Chizuk Amuno Synagogue Remarks
April 26, 2008
Governor O’Malley: Thank you. You are very, very kind. Thank you very much. Shabatt shalom.
Congregation: Shabatt shalom.
Governor O’Malley: And happy Passover. And thank you very, very much, Rabbi, for inviting me into your shul and for allowing me and my son William to share a part of your Passover holiday. And to Rabbi Shulman, to Rabbi Wechsler, thank you for allowing me to join you on the bema. And for your spiritual leadership and your contributions really to the fabric of not only the Jewish community in Baltimore, but really, that broader community of our entire State.
To Cantor Pearlman -- terrific voice -- it’s wonderful to hear those age old melodies sung so beautifully. Back before I got a full-time job I used to sing on occasion myself.
To Gary Attman and the Board of this congregation, thank you for what you do every day for our community and for Maryland, Gary, and for your leadership of Chizuk Amuno.
As I was arriving, I also noticed the wonderful collection of menorahs in the lobby on display by the Attman family, who donated a menorah, by the way, to Government House, which the O’Malley family lights at Hanukkah.
And also to my friends who are here, and there are so many of you that make our community so strong -- Delegate Cardin, Delegate Stein, Delegate Morhaim, Senator Bobby Zirkin. It seems we’ve spent a lot of time together over these last 14 months. And to Mark Terrell, who I had the privilege and the joy of traveling to Israel with a couple of years ago. My friend Genine Fidler and also Josh Fidler and all of those with the Associated that do such terrific work and with whom I’ve had the honor of working many years. And to Soshanna Cardin, who I understand is here as well.
I wanted to share with you kind of leaping off from something the Rabbi said, as he spoke about “the privileged few of history...” The privileged few of history … certainly a notion and a concept that is driven home by the Exodus story at this time of year.
There is a beautiful blessing which Jewish families have recited at the opening of their Passover Seders for thousands of years. And it sings: Let all who are hungry come and eat, let all who are in need come and celebrate Passover. Today we are here, next year in the land of Israel. Today we are slaves, next year we will be free.
The privileged few of history, ...
From the very beginning of the Passover Haggadah, there is this call for tikkun olam, for repairing, for healing, “with our own lives” this world of ours.
Rabbi Bradley Shivat Artson, Dean of the School of Rabbinic Studies at the American Jewish University, writes that these words remind us that “our proper role model is Moses, the passionate spokesman for the downtrodden and outcast.”
Moses, the mortal individual of courage, who led his people out of slavery. Moses, the mortal individual who led his people out of bondage. Moses, the mortal individual who did not see the Promised Land, did not reach the Promised Land, but led his people to the Promised Land.
Moses, that figure in Exodus, where people not only escaped from bondage and from slavery, but into the fullness of life in a free community.
All who are hungry may come and eat, the Rabbi writes, but only if we live our lives and structure our society in such a way that the entire human family is cared for.
Echoed later in the words of the founders that to secure these blessings, not only for ourselves, but for our “posterity;” echoed today in words as we approach the challenges in the individual calling to confront the challenges of global warming and climate change, words like “sustainability.”
The privileged few of history,…
As we stand today on our own cutting edge of history, our strength as a free and diverse people, I believe -- and I think you believe -- lies in remembering the mutuality of our shared humanity. Our belief in the dignity of every individual. Our belief in our own responsibility to advance the common good, our understanding that there is a unity of spirit and matter. Our understanding that there is no such thing as a spare Marylander or a spare American.
The Talmud teaches us the highest form of wisdom is kindness. Your congregation embodies this spirit -- from last year’s mission to Cuba to this year’s mission to Mexico to support the Hombre Sobre la Tierra, that is the Humankind On Earth initiative. You don’t just talk of tikkun olam, you live it, you embrace it, you embody it, you do it.
