Rabbi Judith Schindler listens as Mitch Siegel and Helen Rifas rehearsed for Friday's Shabbat service.

'A meaningful pause so we can build a better world'

Posted at 12:32 PM on Nov 5, 2016



Much of life is spent building: careers, families, homes … even societies.

But just as God took six days to create the earth and rested on the seventh, all of us need to allow and celebrate time for reflection and renewal.

That was part of a message centered on peace and rest by Rabbi Judith Schindler during an interfaith Shabbat service at Congregation Emanuel in Statesville on Friday evening. Members of Grace Baptist and First Presbyterian Church were among those in attendance, and musical accompaniment was provided by Mitch Siegel as Cantor and Helen Rifas on harp.

“We are so caught up in building and see ourselves as having so much to do, that stopping becomes a challenge,” said Schindler, an associate professor of Jewish Studies at Queens College. “But if God needed to stop and find replenishment, how much more do we?”

During the service, which blended prayers, song and lessons related to Shabbat, Schindler referred to the Hashkiveinu, a prayer asking God to build a shelter of peace, not just for the individual, but for all.

To emphasize that point, Schindler noted the lessons of Noah — who built shelter only for himself and his family — and the Tower of Babel, which caused people to focus more on building a great tower than on caring for humankind.

“Success is achieved not when we build upward, but when we build outward,” Schindler said. “Successful building is building in a way that touches, supports and shelters others.”

The same principle holds true for our democracy, she told the congregation.

“Democracy needs to be built and supported each and every day,” she said. “Democracy requires us to live with our differences. And like any successful building project from Biblical times until today, it needs to reach outward instead of upward.”

Schindler said the stakes are high, recalling the destruction of Germany’s democracy in 1933. She noted the anxiety many are feeling not just about the outcome of the Nov. 8 presidential election, but also the aftermath. She read an original poem titled “Election 2016 — My Vow for the Day After” that included the following lines:

“Not ‘we need to talk’

but we need to learn how to talk:

to listen to the anxiety and

to get past the schisms.

The stakes are far too high:

Education, healthcare, housing, justice, violence

the aging and elderly, our youth, our future.

We need to continue to engage,

to dialogue, to debate,

to work, to walk,


The world, Schindler said, was given to people to create in partnership with God. She urged those in attendance to give themselves a chance to rest this Shabbat, so they can return to the important work of building lives and our democracy in the time ahead.

“As God blessed you as you entered, so may God bless you as you leave with Shabbat beauty, with Shabbat rest, with Shabbat peace — with that meaningful pause so that we can build a better world.

About Rabbi Judith Schindler

Judith Schindler is an associate associate professor of Jewish Studies and director of the Stan Greenspon Center for Peace and Social Justice at Queens University of Charlotte. Schindler was named Rabbi Emerita of Temple Beth El in Charlotte, after serving as Senior Rabbi from 2003-2016 and as Associate Rabbi from 1998-2003. Prior to coming to Charlotte, she was an Associate Rabbi at Westchester Reform Temple in Scarsdale, N.Y. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Clinical Psychology from Tufts University in 1988 (magna cum laude), her Master’s from the Hebrew Union College in Los Angeles in 1993, and her rabbinic ordination at the Hebrew Union College in New York in 1995.

She serves on the Executive Committee of the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, is co-chair of the Clergy Council of MeckMin (Charlotte’s interfaith organization), is co-chair of the Rabbinic Council of the Association of Reform Zionists of America and is a Trustee of the Reform Pension Board. She is past Co-Chair of the Women’s Rabbinic Network and served on the Board of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Coalition for Housing.

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