Episode #7: Elliot Cosgrove

Hosted by Nissim Black

June 28, 2021 00:36:14

The Rabbi of the largest Conservative synagogue in New York City joins Nissim to discuss the importance of leading your life with compassion, the complicated reality of conversion, and how to love Israel while still being politically progressive.

The Deal with Nissim Black is produced by The Joshua Network.

Episode Transcript

Introduction [00:00:10] 

This is The Deal With Nissim Black.

 

Nissim Black [00:00:25] 

Hey, hey, hey, what’s going on, everybody, this is Nissim Black, a.k.a. G0DSMAN, a.k.a. Hitler’s worst Nightmare, a.k.a. Sammy Davis cousin, a.k.a. Yehuda Blackabee. I was born in Seattle to hip-hop parents got in trouble as a kid, but I was able to make a major life turn around. I was a Muslim as a kid, I became a Christian in my teens, only to discover that my soul was Jewish all along. So I grabbed my wife and my kids and we picked up and we moved to Israel, where we are today. So welcome, all of you, to The Deal, where on this podcast we just discuss The Deal. The Deal from everything from God, politics, race, anti-Semitism and everything else that’s going on in the world and anything else that pops up to mind. I interview interesting people. I interviewed the best of people and I interview people that may not have the same view as me, but conversation rules the world. Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove is the rabbi of Park Avenue Synagogue. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago and he is one of America’s most prominent Conservative Jewish rabbis. Thank you so much, Rabbi, for joining me today. I really do appreciate having you on.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:01:47] 

I’m honored to be here.

 

Nissim Black [00:01:49] 

Honor’s all mine. You know, I am usually on the other end of getting questions. So there’s nothing I love more than racking other people’s brain and finding out what they have to say since I’ve been in the other hot seat for so long. So I appreciate being able to have this opportunity with you. And I’ve been looking forward to it. Just a couple of months ago, you had a fascinating sermon that was published where you discussed many different tensions between Jews in America and Jews in Israel. And particularly you focused on like the recent Israel Supreme Court decisions about conversion. So can you describe your personal experience working with converts and why you feel so passionately about this issue in particular?

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:02:33] 

First of all, it’s I mean, what I say, it’s a great honor to be here with you.

 

Nissim Black [00:02:38] 

Well, thank you.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:02:39] 

And I think the opportunity to be in dialog, we have so much that’s different, but we have a whole lot more that’s in common. We’re all created equally in God’s image and we all pray to the same God and to spend some time in your humanity and you and mine, we should have more moments like this.

 

Nissim Black [00:03:01] 

Amen.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:03:01] 

I am blessed to have been born Jewish and I have great respect for people and traditions that are different than my own. At the same time, for me as a rabbi, my job is to encourage people to live engaged, dynamic Jewish lives, to live a passion-filled Jewish lives. And for those people, either because they’re on their own spiritual journey or they’ve fallen in love with someone who’s Jewish and want to create a Jewish home, that my job is also to help facilitate that journey into the riches of Jewish tradition. And so, so Nissim, you know the statistics as was as well as I do, that living in America, whatever it is, 50 percent, more than 50 percent of Jews who are falling in love with people to build homes, they’re falling in love with people who are not Jewish. And so my goal is to create as many Jewish homes as possible. And so when I, you know when I join a gym, they don’t say get in shape and then join the gym. They say join the gym and then we’ll get you in shape. And so my attitude is it has to be within the bounds of Halacha, Jewish law with a mikvah, with circumcision, with a Beit Din, with a course of study. But I’m not about throwing up walls. I’m about creating, in the spirit of Hillel, when he was approached by a convert, that he was inviting and not hitting them away like Beit Shamai. Does that help? Good starting point?

