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02/22/2018 05:00 PM Posted by:
From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
February 23, 2018



"We are children. You guys are the adults. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.”
David Hogg, student at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida


Parkland, Florida, was the gruesome scene of another tragic disaster with guns in one of our nation’s high schools. The outcome was the same except for one difference. Though we’ve become numb to the news and comforted by thoughts and prayers, this time students who survived demonstrated that they lived to be heard, not silenced. David Hogg, a student at Parkland High School, looked into a news camera and made it patently clear, ""We are children. You guys are the adults. Work together, come over your politics, and get something done.” He couldn’t have said it better and he couldn’t have been more correct.

Grassroots is an old term that describes the people’s agenda that becomes a collective voice that reaches government officials where real change can happen. In the past, grassroots were mostly adults with children in tow. Today, grassroots are made up of conscientious and passionate teenagers with adults in tow. Teenagers have something serious to say and they need adults, who are of voting age, to make a difference for them. It’s not a selfish ask; it doesn’t come from some self-centered teenage angst; it emerges from a place where the difference between life and death met them at the entrance to their high school in a place where teenage thoughts of immortality and invincibility should have consumed them until they outgrew them.

In a Jewish prayer for a newborn, the translation includes this hope, "May her parents be privileged to rear her with wisdom and learning, Torah, chuppah, and good deeds.” The prayer doesn’t include the words safety, protection, or Kevlar. Children are our future, and we are the surety they need to reach it. The chuppah, the wedding canopy, represents more than their home; it symbolizes the future they will make after they leave their respective parents’ homes. In effect, their parents’ jobs are done when their children enter the chuppah, and not a minute sooner. That’s why the duty of parents to protect their children is a given; that’s why ensuring their safety is implicit in our prayer for them. Who wouldn’t protect their own children; who wouldn’t ensure their safety?

The children, now teenagers, have discovered answers to these questions. It’s not a quiz or test they prepared for and it’s not something they’ll forget as soon as it’s done. They discovered that these are questions about their very lives. Who wouldn’t protect their own children and who wouldn’t ensure their safety? David Hogg spoke for thousands of students when he pointed at adults for failing to get the answer right. This time, the adults are going to be held accountable by their children, and that’s okay with me.

It’s time to "[Get] over our politics and get something done!” On March 24, 2018, there will be a rally at Houston City Hall to support teenagers who want real change on gun laws. They’re advocating for sensible changes that will highlight human life as our highest priority and make adults and parents into honest brokers of their children’s futures, again. Congregation Beth Israel clergy will join them to demonstrate that we stand with children and teenagers who want to imagine their future, which begins in school, without unreasonable fears.

The prophet Isaiah (11.6) said, "A child shall lead them.” Let’s follow. Where they’re going is where we need to be. It’s in a future with them, not without them.

You may contact Rabbi David Lyon here.


02/15/2018 05:00 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon

February 16, 2018



I was in New York City twice in the last three weeks. I don’t use the subway, because I’m quite sure that I’d emerge like a mole uncertain where I am. Instead, I use taxis and Ubers to get around. In one taxi, I sat with my eyes focused on the scenery swiftly moving past me. In the front seat, the driver was on speakerphone with someone. They spoke in a foreign language that sounded totally unfamiliar and oddly louder than usual. In the middle of the exchange between them, the caller abruptly yelled, "F#%$ YOU!” not once, but twice. Immediately, the driver jerked his head to the right to see if I had heard the offensive words. His eyes were wide open with alarm. Calmly, I said, "THAT I understood.” He smiled with relief and ended the phone call. He apologized and again later when I left the taxi.

            The driver’s concern to look and see what I would say or do about the caller’s profanity created a rip in the moment between us. We both felt it. I had the option to feign offense at such language in a taxi that I hired to take me where I was going, but it would have been a vain attempt to right a wrong that he didn’t commit. The foreign language they spoke between them was their cover to discuss anything they liked. But, in whatever language one might speak there’s a shared vocabulary that finds a way to the surface where outrage and vitriol seek expression beyond the norm. The familiar profanity destroyed the barrier that separated us.

            I also had the option to let it go, which I did. Had the driver not acknowledged the breach and had the conversation continued with further profanity, then I would have begun by knocking on the glass partition that had failed to protect us from each other. Wisely, I think, I chose to sew up the rip that his friend’s profanity created, and which he and I recognized wasn’t conducive to his business or mine.

            Ripping and sewing came to my mind, because I recalled what Ecclesiastes wrote (3:1,7), "[There’s] a time for every experience under heaven…a time for ripping and a time for sewing.” We live in an age where rips occur daily. It isn’t just in language, but also in what language leads one to do. Explosive profanity isn’t often the apex of one’s anger; it’s often the precursor to rage and violence. Had the caller, who swore at his friend, been the driver’s front-seat companion, I would have been frightened, and rightfully so. Thankfully, he was just on the phone. In the taxi, with a glass partition between us, I already felt physically safe. But, the driver’s own reaction signaled to me that he was embarrassed and sensitive to my feelings, too. It was time to sew up the rip we both experienced. He joined me in repairing the tear with appropriate apologies. My calm reaction and grin assured him that we could reach my destination, together. At the end of the trip, I tipped him, anyway, and wished him well.  

