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Kavanah (Intention) for Candle Lighting: Third Night of Hanukkah

Dec18

by: Aryeh Cohen on December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

lighting the menorah

Credit: Creative Commons / Elvert Barnes

The Talmud reports that the reason for adding a candle to the menorah every night of Hanukkah is that “one may raise up within holiness but one may not lower within holiness.” This principle usually governs an action that may or may not be taken with regard to vessels, materials, and foodstuffs that are dedicated to the Temple. In one example, a priest’s worn clothes may be used for wicks in the Temple candelabra but not for more mundane purposes. How might we understand this in relation to our more modest candelabra?

We are moved to the deeper meaning of the candlelight. Just as with each added candle there is more light, we must constantly add to the quantity of holiness in the world. How does one expand holiness in the world? The Torah (Leviticus 19) commands “you shall be holy, for I God, your God, am holy.” This general statement is followed by a list of specific actions, including this: “You shall do no iniquity in justice. You shall not favor the wretched and you shall not defer to the rich. In righteousness you shall judge your fellow … You shall not stand over the blood of your fellow. I am God.”

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26 Ways to Be in the Struggle — Beyond the Streets

Dec18

by: on December 18th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/B.C. Lorio.

This list is designed to celebrate all the ways that our communities can engage in liberation. For a range of reasons, there are and always have been folks who cannot attend rallies and protests but who continue to contribute to ending police and state violence against black people.

People seek justice and support liberation in an array of ways, yet their bodies, their spirits, and their lives may not allow them to be in the streets. We believe that we will win. And we need the presence of everyone in the movement to do so. We affirm that all contributions are political, militant, and valued.

By and for those in our communities who can’t be in the streets, the list below offers concrete ways that we are in the movement, and that we are supporting liberation every day. We see you. We are you. See you in the struggle.

Contributors: Piper Anderson, Kay Ulanday Barrett, Ejeris Dixon, Ro Garrido, Emi Kane, Bhavana Nancherla, Deesha Narichania, Sabelo Narasimhan, Amir Rabiyah, and Meejin Richart.

Tikkun Gift Package!

Dec18

by: Tikkun on December 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

We’re coming up on the end of the year, which means we’re also in the final stretch of our fundraising drive. A huge thank you to all of those who have helped our cause along the way!

We’ve got one final offer for you, a gift we’d like to extend to anyone able to help us reach our goal before the new year. If you donate at least $100 you will receive the following gifts from Tikkun:

If we had twelve people commit the minimum donation to this week’s deal, we would automatically reach our goal!

WE NEED 1MORE PEOPLE. Will you please contribute?

With a week until Christmas what better way to treat yourself and help better the world than with a donation that gives back? One of our hardworking bloggers, Donna Schaper, writes why she agrees:

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Marriage Equality: Not The Cure-All

Dec17

by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on December 17th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

This has been a good year for marriage rights for the LGBT community in the United States. Since the Supreme Court’s decision in Windsor gutted the so-called Defense of Marriage Act – an unfortunate legacy of the Clinton administration – a tide of legal decisions has washed away state bans on marriage equality. At this moment, thirty-five states offer full access to marriage for same-sex couples, covering nearly two-thirds of the country’s population. Five more states are poised on the brink, and the high court has refused to even take up appeals from the forces of bigotry.

Yet while marriage is an important right that carries many benefits, opening the nuptial doors hardly signals the eradication of homophobia or misogyny. In twenty-nine states, it is still legal to discriminate against the LGBT community in employment, housing, and education. In fact, fourteen of the states that offer marriage equality simultaneously refuse to provide these basic protections (Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Montana, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Utah, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming). And all of the five that are likely to have marriage equality soon (Arkansas, Florida, Louisiana, Missouri, and Texas) allow discrimination based on sexual orientation. This is a horrible disconnect. In practice it means that a couple who celebrate a happy, significant occasion are in fact opening themselves up to more discrimination, perhaps even the loss of their homes or livelihoods. Again, we have a labyrinthine system for LGBT individuals to navigate with a level of risk that can result in loss of income, housing, healthcare, and consequently further targets in their communities.

