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Jewish Journal

Looking Back on JFK

by Beit T'shuvah

November 22, 2013 | 1:38 pm

By Rabbi Mark Borovitz

As I sit here this morning, 50 years to the day after President John F. Kennedy was murdered by Lee Harvey Oswald (and/or others to satisfy my own conspiracy thoughtssmiley) I am struck by how this still informs my life and the lives of all of us.

Whether John Kennedy would have stopped Vietnam, whether he was a Great President, etc. doesn’t figure into my thinking at the moment. What he did for me, for my generation, and for my parents’ generation was give hope and vigor to a nation that had fallen into status quo. John Kennedy made me believe anything was possible, if we would work hard, think smart and be of service.

His assassination stopped the dreams and hopes of a nation and a world. I hear his words echoing in my head about Civil Rights, Space and most of all: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” He showed us the way through the Peace Corps, a program that my nephew worked on just 2 years ago. He showed the way by battling pain. He showed the way through confrontation and responsibility.

John Kennedy was NO SAINT. He was human and he had flaws. This blog is not about making him wonderful. It is about what he brought to our country’s consciousness and what we need to re-kindle: SERVICE!

We are in a society that says and acts in a “where’s mine” attitude. I lived this attitude when I was a criminal and a drunk. President Kennedy’s legacy is one of “what can I do for my fellow person.” Over 52 years ago, President Kennedy told us all to see ourselves as if we can make a difference, see ourselves as obligated to make a difference and see what we can do to better our surroundings and our neighbors.

There is an Eternal Flame that burns at his gravesite in Arlington National Cemetery. Like the Ner Tamid, it reminds us that there is something greater than ourselves to serve. I ask all of us to remember and rededicate ourselves to this obligation. I ask our Congress and President to honor our tradition of service to others not ideology. Ideology is not a person, it is not to be lived in a vacuum, if an ideology doesn’t serve the poor, the widow, the orphan and welcome the stranger, then it is to be thrown away.

Today, on the 50th Anniversary of the Assassination of the President that imbued me with a sense of obligation to service, I rededicate myself to this ideal, to this action. I beg of you to join me in being “Addicted to Redemption” by being of service today and everyday through commitment, obligation and love.

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