“Press HERE for Power!”

I ran my first half-marathon (13.1 miles) this past Sunday: the Tampa Gasparilla Half-Marathon.

Banner from Gasparilla Half-Marathon 2015
Banner from Gasparilla Half-Marathon 2015

For me, this personal milestone was about overcoming obstacles. I sustained permanent neurological damage in my leg after I broke it in a cycling accident three years ago. This impedes my ability to run and train as I would like. I was determined not to let my leg “weigh me down”. I was determined to cross that finish line, despite my leg. And I did!

All along the race route, people held up posters and signs to encourage the racers. One poster in particular caught my eye. The sign said: “Press HERE for Power!” There was an arrow pointing to a star for us to “press.” The woman holding it stood along the trail with a huge smile on her face. Each of us who passed her sign, touched her star.

This sign, and the woman holding it, made me smile. She gave me that little extra “boost” of encouragement to keep on running. And I smiled again when I saw her a second time holding her sign, cheering us on, during the last half of the marathon as well.

I’ve been thinking about this sign “Press HERE for POWER!” since this past Sunday.

Each one of us needs to find a source of strength – a source of “power” to help us through life’s struggles, life’s challenges, life’s daily strivings.

For some of us, our metaphorical “power button” is our connection to our family and friends. For others, we find strength in our connection with God. For some, that faith is strengthened even further when we establish deep and abiding relationships with a sustaining community. At times, we find “power” in the beauty of nature. We can even find strength when we reach out a hand to help others.

For me personally, my strength comes from all of the above. I am so grateful to have wonderful family, friends and community who strengthen me, nurture me and support me.

I was able to get through the half-marathon with the wonderful support of my brother Ezra, and cousin Heidi, who ran the race with me.

My brother Ezra, me and my cousin Heidi after we completed the Gasparilla Half-Marathon in Tampa, Florida!
My brother Ezra, me and my cousin Heidi with our medals after we completed the Gasparilla Half-Marathon in Tampa, Florida!

In my every day life, my faith is an important part of who I am and informs how I interact with the world around me.

As Psalm 121 states:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from where shall my help come?

My help comes from the Eternal, Maker of Heaven and Earth.

The Age of 80 – The Age of Strength: Happy Birthday Rabbi Dow Marmur! (An Open Letter)

Rabbi Dow Marmur at 80: Happy Birthday! (February 10, 2015)

Dear Dow,

Happy birthday! At the age of 80, you have now reached the age of strength, according to our Jewish tradition. (Pirke Avot – Ethics of the Fathers – 5:22).

At 80, your strength comes not necessarily from your physical prowess, but from the life experiences and lessons that come with living for eight decades. Each of us has a story to tell, but your particular story is a story of triumph over evil, and success in overcoming extremely difficult beginnings. You have earned the strength of your years, the strength that comes with time and experience. (To read more, you can purchase Rabbi Marmur’s autobiography here: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1552636283/ref=olp_product_details?ie=UTF8&me= Six Lives: A Memoir, Rabbi Dow Marmur. Key Porter Publishers, 2004).

At 80, your strength comes from the intellect that you have developed and cultivated over the many years of learning, reading, teaching and sharing. You are one of the most gifted teachers I know. People flock to your courses, to learn from your wisdom. Your prolific writing is articulate, concise, thought-provoking and timely. You like to tell people that you have no “hobbies” per se, other than reading and writing. Your goal of reading at least one book/week has always inspired me to broaden my horizons, to stretch beyond my own comfort zone. Your passion for learning has helped to give knowledge, wisdom, learning and strength to so many others over the years.

At 80, your strength comes from knowing that you have done your part to help make this world a better place. Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook once said: “I don’t speak because I have the power to speak; I speak because I don’t have the power to remain silent.” You exemplified this ideal throughout your life: speaking out for those who could not/cannot speak for themselves. You taught that we have a moral obligation as Jews to speak out for injustice, to speak truth to power, to work toward a world where all God’s children can live with dignity. You taught that we must head the prophetic call and work for social justice, even if it is not popular.

