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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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Join George Lakoff, Marianne Williamson​, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Matthew Fox and more to Reclaim America

Dec13

by: Tikkun on December 13th, 2014 | No Comments »

After the 2014 elections and facing a Congress determined to dismantle environmental protections and health and social benefits for middle income Americans and the poor in 2015-2016, and after the spate of well-publicized police murders of African American men and grand juries refusing to indict the police, it’s critical that ethically sensitive people develop a strategy to: RECLAIM AMERICA

YOU ARE INVITED TO PARTICIPATE IN:

WHAT: A Strategy Discussion

WHEN: Sunday December 14th from1:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: At the University of San Francisco McLaren Hall(Golden Gate Ave near Roselyn Terrace)

 

If you can’t make it, create a similar gathering in your community, church, synagogue, mosque, ashram, university, political movement, social change organization, etc. We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives may be able to help you do so. So whether or not you can come to this, please read the full note below!

WHO: Among the presenters at our strategy conference:

Rev. Amos Brown pastor, Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, George Lakoff Prof. of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the UC Berkeley, author of Don’t Think of an Elephant and Moral Politics, Rabbi Michael Lerner Editor of Tikkun, rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue, author of The Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right and Spirit Matters, Mathew Fox Liberation Theologian, author of Original Blessing and The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, Marianne Williamson author of Healing the Soul of America: A Return to Love and Imagine What America Could Be in the 21st Century, Rhonda Magee Professor of Law at USF teaches Race Law and Policy,Cat Zavis Attorney, Executive Director, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, mediator, and teacher of Empathic Communication, Reginald W. Lyles from Allen Temple Baptist Church in Oakland and former advisor to Assemblyman Sandre Swanson, Jorge Aquino Liberation Theologianof the Theology and Religious Studies Dept. of USF, Rebecca Kaplan Oakland City Council President, Iftekhar Hai President of United Muslims of America Interfaith Alliance

(Our speakers will start the discussion, but the most important person to be there is YOU). Whether or not you can come, please send this out to everyone on your lists, paste it on your website and your Facebook or other social media, and send it to people all around the U.S. because if they can’t come themselves, they might be inspired to create a similar gathering where they live, and we will be happy to work with them to assist them in doing so. And they probably have friends in northern California who might love to come if they knew about this!

Pre-registration at: spiritualprogressives.org/reclaimAmerica

“Open Dialogue” on Israel/Palestine Is Not Enough

Dec12

by: Henry Rosen on December 12th, 2014 | 17 Comments »

open hillel

Vassar College professor Hua Hsu wrote in the New Yorker recently that “There should be nothing controversial about everyday kindness; civility as a kind of individual moral compass should remain a virtue. But civility as a type of discourse – as a high road that nobody ever actually walks – is the opposite. It is bullshit.”

Open dialogue, very much like civility, exists as both a venerable ideal and a carrot-on-a-stick style tool of discipline. When it comes to critiquing Israel, particularly from a non-Zionist or anti-Zionist approach, open dialogue becomes a mechanism that avoids the acknowledgement of underlying power imbalances and the foundational inequality of our respective ideologies.

The idea of “open dialogue” sets up a framework that requires balancing ideologies of Zionism with anti-Zionism. However, anti-Zionist and Zionist ideologies are not on an even playing field. To be clear, anti-Zionism carries with it no semblance of the same amount of institutional power as Zionism. Particularly as articulated by Palestinians, whose voices ought to be considered with primacy, anti-Zionism has historically been (and remains) the target of political repression and disenfranchisement. Trying to gain a balanced view from both an anti-Zionist and a Zionist perspective would imply those two ways of seeing the world having the same kind of organizational backing; this is simply not the case.

Moreover, conversations between anti-Zionists and Zionists, even liberal Zionists, never play out on equal ground. The fact that Hillel International, the largest Jewish student organization in the world, states it “will not partner with, house, or host organizations, groups, or speakers” that have explicitly non-Zionist politics provides one very important instance in which an institution represses challenges to Zionism. Unsurprisingly, Hillel invokes Hsu’s concept of civility in prohibiting those that “foster an atmosphere of incivility” in campus Hillels. With such exclusive rules in place, an anti-Zionist student pursuing an open dialogue is only ever entering a Hillel house on the prescriptive terms of the institutional power. How open is that dialogue, then? Not at all. As soon as any one part of a conversation refuses to acknowledge the power differentials that exist between itself and the other parts, open dialogue becomes chimerical.