 

Nissim Black [00:04:34] 

No. Very much so. I mean, it’s interesting because some people may or may not know what to expect, you know, when they’re on that journey. And they’re generally expecting, you know, at least in my experience, I was expecting to get the stick. I didn’t, I didn’t really get the stick. I sort of got a very benign, like sort of like, you know, relaxed like, yeah, yeah. You know, one day, yeah, we’ll talk about it one day, you know, type of thing. I think for me, because I was sort of prepared for it, I was like eager. But generally speaking and, you know, just in my own relationship with people, it’s very, very hard to deal with that type of thing. It’s very, very hard to feel like there’s some type of sense of rejection or perhaps you’re not being taken seriously or anything like that. You know, so not. That’s very, very big, obviously, like you say you’re doing in the ramifications of Jewish law. But I take my hat off, I keep my kippah on, but I take my hat off to you for that. For sure. For sure. I think it’s beautiful.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:05:27] 

And so that’s sort of where the drama begins, because I’ve sort of explained my position. It’s a very inclusive, embracing, if you want to join the Jewish people, then I want you to join the Jewish people.

 

Nissim Black [00:05:41] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:05:41] 

And as you know, the politics around conversion are very charged.

 

Nissim Black [00:05:46] 

Crazy.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:05:46] 

They’re charged here in America. They’re even more charged in Israel because the gatekeepers in Israel and who’s a Jew are a very small but powerful Haredi Chief Rabbinate that doesn’t see my rabbinate as a rabbinate, my Judaism as Judaism, and certainly the conversions around which I have authority and as a rabbi in my community as conversions. Whether that’s for the purposes of marriage or otherwise in the state of Israel. And so, I’ll just speak in clipped language here, with the pot shots that come out of the Chief Rabbinate and the Haredi community in Israel regarding non-Haredi Judaism are very hurtful, and when I’m told that I’m not Jewish and the Jews that I serve, their children and grandchildren aren’t Jews, well, first of all, that’s hurtful. Second of all, at the very moment that we want to create Ahavat Yisrael, that Jews love each other around the world and certainly between North America and Israel, and Jews are on the front line in North America as people are trying to delegitimize Israel. How can I defend Israel against its delegitimizers when Israel is delegitimizing me as a Jew? Does that make sense?

 

Nissim Black [00:07:16] 

I definitely hear it. So, somewhat of my own story, reason that I had to deal with that went viral. And to be honest, it was something I actually didn’t want to get out into the public. I was having trouble getting my kids in the school because of the color of their skin. Specifically a daughter of mine who I love dearly, who’s a bright young girl, who’s so loving. You know, she was at home for a year and a half of this battle, trying to find the school before we finally picked up and we left Shema and we moved to Beit Shemesh. To be in that type of situation and feel that constant rejection. Definitely, it’s not a good feeling. It feels awful. It’s hurtful. I mean, there’s nights you cry. I don’t know. You know, my my daughter still didn’t know what the reason was. I don’t know if she knows now. She didn’t know what the what the reason was, why we couldn’t get her into school. She just knew it was tough. However, I was asked by so many different people, like, doesn’t this make you feel like so much like, you know, forget it, how could you hold on to something so much where you feel so much rejection after you do so much? A lot of my life is dedicated to helping so many other people. I’ve been a person in the community where many people have sent their children to me who are having troubles with Judaism, staying on the path. You know, I was hosting forty boys every week for Shabbos meals, you know, for the Yeshiva Bochrim that were here from America and, you know, was called by Rosh Yeshivas and rabbis asking if their sons and their students could come by me for Shabbos. I was giving of myself in a major way and it felt like being stepped on when you’re asking also, too, for some help. So we did encounter those problems. Now, when I was asked by people like, doesn’t that make you feel like you want to give it up? So my answer was like this. My relationship to Judaism came because I built a relationship with Hashem. I built a relationship with God. So as hurtful as it is, I didn’t build it for the most those. I didn’t build it for the schools and for the organizations. They may come and they may go. But the relationship I have with Hashem, that’s what brought me here. Furthermore, well, gave me a lot of it was the story of King David. King David in his own right, had every right to defend himself against Shaul Hamelech from the kingship. And he would not lay his hands on Shaul because he understood that this is Hashem’s anointed king. And I will not leave a finger on him. In fact, even after someone else, you know, took it upon themselves to listen to the advice of King Saul to kill him, David Hamelech had him, David had him executed because he decided to do that. So I took from that a lot of strength. That helped me to realize that although I’m being rejected, although people are spitting in my face, you know, when I’m going into these interviews and I’m dealing with whatever, I was dealing with crazy stuff. Right. At the end of the day, these are Hashem’s people. This is Hashem’s children. It was a very, very powerful and hurtful, but, you know, it was a powerful experience. And I feel like I grew so much. And when we landed, oh, my goodness, my daughter is in the most beautiful school, the most beautiful life, the most beautiful friends. And, you know, I’m really thankful for that situation. You know what I’m saying? Looking back at it retrospectively, you know what I mean?

