Rabbi James Rosenberg

Rabbi James RosenbergAlan Metnick’s photography exhibit, “Silence and Stones/Captured by Memory,” continues at gallery (401) at the Dwares JCC through Thursday, April 16. If you haven’t had a chance to visit, it is a must-see. If you’ve already been there, it’s worth a second or even a third look.

As you step into the gallery, there are five photographs on the wall to your left – each a peaceful forest scene, a picture of tranquility...and then you read where these trees stand: Auschwitz, 2004; Treblinka, 2005; Belzac, 2011; Sobibor, 2011; Chelmno, 2011. Five of Poland’s six major extermination camps; only Majdanek is missing from this notorious lineup. The sublime forest beauty captured in the photographs now seems an obscenity; but Mother Nature – in her amoral, nonjudgmental grandeur – knows nothing of our all-too-human capacity for depravity or of our heroic quest to remake ourselves into the image of God. 

Rabbi James RosenbergH. Philip West Jr., executive director of Common Cause Rhode Island from 1988 to 2006, is a prophet in our midst.  Like such Biblical prophets as Amos or Isaiah or Jeremiah, West is not so much a “foreteller” as a “forthteller.” That is to say, he is a man who “tells it like it is,” a man who is not afraid to afflict the comfortable even as he comforts the afflicted.

An ordained Methodist minister, he has devoted the last several decades to speaking out against the social ills of contemporary American society – with special attention to our home state of Rhode Island – while warning all who are willing to listen of the consequences of our continuing tolerance of widespread political, social and economic injustice.

Rabbi James RosenbergFor many years, an essential part of my Monday morning ritual had been reading Dr. Stanley M. Aronson’s wise and erudite words on the op-ed page of The Providence Journal. In his well over 1,000 weekly columns, his topics ranged far and wide from medicine to biography to religion to the wonders and peculiarities of our English language. 

Aronson was interested in everything! For example, this past Jan. 26, just two days before his death at the age of 92, his readers were treated to an exploration of our sense of smell, “Where are the aromas of yesterday?” – spiced with appropriate allusions to Samuel Coleridge (1772-1834) and Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862). 

Rabbi James RosenbergHoward Jacobson (b. 1942), the well-respected British author, begins his speech at the B’nai B’rith World Center in Jerusalem in the fall of 2013 with three succinct and depressing sentences: “The question is rhetorical.  When will Jews be forgiven the Holocaust?  Never.”

He goes on to quote the Roman historian Tacitus (56-117) to support the contention that victimizers have a deep-seated need to blame their victims: “It is part of human life to hate the man you have hurt.”

Rabbi James RosenbergLast Jan. 15 my wife Sandy received a nine-page email from Tom Cohen, rabbi of  Paris’ Kehilat Gesher, La synagogue franco-americaine de Paris.

The email wound up in my wife’s inbox because Rabbi Cohen is a first cousin of our close friend, who happens to have stood as maid of honor at our wedding 47 years ago. Knowing that we would want to read Cohen’s letter in its entirety, she forwarded it to us.