Saturday, January 9, 2010

Last night, after services, I stayed to here Cory Booker, the mayor of Newark, NJ speak to our synagogue audience. Politics isn't usually my thing, but I am on the board of the synagogue and co-chair of programming, and while I had no hand in bringing Mr. Booker to speak, it is my responsibility to support, to the best of my abilities, all that we do at CBI.

In the spirit of newly blossoming friendship, I invited Kathy, who I thought might be interested because of her involvement in local politics,(we will be celebrating her victory this Sunday). She came and returned with me to my home for some good "girl talk", which is always a treat, especially on a weekend when "boy talk" usually dictates my time.

Back to the topic. All I can say is, Wow, what a speaker! If you think Obama is a good orator... for a predominately Jewish audience, I think Booker takes first prize.

To begin with, he is adorable, in a way that any mother would want to hug him. He is so, so affable, so lovable. He speaks with no notes, moving around and gesturing with his entire body. He quotes biblical phrases in Hebrew more capably than most of our own congregants-unbelievable! Each week he studies with the Lubovitcher Rabbi, Rabbi Block, who was a friend and Rabbi to my own family when I lived in Westfield.

Mayor Booker, who let us know he was a Christian, was president of the Chabad house at Oxford, and at Yale, he started, and is still a part of, a Jewish society named Eliezer.

As I understood it, Booker's talk was broadly about having moral courage. We must listen to our moral compasses, stand up for what we believe is just, and do the hard things to make the world a better place. Tikkun Olam, repairing the world is at the essence of Jewish teaching and it was the underlying message of his presentation.

I got depressed when I thought about all the pearls of wisdom he shared with us last night, and recognized the fact that my failing memory prohibits me from remembering most of them. (a blog for another day). But I got the gist, and that is inspiration enough. How I internalize Booker's message, and what I do with that inspiration will be the ultimate birthday present.

Mayor Booker read this Torah quote from the plaque that stands at the Lorraine Hotel, where Martin Luther King was shot.It is from the story of Jacob's son Joseph and his brothers who envied him and plotted to kill him. "They said one to another, behold here cometh the Dreamer. Let us slay him and we shall see what becomes of his dreams." (GENESIS chapter 37 verses 19 and 20

Dreams are important. They provide us material for setting lofty goals and planning strategies to reach them. However, its one thing to dream, and its a completely different thing to actualize them. To this point, the mayor said something that really resonated with me. I will paraphrase for lack of memory,
"Don't let not doing everything, stop you from doing something."

You see, I am an ideas person, not the follow-through guy. I have come to realize that the "BIG CHANGE THE WORLD STUFF", that fills my head day and night, is probably beyond my reach, and I have settled for doing my small part to make the world a better place. But there are many days when "my small part" seems wholly inadequate for the myriad of problems that plague us.

Cory Booker's gift to me was in reminding me that it takes every small step to make a big difference, and that I should continue to do what I can, even if I cannot do everything I want.

Its about time I learned this at 50!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for inviting Kathy. She enjoyed the evening. She raved about Mayor Booker's oratorical abilities. I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.