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:10:28] 

I look, first of all, thank you and thank you for sharing some of yourself. And we’re learning about each other even as we’re, you know, with your listeners. But I think for me, it boils down, you know, it’s going to sound silly, but haters gonna hate.

 

Nissim Black [00:10:44] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:10:44] 

There are going to be people, and I lead with love.

 

Nissim Black [00:10:47] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:10:48] 

I lead my life with love and I lead my community with love. And that’s not to say that it doesn’t get under your skin. Right. There have been tough moments where you have to catch yourself, where you have to be reflective, where you have to de-escalate, where you want to lash out. Someone writes something that’s hurtful. I feel very self aware and blessed to lead a large congregation, a Conservative synagogue here in Manhattan. It’s not a small thing.

 

Nissim Black [00:11:15] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:11:15] 

And I know that I have a responsibility to speak with passion and on behalf of my community and to fight the good fight. And sometimes that means to throw a flag on the field. When I see something happening that I say, this is just not right. But I always try to do it in a way that never damns a relationship.

 

Nissim Black [00:11:35] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:11:35] 

Because the person who’s at the other side of the table today might be your partner tomorrow. Who is it, Rabbi Israel Salanter, who said “Not everything that you think needs to be said, and not everything that you say needs to be published.” And I would add for the next generation, not everything that needs to be published needs to be put on social media.

 

Nissim Black [00:11:55] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:11:56] 

You know, there’s a real power. I have an entire file in my email, like emails I’ve never written or that I’ve never pressed send on. That I think of what I want to say. And then I say, you know what, Elliot? We’re trying to mend the world.

 

Nissim Black [00:12:11] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:12:11] 

We have to control our Yetzer Hara. We have to fight the instinct to lash back out and we have to lead with love. And it’s hard sometimes. Sometimes it’s very hard. It’s gotten me this far, so I’m sticking with it.

 

Nissim Black [00:12:27] 

That’s amazing. Speaking of leading with love, as the community is growing and everything is becoming more diverse than it probably ever has before. You know what’s different, I would say, about your synagogue and your movement, and what are you guys doing to make everybody feel more accepted and more welcome?

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:12:46] 

The starting point of it is to recognize that everyone is created in God’s image equally and with infinite dignity. That if you use that as your North star, that whatever the color of your skin, whatever your faith background is, whatever your sexual orientation is, if you’re old, if you’re young, if you’re single, if you’re married, whatever it is that everyone’s soul deserves to be served with equal dignity. That’s a good starting place. So that means what I’m trying to construct as a community is a community where everyone can feel that they stand before God as equals and that serving an American Jewish community and not an Orthodox American Jewish community, I recognize that not everyone is at home in the tradition. And so my responsibility as a rabbi, and this kind of goes back to the conversion conversation, is I don’t lead by way of wagging my finger and telling people where they fall short.

 

Nissim Black [00:13:53] 

Mhmm.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:13:53] 

I lead by trying to inspire people to meet people where they are and inspire them to go to the place where they aspire to be in mitzvot, in Ahavat Israel, in Talmud Torah, in all of the boxes, Nissim, that you and I would check as to what it means to be spiritually and religiously alive as a Jew. I try to be their, the shepherd that brings people to that place, but not by guilt, not by wagging my finger.

