Greetings from Houston.

I just landed with 20 teenagers from New York for three days of Rebuild Houston. I’m so proud of the young women and men that here to make a positive difference in this local community, still facing significant issues 6 months into the hurricane recovery effort.

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Over the next 72 hours, we’re going to rebuild houses, work at the Houston Food Bank, sort clothing for homeless families living in shelters, and connect with the local faith scene. Tonight we’ll be celebrating Shabbat at a Brit Shalom synagogue and after a long day of work tomorrow, we’ll end the day at Lakewood Church with a visit to Joel Osteen.

We’ll be posting pictures over the weekend on our Facebook and Instagram pages. If you’re not already following us online, connect now so we can share in the experience together.

Now a word about the sadness, frustration, and broken hearts we have for the children and families in Parkland, FL. There are so many important voices calling for gun control and the enhanced restrictions on gun sales. We should join the chorus.

The wise sages in the Talmud said, “in a place where nobody is acting human, strive even harder to be a human being.” It’s not true that “nobody is acting human,” despite how it may feel when a tragedy like this occurs. My read is that more and more people are learning to be human and to lead with love and kindness and action – one example being the teenagers powerful call for action. Read this story for some inspiration –

Let’s join these teen-agers in Parkland, and by example the teens that are here with me in Houston, who are all making a positive difference. They could have chosen to retreat in fear and to silently get on with their lives in the classic self-focused teen-ager way, but they are not. Parkland is rallying. And we’ve got 20 teen-agers who chose to spend their President’s Day Vacation helping others in need. That’s inspiring to me. It gives me real hope that we’re growing as human beings who care about humanity. It’s a hint of a silver lining of light that can come from this dark tragedy.

Action is more than words and tikkun olam, the Jewish mandate to repair the world, is real. You may not have woken up this morning thinking that today was going to be your day to do something positive to make our world a better place, but it could be! Make a plan for yourself and those close to you to be kinder, more caring, and more loving to humanity. It’s not going to bring those innocent school children back to life, but it will be one more action to help our world get to positive.

Thank you for doing your part.

Rabbi Darren Levine

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