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This very moving piece about Pittsburgh is by the son of my childhood rabbi. The son, Jonathan Berkun, was a very small boy when they left Hamden (CT, my hometown) for Pittsburgh. I did not know until the dreadful news came in from Tree of Life synagogue that that was the shul where Rabbi Alvin Berkun had served, nor that he was now their Rabbi Emeritus. Jonathan is now a rabbi as well, in Florida.

Of all the heartbreaking, soul-inspiring things he writes, the sentence about the waitress is the one that brought tears to my eyes. Shiva is the week of intense mourning that many Jews observe after a death in the family, during which the mourners do not prepare food. Serving a shiva meal in a pizza place: that’s what we will have to do for each other, white for black, non-Jews for Jews, non-Muslims for Muslims, native citizens for immigrants, hetero for LGB, cis for trans, native English speakers for English as a Second Language learners: everyone who has not been the latest salvo’s target for those who have been, because as long as we are united we cannot be defeated.

It makes me double down on my resolve to actively ally with those whose “category” I don’t share, especially African-Americans. I confess my slowness to take up their cause as passionately as my own, to respond as energetically to threats to their children as I do to threats to my own. I ask for their forgiveness, and forbearance as I work to change.

And I have an appeal to other religious leaders. Many of Pittsburgh’s Jewish leaders have told the president that he is not welcome to come to them as long as he is fomenting hate and violence. The murderer’s words were straight out of Trump’s speeches; the vicious, false fantasy of the dangerous refugee is the one Trump stoked and rode to the White House. His presence can do nothing to heal our wounds unless he accepts responsibility for his demagoguery and turns it around 180 degrees. And they are our wounds, not just Jews’ (as they were Saturday in Pittsburgh) or African-Americans’ (as they were on Wednesday in Jeffersontown, Kentucky) or Muslims’ (as they are prevented from traveling) or Mexicans’ and Central Americans’ (as they are in children’s prisons all along the border) or trans* folks’ (as their lives are redefined by the pseudoscience of bigots).

So we should all deliver the same message as those Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh: no politician who is inciting terrorism and enacting fascist policies is welcome in our communities. Trump doesn’t come to the Bay Area anyway, because he only likes to visit cheering crowds, but I’m still drafting a letter from clergy to the White House from my region because it’s what decent people do when others are threatened.

Will you do the same, dear colleagues of all faiths? Will you sign on, dear people of all faiths?

The following is the letter for our region. People of faith of the Bay Area, please “sign” in the comments, and I will compile all the names into a letter, which may be posted online as well as to the press. The names of faith communities and organizations are given for identification purposes only.

To President Trump:

We are faith community leaders and members in the San Francisco Bay Area. Like the leaders in Pittsburgh and tens of thousands of signers who asked you to stay away, we request that you not come to our region until you denounce white nationalism with both your words and your actions.

We have seen the rise of fascism before, and we recognize it in what you are doing and what you are inspiring. Demagogues whip their followers into acts of violence. These leaders need never strike a blow in order to rain down terror upon the people; indeed, many have been less explicit than you. You have urged your followers to beat members of the crowd, “Second Amendment people” to “do something” about Secretary Clinton, and police to slam suspects’ heads into cars. You have hailed as “[your] kind of guy” a thug who assaulted a journalist. Your power is built on scapegoating of the vulnerable.

Furthermore, you spread lies that feed fear and hatred. Your false, frequently-repeated claim that asylum-seekers, refugees and undocumented immigrants commit a disproportionate number of crimes was the reason the killer in Pittsburgh gave for his assault upon a synagogue that helps settle refugees.

You have consistently, repeatedly set yourself up as a threat to innocent people, due process, and democracy itself, and you have sought to enlist your followers to put your threatening words into action. When we look at our nation’s history, we see the times fascism has risen and been put down, and we vow to be this generation’s upholders of justice, democracy, and human rights. Until you uphold them as well, please do not come to the Bay Area.

In faith,


Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern
Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto
and (undersigned)
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I was at an 18-inning game once. Such sweet memories. Of Mom, for instance, who was keeping score, drawing in columns in every free spot in the scorecard so she didn’t miss a thing. Of Dad looking at us, measuring the two hour drive home and the determination on our faces, and logic, and illogic, and the quirks and flashes that make a family, and staying until the end. Of Rusty Staub out in the outfield, where he hadn’t been for years, trotting from left to right to left field at each at-bat depending on whether the batter was a lefty or righty, pull hitter or not: Davey Johnson playing the percentage as always and hoping the fat kid wouldn’t have to make a catch. And then a wayward ball heading to Rusty’s side of the field, and Rusty, in the game’s greatest moment, running with all his might and his eyes on the missile, and when he got his glove under that long, slow fly ball, we felt like we’d witnessed Willie Mays leaping to make his most improbable save.

