A letter to those who care about Tikkun surviving from Rabbi Michael Lerner, Nov. 14, 2011
I don’t know if you got the snail mail letter I sent a few weeks ago but since I haven’t heard from you, I’m trying email. I like to update our community each year about my personal news and our Tikkun/Network of Spiritual Progressives situation as we enter into the holiday season and into the new year. I know this letter is long, but please read all of it!!! If you’d prefer, you can read it on line at
Let me start with some great personal news. The nodule on my lungs has not grown, and there is no indication of cancer elsewhere in my body as of the last CT scan in July. So the prayers of our community are working and the surgery removing half of my lung was successful! In fact, I’m feeling so frisky that I got a new dog named Chamoodi (Hebrew for sweetie) and I’ve been involved in Occupy Oakland—celebrating its beauty and strength, and yet trying to convince them to explicitly embrace nonviolence and reject destruction of property (without forgetting that the violence of the system that we are protesting is far worse than anything done by the small group of property-destroyers). Yet those who advocate “a legitimate role for violence” or participate in smashing windows at corporations like Whole Foods (yes, that’s where they smashed windows!) actually end up providing perceived legitimacy in the public mind for police violence. They make it easy for the media to shift attention away from the legitimate demands of this movement. The Occupy movement has already made a powerful contribution by helping people see their situation in terms of the 99 percent who have suffered from the class war that has been waged against us by the 1 percent and their various allies in the media, the political establishment, the corporations, many of the big foundations, and academia. I’ve written about this on our website (www.tikkun.org), and I hope you’ll read my article there titled “Praying with our Feet at Occupy Oakland.”
I was actually quite disturbed this past Wednesday, November 9 when someone calling for non-violence at Occupy Oakland’s General Assembly was booed when he mentioned the names of Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. and later when a motion endorsing “a variety of tactics” (code words for allowing continuation of property destruction as one of that “variety”) received close to 65 percent of the vote (though it didn’t pass, because they require 80 percent to pass). Please do check out my article on all this. I am very supportive and enthusiastic about the Occupy movement, and think it has done so much to help revitalize hope and consciousness about the vast inequalities and injustices in our own society, so I really don’t want any of its branches to shoot themselves in their own feet! You can read more about this by clicking here.
Tikkun is Staying in Print if…
More GOOD NEWS: Tikkun is going to stay in print! We’ve entered into an agreement with Duke University Press in which they will print and send out the magazine as a quarterly. We pay them $32,500 a year to partially offset the cost of printing and mailing, plus we pay the cost of our own staff. (We had to reduce our staff from six full-time staff to two full-time and one part-time; this included laying me off and making me a volunteer editor.) The downside of this promising new deal is that we need to ask those of you who want to receive the print magazine in the mail rather than read it online to pay an additional $10 a year. All members of the NSP and subscribers to Tikkun will still be able to log into www.tikkun.org and read the full print magazine online without that additional charge.
We sent out an email last spring to explain how to access the content on our website that is only available to NSP members and Tikkun subscribers. If you missed it, don’t worry! You can register by going to this secret link: www.tikkun.org/online. If you’ve already registered but forgot your user ID or password, go to www.tikkun.org/forgot for automated instant assistance. And please, if you’re confused or need help, don’t hesitate to email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Reach and Teach, the company that manages our websites, at 1-888-PEACE40. Of course, this won’t work if you have not yet joined or renewed your 2011 membership to the Network of Spiritual Progressives. (Please join or renew now or subscribe to Tikkun.)
Even though we’ve signed this deal with Duke, we’ll only stay in business if NSP members renew their memberships, if Tikkun subscribers renew, and if many chip in with a yearly tax-deductible contribution to our nonprofit. This letter is part of that appeal for a contribution over and above the cost of membership or magazine subscription. You can also help us by getting others to join NSP or buying them gift memberships or gift subscriptions to Tikkun in honor of special occasions or as a holiday gift. It’s this simple: without your support, we won’t be able to pay any staff or keep the print and online versions of Tikkun afloat. With your support, Tikkun and NSP will continue being the unique voice that we have been for many years.
We know that this is a tough time economically for most of our community—which is why it is so necessary for you to go the extra mile in supporting us, because many of our readers and supporters simply can’t give very much at this point. You can donate online at www.tikkun.org/donate or at www.spiritualprogressives.org. Or you can mail us a check made out to Tikkun and sent to us at 2342 Shattuck Ave, #1200, Berkeley, California. Or you can call and give us complete credit card information at 510-644-1200. Whichever way, please do it now. Your donations are tax-deductible and will give you access to the online magazine; for an additional $10, we can renew your print subscription to Tikkun.