 

Nissim Black [00:14:25] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:14:25] 

But by inspiring people with words, with the music of the synagogue, and with feeling like the community needs that soul to truly be a community.

 

Nissim Black [00:14:38] 

Wow, that’s beautiful. So you speak and you write a great deal about, like, the tension that’s felt by American Jews about Israel and the way that they can often feel pulled in different directions by many contemporary progressive politics in America, especially after this most recent conflict. What would you say is the biggest sources of difficulty for you in that context right now? And how is your community reacting to what we all just experienced? Because we all just experienced it together, obviously.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:15:08] 

Yeah, well, it’s hard to be a progressive Zionist right now. I just came back from Israel. I was there last week.

 

Nissim Black [00:15:16] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:15:16] 

And I was there on a solidarity mission with about 20 other New York rabbis. And the narrative of Israel and America is one where Israel is positioned as the David. We used to be the David, now we’re the Goliath and the Palestinians are the David and that Israel is yet another colonialist oppressor and the plight of the Palestinians is yet another racial wrong that needs to be righted. And so the politics of intersectionality are that what’s happening with, I don’t know, last summer’s Black Lives Matter and George Floyd, of blessed memory, and otherwise is being repackaged as the story of, analogous to the story of the Palestinians. And I think those are clumsy intellectual steps, that it reflects a lack of understanding of what’s happening in Israel between, and I’m not saying things are perfect, and I’m not saying Israel’s perfect, and I’m not saying that there aren’t tensions, legitimate tensions, taking place between Israel and her neighbors. But I’m just saying that that mind-meld that’s taking place in the progressive community vis-a-vis Israel is very dangerous and very damaging. It makes it very difficult for me, someone who I would say, whether it’s immigration, whether it’s sexual orientation, whether it’s racial politics, I would define myself as very progressive in my orientation. But I would say I’m unapologetic as a Zionist, as a supporter of Israel.

 

Nissim Black [00:17:08] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:17:09] 

You know, that that slice of land that I stand on is not always the easiest place to stand.

 

Nissim Black [00:17:15] 

Right. I understand. I probably don’t share it. I’m a little less involved in American politics. Probably, I’mma be honest, I’m a lot less involved in politics altogether.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:17:27] 

Right.

 

Nissim Black [00:17:28] 

Even over here in Israel, even though I’ve been living here for like five years, I have absolutely no idea what’s going on in terms of my left and my right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:17:36] 

Can I ask you a question, though?

 

Nissim Black [00:17:37] 

For sure!

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:17:38] 

You’re an African-American, Hasidic Jew?

 

Nissim Black [00:17:41] 

Absolutely, I check all minority boxes.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:17:44] 

So, so how would you frame this if you were speaking to an African-American community that saw the plight of the Palestinians or the Palestinian-Israeli conflict as analogous to racial tensions in America? What’s, what’s the response to break out of that cycle?

 

Nissim Black [00:18:03] 