My parents aren’t married to each other any more. I don’t follow the game. But all of this returns, a drop of maple sugar on the tongue, when I open up Facebook and see a night’s worth of notes from this friend and that. “Fourteen innings!” “Someone end it.” “Top of the sixteenth. Still tied.” “I’m too old for this.”

It’ll be a rough day tomorrow for you, and a tough end of Series for two depleted teams, but baseball fans, you watched two games in one last night. And now you can tell children twenty years from now how you saw the longest World Series game ever.

Trypophobia, I have recently learned, is a fear of holes. Many people with trypophobia not only give holes in the ground a wider berth than safety demands, but they can feel quite ill at even the sight of a photo of a hole. If you are such a person, you will want to stop reading now.

I seem to be the opposite. I must have trypophilia, because I am strongly drawn to holes and images of holes. I don’t (usually) want to enter them, but I do want to gaze at them. For example, I find this photo of the Seahorse Nebula, which appeared on NASA’s Astronomy Photo of the Day earlier this week, both beautiful and compelling.

It’s a bit dizzying, a bit frightening. I am not a roller-coaster person, but when I look into a hole, I think I understand for the first time how those who love roller coasters can enjoy the thrill of fear and happiness at the same time. That’s how that image makes me feel.

Andy Goldsworthy, one of my favorite artists, has created many works based on holes over many years. Every time I see one I gasp a little, with a mix of recognition, giddiness, and wonder to which I can put no name.

Holes / Middleton Woods, Yorkshire / 1 February 1981 is inviting and also suggests that maybe someone lives in that cozy spot.

His Rowan Leaves and Hole (1987) makes me feel as if I am going to fall endlessly, harmlessly through beauty.

The holes aren’t always empty. Sweet Chestnut Leaf Hole reveals more sweet chestnut leaves, and Hanging Hole is really as much a window or door as a hole; you know what lies behind it, because you can see the tunnel. In the case of Woven Branch Circular Arch (1986), you could even step through the hole–which is a hole, even though he doesn’t call it one.

But I’m most drawn to the ones that seem to go, either nowhere, or into infinity: to suggest a depth within the object they frame that the artist intuits but that would not otherwise be visible. The sculpture he chose for the cover of his book Wood suggests an infinite passage into a tree, and Pebbles Around a Hole, one through the planet itself.

I don’t know why I love these so much, but in my own drawings I’m sometimes reaching for that same paradoxical sense of presence in the space between.

I must have some things still to learn about the basics on my new phone, because this morning it woke me, not with an annoying beep beep, but with a gutwrenching reading of the headlines. I caught something about Trump’s latest way to hate on transgender folks while three people , I among them, were yelling “what IS that?,” “where IS it?,” and “turn it OFF!”

In case we needed another wake up call: fascism is on the march. We’ve seen this before. To paraphrase a favorite protest sign, First they came for the trans people, and we said, Not this time, m—-f—ers.

We’ve never been more needed, Unitarian Universalists. We’ll be taking about exactly this on November 4. Come to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto to hear about your lifesaving superpowers.

I love this art form, which I discovered when my daughter did some in school last year. I immediately introduced it in our monthly class at church, Exploring Mind, Hands, Spirit and Heart Through Art, and then offered it as a spiritual practice at a ministers’ retreat this week.

The mix of a found- and (for lack of a better antonym) created-art approach helps me get rolling. Words on a page suggest associations, and then the associations stimulate original ideas.

Here are two I made at the retreat.

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Beyond, more time for dreaming

For the first one, the words “an answer” and “caught” caught my eye first. I’d been pondering mystery and my own “irritable reaching after fact and reason” against which Keats counseled. Sometimes an answer prevents me from dwelling in the “uncertainties, mysteries, doubts” from which wisdom might emerge. So right away I knew I wanted to draw the bars of a cell across the part about the answer. I also wanted the piece to suggest a happier alternative, and while the words I found seem obvious now, it took some searching and thinking to figure out which ones to use, and how. When my eye lit on “beyond,” I had that second half.

The second piece ended up being about creativity itself. “A passage opened to her fingers.”

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A sigh hollowed out the chamber of The heart

Our unwitting, but I trust not unwilling, collaborator was Lloyd Alexander, since my copy of The Black Cauldron, from his Chronicles of Prydain, was in several pieces. I hated the cover anyway, which was the poster from the forgotten, and, judging from the drawing, lamentable, Disney version. I’m going to look for the edition with the cover I remember and loved in my childhood, and buy Taran Wanderer while I’m at it: my favorite of the series, which we don’t yet have. (My sister loved them too, and our set was hers, so I’ve acquired my own set piecemeal in adulthood.)

Look at that. I started out writing about art, and ended up writing about books. That tells you why I love this kind of art.

I’d like to share the ones colleagues made as well, but I only asked their permission to put them out on a table at the retreat, not online.

Try one yourself! If you don’t have a falling-apart book or can’t bear to write on one, a photocopy works. To see lots more examples, the best search term is “blackout poetry.”

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