At 80, your strength comes from the blessings of family and friends who surround you with their love, warmth and caring. Your family is, has been and will always be your number one joy in life. Your beloved wife Fredzia, your devoted children Viveca, Michael and Sarah, Elizabeth and Anthony and your doting grandchildren will always be your “strength of strengths” and the “heart of your heart”. Your dear friends enlarge that circle of love because you have been such a good friend to all of us. We all love you so because you have nurtured us and helped us to be the best we can be.

Dow, you have helped to give me strength. I feel so blessed to have your guidance and friendship for almost 26 years, first as my senior rabbi when I served under you at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. Since that time, you have been my trusted advisor and friend. We are also taught in Pirke AvotAseh l’cha rav, u’kneh l’cha chaver. – Make for yourself a teacher, and you will find for yourself a friend.” (Pirke Avot, Ethics of the Fathers 1:6) Dow, your friendship, sage wisdom and counsel always inspires me, guides me and encourages me. You have helped me become the rabbi and person who I am today.

Rabbi Dow Marmur blessing me at my Installation as Rabbi of Temple Isaiah, Stony Brook
Rabbi Dow Marmur blessing me at my Installation as Rabbi of Temple Isaiah, Stony Brook

So Dow, on this your 80th birthday, this age of strength, I wish you the blessings of continued strength, continued good health, much joy and laughter. Chazak, chazak v’titchazek. May you continue to go from strength to strength!

Happy Birthday!

Lots of love,


To read more about Rabbi Dow Marmur, Rabbi Emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple: http://www.holyblossom.org/about-us/rabbis-and-cantor/rabbi-dow-marmur/

(Note: Rabbi Michael Marmur, Rabbi Dow Marmur’s son, suggested that as a surprise for Dow on his 80th birthday, all those who choose, email him something in writing entitled “Dow at 80”, since Dow is usually the one sending out something in writing to all of his friends. This piece is written in tribute to Rabbi Dow Marmur on his 80th birthday. May we all find the same passion for learning, the same zeal for social justice, the same love of family and friends and the same strength to live life to our fullest as does Dow.)

Remembering Daniel Pearl..and Moaz al-Kassabeh

This week was the 13th anniversary of the horrific murder of journalist Daniel Pearl by Pakistani militants.

Pearl was kidnapped while working as the South Asia Bureau Chief of the Wall Street Journal and murdered by those who supposedly had links to Al Queda.

Since his death, evil in our world has continued to grow. African rebels take children away from their parents in grotesque civil wars.

Thousands and thousands of babies and children are starving and homeless as the war continues to rage in Syria.

The Islamic State (ISIS and ISIL) commits atrocities that know no boundaries.

We are sickened as we read of the latest murder by Islamic State terrorists: they lit a fire in a cage and burned alive the Jordanian pilot Moaz al-Kassabeh watching him die as the flames gathered all around. Of course they carefully recorded everything to show the rest of the world their deadly deed.

Beheadings, burnings, killings…these terrorists have lost all of their humanity.

They do this in the name of…Allah? Allah would not require barbarity and violence.

Allah would not ask that children become suicide bombers and become “martyrs” for their people.

No God who grants life requires death and violence and evil.

We learn in Pirke Avot – The Ethics of the Fathers: “In a place where there are no men (sic), strive to be a man”. (Pirke Avot 2:5)

This world will not be healed unless each of us stands up against the inhumanity, against the terror, against the evil and shows what it means to be a human being.

Each one of us needs to express our outrage, our indignation, our disgust, our shame at the evil taking place around us.

Each one of us needs to find our voice to speak out against evil – where ever it takes place, to take action against it. This is what it means to “strive to be a human being.”

May the barbarity and violence and evil end soon.