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Craig Wiesner
Craig Wiesner
Craig Wiesner is the co-founder of Reach And Teach, the peace and social justice learning company.



Old Man River Just Stopped Rolling Along – Farewell Dad

Jun12

by: on June 12th, 2012 | 23 Comments »

My earliest memories of my father are of him whistling down the hallway on his way home from work and him singing Old Man River. He loved that song, and he had the deep voice to pull it off. What I learned later in life was that he especially loved Paul Robeson. This afternoon I sat at my father’s bedside reading a book about Woody Guthrie, and found myself on a chapter about a concert in Peekskill New York at which Robeson had performed, and after which the artists and attendees had been ambushed by town-folk while the police looked on and allowed them to be mercilessly beaten. Robeson had two things going against him. He was an outspoken black man fighting for civil rights and he supported the Soviet Union. As I read about the “Peekskill Riots” my father’s breathing became more labored than it had been shortly before and I called the hospice nurse to ask if we should give him another dose of morphine.


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Selfless Service – A Musing by Jim Burklo

Jun2

by: on June 2nd, 2012 | 1 Comment »

I blog, therefore I am.

I’m not a poet, but a number people in my life are. When Rev. Jim Burklo sent out his latest “musing” and the title used the word “service” and the post included a look at poetry, it sparked my interest. As a shopkeeper, I got a kick out of the way he describes two different types of salespeople, feeling good that I was the first you’ll encounter rather than the second. Then, the idea that he shares about poetry being a form of service, as a gift to others, or to the cosmos, stopped me in my tracks. I’d always thought of poetry being a gift to one’s self, first. A way of capturing some joy or angst and putting it down on paper to keep. Yet the poets in my life do like to share their poetry, often packaging it in beautifully bound parcels and handing it to me as they might share the sacraments of communion. So I gift you Jim’s musing and hope that it might stop you for a moment too, and perhaps comment.

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How students are painting Montreal red

May25

by: on May 25th, 2012 | 6 Comments »

Felt Red Square

Felt red square, via Free Education Montreal

My friends at Waging Nonviolence have been putting together some amazing articles about successful nonviolent movements from the past and present, with a hope that today’s activists can learn from history and current actions. I was intrigued when I was sent this article about the “Red Square” movement in Canada.

Started because of increases in tuition, the movement is rapidly growing and judging from reports of mass arrests, beatings, and pepper spraying, it is starting to really annoy the powers that be. While our friends to the north are complaining about “staggering” student debts of nearly $30,000, US students are facing debts of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Both sides of the border are feeling the pain and more and more young people are starting to stand up. Read more to get an on-the-ground perspective from recent actions in Montreal.


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Afghans Search for Realistic Alternatives

May23

by: on May 23rd, 2012 | 4 Comments »

School in AfghanistanThose who know the Reach And Teach story know that a significant reason we do what we do today is because of the experience we had in Afghanistan in 2002. Having witnessed the horrible destruction from 30 years of civil war coupled with the massive bombing campaign waged by the US and its allies after the September 11th attacks, we knew that the people we met were weary of violence being the only solution to their problems.

Sadly, 10 years later, violence still rages on.

It breaks our hearts when we hear people say that Afghans are simply a violent people. We disagree. Afghans, we believe, are like the vast majority of people, wanting to live in peace, raise families, work with dignity, be treated fairly, and have opportunities for joy. We also know that Afghans have their own history of nonviolence and we were heartened to see this story in the Waging Nonviolence newsletter about groups of Afghans working to find ways to change the situation in their country, through nonviolent means.

We’d like to share the following hopeful story of seeds being planted in Afghanistan, in fields that perhaps have been too long dry, but which nonetheless can bear fruit, with a little water, love and support. Having “Realistic Alternatives” in the title also made us think about Rabbi Michael Lerner’s constant reminder to us all that being “realistic” isn’t necessarily a good thing! So, as you read this, realize that few would have thought it “realistic” for Afghans to gather together to attend a nonviolent workshop. Yet… they did.

Our thanks to Waging Nonviolence for allowing us to repost this story (which you can also read on their web site).

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musings: desconocido

Mar22

by: on March 22nd, 2012 | 5 Comments »

Friend and prophet Rev. Jim Burklo shares his thoughts on a quite powerful border experience in his latest “musing.” I’m honored that he lets me share this with all of you on Tikkun Daily. Click here to visit his blog site, Musings.

