Tomato fields, bar mitzvah students, Shakin’ Shabbat, a prayer workshop, meeting congregants here, there and everywhere. These are the few of the ways that I am filling my summer days. Though I’m not present for Shabbat services until after Labor Day, I am at the temple most days. Here is a peek into my summer activities.
Improving the Lives of Agricultural Workers
I just returned from three days in South Florida. On my third trip to Immokalee, the heart of the Florida tomato fields, I met with other clergy, members of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) and their network of allies, the Alliance for Fair Food (AFF) to plan strategy for the coming year. You may be aware that the CIW’s current campaign is boycotting Wendy’s. What I learned from the workers on this trip is why this boycott is so important.
Wendy’s decision to abandon its longtime suppliers in Florida and move all tomato purchases to Mexico represented a deliberate rejection of the Fair Food Program. Buying from growers who have no accountability and who are free to exploit and abuse the human rights of their workers threatens the safety of farm workers everywhere. If other large companies choose to leave Florida, all the gains that have improved the lives of the migrant workers will be lost.
In our meetings, Lupe and Julia, two workers who visited HBT last October, told us that the women of Immokalee are ready to tell their stories of sexual harassment and abuse by growers and their crew bosses. The CIW women have trained scores of women from Florida to North Carolina to know their rights under the Fair Food Program. Sadly, many of the women ask, “if these are the rights I get working for this grower, why don’t I have the same rights on other farms?”
The vision of the CIW is much larger than stopping Wendy’s. They are change agents, ready to create a new economic reality for agricultural workers in all sectors. It’s inspiring work. You’ll be hearing more.
There’s nothing like a bar mitzvah at HBT
Back at home, I’m meeting with families whose sons will become bar mitzvah in the fall as they prepare their divrei Torah (Torah teachings). This is one of my favorite rabbinic duties. Each child brings a different kind of wisdom and creative spirit to the work. Be sure to put their upcoming dates on your calendar. (September 16 is Vijay Fisch and October 28 is Seth Haycock-Poller.)
New babies, toddlers, and the growing Chaverim School community
My other favorite duty is to stop in at Shakin’ Shabbat, which Hillary Pinsker runs for our Families with Young Children in the summer. I simply can’t go all summer without a dose of hugs from our youngest HBT members. Our new families have already brought new energy and joy to our congregation. You will be seeing more of them in the coming year, including two new babies due this month. (Don’t miss our Community Shabbat cookout on September 8).
Sing to God a New Song—with new voices
A minyan of congregants (ten) is joining together to learn the holy task of leading our Shabbat morning services. At our first meeting, I was delighted that most of the participants have joined HBT in the past few years. The workshop not only helped people learn melodies and develop an understanding of the structure and meaning of the morning service—it is creating community! One of the goals of the Temple Board, the Avodah Committee, and school families for the coming year is to strengthen our Shabbat morning community. Look for more Family Services (the first one is November 4) and support our newest davening (prayer) leaders this fall.
Meet the Rabbi
Though we may not run into each other as often in the summer, I’m happy to meet with you to talk about your Jewish journey, personal issues, or planning for the coming year. Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set up a time. I’m eager to hear about your summer activities as well. May your summer be filled with brachot—blessings!