            Later, on the plane home, I thought about how easy it is to rip things up. In the taxi, it took only one person to rip a moment into two. Then I thought about the exchange, not between the caller and the driver, but between the driver and me. It took both of us to put it back together. I can’t help but see signs of the same thing happening all around us. At home, at work, in the community around us, and especially on social media, we can work hand-in-hand to sew what others tear, and put together what others destroy. The fabric of our world has always been a patchwork of history and experience; and, its threads are always tested by us. Surely, we’ve learned enough from the past to avoid the mistakes that created the rips and scars we still see. If we choose to do things differently (wiser), we can avoid the same mistakes again, and ease up on the fragile threads that still hold us together. Ecclesiastes’ words are timeless and timely. One tears. Two sew. One destroys. Two build. We can do the same.

You may contact Rabbi David Lyon here.

02/08/2018 12:00 PM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
February 9, 2018


We fear the things we don’t understand. It’s true. Think about anything you fear and you’ll conclude that you don’t understand enough about it. At the top of the list for many is death. I know people who won’t even talk about death for fear of hastening it. But, death doesn’t happen by talking about it.

If it’s true that we fear what we don’t understand, then it should follow that if we understand death that we won’t fear it any longer. But, it’s impossible to know everything about death, so it’s reasonable that in the gap we might still know some fear. What, then, can we do to mitigate our fear?

  1.  Prepare. Long before the inevitable, it’s important to prepare for it. Call Congregation Beth Israel and speak to Kathy Parven, Cemetery Director, and arrange for your plots. Call the funeral director to make pre-need arrangements. The costs and services will be there when the time comes, and your family will be grateful for the decisions you made for yourself
  2. Remember. Write a will and remember the people and the causes that are dear to you. Depending on your estate, a lawyer or standard forms can begin the process of recording your wishes for what will happen to your assets. Call Congregation Beth Israel and speak to Lory Conte, Development Coordinator, to leave a bequest to the Beth Israel Endowment. It’s a secure way to ensure the future of your synagogue for your family and friends.
  3. Engage. Though it should be years from now, the role of your rabbi places a significant part in helping you near the end and guiding your family. Why be a stranger to your rabbi? Time together now can be spiritual and educational, as well as friendly and fun; they’re not mutually exclusive.

The three words create an acronym: PRE. Before it happens and in advance of any urgent needs, take time to prepare, remember and engage. Those who have prepared, remembered and engaged have told me that they feel better about the future. No one is perfectly ready, but to mitigate fear with greater understanding about what will happen, who will take care of you and your family, and how you will be remembered is part of your obligation to choose life.

By contrast, families who have no plot, no plans, and no rapport discover that, in addition to their grief, they feel like strangers navigating in a strange land. Even the support of the rabbi, while enormously helpful, is felt less keenly because of a lack of rapport and knowledge of Jewish customs. It can all be prevented with a few steps and small efforts to come closer to the last life-cycle we will know.

Let’s not hasten death; but, let’s not prolong the fearful feeling that follows us. Congregation Beth Israel is pleased to be intentionally relevant, modern and joyful. Congregation Beth Israel is also pleased to be engaged with you in every step of your journey in life.

You may contact Rabbi David Lyon here.

02/01/2018 09:35 AM Posted by:

From the Desk of Rabbi David Lyon
February 2, 2018


On Friday night, January 26th, I was in New York City, at Central Synagogue for Cantor Daniel Mutlu’s installation service. Cantor Mutlu invited me to speak at his installation and join his clergy team on the bimah. Central Synagogue is a beautiful, historic, and exceptional congregation. It was an honor to be part of Rabbi Angela Buchdahl’s congregation for the evening and to watch Cantor Mutlu in his new spiritual home.

            I observed many things that I hope to remember for a long time to come. First, I felt at home, because I observed the same joy in worship that we’ve come to know at Congregation Beth Israel. Whether we’re north or south of the Mason-Dixon Line, joy in Reform worship is an appealing draw for hundreds every Shabbat. Second, I saw Beth Israel members and Houston friends who were in New York, and came to the installation service. Their joy, like mine, was being part of Cantor Mutlu’s special worship service.

            Last Shabbat, the Torah portion was Beshalach, which contains "Shirat HaYam,” or the Song of the Sea. It was a perfect Torah portion for Cantor Mutlu’s installation. Cantor Dan and his family are happy where they are and he’s thriving in his role. The affection for him from his congregational family is obvious and that was a comfort to me, too. Sometimes I’m asked how it makes me feel that Cantor Mutlu is there and not here. I can tell you that I miss my friend and colleague, but I would never begrudge a colleague his or her opportunity to be where he or she needs to be. God blesses us in unique ways. It’s ours to discover how and where to reveal God’s gifts to us.

            Cantor Mutlu sends his warmest regards to all of us here and looks forward to future visits in New York City and Houston. How blessed we were for seven years at Congregation Beth Israel, and how fortunate we are that Cantor Star Trompeter continues the musical vision we now cherish and call our own.

            Cantor Star Trompeter is hitting all the right notes at Congregation Beth Israel. Children and bar/bat mitzvah students love her and join her eagerly to sing at Sunday morning MBJLC services. Cantor Trompeter is engaging us with joyful music and quartet every Friday evening, and she welcomes Rabbi Adrienne Scott, who has a beautiful voice, to sing with her, too. If you haven’t met Cantor Trompeter yet, please do; she’s a warm, personable member of our clergy team.

            Installation for Cantor Trompeter will be celebrated on February 23, 2018, at 6:30pm in the sanctuary. Her mentor, Cantor Roslyn Barak, will be with us for special words and song. Mark your calendar for this special Shabbat as we welcome Cantor Trompeter to Congregation Beth Israel and from strength to strength.


You may contact Rabbi David Lyon here.

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