America was close to being governed by racists and anti-Democratic leaders. We aren’t the only country in danger of losing our democracy. Israelis elected 14 avowed racists to the Knesset who will pursue an anti-Democratic agenda. Italy has a fascist prime minister. In Hungary, Viktor Orban has crafted an “illiberal democracy.” The second-largest political party in Sweden has roots in Nazism. Populist, fascist, and anti-democratic leaders are circling the carnage of democracy. Those of us who live by justice, fairness, and egalitarianism must respond.

In this week’s election the top two issues motivating voters were the economy and abortion rights. Not democracy. Are we in denial? Perhaps too afraid to challenge the anti-democratic populists? Or are we just too comfortable to be bothered? For Jews, denial, fear, and comfort have never served us well.

When reading the story of Abraham, we extol his willingness to challenge God.  God reveals to Abraham the plans to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham challenges the Almighty. He asks: “God, will you sweep away the good with the bad?”

Who will stand up for democratic values?  Why are we not advocates like Abraham, who dared to push back against God? As former President Barak Obama has said “whatever you’ve done so far, is not enough!”

Sometimes I chose to stay home rather than protest. On many occasions, I enjoyed dinner at a restaurant that cost more than my donation to a candidate for office. Did I believe that watching MSNBC was a sufficient demonstration of my support for Democracy?

I pray that I am wrong, but these appear to me to be dangerous times. Anti-Semitism, racism, and xenophobia flourish because there are forces at play to eliminate people of different beliefs, skin color, or origins. No minority group in this country may be safe.

We failed to either isolate the racists or engage with our opponents. We retreated to the illusion of our houses as sanctuaries. Many dismissed the warnings of anti-hate groups that we live in perilous times.

I did not envision the United States convulsing with replacement theory and dystopian ideals. I failed to believe that isolationist, intolerant, and ignorant leaders can hold power in our government. And now I fear that words will lead to weapons and plowshares will turn into swords. I pray that the day never comes when we turn to God in desperation regarding our own fate and ask, “will you sweep away the good with the bad?”

As Elie Wiesel said, “the opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference.” Let’s embrace our roles as the agents of positive change and the defenders of freedom.

Rabbi Evan Krame


The campaign for women’s equality begins in the Torah with the story of Sarah.  Sarah was the realist counterweight to her God-fearing husband, Abraham. Not until a millennium later, when we reach Deborah in the book of judges, do we glimpse women’s leadership and parity. And the “torah” of women continues right through to Taylor Swift.

Sarah is the dutiful wife of Abraham. She shleps along with him as he travels from Ur to Haran to Bethel. Sarah is beautiful and barren. She is abused when Abraham passes her off as his sister. Sarah is abusive when she mistreats her servant Hagar. Sarah is rarely quoted and never demonstrates her better nature. She scoffs at angels and God. She demands that Hagar be banished. Sarah is a biblical badass, struggling with her second-class status.

Fast forward to October 22, 2022. That day the news included threats to our democracy, fears of nuclear war, and weakness in our economy. And the big news was that a new Taylor Swift album “midnights” dropped at midnight. One week later, fans downloaded the album 423 million times. The music is haled for its honest reflections on Swift’s life and relationships. Americans are more likely to have listened to Taylor Swift than the news on October 22.

Swift has made her mark as an anti-hero through her musical and lyrical talents. She stands behind no man. Swift is unafraid to reveal her weaknesses. She is even self-deprecating but only as a form of self-empowerment.

Sarah’s persona is redeemable when understood as a woman focused on the long path. She moves to a “promised land”, enduring famine and degradation to achieve a greater good. She offers her handmaid for the sake of progeny but later expels her stepson for the sake of a God-given Jewish future. Sarah is selfless and determined in her role as the mother of a nation.

Taylor Swift’s Torah presents the opposite. Her self-awareness is disarming. Quinn Moreland wrote that this is “emotional bloodletting.” Swift owns her sass and her vindictiveness. Her career does not take a back seat to personal relationships. Rather Swift owes her career to her ability to share the travails of her love life. Her attraction to listeners lies in empowerment born of revealing every aspect of her persona.

In 2022, Taylor Swift’s narrative of self-enfranchisement is far more compelling than the chronicle of Sarah’s dutiful and supporting role. Yet, neither community building nor societal affirmation appears within the Swiftian storyline. Swift has brought us to the peak of self-absorption in mapping out the psychology of her emancipation.

