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Fighting to Abolish Unjust Debts: Check Out Tikkun’s Winter 2015 Issue

Jan29

by: Tikkun on January 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

Jubilee and Debt Abolition

It’s the Jubilee Year according to the Jewish Calendar – the year when all debts are to be forgiven and all land redistributed in equal parcels. In a time when debts have reached unprecedented levels and people are suffering under this burden, how can people of all faiths – as well as our contemporary secular societies – be inspired by this radical biblical vision? The Winter 2015 issue of Tikkun features people putting the concept of Jubilee into action in the fight for debt abolition.

Don’t miss out on this important discussion. You can get a taste of it by clicking on each article and reading the first few paragraphs. Then, if you are not yet a subscriber or member of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, you’ll be asked to subscribe or join (after which you will get the print and/or online version of the magazine). If you are already a paid-up subscriber or member, you should be able to read the full article online and be getting the print version in the mail. Many of us forget how to log in to read subscriber-only content online; please don’t hesitate to seek guidance on how to register to read the online version of the print magazine. Just email leila@tikkun.org or call 510-644-1200 for help. If you are a subscriber or member of the NSP and haven’t received the print magazine in the mail yet, please email leila@tikkun.org. We want to fix the problem as soon as we know about it!

Now, for your taste of the magazine…

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Intern with Rabbi Michael Lerner and the NSP

Jan29

by: Tikkun on January 29th, 2015 | No Comments »

Heal and Transform the World Internship with Tikkun Magazine and the NSP interfaith and secular-humanist and atheist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives a few blocks from the UC Berkeley Campus.

Are you worried about climate change and upset about how the destruction of our environment is threatening our collective future? Are you outraged by the amount of power that corporations and the top 1% of wealthy people have over U.S. politics and our lives? Do you want to build a future in which “homeland security” is achieved through ending global poverty rather than through the military invasion of other countries?

If so, come intern with Tikkun magazine’s Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), an interfaith organization that is also welcoming to “spiritual but not religious” atheists and agnostics. The Network of Spiritual Progressives is a project of Tikkun Magazine. Internships are at 2375 Shattuck Ave between Durant Ave and Channing Ave in Berkeley. Tikkun is a Hebrew word which means “healing, repair and transformation.” The NSP is co-chaired by Rabbi Michael Lerner and environmental activist Vandana Shiva. Please read our website at www.spiritualprogressives.org.

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Inside the Uniform, Under the Hood, Longing for Change

Jan28

by: Kathy Kelly on January 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

From January 4-12, 2015, Witness Against Torture (WAT) activists assembled in Washington D.C. for an annual time of fasting and public witness to end the United States’ use of torture and indefinite detention and to demand the closure, with immediate freedom for those long cleared for release, of the illegal U.S. prison at Guantanamo.

Activist wearing orange jumpsuit and black hood holds sign that reads Shut Down Guantanamo.

There are 122 prisoners currently held at the Detention Center at Guantanamo Bay. Above, Witness Against Torture activists demonstrate in Washington, D.C. to close the prison. Credit: Elvert Barnes/ Creative Commons.

Participants in our eight day fast started each day with a time of reflection. This year, asked to briefly describe who or what we had left behind and yet might still carry in our thoughts that morning, I said that I’d left behind an imagined WWI soldier, Leonce Boudreau.

I was thinking of Nicole de’Entremont’s story of World War I, A Generation of Leaves, which I had just finished reading. Initial chapters focus on a Canadian family of Acadian descent. Their beloved oldest son, Leonce, enlists with Canada’s military because he wants to experience life beyond the confines of a small town and he feels stirred by a call to defend innocent European people from advancing “Hun” warriors. He soon finds himself mired in the horrid slaughter of trench warfare near Ypres, Belgium.

I often thought of Leonce during the week of fasting with WAT campaign members. We focused, each day, on the experiences and writing of a Yemeni prisoner in Guantanamo, Fahed Ghazi who, like Leonce, left his family and village to train as a fighter for what he believed to be a noble cause. He wanted to defend his family, faith and culture from hostile forces. Pakistani forces captured Fahed and turned him over to U.S. forces after he had spent two weeks in a military training camp in Afghanistan. At the time he was 17, a juvenile. He was cleared for release from Guantanamo in 2007.

