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The Radical Empathy of a Chestnut Tree

Apr17

by: Amy Gottlieb on April 17th, 2015 | No Comments »

Front cover of Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree, a girl looking out a window from a tree.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anne Frank and the Remembering Tree
by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, illustrated by Erika Steiskal
The Children’s Museum of Indianapolis and Skinner House Books, 2015

For over a generation, National Jewish Book Award winner Sandy Sasso has blazed a trail in the genre of children’s spiritual literature. While her work is steeped in Jewish tradition, her books are popular with readers of all faiths. She has a remarkable talent for rendering complex theological ideas into accessible narratives that appeal to a child’s sense of wonder. She has written about universalism (God’s Paintbrush), the human-divine encounter (In God’s Name), process theology (And God Said Amen), Edenic awe (Adam and Eve’s First Sunset), and eternal life (For Heaven’s Sake), to name a few. All of her books share the common theme of radical empathy, and in her latest work, Sasso applies this vision to a story about tolerance.

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Don’t Say We Did Not Know: One Man’s Struggle to Bring the Truth to Light

Apr16

by: Mechapesset Atid on April 16th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

The front cover of a small book written in Hebrew.

"Don't Say We Did Not Know" refers to the excuse/defense invoked by Germans after World War II. Author activist Amos Gvirtz's mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians. Credit: Donna Baranski-Walker.

When accused of being a traitor to Israel, as Amos Gvirtz has sometimes been, the sexagenarian activist author responds by advising caution.

“If I am a traitor,” he replies, “then Israel, by its very essence, is against peace.”

Gvirtz, who is careful to describe himself as an activist rather than a journalist, is the author of a weekly email blast called “Don’t Say We Did Not Know.” This title and concept refer to a common defense invoked by Germans after World War II when questioned about atrocities committed by their country. Gvirtz’s mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians.

“I try to tell stories that I did not see in the mainstream Israeli media,” he says. “I think the Israeli media is ignoring the great majority of the daily human rights violations.”

Gvirtz has recently compiled a number of his own essays for a book with the same title as his weekly email. At present, the book is available only in Hebrew, but he hopes to have it translated so that it can reach a wider audience.

“My editor asked me, ‘Who am I writing to?’ and I said, ‘To everybody who wants to know.’”

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The Menzies Jacket: Why I Joined the Fight for a Living Wage

Apr14

by: Jan Bolerjack on April 14th, 2015 | No Comments »

April 15 Fightfor15

Credit: Fightfor15.org.

In anticipation of the national action day Fight for $15 this Wednesday, April 15, I offer this reflection from my recent work in SeaTac, Washington. I encourage us all to keep in mind that although the $15 living wage campaign is a good start for worker health and stability there are other actions that must go alongside this wage increase including shared power and influence by workers with management, sick leave, work place safety, medical/retirements benefits, etc. Let’s be sure we don’t think the fight is over when we get a living wage for all workers.

I saw the jacket several times on a man standing in the Food Pantry line in my church basement. A youngish man with a friendly face and an accented greeting, lined up waiting for a food basket. After several weeks of seeing him there, I finally learned his story. It was not a jacket that he got at a thrift shop, as I had first imagined, but the official jacket he wore to work every day as a ramp worker at SeaTac Airport, just two miles down the road. He worked the night shift and got off work just before our food pantry opened. Twice a month, he would come and stand in line to get supplemental food for his family. I learned that the full time wage he earned wasn’t enough to pay the utilities and rent for the two bedroom apartment he shared with his wife, three children, and mother-in-law.

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Strivers and Skivers? We’re All In This Together

Apr13

by: Elena Blackmore on April 13th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Could society be rebuilt around understanding and compassion instead of shame? The effects would be revolutionary.

A black and white graphic that reads 'Shame on You' with a finger pointing at the reader.

Though it creates vicious cycles that stifle creativity, shame is piled onto those perceived as undeserving of social support programs while consumerist advertising bolsters a "not-enough" mentality. Credit: uldissprogis.com.

The binary rhetoric that currently surrounds the welfare state reflects a deep moral narrative with a crippling social impact. ‘Strivers’ and ‘skivers’ are two sides of the same coin. That coin is shame.

One side represents the deserving, and the other side the undeserving. Rachel Reeves, the UK Shadow Work & Pensions Secretary, recently said that: “We [the Labour Party] are not the party of people on benefits.” She faced some criticism for these words, but these are messages we hear daily, from government and opposition alike.

We’re here for hard-working families. We’re here for the taxpayer.

In this narrative, employment equals worth, while unemployment casts you into the world of the untouchables.

Economic policies are created around this notion of worth. Unemployment must be a choice — you’re shirking — so let’s coax you out of it. You don’t need benefits in your first week of unemployment since you should be looking for work. We’ll put sanctions on you if you’re unemployed for too long.

Shame on you for being unemployed.

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And, STOP Calling Me a Non-Profit!

Apr11

by: Jerry Ashton on April 11th, 2015 | No Comments »

If the very compelling speakers at a recent industry workshop for the AFP (Association of Fundraising Professionals) have their way, not-for-profits would find themselves equal to — if not superior to — the “for-profits” with whom they compete for resources.

The keynote speaker and author, Lynne Twist, offers up a positive re-naming for this industry — “Social Profit.” Equally persuasive was guest speaker, Harvard grad Jennifer Craig, who offered “For Purpose” as a better description.

Let’s think about this.

Exactly why are “non-profits” considered second-tier? Why should a “corporate” business card trump one that reads “non-profit?” Why are (relatively speaking) so fewer dollars directed to social good than to commerce and industry?