The interpreters of the Torah of today understand Sarah as a victim and Swift as an anti-hero. We need a scripture that portrays a woman who is both confident in her strength and focused on the future.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame

Vladimir Putin is threatening the use of nuclear weapons. This news terrifies those paying attention, especially in Ukraine. However, the news benefits a few people. Those that benefit manufacture residential bunkers. The industry is booming in the US and England. The possibility of hiding in a nuclear safe room draws a comparison to the Torah’s story of Noah and the ark.

Noah did not need an ark until God spoke and gave Noah the blueprints. Noah faithfully executed the plan, set aside doubt, and operated on belief. God described the provisions needed and the animals to be transported. As fantastic as the predicted disaster might have seemed, Noah completed the task. As the text says, Noah was righteous for his times.

Who is Noah for today? Someone who invests in a bomb shelter for the home? The costs can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Perhaps the motivating factor is the desire to survive. Humans have the instinct to run from danger and to preserve our lives. Noah acted upon that instinct believing that an unseen God intended to destroy the world.

In succeeding chapters of the Torah, Abraham learns of God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham argues with God to reverse that plan. Unlike Abraham, Noah does not negotiate at all. He does not demand to bring other people on the ark. He does not beg God to spare the world. There are no Abrahams in Noah’s era. And this explains why the Torah says Noah was righteous in his time. Noah was not necessarily a tzaddik or righteous person. He was just better than anyone else in that era.

Once again, the world is confronting the prospect of nuclear war in a manner not experienced since the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. A maniacal, evil dictator in Russia would ruin if not destroy the lives of millions in pursuit of power. Most of us choose to downplay the threat. A nuclear war defies common sense and seems unimaginable. And some are building bomb shelters for themselves to survive.

Who defines righteousness in our time as we are confronted with issues of survival? The congressmen who wish to cut funding to Ukraine? The xenophobes and racists who value their lives more highly than people of other skin color or ethnicity? Or the people who have so given up on humanity that they are more likely to spend $100,000 on a personal-size bomb shelter rather than engage with their neighbors in building a coalition of democracy-loving, peace-pursuing, and God-wrestling people.

Are you like the people in Noah’s time, sufficiently evil so that God is ready to abandon them? Or are you the ark-builder comfortable setting sail on your own? If neither is true, then it is time to read further in Torah so that we can all learn to become like Abraham. Our Abrahamic efforts are what is needed to save this world from harm.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame

We added a new melody for the High Holidays. The song is “Renew, Rejoice” written by Carrie Newcomer. The songwriter is a quaker whose words connect with the meaning of the High Holidays. She writes: “renew, rejoice, begin to begin again.” Can Torah come from a Quaker? Certainly. So why was it that I wondered if our High Holiday service can adopt the melody from someone of another faith tradition?

The Jewish New Year starts just the way Newcomer’s song advises. On Rosh Hashanah, we renew.  On Simchat Torah, we rejoice; on Shabbat Bereshit, “we begin to begin again.” In Parshat Bereshit, we read that God’s creative energies fashioned a variety of plants and animals. Yet there was only one kind of human. No religious divides, no ethnic identities, and no racial divisions separated one person from the other. Fast forward a few millennia and identities divide us, one from the other. I am male, Jewish, American, white, educated, English-speaking and boomer. What are you?

Jewish identity brings us together as a group but Judaism sometimes perpetuates the divides among peoples.  As an alternative, some Reform and Reconstructing Judaism synagogues have tried to unravel the divisions. For example, prayers were amended to remove reference to Jews as the chosen people. Intellectually, the amendment makes sense. In the beginning, God created people, not Jews and Muslims and Christians and Hindus, and more. If all are God’s creations, then we might be better off learning from one another in our pursuit of Godliness. Focusing on our differences has not served anyone well in history.

The concept of chosenness has been a double-edged sword for Jews. To be chosen is to connect with God as a favored child. In difficult times, Jews have taken comfort in their elite identity. And yet I am reminded of the story of the Jewish man who gathered a petition and brought it up to Heaven. The petition read: “God, we the chosen people respectfully request that you choose someone else for a while.”

Judaism is special. Our people are treasured. And I favor any mechanism by which we connect with God. Adapting a song by a Quaker songwriter or deleting chosenness from prayers are simple ways to remind ourselves that we are all the designs of one Creator. We can be special but not superior, distinct but not different.

