About Rabbi Spike

Rabbi Spike Anderson was born and raised in Boston, MA. and was ordained at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York City. Before his decision to enter the rabbinate, Rabbi Anderson worked as an Executive Recruiter in New York and San Francisco. While at Seminary, Rabbi Anderson augmented his studies by serving two summers as an interfaith Chaplain at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center.

In addition to his rabbinic and pulpit responsibilities, Rabbi Anderson is dedicated to the Israel & Peoplehood pillar of Stephen S. Wise Temple. He works tirelessly to connect congregants with Israel through political action, social action, personal connection, cultural exchange, and study.

As the Rabbi for the Early Childhood Center (ECC) as well as the Kindergarten and Grade 1 students of the Elementary School, Rabbi Anderson has the pleasure of conducting weekly Shabbat services for our youngest members, as well as lively ‘Tot’ and ‘Family’ Shabbats throughout the year. Through song, movement, talking puppet shows and ridiculous costumes, he strives to create a dynamic yet comfortable environment for the children to learn and love their Judaism. With his open door policy and passion for pastoral care, he is honored to provide spiritual guidance to the children as well as their families.

Rabbi Anderson also has taken a leadership role in creating and implementing the ‘Kehillat Wise’ program within our congregational community. Launched in response to the economy crisis, the program is designed to empower congregants to help other congregants; and it has earned nation-wide recognition due to the invaluable variety of resources, programs, and one-on-one guidance.

Wise Hearts is a program that Rabbi Anderson is in the process of revitalizing and taking to the next level. Working with a dedicated committee, Rabbi Anderson oversees as temple members reach out to other temple members in times of joy and sadness, offering gifts, comfort, even help with carpool.

Rabbi Anderson takes the most joy out of being a teacher, and is proud to have students ranging from age 1 to 101 years old. His classroom ranges from congregant’s living rooms to his office at the Temple. This year, Rabbi Anderson will offer such classes as: “Your Personal Theology and Spiritual Journey”, “Finding God”, “Introduction to Judaism”, and “The Hunger Games: what Judaism might have to say about it”.

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Kindergarteners Receive Torah

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The De-Evolution of the Jewish Warrior: Self-Identity as a ‘Warrior’

Introduction

The De-Evolution of the Jewish Warrior: Self-Identity as a ‘Warrior’

This thesis is a diachronic study of the Jewish self-view as ‘warrior,’ covering selected Jewish literature from about 200 B.C.E to 200 C.E.  The premise of this thesis is that such a study of Jewish literature in its historical context might enable the historian to understand better the Jewish self-identity as ‘warrior’ in those four centuries…

In some ways, the desire to explore this idea of Jewish self-identity as warrior has been mulling around my mind for many years. Growing up in a secular family who flirted with Reform Jewish education, I was raised with the Holocaust as the central Jewish event, and subsequent reason for maintaining Jewish identity.  This premise, along with other cultural factors, led me to conclude before I was a teen that Jews were weak and victims.  After all, unlike many other cultures amalgamated within the American melting pot, Jews were not in professional sports# and Jewish stereotypes made Jews into people with brains but without brawn.  More poignantly, as schoolchildren we were taught that, en masse the Jews, even the men, had passively been herded into the Nazi gas chambers without ever attempting to fight.  The death of 6 million, including 1.5 million children was protested, but rarely physically. The Jews did not lose a war, for there was never even a battle.  There was no mass uprising, for there was barely even armed-resistance.#  For various reasons that are retrospectively understandable even as they remain inexcusable, the Jews of Europe# allowed themselves to be murdered.  Studies of Jewish history, including the conclusions of this thesis, suggest that by the time the Nazis began the ‘final solution,’ the Jewish community was unable to even conceive of physical resistance, even when their lives (and those of their children) depended on it.

