by: Gary Smith on March 19th, 2013 | 4 Comments »
Veder Plate, a vegan Passover seder plate. Credit: Gene Blalock
This year will be the third year my Jewish vegan friends and I celebrate “veder,” our version of a vegan Passover seder. All of the traditional dishes are served – matzah brie, brisket, gefilte fish, potato latkes, matzah ball soup, kugel and macaroons – in veganized versions without meat, dairy or eggs. Though not all the dishes are appropriate for Passover, the meaning of the holiday and the traditional foods serve to reconnect us to our Jewish roots. Not only is all the food vegan, we incorporate nonhuman animals into our service.
Vegan matzo Ball soup. Credit: Gene Blalock.
Holidays like Passover are a difficult time for Jewish vegans and animal activists, a time of mixed emotions. As much as we love and find relevance in the meaning of the holiday, it’s difficult to be confronted by a table full of the body parts of animals that we love and fight for daily. Some vegans forgo Passover entirely, and some who celebrate with their families feel pressured to defend their ethical choices. Some are no longer invited to their family’s tables at all.
The Passover seder celebrates the Jewish people’s freedom from the Pharaoh and the larger issue of the immorality of slavery. As Jews, we have a long history filled with suffering, oppression and slavery, which has informed our choices as a community to work with other groups to help their own oppression. Jews have played roles in the civil rights movement, women’s movement, gay rights movement and feel a deep connection to suffering of others.
by: Thad Williamson on March 15th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
After graduating college, many students lose sight of civic engagement as they focus on moneymaking.
Many college students today feel themselves to be under immense pressure to secure their own professional futures – to be able to repay loans and to avoid falling on the wrong side of the deepening economic divide. Others want to acquire money and comfort, or power, because this is how a successful life has generally been portrayed to them. But many also have a concern with community and social problems and have experience doing various kinds of volunteer work; others are interested in politics and public service.
However, the ideas that getting serious about social change requires more than just volunteer work, and that democratic action is not simply about campaigns, elections, and the deeds of politicians, remain relatively novel to college students. As a college teacher, it is easy to get frustrated when confronted with students who are clueless, disengaged, or unwilling to see beyond the moneymaking definition of success. But in my experience many students are in fact eager for an alternative definition of a good life, and eager to learn more about social movements and social change. This is true whatever the self-described political leanings (if any) of students.
by: Anthony B. Pinn on March 11th, 2013 | 6 Comments »
This mural in Vicksburg, Mississippi, honors the social, political, and religious contributions made by African American residents. Vicksburg was home to Hiram Rhodes Revels, the first African American U.S. Senator and the pastor of Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Credit: Creative Commons/Paul Lowry.
The majority of African Americans believe in God, and the large number of independent and denominational black churches spread across the United States suggests many of these believers spend Sunday morning recognizing and worshipping God. This is the common story of African American religious expression – black churches shaping the private attitudes and practices of the faithful. Few debate this narrative. More controversial and less easily captured, however, is the public profile of black churches. I don’t mean the private indiscretions of ministers and members made public, nor do I mean efforts to evangelize beyond the walls of a given church building. Instead, I have in mind involvement of black churches in public issues – black churches attempting to influence policy and other markers of collective, secular life.
by: Rob Agree on March 8th, 2013 | 12 Comments »
Humanistic Judaism is a comprehensive response to the needs of contemporary Jews to create personal and communal experiences that celebrate identity, values, and connection. In my experience as the lay ceremonial leader of a congregation of Humanistic Jews, the pursuit of these experiences can lead to great rewards in unexpected places, places never visited by the other branches of the modern Jewish tree.
Our congregation includes the Levy family: mother, father and seven year-old (adopted) daughter, Ruth. Last year, the parents asked me to help them prepare a celebration of Ruth’s conversion to Judaism (her birth parents were not Jewish). We discussed Humanistic Judaism’s philosophy that adoption is a better term than conversion, and that it requires no ritual to accomplish, merely an affirmative identification and association with Jews, their historical and cultural experiences, and the values of Humanistic Judaism. The parents still wanted to do something special to welcome Ruth -an active member of our Sunday School – into the Jewish family, and, consistent with our philosophy, to allow Ruth to declare her adoption of Humanistic Judaism.
by: David S. Rotenstein on February 26th, 2013 | 11 Comments »
Southwest Decatur was rebranded Oakhurst in 1979. Photo by author.