The greater challenge facing Judaism is not curing us of our sense of chosenness. The problem is offering Jews a spiritual life worth choosing. I’m devoting my rabbinate to figuring out how to renew our spiritual life and rejoice in our Judaism. It may require considering what is inspiring in other religious customs and secular creations. Our religion may be millennia old, but it is time for us to find new meaning in Torah, even if the inspiration comes from outside our tradition. so we can begin to begin again.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame

An effective technique to defuse a pending argument is “to pregame” the events that give rise to tension. For example, we will inevitably debate the process each year of setting up our sukkah. The construction is fraught with peculiar details. Where in the yard shall we place the sukkah? Should we change the configuration? How many pieces of plastic fruit hanging from the rafters is the right amount? Before we begin the construction process, I call out the tension to come. This year I offered, “let’s agree that I will build, and you will correct me as we go.” We both laugh and steel ourselves for the annual sukkah-building challenges.

In the end, we put a lot of effort into creating a beautifully incomplete structure. The process seems a metaphor for our lives. We spend much time debating the details of our days. Yet, the structure is always flimsy; wind-blown, attacked by yellow jackets, and sometimes a washout. The imperfections are either a distraction or a source of joy.  You just need an awareness of the true meaning of the day.

Despite the debates and the dampened plans, Sukkot is the happiest of Jewish holidays. We are commanded in Torah to be happy on our holiday. Joy comes imperfectly.

As I mature, I have learned to better cope with life’s shortcomings. I finally understand Richard Carlson’s book “don’t sweat the small stuff, and it’s all small stuff.” The sukkah is a little crooked. The plastic grapes hang a little too low. That’s the small stuff. And it is all a reason to smile.

What is essential is to find joy in life’s endeavors. The pleasure of sukkot is about gathering, appreciating the change of seasons, and being grateful that we have warm, dry homes into which we can retreat from our imperfect sukkahs. We can begin to find happiness when we can laugh at our own imperfections. What matters is not what is deficient about us but about the way we build a life with relationships, appreciation, and gratitude.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame

What is the key to happiness? Teddy Roosevelt said that the key to happiness is having low expectations!  Buddha said: that happiness doesn’t depend on what you have or who you are. It solely relies on what you think. The Capitalist path to happiness may be just having friends poorer than yourself. But I believe Judaism offers the best guide to happiness.

Among all the positive psychology books on happiness I own, I only needed one. Our Torah. This week Torah instructs us on the delivery of the first fruit offerings. Upon completion of the task,

וְשָׂמַחְתָּ֣ בְכׇל־הַטּ֗וֹב אֲשֶׁ֧ר נָֽתַן־לְךָ֛ יְהֹוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ וּלְבֵיתֶ֑ךָ אַתָּה֙ וְהַלֵּוִ֔י וְהַגֵּ֖ר אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּקִרְבֶּֽךָ׃

“you shall enjoy, together with the [family of the] Levite and the stranger in your midst, all the bounty that your God has bestowed upon you and your household.”

Dissecting Deuteronomy 26:11, you could create a TED Talk on happiness. The elements of happiness are these.

1. Have the right attitude. As Winnie the Pooh said, “the most important decision I will make today is to be in a good mood.” Unless you are open to enjoyment you won’t feel happiness. The text offers a divine urgency to being happy. If God wants you to be happy, who are you to do otherwise!

2.  Come together with others. Spend time with varieties of people. People who you respect and people you don’t yet know. Some people who are richer, some poorer, some more powerful, and some less so. Happiness increases through companionship.

3.  Share what you have.  Be generous and be kind.  However much or little you own, sharing creates happiness.

4.  Whatever you have, be grateful. You have been blessed with opportunities. Each day offers something new, and the possibility of something wonderful. If you are blessed with much, appreciate the bounty. If you are blessed with health, be supremely thankful. If you are blessed with friends and family, treasure them.

With the New Year approaching, I am focusing on gratitude. I am grateful even for the opportunity to reflect on mistakes I’ve made and opportunities I’ve missed. I’m grateful for my community with whom I will pray and eat and sing and laugh.

Thank you for reading my blogs all year long and for your feedback which has been so thoughtful and encouraging. And I thank God for new opportunities for us to enjoy life together.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame


I remember when children had utter respect for their parents. It was also a time when spanking was acceptable. Some parents even used the strap. Did “wait ‘til your father gets home” scar(e) us into submission or make us better children?

Jewish parents might have used Torah to threaten their children for millennia. Torah says that parents may have a rebellious child stoned to death. Yes, it says that in Deuteronomy 21:21. It wasn’t until the last century, that Dr. Spock’s baby book taught that children are complex little humans and parents should follow protocols in raising them. Until then violence was an acceptable part of child-rearing.