As all of us answer this calling in our hearts to pursue the repair and the healing of the world, to pursue tzedaka, charitable works, we also share a common purpose and a common cause that is as old as humanity itself. And it is that yearning in our soul to leave our children and our grandchildren with a better world than the one that our parents and grandparents gave us.
The privileged few of history, …
For all of the values we share as Marylanders, Jewish or Catholic, black or white, from the streets of Baltimore to the Eastern Shore to Western Maryland, the single most important civic and patriotic value we share as a people, as one Maryland is this -- and it is our shared belief that tomorrow can be better than today and that each of us has a responsibility personally to make it so.
The ancient Hebrews must have felt this in their hearts as they wandered through the desert for 40 years, dreaming and working towards that Promised Land. Today, we are benefitting from the shared sacrifices of investments made by those who came before us and answered that call, aren’t we? Ingrained so deeply, that calling in the human spirit. From those who set sail for America from lands far away, like Russia or Poland or Ireland, to those who built our infrastructure, our roads, our schools, our hospitals, and did so with their sweat, with their tears, with their blood, with their hands and, yes, with their hard-earned dollars.
And as we in the here and now feel this same yearning in our hearts, we have come together as one Maryland and confronted the challenges that are ours to freely choose to confront, closing a 1.7 billion dollar inherited deficit, not in order to win a mathematics award or a pat on the back for the fiscal high jump, but rather because we are the privileged few of history and we have a responsibility to restore fiscal responsibility so that we can make this part of our world a better place; so that more of our children will have the opportunity to learn, to earn, to enjoy the health of one another and the health of the environment that we love.
Last week in the Jewish Times, it was reported that the Baltimore Jewish Council called this legislative session the most successful in history, in terms of meeting the issues that matter to the Jewish community.
I read a lot of things in newspapers, it’s nice to read something that nice.
Towards the end of last year we met with members of the Maryland Jewish Alliance, who identified some clear, shared priorities and goals for the upcoming session -- healthcare, housing, and the environment, quality of life for our seniors, Iranian divestment. And working together, we made real progress for senior housing on the Owings Mills Jewish Community Center campus, additional investments in Sinai Hospital, $2 million in capital funding for three agencies of the Federation of Greater Washington, $75,000 for refugee resettlement, as we were all once “strangers in a strange land;” a 50 percent increase in funding for the Maryland Israel Development Center, and additional funding for the Jewish Museum of Maryland, the Gordon Center for Performing Arts and Baltimore Hebrew University.
In addition, we passed what the Baltimore Jewish Council believes is the strongest Iranian divestiture bill in the nation. Prime Minister Olmert himself told me, personally, how very, very important this was to the security of Israel and a more peaceful future.
In just a month I’ll be visiting Israel to participate in a biomedical conference and I’ll be making my second visit to Yad Vashem, which was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life when Katie and I had occasion to visit there just a couple of years ago.
And with Yom Hashoah being recognized this week, these memories weigh deeply on me and should weigh deeply on all of us.
Israel prepares to celebrate -- as you know, her 60th birthday. And I can’t help but think of and remind and share with you what President Kennedy once said so eloquently about Israel. He said that “Israel will endure and flourish, it is the child of hope and the home of the brave. It can neither be broken by adversity, nor demoralized by success. It carries the shield of democracy and it honors the sword of freedom.”
The great men and women who founded Israel, these children of hope, these children of freedom, felt that same yearning in their hearts that Moses felt, I’m sure, as he led the Israelites through the Red Sea and climbed Mt. Sinai, that willingness to sacrifice so that their children might rejoice in the Promised Land, in that better future.
It is that value that is ingrained so deeply in the words of our Constitution and our Declaration of Independence. It is a value that is ingrained on our best days in the work and in the hearts of the people of our State.
This value ingrained so deeply in the human spirit that it unites us in the belief that there is a unity to spirit and matter and that what we do in our own lifetimes does matter.Thank you so very, very much for allowing me to be here with you to share this day. Shabatt shalom. Happy Passover and next year in Jerusalem. Thank you.