On a recent, overcast Thursday evening, I co-led a presentation in San Marcos, Texas, about creating a local, interfaith environmental network. I didn’t know what to expect; in retrospect, I guess I didn’t expect much. San Marcos is a small town compared to the other cities in which I’ve offered this presentation. I wondered whether [...]
My Christian friend LeeAnne got the conversation about Faithful Advocacy started by reflecting on a passage from the Gospel of John: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth…” (14:16-17a). In LeeAnne’s reflection, she explains that advocacy—“speaking up for the [...]
It was the opening day of the Texas Legislative session, and our Interfaith Service of Public Witness was off to a rocky start. A few minutes before the start time, three of the participating speakers still hadn’t arrived. The visitor’s lot was unexpectedly full, and I knew they were out there circling downtown streets, searching [...]
“Mom, I’m hungry. Can I have your grapes?” “Sure,” I replied—even though I’d been counting on that handful of grapes to carry me through the next few hours until dinner. It was Day 6 of my community’s Food Stamp Challenge, for which I’d committed to limit my food spending to the equivalent of “food stamp” [...]
Over the High Holidays, my rabbi asked our congregation to participate in a week-long Food Stamp Challenge—to limit our food spending to the equivalent of “food stamp” benefits, $31.50 per person, for one week. “What a great way to raise awareness about hunger, poverty, and food issues in our community!” I thought. I liked the [...]
I like this image of God walking in the fields—accessible, approachable, here on earth… with us. Of course, I like to think that during all times of the year, God is accessible and approachable, and here with us. But there is something compelling about an opportunity for increased intimacy and closer connection during the month of Elul.
As part of the interfaith environmental work I am blessed to be able to do, I visit with people in congregations around the state about caring for the environment. In these conversations, I am almost always asked some variation of this question: “Where do we find hope?” Anyone working on environmental issues today must wrestle with this question of hope and purpose–and if people are unable to find a meaningful answer, they won’t be able to stay engaged for very long. Without some kind of deep wellspring, the struggle of facing the world’s troubles is too frequently, too much.
More than one of my politically and religiously liberal friends, when I told them I was converting to Judaism, gave as one of their first responses, “What about Israel?”
Good question. What about Israel?
I’ve understood all along that committing to the Jewish people and tradition also included coming into relationship with Israel—but the history and the issues seemed so complex that I have been reluctant to say much, to anyone, about anything related to the “Jewish state.”
Like the ancient Israelites, we should be humbly appreciative, but we complain. We should work together in common cause, but we isolate ourselves into separate camps. We should humbly, simply, and happily be grateful to be alive, free, and partnered with the Divine—by whatever name we know It—seeking only to live and serve the best we can, but we selfishly crave a craving.
We are walking now. Together, in the wilderness, walking. It’s hot, and dry. Sometimes there’s no water, or the water we find has a bitter taste. We haven’t always known where our next meal will come from. Some people wish we’d never left Egypt. There’s a lot of complaining. Some days are really hard.
Yaira is Jewish, married, and mother to two boys who make her laugh every day. As Associate Director of the Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy, she works with Texas religious communities to promote social and environmental justice. She recently completed her Master's of Theological Studies at Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary. Yaira is fueled by gratitude, laughter, and sometimes unhealthy amounts of coffee.