At the Cemetery: Stones & Tears

As Jews, we carry not flowers, but stones to the cemetery.

Flowers are beautiful but death is not

so we bring stones so as to be realists –

so as not to gloss over the pain of death.

Our hearts are still torn –

even as the years and decades may dull the searing sting.

Each stone holds stories –

of a parent’s or grandparents’ love for their children or grandchildren

tragically stolen from this world in the wrong order,

turning their lives upside down in a way that it may one day be better,

but never completely right. 

of a spouse losing their soul mate and best friend —

a bond built over decades suddenly broken

leaving the living with a desperate longing,

half their life and half of themselves feels gone.


Stones marking friendships that sustained, parents that unconditionally loved,

mentors that inspired, leaders that awed,

humble people who loved and lived their best lives.

Stones hold tears.  Of broken hearts. Of broken families.  Of broken lives. 


Yet stones can become smooth and grief can soften.

We leave the stones and we live.

We do not bring flowers but stones to the cemetery.

Stones always remain as does our love.


That Person is a Mensch

That man is a mensch… April 2021

That person is a mensch,

who lives each day to its fullest;

who loves deeply and gives generously,

earning the admiration of all;

who fills the world with laughter and love, befriending every person;

who continually seeks knowledge and wisdom,

making mitzvot and the lifting up of others and the community

the centerpiece of his days;

whose soul brightens the world and

who breathes her last breath in peace —

knowing he left the best of who he was

inside all whom he touched.

A Cosmic Kinship - August 21, 2014

by Rabbi Judy Schindler

A poem inspired by a conversation on
Kinship and Conflict: Black/Jewish Relations
with Dr. Ron Carter at the Levine Museum of the New South

Remember, you were slaves.

Together we remember
Seas crossed, campuses crossed, lines of protest crossed.

At times we walked together.
At times we walked apart.

Holy ground in Black churches
Holy ground in Jewish synagogues
Yet we all come from the same ground
In Hebrew, adam from adamah
In English, human beings from the dust of the earth
Given life by the breath of God

Brothers disappoint
Brothers uplift
Brothers hurt
Brothers heal

May we find common ground.
May we find holier ground.
May we find higher ground.

Paper - Yad Vashem 2013

Ecclesiastes says: havel havalim hakol havel – vanity of vanity, all is vanity.
We struggle to hold on to our past

Grasping at photos in our pockets
The only physical ties we have to who we are
Meaningless to them, beyond measure for us
The burning of pages articulating
Ideologies out of their “Aryan” box

Newspaper clippings writing us out of humanity
Our sacred scrolls… holy parchment
We did all we could to hold them fast
But still they were set aflame
A Czechoslovakian Torah stands in the heart of our Beth El ark
Telling a past far deeper than the history our five books hold
A torn page of a destroyed Torah hangs in my home
As I relax with my family at the end of each day
I can see it in the corner of my eye

Silver can be sold
But paper and parchment our enemies would try to turn into ashes
Our family tree will forever hold the pain of the millions they murdered
Words, prayers, God, could not, would not, disappear
Holiness transcends hate
Christians and Jews take sacred steps together through our past
Our shared journeys, our shared stories, help us heal

Havel havalim. Vanity of vanities. No.
Our past is not gone
Kodesh kodashim – it is holy of holies

Soul Prints (Interfaith Journey 2013)

Toward the altar of old, Jews travelled from the farthest places to Jerusalem.
With sacrifices in hand, they hoped to appeal to the Divine.
Toward the altars of today, Jews and Christians travel to the holy land.
Some bring empty offerings – tourists snapping pictures and purchasing postcards.
Others bring sincere sacrifices – pilgrims saying prayers and meditating on their purpose.
Tourists leave foot prints.
Pilgrims leave soul prints.
The sacred dust that attached to the cloth where they dried their weeping eyes
Is their souvenir calling them to act.

Blacks and Jews Walking Together - Then and Now

by Rabbi Judy Schindler

Book burnings, cross burnings, hangings, lynchings.
Pasts so painful they are hard to face.
Times when human decency,
human dignity were hidden from sight.
Society structured to dehumanize,
Laws passed to limit options, to limit life.
Evil unleashed.

Not all was lost.
The Nazis, the KKK could not
take away our minds,
our longing to learn.

Joint destinies:
Jewish refugee scholars and Black Southern college students,
Shalom Park Jews and Freedom School scholars
Transforming each others’ lives.
Passing through the waters to a better life.
Passing through the waters to a free future.

Stop The Sirens!

By Rabbi Judy Schindler

Stop the sirens
they blare so loudly in my ears
that I can hear them
even when they are silent.

Stop the rockets
being showered across my country
sounding ceaseless red alerts on my phone
and leaving hardly a home safe.

Stop the tears
of grief over loved ones being lost.
The pain seems ceaseless.
Sleep provides no shelter.

Stop the fear
of death and destruction tormenting
innocent Israelis and Palestinians alike

Stop the pain
of wounded bodies and souls.
and the evil of using children
as human shields.

Stop the guns in Gaza.
We know that war is not the path to peace
(yet in helplessness and hopelessness
we are drawn into aggression
as a means of achieving safety and security).

Start shouting loudly
for cease fires to be signed.

Start condemning the acts of
and demanding justice for the fanatics
who stole Eyal, Gilad, Naftali, Mohammed
and far too many others from our world.
May all know that uprooting radicalism
is our collective goal.

Stop listening to those
who deny the legitimacy
of Israeli’s rights to their homeland
or Palestinian’s rights to build a peaceful state.

Start expressing faith in the innocent
across borders who, like us, want peace

Start praying passionately
for cycles of vengeance to be broken
and a vision for a sustainable and successful
two state solution to emerge.

Stop the sirens.
Start the path to peace.

The Numbers of War and Peace: My Kol Nidre Prayer

By Rabbi Judy Schindler

Consider the numbers linked to war
and the numbers allied with peace.
The Syrian numbers of strife:
100,000 killed
4.25 million displaced inside the country
Every 15 seconds a Syrian becomes a refugee
Adding up to 2 million forced to flee
1400 killed in a sarin gas attack,
among them
400 children.

Sarin, the deadly nerve gas
developed by the Nazis in 1938.
Sarin, used by Saddam Hussein
to kill thousands of Kurds in 1988.

The numbers of concerned neighbors and world citizens:
8 hours in an Israeli line to get a gas mask
2 more Iron Dome defense systems deployed to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem
25 nations supporting a strong international response .

The numbers connected to our past:
11 million murdered, among them
6 million Jews, among them
1.5 million children.

And then there are the numbers of peace:
One God, one soul,
One man, one woman, one child

In Judaism, counting people is prohibited.
Numbers dehumanize,
Every soul is one.

When that one Syrian child asks,
“Where was the world?”
May we have an answer
that is worthy in God’s eyes,
and in our own.

Grant us wisdom,
grant us compassion,
grant us peace.