I would say that when you look at history, I don’t think that, you know, the African-American story serves as, I would say has any relationship to what the Palestinian story is compared to how many similarities they do have with the Jewish people. So historically, you know, Jews have been marginalized and also put in ghettos. And, you know, and with Hitler, Yemach Shemo, and everything else that happened that we saw before our eyes. But this has been going on for years, going all the way back to Egypt. So the African-American experience in America, specifically talking about during the times of, from slavery to segregation and Jim Crow era is much more comparable to what Jews experienced while they were in Russia and Poland and everything else. There’s much more of a common bond there than there is with the Palestinian story. By far. Another thing is that I would also begin to explain what my honest feeling of anti-Semitism is. I’m a very spiritual person, so I’m very spiritual-centric. One thing that I do believe is that there is this very, very well-known, especially amongst the Black community, we’re very spiritual people. So I would definitely love to mention that from the Bible’s understanding of a beautiful, unique relationship between God and the Jewish people. Meaning that one time I was asked myself by someone who was Jewish who said, do you believe that you can have a Jew without God? And I said, I don’t even think you can have God without a Jew. Meaning that the entire integrity that God gives of his existence is based on that what we would do is based on if something comes to pass, if it happens, if God says something to how do we how do we know such a thing is true? One thing that we see over and over again, forget all the things that have already come to pass. Just look at what will be and what God bases his whole entire integrity on. At the end of this whole entire dance, there has to be a Jewish people. That has to be a Jewish state or a Jewish country, and there has to be a Jewish king. This is what is written over there that every Black person reads when they go to church on Sunday or wherever else. And even in the Islamic Hadiths who stand on the other side of the battle, at the end of the day, have an understanding of the relationship between God and the Jews and have an understanding that there will be a Jews at the end. So these things are fundamental. So meaning that a Jew represents, regardless of how religious, non-religious, whether they believe or they don’t believe, represents is a representative of that relationship of God being in the world. I feel as the world gets to a place where this idea of God becomes more or less popular or becomes less wanted, and it’s less of an ideal thing that there’s an innate thing that people don’t understand, that they naturally begin to reject the Jew because it’s the representative that there’s a God in the world. Right? So I think that it’s even deeper than that. And that’s really how I will explain it.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:21:05] 

Can I ask you one more question, my friend?

 

Nissim Black [00:21:06] 

Absolutely.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:21:07] 

Because I’m not an Orthodox Jew.

 

Nissim Black [00:21:09] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:21:09] 

But you’ve probably been in rooms where people are saying all sorts of things about non-Orthodox Jews.

 

Nissim Black [00:21:16] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:21:17] 

What do you say to your Hasidic brothers and sisters when they’re denigrating, putting down people who worship God and live Jewishly in a way differently than them?

 

Nissim Black [00:21:30] 

So I think it’s like this. I lived for about, say, for two and a half years on Rehov Strauss, Strauss Street, Nathan Strauss in Jerusalem. Strauss generally serves as the border of conflict between the religious and non-religious. And Havganas or different type of protests and different things like that. And I had always been one who has said that if you’re going to scream and you’re going to throw rocks and you’re going to do whatever else that you did. And I’m not, you know, at the same time, you know, my thing is, like you said Ahavat Yisrael, you got to love the people on both sides. It’s not that I defend one over the other, but it’s a big question that if you really feel that passionate about it, how much time have you cried over the other person? How much have you prayed for the other person to realize the beauty of Shabbos? Right. So it’s much more for me that I feel like it’s a major misunderstanding. And I don’t even get into these type of things because I hate even the idea of saying, oh, I’m Haredi, I’m this, I’m that, or whatever. A Jew is a Jew. You know, I’ve been asked by many people, like, why did you become Hasidic? Why did you do that? Why didn’t you become like conservative? Why didn’t you become Reform? Like, first off, I wasn’t even you know, it wasn’t like it was a buffet, you know? And I was like, you know, I’m going to take this type of Judaism.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:22:48] 

Right.

 

Nissim Black [00:22:48] 

I was on a walk, and on a journey with God. And I really just landed where I felt it’s like, you know, you go with a metal detector, were I felt the treasurer was over there. That’s where I parked. And because of that because I come from the outside in, I don’t have any of those extra infighting, or conflicts. Especially when you’re going on this journey as you’re growing, you’re just happy to see a Jew. And I say this, you know, because of the conflicts here in Israel is very interesting. The conflict in Israel can put you uneasy if you just end up in the wrong neighborhood. You end up in a predominantly Palestinian neighborhood. As a Jew, you’re more likely to be in fear far more than any Palestinian ending up in a Jewish neighborhood. And guess what? That same person, no matter how religious, no matter how not religious he is, and no matter how religious or not religious the other Jew is, the moment they get to a place where they start to see Jews, immediately, all that fear and all the worry stops. Wow, I see a Jew. He’s not going to care if he’s Conservative. He’s not going to care if he’s Reform. You understand what I mean? So it’s I think a lot of it’s very, very petty and and I’m open about it. I’ve always been open about it, even without the other people in the Haredi community.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:24:02] 

We’ve got to, we’ve got to build more love. More Ahavat Israel.