A few years later at age thirteen, that image that I had of the Jew as victim was sharply jolted upon my first visit to the state of Israel. A country full of Jews who were not just the accountants and bankers of the familiar stereotype, but also were the bus drivers, farmers, policemen and soldiers.  Men and women, of all ages, went about their lives in military uniforms, with muscles, guns, and most importantly, pride.  Instantly I understood that these Israelis were a type of ‘new Jew,’ who would never have let their families be led to the slaughter, and would shed blood to make sure that ‘never again’ was more than just words

In the years that followed, my experiences and studies enlightened me to the fact that there were many Jews outside of Israel who shared the machismo of their Israeli-‘cousins,’ but the questions of ‘why’ and ‘how’ still continued to nag me.  Why did it take the Holocaust to guilt the world into allowing the Jews a place of their own?  How did we, as a people, ever get to the collective state of mind that we needed the gifts of others in order to have permission to defend our lives against those who would take them?  Were we always like this?  Was the situation always thus… or had something happened to make us like this…to put us in such a compromising situation?

Once I began studying Torah these questions became even more pronounced.  It does not take a scholar to realize that the Israelites of the Bible are almost constantly engaged in war, and even the most revered biblical figures led the Israelite armies into battle.  Add to this confusion the mythical lore of the Maccabees, after which are dubbed the Israeli Olympics and Israeli International sports teams, these modern examples of physical Jews who can physically compete in a physical world.  I often wondered how the Jews went from the conquering and victorious people of the Bible or the heroes of Judah Maccabee to a people who could not, or would not, defend themselves against the Nazi death machine.  It is the friction of contemporary Jewish self-identity, the conflation of ‘victim’ and ‘warrior,’ which gave rise to this thesis, which is aptly titled ‘the de-evolution of the Jewish warrior.’

…As this thesis will demonstrate, the Jewish literature of each age reflected the political and social realities of the day; while at the same time it refracted an idealized Jewish self-image.# When war was a viable option for the Jews, which it was from the Hasmonean period# through the Bar Kochba war, # some Jewish literature championed the Jewish warrior.

However, after Bar Kochba’s stunning defeat by Rome, there was a distinct change in the collective Jewish psyche from ‘warrior’ to ‘war-averse;’  specifically, the Jews of Judaea# went from being a people ‘comfortable’ engaging in war to a people distinctly averse to, and fearful of, both war and violence.  I label this latter attitude as ‘pacifist’ and ‘accommodationist.’  In the same manner as it did in the preceding centuries, Jewish literature post Bar Kochba demonstrated this morphed Jewish self-identity dictated by the post-Bar Kochba reality. With the shattered Bar Kochba revolt went much of the Jewish aspiration to actively reclaim their former glory through war.

As war ceased to be a viable option for Jews, the Jewish self-image as warrior underwent a radical paradigmatic shift towards accommodationism.  Once again, mirroring the social and political realities of their day, the Jewish warrior-hero was replaced with a demilitarized pacifist identity, who in turn served as both model and exemplar to the Jewish masses.  Although this change was not overtly acknowledged by the rabbinic authority, examples such as the rabbinic treatment of the Maccabean victories or their ‘annulment’ of Megillat Ta’anit indicate that such change did occur.

One might surmise that this change was either a conscious departure from, or the result of a pragmatic self-reprioritization of, both the existing religious texts and the messianic vision; and thus of the very religion itself.  History indicates that an accommodationist stance behooved the rabbinic authorities after Bar Kochba’s demise because their very existence, and certainly their ‘authorized power,’ was permitted only through the grace of the Roman authority.  The Rabbinic authorities needed only to look at the Bar Kochba debacle as a reminder of the price for Jewish armed resistance. The rabbis likely realized that violent national confrontation with the Romans could only lead to more Jewish bloodshed, defeat, and increased Jewish restrictions.#  Essentially, 70 years of failed Jewish revolt led the rabbinic authorities to realize that further military engagement literally would risk Jewish survival; however security might be achieved through accommodationism….

