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Not All is Lost: A strategy conference after the Right takes Congress

Nov25

by: on November 25th, 2014 | No Comments »

Too many people have responded to the victory of the Right by feeling powerless. “What can I do? They have the money, control the media, and the Democrats have no vision or strategy.” But there is something you can do, not alone, but with a movement that we are creating. The liberal and progressive forces have made some big mistakes – but we can change that, and we have a strategy for how to do that and how to Reclaim America. We need you to be part of it–and we need to learn from you as well, because we know we don’t have all the answers! We approach this task with humility but also with excitement about the possibility of forging a new direction. A direction that could rebuild our society on a whole new bottom line, appealing to many people who have not yet been moved by the conventional way liberals and progressives have advanced their message, and/or people who have liked one part of the message but don’t yet see the connections. We are here to show you there can be connections between the different movements for environmental sanity, social and economic justice, non-violence, human and civil rights, etc.!

Join us:

Rabbi Michael Lerner: editor of Tikkun, author ofThe Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right)

George Lakoff: Prof of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the UC Berkeley,author ofDon’t Think of an ElephantandMoral Politics

Mathew Fox: Liberation Theologian, Authorof Original Blessing, andThe Coming of the Cosmic Christ

Rebecca Kaplan:Oakland City Council President

Cat Zavis: Attorney, Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, mediator, and teacher of Empathic Communication

And more! (Our speakers will start the discussion, but the most important person to be there is YOU).

We will come together to develop strategy to Reclaim America and build The Caring Society – Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.

YOU Are Invited to this:

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On Obama Quoting the Book of Exodus: ‘We shall not oppress a stranger’

Nov22

by: on November 22nd, 2014 | 11 Comments »

Obama addressing nation

Credit: Creative Commons/CreoFire

A powerful moment in President Obama’s immigration reform speech came when, after telling the emotional story of a young immigrant, he quoted a verse from the Book of Exodus to bookend his case for empathy.

This was not only a significant moment in Obama’s speech, but a significant moment in the panoply of presidential speeches. For while presidents sometimes allude to biblical texts or their ethical principles, it’s rare for verses to actually be quoted in full. This, of course, predictably set FOX & Friends into a fiery rage, a rage which has placed Obama’s quotation into sharper focus.

Since this is a fascinating verse I regularly teach to Jewish day school students in the original Hebrew, I thought it would be instructive to a) briefly examine the actual verse, b) examine Obama embedding this verse into the immigration reform debate, and c) examine the contemporary reality of the place and people to whom the verse was originally directed: Jews entering the Land of Israel.

Obama’s Quoting of Exodus 23:9 – Don’t oppress the “stranger”

Below is the moment, after telling the story of Astrid Silva, in which Obama invokes the Book of Exodus:

Scripture tells us, “We shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger. We were strangers once, too.”

My fellow Americans, we are and always will be a nation of immigrants. We were strangers once, too. And whether our forbearers were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in and taught them that to be an American is about something more than what we look like or what our last names are, or how we worship.

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Torah Commentary – Perashat Toledot: Blessing and Intention

Nov20

by: on November 20th, 2014 | No Comments »

These days, there is no shortage of hatred to go around. Tragically, much of this hatred has erupted into tragic violence in Jerusalem this week, a brutal set of murders in a synagogue that most clearly illustrates the religious, and we may say, biblical nature of this conflict. It is noteworthy that this week’s Torah reading is one in which the growing animosity between Jacob and his brother Esav is described, a rift that the Talmud records as the source of eternal enmity between Jacob, that is, the Jewish people, and Esav, midrashically reified as Rome and thus European society. The reflexive assumption made before reading the texts, then, is Jacob=good, Esav=bad. However, that is a prejudice not entirely present in the text, as we shall see, a text which is extremely ambiguous with regards to who is or is not the hero of this episode. For after all, their father Isaac (Yitzchak), clearly intended to bless Esav, but only through the wily intervention of Jacob’s mother does Jacob hijack these blessings.