Employment discrimination sexual orientation in US

This map is current as of 2012. Credit: Creative Commons / Center for American Progress


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Bad Therapy: Something Is Rotten in the Profession of Psychology

Dec16

by: Deb Kory on December 16th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

I first wrote about psychologists and torture for Tikkun in 2007 when I was working toward my doctorate in clinical psychology and all hell was breaking loose around revelations that psychologists were involved in torture at Guantánamo Bay and other CIA black sites. I had just started writing my dissertation, which sought to explore the history and social forces that led to such insanity in the profession I was immersing so much time, money, and energy into making my vocation.

I frankly had hoped the whole issue would be resolved by now – the perpetrators would be in prison, the system would be reformed so that it could never happen again, psychologists would have organized and taken a powerful stand against this misuse of power in their name. Yet here we are, ten years after the first revelations of torture appeared in the media, my dissertation long since bound in obscurity in my school’s library, and not only are the revelations still coming, there is only now the first hint of a real investigation into the specific role psychologists played in this process.

Psychologist torture

Credit: Deb Kory

But as psychologist Steven Reisner states in his new piece in Slate, there would be no torture without psychologists. Also, just this morning there was a very informative and comprehensive segment on Democracy Now! featuring both Steven Reisner and Alfred McCoy, whose book A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror provided the original road map to many of the issues I covered in my dissertation. I was at the 2007 American Psychological Association (APA) Conference in San Francisco shown in this segment, where psychologists made a desperate plea to the APA to put an end to these practices, while military officers in full camo fatigues stood menacingly around the room and Col. Larry James (chief psychologist at Guantánamo) made the case that “if you remove psychologists from these facilities, people will die.”

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Why Protest? And What’s Next: Truth-Telling and Reconciliation for Ferguson and Beyond

Dec16

by: David Ragland with Arthur Romano on December 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

Ferguson protest

Credit: Creative Commons / Wikipedia

We stood there on South Florissant in Ferguson almost two weeks ago. As a friend and I walked through the crowds gathered there, all waiting for the grand jury outcome, the feeling was beyond tense. We heard voices, some declaring there would be no indictment and others hoping that the right thing would be done and there would be a trial. Then a path opened through the crowd and Michael Brown’s mother appeared a few feet away from me making her way past us, escorted by family members. They guided her to a podium set up in the street in front of what seemed like waves of people between her and the Ferguson police station. She briefly paused and glanced over to the police station as if to make sure they would hear her words and said, “…they don’t care…they think it’s a joke…” She stood there, hurt and visibly angry, tears streaming down her face.

That moment when we learned of the non-indictment, the reasons why we protest became solidified in my mind and heart in a way they had not before. The protests reflect a community disenchanted with the status quo of (in)justice in the U.S. with what seems like the frequent inability to see black and brown people as worthy of the dignity of which all humans are equally deserving.

The protest chants, many created by young people from Ferguson and beyond make visible deep knowledge that is often hidden to many who do not face the daily indignities that young African Americans endure. We often chant “Black Lives Matter” and “the Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell.” We affirm what we know when we chant: that the dignity of our lives that grounds and sustains us is too often undermined and assaulted by a deep system of inequality. Yet, the fact that the words “Black Lives Matter” have to be said reflects a social, cultural, and political system that is either largely blind or in deep denial, yet complicit in a multi-generational process of structural racism that is violent toward People of Color.

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Under Siege: From Leningrad to Gaza

Dec16

by: Ayah Bashir and Esther Rappaport on December 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Gaza war

Smoke rises after an Israel air strike in Gaza Strip on December 28, 2008. Credit: Creative Commons / Amir Farshad Ebrahimi

We met on social media during Israel’s assault on Gaza this summer. We were both grappling with the brutality of the siege, one of us amid the bombs on Gaza, the other child of a Leningrad siege survivor. Frustrated with the intolerable and continuing violence we decided to write together about siege and its lasting legacy.