The De-Evolution of the Jewish Warrior: Self-Identity as a ‘Warrior’

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Keeping the Dream Alive

Praying with your feet Heschel MLK

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. walk together for Civil Rights.

“No,” said my High School Administration. “No, we have never done it that way”; “No, it would be too complicated”; “No, everyone is too busy!” So

there was a certain amount of fear (of reprisal) as we ignored protocol and approached the headmaster’s office at our boarding school in Pennsylvania. We were three friends not yet 16 years old: one African-American, one Puerto-Rican, and one Jew (me).

We were poised to demand that Martin Luther King, Jr. Day should not just be a regular day of school, but rather a special day devoted to Dr. King’s ideals, through civil rights speakers and inspiration activities designed to promote contemporary social justice. To our headmaster’s credit, he listened to our proposal, thought for a long moment, and then said, “Okay, on the condition that the students do the work to make it a success”. And with that, a MLK commemorative day was established at our school, which still occurs annually more than 20 years later. Indeed, January 15 is MLK Jr.’s birthday. Across the United States, we pause to remember all that Dr. King helped America achieve through civil rights and civil disobedience, and to gird ourselves for the work that we know still needs to be done.

We Jews remember Dr. King as an essential personality who helped move our country out of a metaphorical “Egypt”, and towards a metaphorical “Promised Land” where “children will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.1” In the 1960s, the Jewish community had a close relationship with Dr. King, and hundreds of rabbis and Jews everywhere stood with Dr. King at every major juncture from St. Augustine, Florida to Washington, D.C. Many of our people realized that the African-American plight was our own, and so, it was our moral imperative to march, stand shoulder-to-shoulder, and, in some cases, even go to jail in order to promote justice.

Many times, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel was asked, “Why did you march with Reverend King?” To which, he famously replied, “I was praying with my feet.” From the midwives Shifra and Puah who defied Pharaoh’s immoral decree, to Moses speaking truth to power, to Judah Maccabee’s fight for the freedom to be different; we, as Jews, have a legacy of promoting justice in the world, even at the risk of great personal cost. In this spirit, I find it interesting that the modern State of Israel is the only country outside of the United States that commemorates Martin Luther King, Jr. Day annually with a special session in parliament.

By doing this, Israel, and Jews everywhere, make the statement that we embrace Dr. King’s values of hope and peaceful co-existence between neighbors who are different. As we enter into this secular New Year, let us keep Dr. King’s dream alive, and continue to do our part to make our world the righteous place that we pray it has the potential to be.

Ken yehi ratzon – may it be God’s will.

1 “I Have a Dream” speech

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Finding Your Life’s Purpose

And everyone who excelled in ability and everyone whose spirit moved him came, bringing to the Eternal his offering for the work of the Tent of Meeting.…
(Exodus 35:21)

Who am I? What is my place in the universe? What does God expect of me?

We might say that the purpose of Judaism is to help us ask these questions and to begin to answer them in a way that gives each Jewish life both meaning and purpose.

Now, right away, let’s point out that when it comes to these big questions, Judaism holds certain assumptions: you matter, even on a cosmic level; your place in the universe is important, and God does expect certain things from you that will help you realize your potential as a human being. This is a major statement! And Judaism makes these truths clear to us through our sacred stories.

Vayakhel takes place when our ancestors
were not feeling good about themselves, because they had made some pretty major mistakes. Mainly, they had really offended God by worshipping the Golden Calf, despite all that God had done for them to free them from Egyptian slavery.

Even more than this: our ancestors were feeling really lost. They were having a crisis of identity and purpose because they did not know who they really were or what they were supposed to do with their collective lives. Until recently, all they had known was slavery and how to be a slave. With every crack of a whip and harsh word, they relearned that they were worthless and that their life’s purpose was to benefit their slave masters.

Once they were free, all of those delusions fell away, but what should take their place?

And so, God gave our ancestors a task.
Its purpose was to redeem their sense of self-worth and confidence. It would help them understand who they really were and what God wanted from each and every one of them.