Barbaric you say? Today, the paddling of school children is legal in 19 states. A school superintendent in Missouri said the parents thanked the school for paddling their child. Of children who were subjected to corporal punishment in this country, 37% were African American, and 21% had disabilities, reported the New York Times in August 2022. Many dark undercurrents of society accompany the acceptance of violence,

The Cassville School District in Missouri now solicits the parents’ prior consent to paddling the child as a policy. “When it becomes necessary to use corporal punishment, it shall be administered so that there can be no chance of bodily injury or harm,” the policy says. “Striking a student on the head or face is not permitted.”

Even debating a policy on corporal punishment in schools reflects the dark currents in our society. If insurrection at the U.S. Capitol can be a tourist visit, then paddling a child is just an educational experience. The acceptance of violence as discourse or as an educational tool is endemic.

The murder rate in major cities continues to rise. Some say it relates to the Covid pandemic. I think it connects to the deterioration of morality as political shifts harden into confrontation.

The murder rate in major cities continues to rise. Some say it relates to the Covid pandemic. I think it connects to the deterioration of morality as political shifts hardened into confrontation. U.S. Senators predict “violence in the streets” regarding Presidential politics. If politics is fair game for violence then what segments of society are immune?

I understand Torah to be written for a less evolved society than our own. The threat of violence might have been necessary to overcome people’s worst nature thousands of years ago. But as modern people, in the age of science and technology, our society should be moving toward peacefulness and nonviolence. Hitting children or storming a Government building, are both utterly unacceptable. That is a truth that should be self-evident.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame

I substituted reading for my Saturday afternoon nap. I selected another book about the transformation of American Jewish life. Whether warning of an apocalyptic end to Judaism or touting the innovations in Jewish life, these books are all searching for a core truth. Is there Judaism without an enforced Jewish legal system? Is there more to Judaism than its laws?

In Torah, Moses plainly lays out these choices for the Hebrews as they enter the Promised Land. God has set before them blessings and curses. How they behave will result in one or the other. Modern and progressive-leaning Jews are unlikely to believe that each decision we make will be answered by God with either a blessing or a curse.

In order to receive blessings is to obey the laws and rules set out by Moses. He cautions the people in Deuteronomy, Chapter 13, “You shall not act at all as we now act here, each of us as we please.” Torah speaks to the importance of adherence to rules. Subservience to Jewish law tracks to the establishment of a responsible and civil society.

The founding fathers built American democracy upon the advancement of individual rights and freedoms. This is where Judaism and American-ism differ. Judaism is a religion of responsibility to others. When we obey the laws, we give full effect to that responsibility. Reflecting on those ancient constructs from our modern perspective, we might be inclined to be dismissive of many mitzvoth. Outside of Orthodoxy, Jews have afforded themselves the freedom to select which, if any, of the laws to observe.

We are not afraid that our poor choices will be countered with curses from God. We are not feeling bound to those of the 613 laws which often have little relevance to our lives. And yet I know that anyone reading this will have a strong Jewish identity and is a proponent of Jewish values.

Clearly, Judaism endures despite the threat of curses or the rejection of its legal code. At its core, Judaism represents values that still speak to us today. Torah teaches us to care for each other. Dozens of times we are reminded to take care of the widow and the orphan and the stranger among us. Judaism has enough vitality to transform its practices. Jewish identity is strong even among those who don’t engage in Jewish rituals. American Jews are activists and philanthropic because of their Jewish identity. Stripped of the threat of curses or the strict observance of 613 mitzvoth, Judaism endures because Jewish identity has goodness at its core.

In America, we explore new ways to construct Judaism with modern sensibilities. What we need most is people willing to engage with each other in a process of reimagining how good Judaism can be.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame

My rabbinic studies included deep dives into emotional states. The rabbi responsible for my studies had one profound caution for me, unrelated to my intellectual abilities – watch out for your anger. At the time, I was confused by the comment. I didn’t see myself as an angry person. But the warning was as important as commenting on my text studies because anger is hazardous.

Having begun my professional life as an attorney, I reflected on how anger is often a tool. The appearance of being angry can be a used for persuasion or change. Anger also antagonizes and can impede compromise. Even indignation, wrapped in righteousness, can deter progress. Anger is not a solution to any challenge or conflict.

Throughout most of the Torah, Moses was steady and focused. Toward the end of his life, Moses was worn down. After Miriam’s death, the miraculous water source that followed her dried up. God directed Moses to speak to a rock to draw out water. Instead, Moses was uncharacteristically angry.  Moses hit the rock and scolded the people. As a result, he was banned from entering the promised land. Moses’ inability to control his outrage was his undoing.

