For those that have been lucky enough to hear Rabbi Michael Latz’s sermons at Shir Tikvah or read his passionate Facebook posts, his sense of social justice is easy to grasp. For everyone who hasn’t, he has you covered now, too. Last week, Latz published a book of his sermons and other essays “Spiritual Resistance: Hope For Today” last week. All proceeds are going to Shir Tikvah.
“This is not a magnum opus; It’s a couple sermons and reorganized Facebook posts, but hopefully it helps other people have a language of resilience, resistance and repair,” he said. “When I wrote these sermons and various things, I’m hoping to keep hope alive. I see people all around me in deep despair.”
Latz credits his friend and Rabbinic colleague Menachem Creditor at Congregation Netivot Shalom in Berkley, Calif., for nudging him to publish.
“He has an unbelievable moral audacity,” Creditor said. “He speaks in a way that helps Jews and non-Jews. I want to be an amplifier for voices like his.”
Creditor wrote the forward of the 80-page book, which was quickly published thanks to Amazon’s self-publishing platform.
“It’s one thing to have textual literacy and it’s another to embody the message of the text,” Creditor said. “His synagogue community is not just blessed to have his activism, but his Jewish leadership. Hes not willing to leave behind the depth of his Jewish learning as he mobilizes. The Jewish community has a lot to offer to build a just society.”
Latz said that his activism goes beyond the politics of Democrat and Republican.
“My commitment to tikkun olam are mizvot,” he said. “For me, the animating factor is Judaism and what my understanding of Judaism calls us to do.”
Latz quotes the Book of Micah: “Act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
“I’m trying to move beyond debate of left and right and trying to create moral center; not necessarily in terms of politics, but a sense of what’s the source of our moral commitments and justice commitments. Without a doubt it’s born from Torah and Talmud and 3,000 years of sages wrestling of God’s demands of us and the rest of the world.”
Latz is hopeful the book will show the way to improved public discourse.
“It’s important and necessary is to have moral leaders engaged in a conversation about civility and public discourse,” he said. “Regardless of if you agreed or disagreed with President Obama, he always modeled grace and graciousness. To have a president in the White House [whose adviser] said it’s the media’s job to [“Keep it’s mouth shut”] is morally appalling. Faith leaders need to be out there modeling what’s moral, must and right, regardless of politics.
“I feel like one of the rabbi’s primary tasks is to look to our tradition, mine and cull for sources of hope and resilience. The blessing of being a rabbi and having studied Jewish history is that there are the stories and texts of people who have faced pharaohs and despots and cruel rulers. And we’re still around. It’s got to be a sense of the relentless pursuit of decency. It’s imperative for me, and it won’t come at cost of being silent.”