DESCONOCIDO

A small wooden cross stands next to a cholla cactus in the desert of southern Arizona. Across it is written a word in Spanish: DESCONOCIDO. In English, it means “unknown”.

To get to it, I and seven students from the University of Southern California trekked from a dirt road through a mile and a half of rough country. Every one of us was scraped by spines of cacti or spikes of mesquite branches. We slipped on stones, slid on sand. All of us sipped regularly from our water bottles as the mid-day sun and the arid air wicked our bodies dry.

The cross marked the spot where bones of a human being were found by a member of the Green Valley Samaritans, a group of volunteers who put gallon jugs of water on trails where migrants cross into the United States from Mexico. The volunteer called the county coroner to retrieve the remains, which so far have not been identified.


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Life in an Arizona Classroom

Feb24

by: on February 24th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

Image Courtesy of Crip - FLICKR

Ever since I heard the news about a law in Arizona prohibiting the teaching of ethnic studies courses in public schools, and banning one of the books we sell (Rethinking Columbus), I’ve been wondering what it was like to be a teacher there. What did enforcement of this new law look like? How were the students reacting? This morning I received this email from Curtis Acosta, who now teaches English (formerly taught Latino Literature) at Tucson High School. His message is heartbreaking and frightening. I asked Mr. Acosta’s permission to share his message with Tikkun Daily’s readers. He agreed.

The question that I’d like us to answer is this: What do we do about it? At the end of his letter, I’ll provide context about the law that is at the root of this situation and ask that question again. What do we do?


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And They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love?

Feb21

by: on February 21st, 2012 | 1 Comment »

President Obama at the National Prayer BreakfastAs a Jew in the pew for the last two decades, I think I’ve gotten a pretty good sense of what being “Christian” means. Most of that experience has been gained in the midst of a particular group of Christians who believe that their actions, the way they live their lives, speak much louder than any words. But it is also a church where the pastors follow the lectionary most Sundays, meaning that those gathered are hearing exactly the same scripture readings from the Bible that most other Christians are hearing on those same Sundays. Frankly, from my two decades of listening to those passages, the message is pretty clear to this possibly distant relative of a nice Jewish boy from Nazareth. To be a Christian means that you are called to follow “the way” that Jesus lived. Feed the poor, clothe the naked, love thy neighbor…. and they’ll know you are Christian by your love by your love.

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Hansel and Gretel and Israel/Palestine

Jan25

by: on January 25th, 2012 | 10 Comments »

Hansel and Gretel

Illustration by Arthur Rackham, 1909

Children have been told horror stories for as long as storytelling has existed. Should a child become traumatized hearing a story like Hansel and Gretel, where the witch plans to throw the children into the oven to make a nice meal, parents can tell the child not to worry, “That’s just a fairy tale. Things like that don’t really happen.” But they do.

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How I Make Meaning of Life: A Musing by Jim Burklo

Jan18

by: on January 18th, 2012 | Comments Off

Self Portrait

Self Portrait

Sometimes in the midst of the mundane or the profane of the day, I find myself musing about the meaning of it all. My friend Rev. Jim Burklo just sent along his latest musing, and while it doesn’t answer all the questions about life, the universe, and everything, it did bring a smile to my face and some peace to my morning. May it do some of the same for you too. Read on!


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Classroom Ethnic Cleansing in Tucson

Jan16

by: on January 16th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Rethinking Columbus

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, it was a courageous thing to do, but someone was already here... Something you'd know, unless you live in Tucson in 2012

It’s Martin Luther King Day and we should all be thinking about progress we’ve made on King’s dream. Well… this morning I woke up to more of a bit of a sad vision of at least one part of America. My friend Nancy Schimmel sent me a note this morning to let me know that Tucson, Arizona, in order to avoid losing lots of money in state school funding, has ordered certain books to be banned from classrooms in order to be in compliance with the state’s new “ethnic cleansing” rules (my phrase for what they refer to as the elimination of ethnic studies).

According to Bill Bigelow of Rethinking Schools (at Salon.com), “By ordering teachers to remove ‘Rethinking Columbus,’ the Tucson school district has shown tremendous disrespect for teachers and students.” “This is a book that has sold over 300,000 copies and is used in school districts from Anchorage to Atlanta, and from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. It offers teaching strategies and readings that teachers can use to help students think about the perspectives that are too often silenced in the traditional curriculum.”

My company, Reach And Teach, has sold many copies of Rethinking Columbus. The thought that this book, and Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” are being banned from Tucson schools boggles my mind.


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