While many other synagogues will be going through the normal set of prayers for the Jewish High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah starts the eve of Sept 8 and first day is Sept 9), one Berkeley synagogue is taking the notion of repentance seriously—and not just for Jews.
Beyt Tikkun has invited non-Jews to attend the service as well, arguing that the entire society needs a repentance process, and “you don’t need to be Jewish to participate in the Jewish High Holy Days.” The services will be held at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley.
“Calls for repentance are often taken as directed only at individuals, but in the Jewish tradition the community is asked to atone for its collective sins,” says Rabbi Michael Lerner, the spiritual leader of Beyt Tikkun synagogue. “But at this point in our history both as Jews and Americans we need to repent for the ways that our entire community has gone astray.
Rabbi Lerner hopes that negotiations may lead to a peace settlement for Israel and Palestine, “but” he says, at the moment the task for High Holidays is to repent for what has already happened, and that includes the ongoing pain imposed on the Palestinian people by 43 years of Occupation and by the assault on Gaza in 2008-9 and the killings and wounding of people on the Gaza Aid flotilla in late May.” One of Beyt Tikkun’s members was on the flotilla and will talk about his experience on Yom Kippur.
The repentance and atonement will also focus on what Rabbi Lerner calls “the devastation brought to Iraq by the unjustified invasion of that country by the U.S.. and the continuing presence there of 50,000 soldiers now re-described as ‘advisors” and the escalated war in Afghanistan and the killings by drones in Pakistan.” Lerner also cites the harsh treatment of immigrants, the destruction of the environment, the use of 9/11 as a cover for growing anti-Muslim sentiments, and the continuing willingness of the Obama Administration and Congress to give higher priority to the needs of the rich and Wall Street than to the needs of those middle income and poor people who continue to suffer as a result of America’s economic crisis.”
Beyt Tikkun has developed an alternative list of “For our Sins” prayers to be said on Yom Kippur and a manual for how Americans can take the whole process of repentance seriously. It can be found as High Holiday Supplement on the web at www.beyttikkun.org and it is printed in the September/October issue of Tikkun magazine.