For three days, participants of the Consultation on Conscience heard from pollsters about faith and Tikkun Olam; we sat at the feet of US Ambassador Susan Rice, Sister Simone Campbell and “Nuns on the Bus,” and Rabbi Sharon Brous to discuss the role of faith in our pursuit of progressive social change; and we learned from staff at the Religious Action Center about how to lobby more effectively, about outstanding local social justice programs for our communities, and about the energetic Rabbis Organizing Rabbis Campaign for fair and humane immigration reform. We discussed violence against the human spirit, were weighted down with stories of gun violence and human rights abuses, and discussed how to face the obstacles of cynicism, callousness, and despair.
For a group of Balfour Brickner Rabbinic Fellows, we added powerful stories of the moments that called us to social justice; for some it was being bullied and beaten up years ago in high school; for others, it was the recognition we had been that bully. Powerful, prescient, evocative stories about the Divine spark bursting our hearts open and demanding we respond to the great moral injustices of our day with compassion, fortitude, and determination to make tikkun real.
And then, after sowing tears of pain and trauma, we responded to the call to Serve the Eternal with joy:
More than 20 of us went to a local Washington, DC bar where young professionals head after work. Teams of people were engaged in a karaoke competition, the contemporary version of a camp sing down.
What were a bunch of serious, social justice rabbis to do?
With words projected on the screen against the backdrop of contestants adorned in costumes from the fanciful Village People to the absurd Rocky Horry Picture Show to the romantic Dirty Dancing and music blared through the room, we danced.
It was powerful, joyous, effervescent. With laughter and movement, humor and a bit of awkward brilliance, we belted out lyrics to Time Warp and Time of My Life; we paused in the midst of our learning and pursuit of social justice to touch a different—and yet vital—part of our souls that longed to soar.
It was funny and fabulous and rejuvenating. And some of our colleagues can dance! For a few hours amidst the sacred work of the Consultation on Conscience, we opened our hearts and joyously sang a new song unto God.
Time is fleeting;
Madness takes its toll.
But listen closely…”
Let’s do the time warp again!
Rabbi Michael Latz is the senior rabbi of Shir Tikvah in Minneapolis, MN.