Despite the ambiguity in the narrative, the blessings that ultimately are bestowed upon Jacob are read in various ways as prophetic of later Jewish history, and as such are incorporated into the traditional prayers. The Midrash gives many readings of these blessings as pertaining to the Jewish future, but surely Yitzchak had a whole different idea of the blessing’s possibilities, geared as they were in original intent towards Esav. To put this in modern terms, there is a very wide gap here between authorial intent and reader response to these texts. I will present three exegetical approaches to this conundrum, which will be presented in order of progressive radicality in terms of the usual assumptions about this episode.

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Radical Amazement is Here! And the Continuation of Our Drive

Nov20

by: Tikkun on November 20th, 2014 | No Comments »

This week we are extremely excited to present to you Radical Amazement, a free downloadable album with your donation or NSP membership. Radical Amazement is a collection of songs by a diverse array of artists, all with a message of love, kindness, and generosity. This is a unique album blending politics and spirituality across a multitude of genres, and you won’t want to miss out on this inspiring musical selection.

In accordance with the variety of voices coming together to sing on this album, we’d like to highlight another aspect of Tikkun that makes its survival imperative: the wide range of writers we publish both in our magazine and on our blog. Tikkun and Tikkun Daily have expanded their writer base over the years, drawing in brilliant new young writers and increasing interfaith diversity.

By doing this, we can present multiple sides of an issue straight from an authentic source, we can pay homage to multiple traditions, holidays and events, and we can overall spread more awareness and educate one another of worlds outside our own. To further support this, we’re providing testimonials from two of our dear bloggers, Donna Schaper and Craig Wiesner.

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Remembering Leslie Feinberg—A Queer and Trans Fighter for Justice

Nov19

by: Dean Spade on November 19th, 2014 | No Comments »

I will never forget the first time I saw Leslie Feinberg speak – New York City, 1996. The auditorium was full of young people like me who had read Stone Butch Blues and wanted to hear about gender and queerness. Leslie spoke about those things, but also about war and labor struggles and racism and U.S. militarism, refusing to deliver the narrow single-issue politics that the mainstreaming gay rights discourse had trained us to expect. It blew my mind and transformed what I thought was possible to say and be. I still think of Leslie every time I give a speech, hoping to build connections like the ones I saw Leslie build.

Feinberg

Leslie Feinberg speaks at a rally.

I read Stone Butch Blues not long after I moved to New York City in 1995. The scenes from that book – scenes of violence as well as scenes of love and finding connection to resistance movements – were burned in my brain, shaping how I understood the city. I still think of scenes from that book each time I enter certain subway stations or walk certain streets. In so many ways, Leslie made maps for queer and trans Left activists that we all continue to use to navigate, whether we know it or not.

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Smash Hit Gone Girl Just Reinforces Rape Stereotypes

Nov19

by: Jessica Renae Buxbaum on November 19th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Gone Girl

Credit: Creative Commons/lajmi.net

Since the film’s release on October 3, Gone Girl still remains number three at the box office, has garnered $300 million worldwide making it almost the biggest money-making film yet, has a rating of 88 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and is even in the running for the Oscars. With its critical acclaim, fan buzz, and record-breaking consistency, the movie is a smash hit and already on the IMDb’s user-generated Top 250 movies of all time. But amidst the praise is a lack of consideration for what Gone Girl is really depicting and reinforcing: rape culture.

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Inauguration Celebration Oration

Nov18

by: on November 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

NOTE TO READERS: My essay “Living Into The Questions,” leads off the Americans for The Arts’ blog salon about “The Beauty in Change: Considering Aesthetics in Creative Social Change Work.” Please read it and let me know what you think!

This is the talk I delivered last night at Bowery Poetry in New York City, on the occasion of the inauguration of the first twenty-two members of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture‘s National Cabinet.

It is my honor and privilege tonight to welcome and inaugurate the first twenty-two members of the National Cabinet of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture (USDAC), a citizen-led, policy-oriented leadership group whose members have made themselves experts not just by studying, but also by living the relevant knowledge.

