The Baltimore Board of Rabbis’ Mission Statement declares, in part, that it "is a powerful moral and religious voice providing spiritual leadership for the Baltimore Jewish community." As a trans-denominational association of 65 rabbis, the Baltimore Board of Rabbis fulfills that mission by occasionally issuing timely, provocative, thoughtful messages affecting citizens and communities in Maryland. These messages are couched in the context of principles within Jewish tradition and Jewish sources. Topics may also pertain to matters of national and/or international concern as well.
Our objectives as a rabbinical professional association are to:
- Educate the public about Jewish holidays.
- Inform the public about current rabbinical thinking on issues.
- Inspire Jews to live their lives more nobly, ethically, and spiritually.
- Demonstrate the Jewish tradition’s relevance to contemporary issues.
- Clarify contentious issues within a Jewish context.
We enter the New Year with expectations for self-improvement, high hopes for the blessings we and our loved ones and neighbors might enjoy, and a heightened sense of our obligations to G-d, the Jewish community and the world. Yet many of us will enter 5771 with fear, trepidation and a pervasive sense of insecurity due to the continuing recession and the financial challenges, unemployment and foreclosures it has wrought. It is difficult for many of us to face the New Year with optimism and hope under such circumstances.
A Jewish Healing Service for Survivors of Abuse and Trauma and the Community.
As Jews, we understand viscerally from our historical experience what it is to be victims of persecution. Time and again, we have demanded that the voices of victims be heard, that their pain be acknowledged, and that justice prevail.
Six decades ago, the world stood idly by and we bled rivers of blood. Since that time, the world has failed to prevent additional genocides in Cambodia, Rwanda and Bosnia. Today, yet another genocide is taking place in the Darfur region of Sudan, and we are failing to stop the rampage.
Rarely does life demand greater sensitivity and religious commitment than when a Jewish community responds to the death of one of its members. Our natural and compassionate response is to call or call upon the bereaved as soon as we learn of their loss in order to offer whatever assistance we can render. The principal Jewish values that apply in this situation are kevod ha-met (“showing reverence for the deceased”) and nichum avelim (“comforting the bereaved”). Attending the funeral and burial and the house of shiva, and doing so in the proper ways, fulfill both ideals.
On Election Day, a referendum will ask Maryland voters to amend our state’s constitution to allow slot-machine gambling. Supporters of slot machines claim that bringing this form of gambling to our state will generate $660 million revenue, though not for three more years, and given the current state of the economy, perhaps not nearly so soon. Any short-term monetary gain from the introduction of slot-machine gambling in Maryland will be far overshadowed by the long-term social costs to our communities. We appreciate the pressing need to raise revenue and balance the budget, but slot machines will not produce short-term revenue and will do more harm than good in the long run. It is socially and religiously irresponsible to consider only the short-term fiscal crisis but not the long-term social ramifications.
No people has been more affected by the experience of migration than the Jewish people. Our history since ancient times has involved frequent relocation and renewal, often because of the hostility expressed by native groups in places where we lived. Our collective experience has sensitized us deeply to the feelings of others who have also sought to find freedom, acceptance and opportunity, especially in this country. Not surprisingly we Jews have a deep love for America in part because our safety has been assured by faithfulness to the rule of law, applied equally to all its citizens.
Recent articles in the Baltimore Jewish Times remind us that child abuse in all its forms – sexual, physical, and emotional – is a problem that knows no communal boundaries. At this time, it is not sufficient to deplore child abuse. We publicly acknowledge that it exists not only in society-at-large, but in the Jewish community, as well.
Governor Martin O’Malley favors the legalization of slot-machine gambling in our state in order to generate $550 million revenue, one-third of the current $1.7 billion budget shortfall. We believe that the short-term monetary gain of introducing slot-machine gambling in Maryland will be far overshadowed by the long-term social costs to our communities. We appreciate the pressing need to raise revenue and balance the budget, but slot machines will do more harm than good in the long run. It is socially and religiously irresponsible to consider only the short-term fiscal crisis but not the long-term social ramifications.
As Jews, we are lovers of life and peace, and we are commanded to pursue justice. We are grateful to G-d for the blessing of life, and we pray for G-d's blessing of peace. At this painful time, as our brothers and sisters in Israel seek to rebuild their lives and resume a measure of normalcy after fighting a war they neither invited nor sought, we the undersigned this it important for all of us as Jews to reflect on our relationship with the State of Israel and our people's eternal quest for peace and justice.
The Baltimore Board of Rabbis congratulates President Obama and wishes him and America unqualified success in the coming four years. President Obama carries the hopes and dreams of the Jewish community and all Americans with him into office. We pray that our new president leads our nation with wisdom and compassion on a path of justice and equity. May we as citizens be inspired to new heights of cooperation and understanding. May our nation emerge from a period of distress to a time of joy and renewed confidence.
The millennial vision of Jews from around the globe returning to Eretz Yisrael and establishing a sovereign Jewish commonwealth in our homeland has fired the imagination of countless Jews over the centuries and inspired many of us over the past six decades. Israel is home for many vibrant and exciting expressions of Judaism whose approach to Jewish living, spirituality, sacred text and ritual varies enormously and reflects wonderful diversity. We hope for the day when all these expressions of Judaism will enjoy equal rights, recognition and support in the State of Israel, each valued for its contribution to our heritage and our people.
Jewish tradition both supports and opposes imposing the death penalty on murderers. Biblical and Rabbinic writings cite strong positions on both sides of the issue. Yet, evolving tradition makes it virtually impossible for a person found guilty of a capital crime to be executed. Why this seeming contradiction? Competing values frame the issue.