Jeffrey Selman - Public Speaker
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Synopsis of Speech to Temple Kol Emeth during Sukkoth Sept 20, 2002

As I took my seat thoughts of the holiday surfaced in my mind. This holiday of Sukkoth commemorates the third and final festival in the Jewish exodus from Egypt. Passover, the first, celebrates the people of Israel escaping from Egypt. Shavout, the second, recognizes the entering into a covenant of Israel with God at Mount Sinai.

Sukkoth, representing that time Israel wandered about the desert, encamped in temporary huts (Sukkoth) and evolving from a nation of slaves to one of a free and self-reliant people awaiting entrance into Canaan, seemed to draw parallel to my own past wanderings which had annealed and changed me in preparation to what I had I recently enter into.

The service was wonderful. There was much interaction between the congregation, the speakers, the choir, the cantor, and of course Rabbi Lebow. When it was my turn to address everyone, the Rabbi made a short statement in support of Separation and my stand to protect it. I stood and walked to the pulpit and began an almost entirely different speech than I had prepared. I did touch on parts of what I had presented to the Board, mostly my fear of theocracy. What came from my heart at that moment though was a deep connection to my fellow Jews in the Temple. As I spoke, I could see my grand mothers Molly and Gussie taking passage, in steerage, on the way to America. I could feel the camaraderie of all the grand mothers and fathers of the congregation coming to America to be free to believe in God the way they knew to be right. "Let them all live and be well," Molly would say. "Let the gentiles believe what they want. It's "nish ga felached" (not so bad). We too can believe what we want here."

And so I talked about Immigrants coming to America. I spoke of our ancestry escaping tyranny and senseless hatred always believing in the hope that is American Democracy. I spoke of how the Jews in America, never losing their faith, used education to carve a home here. How our ancestral love of knowledge and God must always be diligently protected because just living in America doesn't guarantee it. We must continually work to maintain it. We must diligently work, in light of the external theocratic threats of Sept 11th and the internal theocratic threats of anti-scientists, to stand up and keep all our rights of belief safe.

The surrealism of the other day surfaced as I spoke. The congregation became individuals that I spoke with directly. Each one separately. Each one connected. I saw my wife, Peggy, and my friends Dennis and Deborah, not Jewish but meshpucha (not related but still connected all as one) with all. I saw Ellen and my child sitting near many different ethnic people, some maybe Jewish some maybe not, but all meshpucha (not related but still connected all as one) and I felt, really for the first time, what I had been only felling in my mind, that we Americans would survive, our democracy intact. I saw individuals as Americans saying yes.


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