Why Bother? Our Unique Function
Here is our unique function: while others agree with this or that specific policy idea or campaign, we are one of the very few progressive think tanks/activism-generators that has developed a coherent worldview capable of uniting much of the liberal and progressive forces and reaching out to many who would never normally agree with the Left. Moreover, while much of the Left is good at saying what is wrong, we insist on providing a vision of a positive alternative to the present reality. You won’t find our synthesis of progressive ideals, psychological depth, openhearted spirituality, and economic/social policy sophistication in many places in the world. This is all the more reason to keep Tikkun alive and to support the NSP. We have a vision, we have specific campaigns to promote a new bottom line, and we’ve got tens of thousands of people hoping that we succeed. But this will only happen if you give generously at this time.
This Past Year
We’ve had an intense year. We celebrated our 25th anniversary and presented the Tikkun Award to Justice Richard Goldstone, Congressman Raul Grijalva, Naomi Newman, Rabbi Marcia Prager, C.K. Williams, and Sheikh Hamza Yusuf. It was a beautiful celebration attended by 700 people and filled with a wonderful spirit of unity and camaraderie. We enjoyed music from Emma’s Revolution, Reverend Lynice Pinkard, and Cantor Jack Kessler. We also heard wonderful presentations from the awardees, from our past publishers (Nan Fink Geffen and Trish and George Vradenburg), and even from the comic Swami Beyondananda.
Meanwhile, in March 2011, Congressman Keith Ellison re-introduced our Global Marshall Plan as House Resolution 157, and Congressman Dennis Kucinich introduced a resolution supporting our Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (ESRA) as House Resolution 156. ESRA would overturn the Citizens United decision of the Supreme Court, eliminate all private or corporate money in elections so that they would be solely funded by public monies, and mandate that corporations follow environmental and social responsibility protocols. To make this more than a symbolic gesture, we need YOU to ask your elected representatives in your local city council and state legislature to introduce and pass one or both of these resolutions.
We’ve also resumed our central role as an interfaith organization advocating for Middle East Peace. We still believe that a two-state solution is desirable, though if it does not come into existence soon, we will support a different strategy: demanding one vote for every person directly or indirectly under Israeli rule. We believe that peace with justice and security is in the best interests of both Israel and Palestine.
We have been vocally critical of acts of terror committed by Hamas and some Palestinian groups this past year, and equally critical of Israel’s continuing Occupation of the West Bank, its regular “targeted assassinations” of “suspected militants,” and its continuing blockade of Gaza. And we are very upset with the way the Netanyahu government has blocked every possible move for negotiations by rapidly building more and more Jewish-only apartment complexes in Palestinian East Jerusalem.
And we’ve been particularly saddened that the Israeli Knesset has passed a law making it possible to sue any Israeli or Israeli organization that supports boycotts, divestment, or sanctions against Israel or against the settlers and their products. We at Tikkun have not previously supported BDS. This outrageous new law has motivated us and other peace organizations to support a targeted form of BDS—NOT against Israel, but against products made in the West Bank settlements or weaponry made by international corporations to maintain the Occupation (such as bulldozers to destroy Palestinian homes). We want Israel to remain safe and strong, but we do not want the settlements to be supported and enabled. And we want to do all we can to encourage the creation of a Palestinian state living in peace and harmony with Israel—an outcome that is not utopian if Israel is willing (which the current Israeli government is not), and if Hamas can be marginalized (which it could be, if Israel and the United States adopted a strategy of generosity instead of a strategy of domination).
The U.S. lost much of its legitimacy as a “broker” by announcing that it would veto the Palestinian bid for membership in the U.N. We believe that non-violent methods adopted the Palestinian people are totally appropriate as a way to resist the Occupation and challenge the continuing extension of Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The Netanyahu government has lost all of its credibility. (Did you hear about French president Sarkozy’s “off the record” comment to Obama that Netanyahu had lied to him so frequently he couldn’t believe a word that the Israeli prime minister was telling him?) Oy, it’s with a heavy heart that we watch Israel engage in self-destructive behavior. Let’s hope that Israel doesn’t choose a path of war by attacking Iran, as Netanyahu and others seem to be suggesting publicly (hopefully only as trial balloons). This is a path that several of Israel’s former directors of Mossad and other intelligence agencies have warned against. I don’t want to see the suffering of the Israeli people get worse.
I’ve just published a new book called Embracing Israel/Palestine—an updated analysis of what would bring peace to the Middle East that includes events up to the summer of 2011. It will be in bookstores by November 22nd. It’s distributed by Random House and published by North Atlantic Books. If you’d like to arrange to bring me to your community to talk about the book and my analysis of what we in the West could contribute to bringing a lasting peace to the Middle East, please contact email@example.com. For example, I’ll be speaking in Walnut Creek at 7 p.m. at the Mt. Diablo Peace and Justice Center on Nov. 29; in Manhattan at All Souls Unitarian Church at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 4; in D.C. at Busboys and Poets on Dec. 6 from 6 to 7:45 p.m.; in Oakland at the First Unitarian Church on Sunday, Dec. 11; in Portland on Jan. 19 ; and in New York City again at the Riverside Church’s morning service on Sunday, Jan. 22; and later that day I’ll be speaking at the Romemu Synagogue with Rabbi David Ingber (co-sponsored by the Open Center). So if you can arrange something in your area, please try!