What we found, was that a descendant of a city that the Nazis had tried to starve and a survivor of Israel’s endless siege on Gaza have a great deal to communicate to each other and to the world.

At the outset, we agreed this was not a “normalization” project; we believe in an end to the occupation, the right of Palestinian refugees to return, and equality for all. In seeking an end to siege and its legacies, we were both inspired by the haunting words of Mahmoud Darwish:

In the state of siege
Time becomes space transfixed in its eternity
In the state of siege,
Space becomes time that has missed its yesterday and its tomorrow

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Modern Maccabee

Dec16

by: Mitchel Davidovitz on December 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

hanukkah menorah

Credit: Creative Commons / Robert Couse-Baker

Despite having nearly no religious significance, not appearing in the Tanakh, and only warranting a few passing references in the Mishna, Hanukkah seems to stand out as an important cultural event for American Jewry and is largely viewed as the quintessential Jewish holiday to non-Jews in America. This is largely due to its calendar proximity to Christmas and inclusion on television programs which provides illusions of multicultural inclusion. Jewish symbols featured in advertisements are used to latch the Jewish population into participating in “holiday season” consumerism. This is a part of television’s much broader role in assimilating Jews and other minority/immigrant groups into America’s capitalist culture. It is a great irony because the premise of Hanukkah stems from a revolt against those attempting to acculturate the Jewish people. 

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Osmosis: A Jew Searches for Silence During Christmas

Dec15

by: Y. A. Shir on December 15th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Christmas decorations

Credit: Creative Commons / Ian Wilson

I spent last Christmas at a Jewish meditation retreat. Stepping into the lobby of the Jewish summer camp where it was held was crossing over from one world into another. There were no poinsettias, no mistletoe, none of the amped-up holiday cheer. This was Jewish space: mezuzahs on every doorpost, Hebrew letters on the bulletin board, kosher everything, faces of people I’d never met but somehow already knew—their gait, the furrows on their brows, the occasional clothing item we Israelis recognize immediately as coming from over there.

Much of the retreat was spent in silence. One of the things that silence can do is wake us up to the noise inside our own mind. On this particular retreat, the silence made me realize that it took two days for the Christmas carols to stop playing in my head.

During Shabbat and as part of the morning blessings, we broke the silence and sang other songs, songs that for fleeting intervals made me understand what people mean when they talk about raising the roof.

Ozi vezimrat ya, vayehi li lishua.

God is my strength and my song, and will be my salvation.

It was as if the room—like my body after a good session of yoga—had discovered more space between its vertebrae.

For the remainder of the retreat it was these melodies that reverberated through me. On my drive back, instead of turning on the radio or plugging in my iPod, I stayed in silence and I sang. When I arrived at my house I parked, dropped off my bags, and walked to the river, where I sang some more. Then I went home.

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The Little Candle That Wouldn’t

Dec13

by: Bonnie L. Gracer on December 13th, 2014 | No Comments »

“I ask you,” fumed Red. “Was that any way to live a life? Squished in a red tin container– above the kitty litter, no less — just waiting for our turn to burn to death? Well I won’t do it.”

A photograph of the candles that inspired this playful piece of writing. Credit: Bonnie Gracer.

“You mean our turn to shine, Red — to declare the miracle of Chanukah,” said Shamash.

“Shut up Shamash. Just because you were picked to be the Shamash you think you are so high and mighty, elevated above everybody else. Don’t forget your roots. You are made out of wax just like the rest of us – red wax, just like me — and you too are being extinguished as we speak.”

“Hey, I worked hard for that promotion,” said Shamash. It’s taken me years to get noticed.”

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