The task was to construct a portable sanctuary (the mishkan), where our people could come together to worship God. If and when the Israelites completed the mishkan exactly as God instructed, then God promised to “dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8). God gave them exact instructions of how to build the mishkan, right down to the blueprints and materials.

God made it clear that to be successful, everyone needed to work together, and each person would have to think hard about what he or she could do to help make this project a success.

People used the skills that they already had, and they brought the best of those skills to their work. For example: if you were a carpenter, then you could bring the best of your skills to carving the doorways; if you were a weaver, you could donate your best works for the curtains; and if you were a laborer, then you could commit to carrying the sanctuary from place to place.

By working together, each one bringing the best of who he or she was to the effort, they were able to build the mishkan, and God came to dwell among them. So here are the questions you need to ponder:

What might be our modern equivalent of our ancestors’ mishkan—the place where people could come together and where God would dwell? Hint: it could be your community, your synagogue, or your family home.

If God asks that we each bring the very best of who we are to this modern mishkan, then what will you bring? What is really special about you? How can you use that for a higher purpose?

Those are the big questions.
Now, go find the big answers.

Excerpt from Text Messages: A Torah
Commentary for Teens © 2012 Jeffrey Salkin.
$24.99. Permission granted by Jewish Lights
Publishing, P.O. Box 237, Woodstock, VT
05091; www.jewishlights.com


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Celebrations That Defy Human Comprehension

…The Stories of Passover to Yom Ha’atzma-ut

Israels Independence Day

Our people sang this Song of the Sea, not just to celebrate that they were alive as individuals (dayeinu), and not just that they had survived as a people (dayeinu). For the first time in centuries, our people could hope for more than survival – we finally would have a chance to flourish! What could we accomplish now free from chains and degradation? This was the promise that became a hope; the dream that was eventually willed into a reality. But it took a while…

For the past 2,000 years, since the fall of Bar Kochba (136 CE), we Jews had existed in forced exile from our land, Israel (although there always was a Jewish presence living there). Across the globe we have been scattered. Although there have been ”golden ages” throughout the millennia, for the most part, our history has been one similar to our ”slave days” in Egypt, where we were at the mercy of the gentile rulers, masses, and mob.
Daily, we faced Jerusalem and prayed for a time when we would again return to Israel, where our people would be reunited from the four corners of the earth, when we Jews would rule ourselves rather than be at the mercy of ”the world.” In the late 19th century, on the heels of renewed anti-Semitism and European pogroms, this religious Zionism morphed into a political Zionism. No longer would we wait for God to bring us out of bondage by parting the sea, but rather, we would have to take the steps ourselves. Only when we Jews took our destiny into our own hands would we have a safe haven, and a place where we could express ourselves authentically and without fear.

Our recent history is truly miraculous, with wave after wave of Jewish youth paving the way towards a modern State of Israel, each one taking a step, which led to another, and another. Along the way, these Jews reinvented themselves despite the negative stereotypes that we had lived with for thousands of years. These pioneers were the “new Jews”, and they were brave and strong, physical and expressive in a way that our people had not seen in a very long time.

When Israel declared independence on May
14, 1948 (5 Iyar 5708), once again, our people experienced the extreme celebration that almost defies human comprehension. Once again, we could hope for more than just survival. Once again we had a chance to truly flourish!

Let us all join together in celebration of Israel’s Independence Day (Yom Ha’atzmaut) and how far we have come on Sunday, April 29 with a day-long festival at Stephen S. Wise Temple – From Israel to L.A. The day will feature activities centered around Israeli culture, Jewish athleticism, and, most of all, our thriving Jewish community. Whether it’s our 3-on-3 basketball tournament, Israeli art show, or interactive preschool activities, there will be something for everyone who wants to partake in this joyous day celebrating one of the most pivotal moments in our Jewish history (see below and page 8 for additional details). I hope to share in it with you.

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