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University of California Labor Union Makes History with BDS Vote in Solidarity with Palestinians

Dec11

by: Kumars Salehi on December 11th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

The union that represents 13,000 graduate student-workers in the University of California system has become the first major U.S. labor union to pass, by member vote, a resolution endorsing the movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli occupation and in solidarity with Palestinian self-determination.

The teaching assistants, tutors, and other UC student workers who belong to United Auto Workers Local 2865 voted strongly in favor of a bill calling on the union’s umbrella organization, UAW International, and the University of California Regents to divest from companies complicit in Israeli occupation, and calling on the U.S. government to end all military aid to Israel. The results were released yesterday, following the counting of ballots cast on December 4, and the measure passed with 65 percent in favor and 35 percent opposed.

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On the ‘American Hijab’

Dec11

by: Metis on December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »

hijab

Credit: Creative Commons/ Haifeez

Some years ago my hijab wearing friend was approached by an older woman in Melbourne and told to “go back home”; there was no place for her in Australia. My friend is Caucasian Australian. She was at home!

Earlier this year I was making small talk with an acquaintance, a hijab wearing Indian Muslim woman, as I waited for my pizza order. She asked me what I was doing these days. I told her that I was comparing two major tafasir (exegesis or explanation of Quranic verses) on women’s issues and collecting various interpretations for verse 4:34 of the Quran. Without a moment’s thought she said, “Oh, wow Mashallah! I didn’t know you’d be interested in something like that, I mean I’d understand if a woman with hijab did that!”

So when I read this article, American Hijab: Why My Scarf is a Sociopolitical Statement, Not a Symbol of My Religiosity, it perplexed me.

I am very happy that the author wrote this article because I’m old enough to see the shift in clothing symbols for Muslims pre and post 9/11. I was born Muslim in the West, in a world when Muslim majority countries were more secular than religious and grew up in the pre 9/11 time when Islam was being revived so I see post 9/11 world through the eyes of an older adult who has experience of what it was like before it.

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Righting the Wrongs of Injustice Following Ferguson, Cleveland, and New York City

Dec11

by: Cherie R. Brown on December 11th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Many are rightfully outraged by the recent killings of unarmed African American men by police officers. As a result, there is an important national movement now to protest the killings, to demand that Black lives matter, and to address a criminal justice system that continues to target Black men with little accountability. From my thirty years of experience with the National Coalition Building Institute, I offer one perspective on how to effect institutional change among law enforcement agencies to make them more responsive to Black and Latino communities.

Chris Magnus

At a moment when many police officers are reacting with defensiveness and hostility, Richmond Chief of Police Chris Magnus has stood with the protesters. What would it take to spread this sentiment and make the U.S. justice system a less racist institution? Credit: Mindy Pines.

Community residents and local police officers are often both victims of larger institutional racism. When theNational Coalition Building Institute first started leading local training programs between law enforcement agencies and community activists, it became clear that neither side completely understood the other. Community leaders felt under siege by the police, recounting their experiences of constant racial profiling. They understandably organized against the violence from the local police, but sometimes with little awareness of the daily struggles that law enforcement officers face. Police officers in the U.S., like the rest of us, are a product of centuries of racism. They have internalized a great deal of unconscious bias that informs their actions. When the police are called to account for their racism, instead of facing it and changing, they often react with enormous defensiveness, retreat inward, and shut off important contacts with the community.

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Let Your Voice Be Heard

Dec11

by: Tikkun on December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »

Berkeley Protests /Credit: Annette Bernhardt

A vital aspect of the ongoing Berkeley Protests (along with those around the country) is the undeniable power of voice. We at Tikkun believe in the voice of the people, from that of an individual blogger to the harmonious chants of thousands in the streets. We know, as these protests have shown, how powerful a group of citizens can be when they come together to let their voices be heard. And we know the importance of each individual within the crowd.

Over the years both Tikkun and the Tikkun Daily blog have expanded their writer base, drawing in brilliant younger writers and increasing interfaith diversity. We’ve created a platform for individuals to let their voices free. This grants them the opportunity to gather momentum and support and turn their single cry into the chant of many.

Below we have two examples of writers who have graced Tikkun with their voice and in turn found a home:

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Rabbi Fills Long-Vacant Spot: Spiritual Leader of Jews in Jamaica

Dec11

by: Maayan Jaffe on December 11th, 2014 | No Comments »

Shaare Shalom shul

Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan (left) is spiritual adviser to Nigel Chen-See, who came to Judaism later in life. Shown here, Chen-See celebrates at his conversion service by reading the Jewish declaration of faith and other prayers. Photo credit: Provided.

Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan is a man of much faith. Three years ago, he left his Reform synagogue in Albany, Georgia, to take a rabbinic position that had sat vacant for more than three decades: the spiritual leader of Jews in Jamaica.