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Jewish in Europe: Another Perspective

Jan28

by: Donna Swarthout on January 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

Anti-Semitism, anti-Islamism, and other rising tides of extremism have dominated recent media coverage of European affairs. A growing number of Jews are fleeing Europe, right wing patriot rallies and marches have spawned an increase in violence against Muslims, and the outlook for an abatement of hatred against Europe’s minorities and immigrants seems bleak. Media coverage of these trends seems to sow the very fear to which civilized people say they will not succumb.

Protesters holding up a sign in German against anti-Islamic groups

European Jews for a Just Peace (EJJP) protests against PAX Europe, a racist organization. Credit: Frank M. Rafik/ Creative Commons.

Amidst the constant reports of threats from extremist forces, many observers claim that European leaders and the media show indifference towards some victims of terror. Some see double standards in the amount of attention that is devoted to certain groups of victims over others. After the slayings in the kosher market in Paris, there were cries from some Jewish quarters about the insufficient amount of attention given to these anti-Semitic crimes. “Why won’t Europe acknowledge the grave threat to its Jews?” screamed one recent headline. As if Angela Merkel and the rest of the continent had been silent or inactive in the face of anti-Semitism.

Must we really compete with other victims for attention in a world besieged by so many tragedies? Responding to terrorism with complaints about the amount of attention one group receives compared to another is divisive and counterproductive. Some groups do receive more attention and expressions of sympathy than others. Jews are not at the top of the list, but we have not been ignored either.

Viewing the threat from extremist forces in Europe through the narrow lens of identity politics does little to address the root problems that foster terrorism. I worry less about the depth of hatred towards Jews than I do about how to support Germany’s economically depressed regions and growing refugee population so that extremism does not take root and spread. The racism of PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West), the group that has been holding enormous anti-Islamic rallies in Germany, threatens all of us, not just Muslims.

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A Future in Prison

Jan27

by: Kathy Kelly on January 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

The Bureau of Prisons contacted me today, assigning me a prison number and a new address: for the next 90 days, beginning tomorrow, I’ll live at FMC Lexington, in the satellite prison camp for women, adjacent to Lexington’s federal medical center for men. Very early tomorrow morning, Buddy Bell, Cassandra Dixon, and Paco and Silver, two house guests whom we first met in protests on South Korea’s Jeju Island, will travel with me to Kentucky and deliver me to the satellite women’s prison outside the Federal Medical Center for men.

Soldiers and civilians standing in front of an airplane.Drone killings across the Middle East and the casual executions and incarceration of black males in our own country are not unrelated. Credit: Shane Franklin

In December, 2014, Judge Matt Whitworth sentenced me to three months in federal prison after Georgia Walker and I had attempted to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of Whiteman Air Force base, asking him to stop his troops from piloting lethal drone flights over Afghanistan from within the base. Judge Whitworth allowed me over a month to surrender myself to prison; but whether you are a soldier or a civilian, a target or an unlucky bystander, you can’t surrender to a drone.

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Kneading Challah as a Springboard to God

Jan26

by: Dahlia Abraham-Klein on January 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

kneading challah

Credit: dreamstime

Every week before Shabbat in the sanctuary of observant Jewish homes, we are graced with a special capacity to meditate and to converse with God while kneading dough to make challah. The kneading is an action meditation, best understood as the performance of commandments and rituals. While meditatively kneading, you can clear the mind for a holy intention and open the channel as a springboard to reach God.

The first step to having the right intention is through practicing breath control. When God created Adam, the Torah says, “God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils a breath of life. Man [thus] became a living creature” (Genesis 2:7). The Hebrew word for breath is neshima, while the Hebrew word for soul is neshama. We can understand from this verse that breath and soul are intimately connected. God breathed into man and by doing so, bestowed upon him a spark of the divine – a soul. God did not breathe into any other creature but Adam. Only man has the ability to use his breath in order to control his mind and thereby body, to draw closer to God.