Decatur is a hipster haven of a little less than 20,000 residents six miles east of downtown Atlanta, Ga. Its downtown is a revitalization success story: brewpubs and trendy restaurants jockey for space among locally owned boutiques, coffee shops, and frozen yogurt joints. New condos dot the city’s main street, Ponce de Leon Avenue, and there are uspscale residential subdivisions in Decatur’s northern quarters.
Decatur’s school system, funded by 61 percent of the city’s property taxes is one of the best in the state and was recently showcased in a presidential visit touting new early education initiatives. Sustainability, walkability, bike-friendly, and progressive are the buzzwords the city uses to market itself. It’s the place where people are urged to “Keep it IndieCatur.”
by: Art Laffin on February 22nd, 2013 | 3 Comments »
Shout out, don’t hold back.
Lift up your voice like a trumpet.
The U.S. empire is the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today!
The Pentagon, CIA, NSA, and corporate, political, and military powers worldwide conspire to control the earth,
crush the poor,
and persecute the peace and justice makers.
by: Nathan Schneider on February 14th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
At the edge of the West Bank village of Faqqua, an Israeli soldier watches from the other side of the Green Line. Photo by Bryan MacCormack of Left in Focus.
It took three vehicles to get to Jenin. The first and last were shared taxis that played pop music the whole way; the one in the middle was a bus driven by a handsome and solemn man with a big, religious beard, whose television played music videos memorializing martyrs. If the West Bank is shaped like an hourglass, Jenin is at the top of the upper bulb, where the sand is when it’s full. Thousands of years ago, the dusty city was named after its gardens, but more recently Ariel Sharon called it a “hornet’s nest of terrorism.”
by: Rick Staggenborg on February 12th, 2013 | 3 Comments »
I swore I was not going to write about the gun debate that has followed the latest mass murder. It seemed an exercise in futility. Trying to convince people that they are wrong on gun control is like trying to influence their views on abortion. Attitudes and opinions are fixed on the issue. There is little chance that one more opinion will change them. Recently, the conversation took an interesting turn, one that is new to the ongoing debate on gun control. The idea that we have to have personal weapons to fight our own government went from being a fringe idea to a mainstream argument, defended by conservatives and many pro-second amendment liberals.
It has been obvious to every thinking American for some time that something is terribly wrong with our current government. If we could agree in what that was we might be able to fight it without resort to guns. The nation is nearly evenly divided between those who fear a socialist takeover and those who believe that the problem is growing corporate dominance of government to the extent that it is leading to fascism, if it has not already arrived. If we do not come to a common understanding of what has gone wrong with the US system of government, it is likely that the incidence of political violence will continue to increase until we are subject to a violent crackdown by the very police state that so many of us fear.
by: Michael N. Nagler on February 4th, 2013 | 6 Comments »
Master Sgt. Renee Baldwin fires a .50-caliber machine gun during a training session. Credit: Creative Commons/Joint Base Lewis McChord.
Alongside horrifying pictures from the New York Times showing very young boys being trained to fire assault rifles (“Selling a New Generation on Guns“) comes the news, welcome in some quarters, that Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has ordered the military to admit women to full combat roles. I believe that this is not the way to equality.
Some years ago the philosopher Mary Midgley, unconsciously echoing a position Gandhi had articulated decades before, wrote that life “is the whole of which we are parts, and its other parts concern us for that reason. But the language of rights is rather ill-suited for expressing this.”
by: Rick Staggenborg on January 29th, 2013 | 7 Comments »
By March 1, Congress will have had to face the budget cuts mandated by the failure of the Simpson-Bowles commission to come up with a plan of deficit reduction that would satisfy both Republican and Democratic leaders. The failure to come up with such a plan pulled the “trigger” of a gun that is being held to the heads of poor and middle-class Americans. They will see draconian cuts in social services if the Democrats hold true to form and compromise with a Republican Party that puts defense spending and tax breaks for the rich over the interests of the majority of Americans. Predictably, Democrats undermined their own ability to pass legislation protecting the interests of the People over those of their corporate patrons. Having vowed to protect the social safety net, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid caved in to conservative Democrats who opposed serious filibuster reform and traded away the power to control the outcome of the latest round of the fight over how to avoid the fiscal cliff.
Now we have a situation where the majority of members of Congress on both sides of the aisle accept the fallacy that the only way out of the debt they created is to impose austerity measures that target Medicare and Social Security. These are the primary protections against the depredations of a system that puts the interests of the rich over those of ordinary citizens. Their proposed solution to the problem of their own making is to protect the wealthy individuals who fund their campaigns and neglect the needs of the people who actually elected them. While this strategy has provoked riots and international strikes in Europe, many Americans accept this as a sensible solution. They fail to understand some basic facts.