We’re still building the Cabinet. Unlike typical presidential cabinets, we don’t ask one member to represent the entirety of an interest or issue – a secretary of defense, a secretary of state. We recognize that it takes the awareness and wisdom of people from many parts of the nation, many types of work, many cultural backgrounds, to bring the necessary knowledge to a subject as complex and encompassing as the public interest in culture. And it will take even more of us to activate the shift that needs to happen now, from a consumer culture to a creator culture, from a society swamped by fear, isolation, and competition to one based in equity, empathy, and interconnectedness.

Let me start by telling you a little bit about the Cabinet’s work, then introduce you to these remarkable individuals, some of whom are here tonight.

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How to Start That Difficult Conversation

Nov18

by: Robert Cohen on November 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Difficult conversation on Israel/Palestine between Jews and Christians

Credit: Creative Commons/ Kathleen Tyler Conklin

I want to talk about difficult conversations. Conversations that could put decades of valuable Christian/Jewish interfaith dialogue in jeopardy. It’s risky I know, but I think the stakes have become too high to shy away from it any longer.

Jewish communities receive lessons in Israel advocacy from our leadership, who seem to think the solution to Israel’s growing isolation can be resolved with nothing more than better presentation skills. Meanwhile, Christian communities are morally paralyzed by fear of causing offense to a people they spent so many centuries persecuting.

But it’s time to stop the Jewish moral denial and the Christian moral paralysis. With so much ethical common ground, why not both stand on it for a change and see what happens?

And who knows, through challenging the current no-go-area consensus on Israel, it could take us all to somewhere more dynamic, truthful and powerful in interfaith relations.

But with all that Israel advocacy training taking place in our synagogues, I feel like my Christian friends need some insider guidance on how to get this conversation going.

So what follows is the Micah’s Paradigm Shift Online Guide to Starting that Difficult Conversation on Israel with your Jewish neighbors, friends, colleagues, and local communities.

Feel free to adapt the following to your local circumstances and understanding.

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Alan Turing Helped Save the World and They Persecuted Him

Nov18

by: on November 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

“[Alan Turing] was and is a hero of all time…a man who is a gay icon, who didn’t deny his nature, his being, and for that he suffered. … This is a story that celebrates him, that celebrates outsiders; it celebrates anybody who’s ever felt different and ostracized and ever suffered prejudice.”

Benedict Cumberbatch

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing in The Imitation Game

Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing on set of The Imitation Game. Credit: Creative Commons/ touchedmuch

Though I usually find TV award shows to project primarily fluff and silliness, and they rarely stir deep emotions in me, listening to Benedict Cumberbatch’s acceptance speech in the Best Actor category for his portrayal of Alan Turing in the film “The Imitation Game” at the American Film Awards ceremonies brought me to tears. This stemmed from a sense of deep pride and an endless abyss of sadness. Cumberbatch’s commitment and passion shinned through on stage as he talked about transforming Turing’s story, his brilliance, and his humanity to the silver screen helping in his way to give him the long-overdue wide-scale recognition he rightly deserves.

Alan Mathison Turing was a pioneering computer scientist, and he served as a mid-20th century English mathematician, logician, and cryptanalyst who, working during World War II at England’s Government Code and Cypher School at Bletchley Park, succeeded with his team of scientists and linguists in cracking the “Enigma code” used by the Nazi command to conduct covert communication operations. Because of Turing and his colleagues’ efforts, Cumberbatch stated that there is now general agreement that they significantly shorted the war by at least two years saving an estimated 17 million lives. Prime Minister Winston Churchill singled out Turning as the person whose work contributed the most to defeating the Germans.

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The Nuclear Power Debate

Nov17

by: Rick Herrick on November 17th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

nuclear power plant

Credit: Creative Commons/ brewbooks

I have been a socially responsible investor for over forty years. I apply strict ethical screens in choosing my companies. I also look for companies that sell products that make the world a better place. I take pride in owning such companies.

In making my investment decisions, I have made few compromises. Two weeks ago, however, I made a big compromise with my long held principles. I purchased a small position in an electric utility with some plants that run on nuclear power. It was not an easy decision. I made it only because I can no longer see a happy solution to the problem of global climate change without an increased reliance on nuclear power in the short term.

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