 

Nissim Black [00:24:06] 

That’s it. We got to build more. We got to build more. You also do consider yourself as a progressive. So it seems like the left in particular has gotten very hostile towards Israel. And to some extent they gotten hostile towards Jews as well. From the Democratic lawmakers who openly call Israel an apartheid state, and they they want to even take away or defund the Iron Dome. They yell their support for the BDS movement, which is crazy to me, and how the whole entire society of the Palestinian world almost seems to be diametrically opposed to left progressive ideology and policy. What is it you’re feeling like? How can you still be a liberal and be excited? You know what I’m saying about being a liberal, knowing that this is the fact.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:24:56] 

First of all, I try not to brush everyone with one brush stroke, right?

 

Nissim Black [00:25:00] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:25:00] 

Not all Democrats are the same. They’re not all working off the same talking points. There are certainly people who have great antipathy for the Jewish state. And some of the language verges, if not, is anti-Semitic, not just anti-Zionist.

 

Nissim Black [00:25:16] 

Mhmm, mhmm.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:25:17] 

But not everybody. Like, I think that there’s intellectual laziness. I think there’s knowing your basic facts. As you pointed out, Nissim, that I think it’s just lazy to draw an analogy between what’s going on with the African-American community and what’s going on with Palestinians. I think I think there are more differences than there are things in common. For all the love that I spoke of, I actually think it’s more important than ever for people who stand in a center place that’s so important to me, of being progressive on social issues and a strident supporter of the state of Israel, to stand tall and stand proud and grabbed the megaphone because there are people on either side of the argument, the far left and the far right, who are dominating the conversation in a toxic way. So, I mean, all I have to say to you is I agree. For anyone who holds democracy, LGBT rights, the condition of the other, all the values that a progressive might hold, Hamas is the antithesis of those values. You know, Israel, I mean, today, I don’t know when this show is going to be broadcast, but today there are like these huge arguments over how the coalition is going to be formed and who’s doing what and in Israel, and that’s crazy. But it’s also a sign of how vibrant Israeli democracy actually is.

 

Nissim Black [00:26:50] 

Absolutely.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:26:51] 

And what you’re seeing with all the deal making and the and the posturing and, you know, whatever the drama, that reflects a vibrant democracy, which would never happen in Gaza right now. It’s an authoritarian rule of law. Right, last time I checked it’s been, sort of 14, 15. I don’t even know how many times since there’s been a Palestinian election. So I’m not proud of the fact that Israel keeps having elections every ten minutes. But at least I know the system works, right. At least I know that people are voting. I mean, I wish upon, you know, my Palestinian brothers and sisters that they should have such a vibrant democracy.

 

Nissim Black [00:27:32] 

Right, absolutely.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:27:34] 

But you and I know that’s not the case. Look, and it’s easy for me and you to say, but we’re, as I say, preaching to the converted. Right. You and I are, you know, I don’t know if we’re in agreement on everything, but I think we’re in agreement on this.

 

Nissim Black [00:27:48] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:27:48] 

The question is how to, how to convince the rest of the world.

 

Nissim Black [00:27:51] 

That was going to be my question. Yeah. Please tell me.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:27:55] 

I think you got to stand by your beliefs. You have to have a thick skin. You know, I think you have to listen to people where they’re coming from. And you have to engage with opinions that make you feel uncomfortable. You have to hope for a generosity of goodwill and curiosity of the other person. Look, if I get a phone call from someone who is sharing with me a difference of opinion, I might not change that person’s mind. But that person might be that much more thoughtful when he or she has their next conversation with someone else.

 

Nissim Black [00:28:34] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:28:34] 

And so this battle’s not won all at once or in one conversation, but you can’t stay on the sidelines. That was my message to my community last week, that some people get involved politically, some people get involved on social media. Some people like myself were lucky enough to go to Israel and show solidarity. But we all know that you can’t stay on the sidelines. You got to show up. However, whatever that means to you, you got to show up.