The rabbi, who is shorter in stature and just beginning to gray, says he has a vision, one that is rooted in more than 300 years of Jewish history on the island, but that aims toward a future that he hopes will “inspire brethren around the world.”

“My vision is to open up the synagogue and bring people in … to make Jamaican Judaism more accessible, more modern, more spiritual,” said Rabbi Kaplan during a recent meeting at an upscale hotel in Kingston. The city is home to the majority of Jamaica’s Jews and its only synagogue, Shaare Shalom, and Hillel Academy.

Shaare Shalom shul

A congregant meditates during the Friday night Shabbat service. Around 20 people come to prayer at Shaare Shalom on Friday nights. Photo credit: Maayan Jaffe.

A Friday night service at the combination Sephardic-Ashkenazi shul averages twenty people. In Kaplan’s mind, the approximately 400-seat shul, with its sand-covered floor, high beams and almost-majestic turquoise window coverings, could be full of spiritual seekers, converts, followers of Rastafarian faith who relate to the Jewish message, and lost Jews who are slowly returning to their religion. Many Jamaican Jews, he said, were long ago assimilated – likely intermarried – but they still have a Jewish spark.

The Jews of Jamaica arrived with Columbus in 1494. They were not practicing Jews at the time, having been given the choice by the Spanish government of converting to Catholicism or going into exile. These Jews were known as Conversos. Some managed to escape Spain for Jamaica, in search of religious freedom. While there are not good records from that time as a result of natural disasters, it is assumed that some tried to practice their faith on the island, albeit discreetly.

Over the course of the next decades, Conversos found their way out of Spain and Portugal to communities in Germany, England and the Netherlands. From there, over the next 150 years, they continued northeast to the Caribbean, including to Jamaica. The earliest known outwardly Jewish settlers made their homes in Port Royal after the capture of the Island by the English in 1655, and then in Spanish Town and Kingston. Pockets lived in smaller island towns, like Falmouth and Montego Bay.

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‘I’m a resident of a nation that don’t want me’

Dec10

by: Melissa Weininger on December 10th, 2014 | No Comments »

One of the first acts of the 112th United States Congress was to stage a reading of the entire constitution on the floor of the House of Representatives. The reading was planned as a way of acknowledging the strength of the new Tea Party faction in the House and its ideological commitment to upholding its particular understanding of the Constitution. There was just one problem: the U.S. Constitution, despite having been modified since, still contains references to its own codification of the anti-democratic beginnings of American democracy. Namely, the Constitution makes distinctions between citizens and “other persons,” or slaves, in counting population numbers for the purposes of apportionment of representatives and taxation. Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the Constitution provides that population will be counted “by adding to the whole Number of free Persons…three fifths of all other Persons.” Not wanting to be reminded of the imperfections in our Constitution, or the contradictions encoded in our democracy, the House leadership decided to read a redacted version that eliminated all language later superseded by amendments.

Simply removing the language that codified the dehumanization and disenfranchisement of African-Americans, however, can’t make it disappear. This week brought further evidence that despite Constitutional amendments and other forms of political and judicial reform, the lingering effects of Article 1 remain. Last month’s decision by a grand jury in Ferguson, Missouri, not to indict the white police officer who killed the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown in August was a reminder that our country was founded on the principle that African-American lives are worth less (three-fifths, according to the Constitution) than white ones. That sentiment was everywhere evident at protests decrying the grand jury decision, on signs that read “Black Lives Matter.” The fact that we still need to be reminded that black lives have worth brings us back to the way the founding documents of our democracy have, in a sense, written some American citizens out of it from the start. As a line from the Ferguson tribute song “Don’t Shoot” puts it, “I’m a resident of a nation that don’t want me.”


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Good Morning to thee, Brother Prisoner: Volunteering with Olive Farmers in Palestine.

Dec10

by: Brian O’Callaghan on December 10th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

Olive Grove Palestine

Credit: V.Paes

We live in a culture based on images, none more powerful than those of the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. In this age of the armchair activist, a voice of dissent is a click, a tweet or often just vitriol in a comment box. We can happily surf away to another distraction from the safety of our sofas. What if you took your solidarity and you turned up, in real time, to the trouble spot on the screen? This is exactly what activist Victor Paes did when he recently joined The International Solidarity movement (ISM) in Palestine for the annual olive harvest. Unsatisfied to merely click and share, many politically engaged citizens of the world are showing solidarity for issues in revolutionary new ways. Compassion is being translated into action because the passivity of social media often numbs feeling.

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