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Dear Friends,

I have long argued that the true religious divide in our country is between fundamentalists and non-fundamentalists.

On the one hand, there are those who believe with absolute certainty that they can lay claim to “The Truth.” Anyone who disagrees is, by their definition, wrong. Often times, that perspective leads them to advocate for laws and policies that impose their “Truth” on others.

On the other hand, there are those who respect and value a multitude of perspectives and would never claim theirs is the only perspective that has value or merit. Often times, that perspective leads them to advocate for laws and policies that expand rights and seek to create a society that protects the vulnerable and is evermore inclusive.

In a recent series of Tweets, my friend and colleague Rabbi Victor Urecki addressed this divide and its impact in a manner I found powerful and profound. Seeing a recent study that indicates a rapid decline in religious affiliation, he wrote,

Religion is in decline in America.
I wonder why.
Is it because the next generation sees people of faith more outraged by how one identifies sexually and not pained by those without homes on our streets?
Is it because religion is too often in the news for positions taken that deny the dignity of others?
Is it because faith leaders and followers rail about people in loving relationships that do not diminish their own in the slightest but never voice compassion, kindness, and extending love to those who are marginalized?
Is it because the next generation sees religion used to divide rather than unify?
Religion is in decline in America.
I wonder why.

Like me, Rabbi Urecki believes that, at its best, religion is aspirational and moves us to be more loving, more caring and more inclusive. As he put it in another series of tweets,

Religion is about creating awe, not channeling fear.
Angering the powerful, not empowering the angry.
Helping the marginalized, not marginalizing the helpless,
Bringing wisdom and not stoking ignorance.
Embracing Inclusivity and not sowing division.
Loving the isolated and isolating the hater.

That is the community we seek to build at TSTI. It is an ongoing process and there are missteps and setbacks along the way, but that does not diminish our commitment to creating a community that is constantly seeking to be more inclusive, more caring and more loving. In recent weeks I have seen numerous examples of that in our TSTI family. At our Annual Meeting next week I look forward to sharing a few of them with you.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Daniel Cohen