2013 Annual Letter from Rabbi Lerner
Dear Tikkun Supporter,
Every year at the time of the Jewish New Year I try to connect to people in the Tikkun and Network of Spiritual Progressives community to share an update about my own life, to discuss where we are politically, and to ask for your financial support.
I turned seventy this past February, but I didn’t have a party because Debora and I had just split up. We are now getting divorced after a fifteen-year marriage. It’s painful for both of us. During this hard time I’ve been so grateful for the loving support I’ve received from the global community of caring and love associated with Tikkun and the Network of Spiritual Progressives. Your being part of this community means a huge amount to me personally and gives me hope even in moments of personal sadness.
In the many months since my last New Year’s letter, we spiritual progressives have had some hopeful moments:
* The emergence of a Latino/Hispanic vote that joined with 70% of Jews, 95% of African Americans, and a variety of other progressive forces in the 2012 election to block a total takeover of the American government by forces seeking to dismantle government-mandated safety nets.
* The victories of gay and lesbian movements seeking marriage equality. As a rabbi I began conducting such marriages from the first year I became a pulpit rabbi. I’m delighted that gay couples are now gaining more acceptance in both the religious and secular worlds. Ten years ago, many “realists” dismissed the goal of marriage equality as “utopian.” Tikkun’s message: Don’t let the “realists” narrow your vision to what the media and politicians say is possible.
* The reintroduction of our Global Marshall Plan into this session of Congress by Hon. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.). This resolution insists that the most effective path to “homeland security” is not a strategy of domination (be that military, economic, or cultural) but rather a strategy of generosity and genuine caring for others. Meanwhile our push to get money out of politics and require corporate environmental responsibility (our campaign for an Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution) is slowly helping to transform U.S. ideas about what is possible in the political realm.
* The re-opening of negotiations between Israel and Palestine. While these negotiations face major obstacles to success, they reflect a growing global pressure from those who know that the Occupation is immoral and must end. During my recent trip to Israel and Palestine, which included meetings with the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority and other opinion shapers, I found growing openness to the thesis of my 2012 book Embracing Israel/Palestine: the idea that both sides have been suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and that each side needs to be able to recognize the humanity and decency of the other to make possible a just and lasting solution (in the Winter 2014 issue of Tikkun we will present the terms for a settlement that could work—I hope you’ll circulate it widely).
I’m proud that Tikkun/NSP was able to mobilize our community after the Trayvon Martin trial to show our outrage at the profiling, harassment, and economic deprivation that the African American community continues to suffer. NSP members went to African American churches to physically show that we were standing with our African American brothers and sisters. The experience reinforced our commitment to fight racism both politically and through acts of caring on a personal and communal level. And I’m happy to report that legendary civil rights champion and Baptist minister J. Alfred Smith Sr. has agreed to become a national co-chair of Tikkun’s Network of Spiritual Progressives!
The core idea that characterizes our spiritual progressive approach: love, kindness, generosity, and caring for each other and the earth must become the explicit goals of any liberal or progressive movement seeking to heal and transform our world. Though we at Tikkun and the NSP fully endorse liberal and progressive fights for economic entitlements and political rights, they are too limited, fail to speak to the heart, and do not explicitly highlight the way capitalism’s ethos of materialism, selfishness, and endless economic growth not only endanger the environment but also undermine community, solidarity, friendships, and loving relationships, and lead people to despair about each other and about building a world that is ethically coherent and spiritually nurturing.
What makes me optimistic, even in the face of the Obama administration’s centrism and the fragmentation of liberal and progressive movements, is that love itself permeates the universe and continues to manifest itself in the aspirations of most human beings. I call this Love’s Rebellion—a refusal to accept the ethos of materialism and selfishness as the ultimate truth of our lives, an insistence on seeing the goodness and generosity in others, and a determination to replace “power over” with genuine caring for each other!
Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous speech did not reach the hearts of America with a cry of “I have a complaint.” No, it was “I have a dream.” Today, the liberal and progressive forces know what they are against but rarely articulate a vision of what they are for. That is why our visionary work is so vital and why we need you to help us financially in whatever way you can. And please consider putting Tikkun in your will to ensure that this important work can carry on to keep a vision of a caring society alive for future generations too!
To spread this vision, we also need a core of activists and leaders who can articulate Love’s Rebellion, so we’d like to invite you to participate in a training to become an activist or leader of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, Jan. 17-20, 2014 (details at spiritualprogressives.org/training). Don’t miss this amazing moment—check it out!
Of course Tikkun and all this is only possible because you and others are willing to support us, partly through membership fees in the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and partly through generous donations in response to this annual appeal letter. We are hoping that you will stretch way beyond what you can normally give, and donate $2,500, $1,000, $500, or $300. But whatever you give (even just $36) will be important to us and make our financial survival possible. Please donate online at tikkun.org/donate, or with credit card by phone at 510-644 1200 between 9 a.m. and noon Pacific Time.
Meanwhile, let me extend my blessings to you for a coming year filled with health, love, and well-being at every level and, for our globe, a year of peace, the flourishing of justice, environmental sanity, and major steps toward the success of Love’s Rebellion!
Rabbi Michael Lerner