I Become a Man

Hard to believe, sixty years ago today I was Bar Mitzvah’d. I long ago forgot what my Torah and Haftorah portions were about. At Fairmount Temple, we didn’t have to deliver the weekly sermon, as many B’nai Mitzvah boys and girls do. But I recited my Hebrew portions perfectly and my voice didn’t crack when I chanted.

Later, the rabbi told my parents I would be a great rabbi. Obviously, I never followed that path. Instead, I went through a period in my twenties when I rejected Judaism altogether because my Judaism was middle class and I was rejecting the middle class.

I came back to Judaism first when I began noticing that an inordinate number of leaders of the Vietnam era antiwar movement were Jewish. I learned about the history of the Jewish Left in America and began to see Judaism as a social justice movement that was on board with my beliefs. The rabbi who married Emily and me was shot while marching down south with Martin Luther King, Jr. I saw him as being on board. The board of directors raised hell and said a rabbi shouldn’t be political. The board was not on board. 

Through action for social justice, I discovered a spiritual side of Judaism that had nothing to do with ancient rituals. I began meditating. When Zen masters meditate, they chant, “Om.” Jews chant, “Shalom.”

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Ken Wachsberger is a book coach, editor, and the author of You’ve Got the Time: How to Write and Publish That Book in You. Ken’s other books may be found here and here. For book coaching and editing help, or to invite Ken to speak at your meeting, email Ken at ken@kenthebookcoach.com.

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I Didn’t Organize

They came for the women but I was a man, so I didn’t organize.

They came for People of Color but my skin was white, so I didn’t organize.

They came for refugees from injustice but my ancestors arrived two generations ago, so I didn’t organize.

They came for working men and women but I owned my own business, so I didn’t organize.

They came for the poets and prophets but I minded my own business, so I didn’t organize.

They came for people who loved untraditionally but I was a man who loved a woman, so I didn’t organize.

They came for me, and there was no one left to organize.

(with gratitude to Martin Niemöller)

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Ken Wachsberger is an author, editor, book coach, speaker, and organizer. He is the editor of the landmark Voices from the Underground Series. He may be reached for speaking or coaching at ken@kenthebookcoach.com or https://kenthebookcoach.com