Sunday, July 2, 2017


“This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live.” —Deuteronomy 30:19

Prioritizing people’s lives over convenience should not be a difficult or controversial position for a synagogue to take. Yet our synagogue has refused to stop serving nuts and mango at events connected to the Hebrew School, despite knowing that doing so endangers our child’s life. After over two years of discussions, endless meetings, and broken promises, it is clear that the synagogue has other priorities.

The synagogue watched a child in their Hebrew School have to leave family programs in tears on two separate occasions because they decided to serve nuts or mango in the middle of the program. The Chanukah party was also directly connected to the Hebrew School, but our request to make that party nut-free was met with overt hostility rather than any shred of concern for ensuring the safety of our child.

In the minds of many people in the synagogue leadership, it is fine to continue to exclude a child with life-threatening food allergies from active participation in synagogue life. It is more important that they be able to serve foods with nuts at every Tot Shabbat than to allow that child to be welcome and included at onegs and kiddushes. It is more important that they be able to serve mango sorbet than to allow that child to play with other children afterwards. It is more important to avoid any additional thought or possible inconvenience than to care about a vulnerable member of the community. Instead they are willing to tell a child that his life is unimportant and does not have inherent worth.

That does not reflect any values that I recognize as Jewish, human, or decent.

The synagogue leadership has spoken repeatedly about how the rabbi has a responsibility to make the synagogue into a community of chesed, of caring. But the rabbi is not the Wizard of Oz who will make this tin man synagogue discover that it had a heart all along. He can talk about the value of welcoming and including others all he wants, but he will never truly reach people who focus on Otherness and do not start out with a true interest in being welcoming or inclusive, people who do not have a core of caring to start with.

The synagogue leadership is not monolithic. But sadly, it has now transitioning from non-functional to non-existent. I've come to lectures and classes and services and family events for 5 years, I've donated hundreds of hours of my own time to the synagogue over the past 2 years of being on the board, and there are many people I will miss seeing. But David is now old enough to start seeing the world as it could be in addition to seeing the world as it is, and to understand that individual people are responsible for making decisions that hurt him, that exclude him, or that risk his life. It is vital for his sake that he know that I am not one of those people.

When we formally converted our child to Judaism, we promised to raise him in a Jewish community. Calling this synagogue a Jewish community makes a mockery of Jewish values and of the term “community.” The Jewish values I was raised with, the values I still hold, insist that I leave.

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