Jewish wisdom teaches that we should control our anger. The Talmud sage Reish Lakish said, “when a person becomes angry, wisdom departs . . .” Anger causes us to lose control, as our rational thinking is defeated. The consequences can be grave.

As a corrective, Deuteronomy offers a divine prescription to refocus our irritation and animosity. Moses remained angry with the Hebrew people who were often stubborn and faithless through forty years of wandering. Yet, in the last days of his life, Moses refocused his energy and suppressed his anger at them. At first, Moses rebuked the people. Then he refocused his rhetoric toward a more positive message. Setting aside acrimony, Moses proposed an oratorical guidebook to a better life: love your neighbors, observe the God-inspired rules, and don’t believe you are the master of all you have received. These are pillars of living Jewishly, relationship, responsibility, reverence, and reserve. With these Middot in mind, we can better mitigate feelings of anger.

I needed this reminder as I lost my temper this past week. I could have self-soothed if I had just remembered Moses’ guidance. Love is more important than discord. Stay disciplined and focused. Don’t let your ego overpower your intellect. There is a higher authority that demands deference. As my teacher had warned me, I needed to be mindful of my anger.

Even if I believe my displeasure to be justified, Torah demands calm. There is no “middle way” when it comes to anger. Otherwise, we may irreparably damage relationships that we should value. Ire and enmity are a negation of our responsibilities. Anger leaves little room for God-liness. And, as Moses’ life teaches us, anger is hazardous.

Rabbi Evan J. Krame



The Jewish people have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Our fixation on remembering renews the trauma of an oft-attacked people. The Jewish calendar cycles us through a history of slavery, exile, and annihilation. We read through Torah, year after year, with all of its tales of flood, famine, and warfare. As a result, modern Judaism needs therapy.

The association of memory and emotion is key to understanding Judaism today. Scientifically speaking, negative emotions are more easily affixed to memory. As Bob Dylan might say, Judaism is tangled up in blue.

On the Jewish calendar, we are rounding the corner past Tisha B’av. On that fast day, we recall when the Holy Temple was twice destroyed. Later in the calendar, we celebrate Passover by revisiting slavery in Egypt. Our tradition demands that we recall these tragedies in every generation. Engagement with our history of victimhood reconnects us with emotions of anxiety, stress, and fear. Yet, our PTSD battle cry is “never forget!”

Moreover, the connection of our emotional states to memory alters how we recall the past. When trauma is associated with memory, our brain tries to cope with the distress. As a result, our memory is compromised and our narrative gets distorted.

Here’s an example from Torah. In Deuteronomy, Moses recalls the events of forty years in the desert. Yet, the narrative is revised from the prior books of the Torah. Moses recites previously unknown and unlikely conversations with God. Moses blames the people for his own disappointments. This leader’s emotions colored his memory and created new narratives. Moses’ speeches in Deuteronomy set out a template for the Jewish future, based on his emotion-distorted memory.

Jewish responses to the Shoah present another example. After the Holocaust, Judaism was reimagined. Yeshivas taught that Hitler’s goal was to eradicate Torah. Orthodoxy doubled down on Halachah to exceed past adherence to Jewish law. Ultra-Orthodoxy today attempts to compensate or overcompensate for the six million lives lost. “To the Yeshivish world, true defiance and triumph came from total subservience to God’s commandments and an unquestioning acceptance of His will, regardless of the circumstances,” wrote Andrew Altman in the Forward in 2018.

Others in the post-Shoah era formed Jewish identity as a shield from anti-Semitism. Jewish life was defined for many with activism spanning from the Anti-Defamation League to the Jewish Defense League. Another response to the Shoah is an ebullient Zionism that promotes and protects Israel, the phoenix that rose from the ashes of the Shoah. These shifts were the consequence of memories linked to trauma. Beginning with a three thousand-year history of suffering stored in Jewish memory the trajectory of Jewish life was again redirected post-shoah.

Judaism, as a religious experience, continues to be shaped by trauma. My fear is that future generations will distance themselves from a Jewish life that operates either under the heavy yoke of Jewish law or the crushing weight of Jewish victimhood.

I believe we need to carve out a version of Judaism that allows us to be free from the baggage of both trauma and the orthodox overemphasis on halacha. Our task is to put Judaism into therapy so a healthier and emotionally uplifting Judaism can emerge. I believe we need to carve out a version of Judaism that allows us to be free from the baggage of both trauma and the overemphasis on Halacha. Let’s make an appointment to explore that thought!

Rabbi Evan Krame