The endorsements have been amazing, even when taking into account the wild inflation in praise that usually comes from people who endorse books. They come from former chair of the Knesset Avrum Burg, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, first Muslim to be elected to the Congress and now chair of the Progressive Caucus Hon. Keith Ellison, the distinguished scholar of religion Robert Bellah, West Bank Palestinian activist Sami Awad, and many more. Take a look at a few of these endorsements (click here), and you’ll see why we at Tikkun would be happy if you’d get your local newspapers to review the book, and if you would order the book for yourself and have it sent to friends and members of your family, community or workplace for Chanukah, Christmas, and other holidays or special occasions. You can order it online for $20 (which includes our cost of shipping and handling) or get your local bookstore to order it and maybe arrange a book reading with me (through firstname.lastname@example.org). And yes, it’s available on Kindle through Amazon.
Some Political Reflections
We rejoiced at the Arab Spring because it helped so many people realize that the vast majority of Muslims and Arabs want the same kind of democracy and human rights that we in the West value. Their extremists and totalitarians do not represent the actual aspirations of Muslims and Arabs. For a moment, the veil of “otherness” faded and we could see the beauty and humanity of the Arab and Muslim peoples of the world. It remains to be seen, however, whether that moment will translate into lasting transformations—the military in Arab countries is already reasserting itself to the detriment of the human-rights-respecting forces.
We take no joy in seeing that President Obama’s capitulation to the programs of the political Right has yielded the very loss in popularity we predicted. The right-leaning mass media and the pro-Netanyahu voices in the Democratic Party have interpreted the recent Republican victory in former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s traditionally Democratic district as evidence that the President must pander to Netanyahu and right-wing Jews. However, we think the reason for this defeat is the same reason Democrats may face a huge defeat in 2012: their inability to stand for something and consistently fight for it. In fact, when people have stood up and fought for their progressive ideals, they’ve frequently won. (Check out the results in Ohio and other states where progressives won many, many battles in the November 8 elections.) Or note that a New York Times poll a few weeks ago showed that 54 percent of the U.S. population has a favorable impression of Occupy Wall Street while only 27 percent has a favorable impression of The Tea Party. Don’t underestimate what people can achieve if they have a strong progressive message and are willing to struggle in the public arena for that message—and not compromise on it.
Where We Are Headed
We will continue to be an important voice articulating hope for a different kind of world—not just for tinkering around the edges, but for creating a new bottom line of love, kindness, compassion, generosity, ethical-ecological sensitivity, and nonviolence. We’ll continue to call for an end to all wars, torture, and human rights abuses and to every form of racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, and Islamophobia. (This year we were outspoken in affirming the right of Muslims to build a mosque/community center a few blocks from “Ground Zero.”) And we will continue to publish the voices of secular, religious, and spiritual progressives in Tikkun, thereby embodying the interfaith vision of all people maintaining their cultural uniqueness and traditions and yet living in harmony with each other and the earth.
Thanks to our vibrant new website and our growing presence on Facebook and Twitter, we are reaching more people than ever with this vision. In addition to putting together the quarterly magazine, we now regularly publish new online-only articles at www.tikkun.org. Please tell your friends and sign up for our email newsletter at tikkun.org/mail for links to these great pieces. And to keep up with the Tikkun Daily blog, sign up for our free blog digest at tikkun.org/dailydigest.
We will continue to do all we can to attract young writers and readers, and expanding online is one of the ways we do that. We already have some fantastic bloggers, and we are looking for more great writers and thinkers of all ages! And have you seen our new NSP site at www.spiritualprogressives.org? (It’s another something we did this past year.)
So, at the risk of being repetitious….We know that this is a tough time economically for most of our community—which is why it is so necessary for you to go the extra mile in supporting us, because many of our readers and supporters simply can’t give very much at this point. You can donate online at www.tikkun.org/donate or at www.spiritualprogressives.org. Or you can mail us a check made out to Tikkun and sent to us at 2342 Shattuck Ave, #1200, Berkeley, California. Or you can call and give us complete credit card information at 510-644-1200. Whichever way, please do it now. Your donations are tax-deductible and will give you access to the online magazine; for an additional $10, we can renew your print subscription to Tikkun.
Meanwhile, please accept my blessings for a love-filled, healthy, joyous, economically secure, environmentally rational, peace-and-justice-flourishing New Year for you and all your loved ones.
And my love and blessings to you!
Rabbi Michael Lerner
Editor, Tikkun Magazine, and Chair, the Network of Spiritual Progressives
P.S. We’ll announce my upcoming book tour events on Facebook and Twitter—please join our page at tikkun.org/facebook and follow us at twitter.com/tikkunonline for the latest updates.