 

Nissim Black [00:29:03] 

Got to show up. And I agree with that. I mean, one of the things I’ve been saying is like the beauty of celebrating the diversity within Judaism is sort of like a smack in the face, right. So they’re already not paying attention to all the other components of, I would say, Israel as a country and everything it offers in terms of its alignment with the very world and ideology that rejects it because it’s you know, it seems to be opposed to it. But really, like we said, you know, in terms of the LGBT community and the support and different things like that that are coming out of Israel, and it’s just, it’s democracy and everything else that we talk about. You know, religious freedom, it’s really in line. But however, it’s not seen. But I think that the diversity within Judaism, you know how many people don’t know that there’s Black Jews? You know how many people don’t know there’s Teimani or Yemen? And their idea of Judaism is only, which is a very beautiful community that happen to be very close to, but obviously, you know, and come under the shadow and wings of the Ashkenazi community. But they think that that’s all there is. And so, therefore, if they can look, you know, quote unquote on the outside and put you in a box and say, oh, you’re the white oppressors of the of the dark-skinned Palestinians. You understand what I’m saying, well, hold on, hold on. We actually have a lot to celebrate in terms of our diversity of showing the world that this is a nation. Bigger than a religion, it’s bigger than a race. This is a nation. And I think that sometimes these type of things are like an ace of spades, that we can smack the rest of the world in the face with and be like, you know, hold on, we’re much bigger than what you thought. And especially given right now, in this time, in this climate, especially, of what’s going on, you know, politically and socially in the world. I think that there’s something to really be celebrated. I think that that will actually help the case also.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:30:56] 

Look I, all I have to say to that is Amen. Amen. Amen. I think that when people try to put others in a box and say Jews are all one thing, it’s speaking from a place of ignorance.

 

Nissim Black [00:31:09] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:31:09]

And lack of appreciation of the diversity of the tradition, diversity of our people. And it’s hard to change hearts and minds.

 

Nissim Black [00:31:19] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:31:20] 

But each one of us, you know, this is this idea of Shlichut, of each one of us have to be an emissary.

 

Nissim Black [00:31:26] 

Right.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:31:26] 

Or, as my kids say to me, we have to be the change we want to see in this world.

 

Nissim Black [00:31:31] 

Absolutely.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:31:32] 

And, you know, what did Rabbi Tarphon say in Pirkei Avot? That there’s a lot of work to be done, but we can’t desist from the task. And so, we’re not going to solve all of it. But I think even this conversation, me and you together here today, it’s been a pleasure. And thank you so much.

 

Nissim Black [00:31:50] 

Thank you. Thank you so much. I really do appreciate you coming on.

 

Rabbi Elliot Cosgrove [00:31:53] 

All right. Bye bye.

 

Nissim Black [00:31:55] 

Okay. Bye bye.

 

Nissim Black [00:32:06] 

Wow, wow, wow. Rabbi Cosgrove was like really amazing, was a great conversation to be able to have with him. Obviously, you know, we’re coming from two different worlds and that’s the most beautiful thing about it, like even coming from a different world, there’s so many different things that we connect on. And just being able to have this conversation with him really reminded me of how silly it is that there’s not dialog going on between people, with the rest of the world and all this chaos and all this. I feel like a lot of this could have been just sit down conversations, even though we don’t see eye to eye on everything. But it doesn’t mean that we don’t have, not only things that connect us, but wonderful things where we can actually build a bond and a connection over those things. So I really appreciated that conversation with the rabbi. And as always, you know, I got to leave you with a song. So the song this week is going to be All Black, which is one of my favorite songs. But I just think that this is allegiance of celebrating who I am looking at the externals really, all Black, not just the skin, but I’m dressed in all black and serving God and doing it in a language in a way that I understand that represents my diversity. So I really feel like it’s appropriate. Again, we’re out and I’m going to miss you. But you know how it goes. Only go from strength to strength.

 

Music: “All Black” by Nissim Black plays

 

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