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Alternatives to Violence Days

Apr10

by: Jack Gilroy and Sharon Dellinger on April 10th, 2015 | No Comments »

Join Us In Washington, DC April 22-24th – Alternatives to Violence Days

Are you over the hill with workshops, retreats and conferences and want to roll up your sleeves and do some real peace and justice action? Read on!

A truly sane individual does not continue to make the same mistakes. As a nation of individuals we need to work to end our U.S. Government’s practice of using violence rather than compassion and generosity. We know violence is a mistake. Help us correct our past by promoting the Global Marshall Plan, an alternative to violence.

Congressman Keith Ellison of Minneapolis/St. Paul, one of two Muslims in Congress, has presented House of Representatives Resolution Plan for 2015, the Global Marshall Plan. Congressional Resolutions are a good start to bringing about change. A Global Marshall Plan Act is our goal and it can be achieved.

We will be lobbying Progressive House of Representatives offices on April 22-24 to encourage people of compassion and sanity to support the Global Marshall Plan Resolution and Congressman Ellison’s HR 1464, the Inclusive Prosperity Act, a gateway bill to the Global Marshall Plan. Join us at the office of Jubilee USA, 212 East Capitol Street NE, Washington, D.C. 20003 on April 22nd at 9AM in the conference room (Jubilee is just a few blocks from the United States House of Representatives). As a lobbyist, you will have a packet which includes the Global Marshall Plan Resolution. A sheet with a few questions about how your meeting worked out will also be in the packet, along with an email address and telephone number to report on your meeting. Your feedback on the meetings will help guide us in future endeavors.

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The Iran Problem

Apr9

by: Theodore P. Seto on April 9th, 2015 | No Comments »

The drumbeats for war with Iran grow ever louder. On March 13, the Washington Post published an op-ed by Joshua Muravchik asserting that “War with Iran is probably our best option.” On March 26, the New York Times published a piece by John Bolton entitled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran.” Now the Washington Post editorial board opines that the recently negotiated multilateral framework is irretrievably flawed. Senator Tom Cotton, leader of the group of forty-seven Senators who tried to derail negotiations, promises: “I’m going to do everything I can to stop” the resulting deal.

What has been painfully missing from our national conversation is what a war with Iran would look like. Mr. Muravchik offers one sentence: “an air campaign targeting Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would entail less need for boots on the ground than the war Obama is waging against the Islamic State.” Mr. Bolton suggests that a single airstrike, like Israel’s attack on an Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981 or its 2007 destruction of a Syrian reactor, would suffice.

No one from the Pentagon has responded. The answers are undoubtedly classified. I suspect, however, that the Joint Chiefs have wargamed this question extensively and do not like the results. I suspect further that their conclusions underlie Mr. Obama’s preference for a negotiated solution.

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Time to Choose: A Renewed Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions

Apr9

by: Liza Behrendt and Jessie Lowell on April 9th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A billboard in Israel of Benjamin Netanyahu.

By fighting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, J Street has allowed itself to be get distracted from its goal of opposing the Occupation. Above, a billboard of Benjamin Netanyahu leading into the 2015 Israeli elections. Credit: CreativeCommons / Dr. Avishai Teicher.

The American Jewish community is now at a crossroads. The recent Israeli elections, following the latest war on Gaza by just six months, highlighted the deep divisions between the liberal values held by a majority of American Jews, and an increasingly right-wing Israel that systematically suppresses the rights of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.

The two of us found our first political homes in opposing oppressive Israeli policies with J Street, after witnessing a piece of the everyday inhumanity of the Occupation while traveling in Israel/Palestine. The more we learned, and the more we experienced, the harder it was for us to reconcile Jewish social justice values of full equality and freedom with what we saw happening to Palestinians under Israeli control.

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Remembering Deir Yassin as We Remember the Holocaust

Apr9

by: Gary Yarus on April 9th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

As Jews around world prepare to remember the Holocaust (Yom HaShoah) on April 16th, they too should pause a week earlier to remember the massacre at Deir Yassin on April 9th, exactly sixty-seven years ago. In both cases, Jews should shout, loud and clear: “Nie wieder!” Never again!

Deir Yassin was a tiny Palestinian village outside the area assigned by the UN for the future Jewish state. Being on the high ground between Jerusalem and Jaffa, it was of strategic military value. The villagers had sought to stay neutral in the fighting around it, when it was stormed early in the morning of April 9th, 1948, by 130 Jewish militiamen of the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin, and the Stem Gang, one of whose three commanders was Yitzhak Shamir. The assault by the two “Jewish Underground” militias received artillery support from Haganah, the future Israeli army. The resulting massacre, in which more that 200 Palestinian men, women, and children were killed, is considered a turning point in Palestinian history.


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Can the Political-Financial Power Complex be Redeemed?

Apr8

by: Nomi Prins on April 8th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Back in the eighteenth century, Voltaire wrote that, “With Great Power, there must also come Great Responsibility.” Stan Lee echoed the sentiment in his first Spiderman comic book in 1962. Recent financial leaders have shown no such affinity toward responsibility. Instead, the Big Six bank leaders exercise a historically dangerous power while enjoying Washington’s full ideological and financial support with no strings attached. Lax regulators, politicians eager for lucrative private sector jobs after public service and we taxpayers, subsidize them. Their firms’ fraudulent practices transcend borders.

During the past three decades, America’s most elite bankers have worked strategically to bend the banking system, the laws, and the federal government to support their supremacy. Their avarice for private gain shows such contempt for the public good, that it’s hard to imagine a time when humbler heads prevailed. So, did bank leaders always exhibit such morally bankrupt tendencies as they appear to do today? The answer is no.

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