,

Please encourage your rabbi(s) - and Abq Jew knows you must have at least one, they're so plentiful - to share his or her or their aforementioned wisdom (and, if he or she or they can, wit,) with the readers of this Abq Jew Blog.

Thank you all,

Abq Jew

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