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Jewish Life Recharged Through Chai Mitzvah

Jan25

by: Audrey Lichter on January 25th, 2015 | No Comments »

Jewish organization Chai Mitzvah logo

Credit: Chai Mitzvah

Rabbi Tarfon, a member of the third generation of the Mishnah sages, once said “I wonder if there is anyone in this generation who knows how to accept tochecha?” Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah, a 1st-century CE Palestinian Mishnaic sage, added, “I wonder if there is anyone in this generation who knows how to give tochecha?” (Babylonian Talmud, Arachin 16b). Tochecha, at times translated as reproach or admonishment, is the mitzvah of compassionate critique in the Jewish religion. The general injunction against negative speech, lashon hara, (“you shall not wrong one another” in Leviticus 25:17) does not negate tochecha because the latter is focused on how the correction is made. “Although you are required to reprove wrongdoers, you will be sinning if you do it the wrong way. Be careful not to embarrass them” (Rashi; Sifra).

“These quotes could have been written today,” says Ann Pava, Chair of National Women’s Philanthropy of the Jewish Federations of North America (JFNA), as she recently reflected on her study of tochecha through her participation in her local Federation’s Lion of Judah Chai Mitzvah class.

Chai Mitzvah is an international adult Jewish learning initiative which encourages participants to combine group study with a set curriculum and with individual exploration of study, spirituality and social action. One of the topics in the curriculum is “Interpersonal Relationships”, addressing responsibilities between an individual and the community.

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Understanding the Gandhi-King Legacy in Contemporary Terms

Jan19

by: Murali Balaji on January 19th, 2015 | No Comments »

Martin Luther King, Jr. at Gandhi memorial

Originally published on The Huffington Post

Following his 1959 trip to India, in which he visited the memorial of Mahatma Gandhi, the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., noted that he was “more convinced than ever that non-violent resistance is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”

The inspiration King drew from Gandhi and the Hindu concept of ahimsa is well-chronicled (including a piece last year in HuffPost by Gadadhara Pandit Dasa), but as we observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, it’s important to examine a deeper connection between both men: the idea that seva is a force for uplift and bringing communities in from the margins. King, like Gandhi, drew inspiration from his faith to inspire others to serve selflessly.

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Are We Still Marching With King?

Jan19

by: Aryeh Cohen on January 19th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Every year, on this state-sanctioned day of reflection, we memorialize the Martin Luther King who was a peacemaker, a conciliator, a lover and not a hater. In reality, however, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was the master of the thunderous cadences of righteous rage.

Martin Luther King Jr. speaking

"True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring." Credit: Creative Commons/Mike Licht/Library of Congress.

King preached nonviolence, he lived nonviolence. He had no illusions about the “valley filled with the misguided bloodthirsty mobs.” He agreed with Langston Hughes: “O, yes, I say it plain/America never was America to me,/And yet I swear this oath – /America will be!” Martin Luther King taught that nonviolence is the most powerful weapon we have to transform the world. Because the world is not only created by those with the guns and the truncheons.

As a Jew celebrating the birth of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., a quote from the sixth-century Babylonian Talmud comes to mind: “Any Sage who is not vengeful or does not hold a grudge is not a Sage.” (Yoma 22b-23a)

“But wait!” you might object, “Doesn’t Torah say ‘You shall not take vengeance, and you shall not harbor a grudge?!’” This is true. However, the Talmud is teaching us that there is an obligation and a place for righteous rage. The mishnaic Hebrew word for righteous rage is tar’omet, which has the same root as thunder. The rabbi who witnesses an injustice and does not burn with righteous rage is not a rabbi. The rabbi who does not carry the memory of unjust treatment, and does not rage against it is not a rabbi.

In his speech “Beyond Vietnam,” King said:

A true revolution of values will soon cause us to question the fairness and justice of many of our past and present policies. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look easily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.”

The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

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Beyond Words: A Critical Response to the Non-Indictment Decisions

Jan14

by: Robyn Henderson-Espinoza on January 14th, 2015 | No Comments »

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so that the mountains would quake at your presence – as when fire kindles brushwood and the fire causes water to boil – to make your name known to your adversaries, so that the nations might tremble at your presence! – Isaiah 64:1-9

In times like these, when marginalized communities sense the threat of violence for their own livelihood and well-being, words fail. Words fail because the injustice seems insurmountable. Words fail because the system that is supposed to bring justice feels irreconcilably broken. Words fail because we can’t fully articulate the profound anger, sadness, and frustration that this decision of the non-indictment engenders in us. But, as Audre Lorde so importantly reminds us, our silence will not protect us.

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