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Birthwrong: Meet the Pranksters Celebrating the Jewish Diaspora

Jun3

by: Hannah Gold on June 3rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

A swastika with the "No" symbol across it.This piece was originally published on Transformation at openDemocracy.net.

Every summer, young Jewish people from around the world go on a free holiday to Israel. Run by a company called ‘Taglit-Birthright,’ the tours aim to “strengthen Jewish identity, Jewish communities and solidarity with Israel”.

The ten day trips are funded by the Israeli government and international donors, and have been criticized for promoting a biased view of Israel, ignoring the state’s complex history and ongoing human rights abuses. Several alternative tours now exist, offering trips to the West Bank and meetings with Palestinian activists.

In early 2015 another contender emerged: ‘Birthwrong‘. Organised by Jewdas, a bunch of radical left-wing pranksters, political commentators and party planners, Birthwrong is “a trip for anyone who’s sick of Israel’s stranglehold on Jewish culture… [a] fiesta of the oppressed, marginalized and ridiculously, obscenely hopeful.”

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Why Schools Should Include Hip-Hop in the Curriculum

Jun2

by: Brian Mooney on June 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »

Two students in a hip-hop cypher in a classroom.

A hip-hop cypher, where students each contribute a line of rhyme or poetry in a circle, is the pedagogical foundation of author Brian Mooney's curriculum.

Most classes start with a “Do Now” or “Warm-Up.” Mine often start with a hip-hop cypher. In a cypher, students stand in a circle, spread at equal distances, and one at a time, contribute a rhyme, line of poetry, thought, idea, or affirmation. This circle is the pedagogical foundation of the work I do in hip-hop education.

On a recent February afternoon, just outside of New York City, only miles from hip-hop’s birthplace in the South Bronx, I asked my high school students to answer this question in the opening cypher; why should schools include hip-hop in the curriculum?

Christian, now a junior, told us that, “hip-hop is a culture and it’s just like learning about the Aztecs or the Mayans. We learn the origin, customs, and traditions [of hip-hop].”Recalling a recent lesson on hip-hop’s fifth element, Christian went on to explain that hip-hop offers students an opportunity to learn, “”knowledge of self,” which is knowing who you are.”

Hip-hop was born in the South Bronx of the 1970s under oppressive conditions. In response to limited resources, poverty, and gang violence that riddled the New York City borough, black and Latino youth came together in an effort to improve the community, expressing themselves through rapping, breakdancing, graffiti art, and turntablism.

Over forty years later, hip-hop has become a worldwide phenomenon, reaching every corner of the globe and shaping the identities of a whole generation of young people. Kids today are just as invested in hip-hop culture as they were in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s.

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Buddhists, Christians, and Godly Prosperity

Jun2

by: Philip Jenkins on June 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »

The Buddhist magazine Tricycle sometimes offers really fine writing, and the past Spring issue included an outstanding example that raises all sorts of questions and parallels for historians of Christianity.

The piece in question was “The Buddha’s Footprint,” by Johan Elverskog of SMU (subscription needed for full access). It’s a substantial article, and not surprisingly it will be the core of a forthcoming book. Elverskog looks at Buddhist attitudes to the environment, and he shows that by no means have they always involved the kind of militant environmentalism and tree-hugging that we might expect of American practitioners today. Contrary to myth, early Buddhists were not necessarily in tune with the natural world, dreamy lovers of untamed wilderness.

Instead, he shows that early Buddhism was very clearly an urban movement: “Of the 4,257 teaching locales found in the early Buddhist canon, for example, fully 96 percent are in urban settings. Similarly, of the nearly 1,400 people identified in these texts, 94 percent are described as residing in cities.” Not surprisingly, then, the faith’s earliest texts showed a definite preference for human domination over the environment. A landscape was good if it was controlled, fertile and working for the human good.

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The Jewish Path to Liberation and Transformation (not just for Jews!)

Jun1

by: Tikkun on June 1st, 2015 | No Comments »

Why not spend a weekend with Rabbi Michael Lerner (editor of Tikkun) and Cat Zavis (executive director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives) June 12-14 (with a very small group of people). Cat Zavis and Rabbi Lerner have just gotten married and will be celebrating their honeymoon at Esalen, in part by leading a workshop on The Jewish Path to Liberation and TransformationNOT JUST FOR JEWS.

We wish it could be for free, or at least that the money comes to Tikkun, but no such luck. Still, since it is at one of the most beautiful places in the world, Big Sur, Ca. (which is where the Esalen Institute has its campus) it’s worth the trip (even from abroad or from the East Coast) and the cost. The hot springs there provide lots of opportunity for real relaxation, and Rabbi Lerner and Cat Zavis rarely get this much time to hang out with people in a really leisurely, joyous, and magnificent setting (except if they live in Berkeley and come to Rabbi Lerner’s Beyt Tikkun Torah studies and courses on Re-introduction to Judaism –details at www.beyttikkun.org). Moreover, the food at Esalen is to live-for, truly delicious.

The Esalen Institute in Big Sur, CA

Source: Flickr / Doug Ellis


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Right or Wrong? Climate Change

Jun1

by: David Morgan on June 1st, 2015 | No Comments »

Some people claim, “Environmentalism is just another religion” to rebut people who link climate change to human activity. What about organizations such as Jesus People Against Pollution, which cite Scripture? Are their views grounded in the Bible?

I have no doubt organizations that support environmentalism can find strong scriptural foundations. Care for creation is embedded in the creation accounts of Genesis and in Christians’ responsibility to care for the marginalized in society. I have addressed this subject in earlier “Right or Wrong?” articles titled “Building ‘green’” and “Going green.”

Oil refineries and their smokestacks emitting greenhouse gases at twilight.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Kris Krüg.


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Department of Justice Again Allows Megabanks to Continue Business as Usual

May28

by: Mark Karlin on May 28th, 2015 | No Comments »

This piece, by Buzzflash at Truthout editor Mark Karlin, was originally published at Buzzflash by Truthout.

 A sign that says 'Break Up Big Banks.'

Credit: sharonkubo.

One of the key strategies of power that perpetuates economic and social injustice is the numbing of all opposition by sanctioning the status quo. This is the technique the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) wield in allowing mega-banks to continue to engage in illegal, deceptive and exploitative practices.

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Re-making the Jericho Road: Martin Luther King and Economic Justice

May28

by: Reverend Andrew Wilkes on May 28th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

On the forty-seventh anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., Andrew Wilkes offered these remarks at a workshop sponsored by New York DSA. They have been adapted for publication.

For Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, racial justice and economic justice are inseparable. The conventional narrative is that King became radical after the 1966 Chicago campaign that addressed fair housing, equal employment opportunities, and restrictive covenants. Alternatively, some claim his radicalism originated with his Riverside Church speech against the Vietnam War in 1967. But the historical record says otherwise. In July 1952, King wrote to his sweetheart, Coretta Scott. In that letter, the twenty-three year old, reflecting on Edward Bellamy’s socialist classic Looking Backward, which Coretta had given him, says “I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in economic theory than capitalistic. . . . [Bellamy] says that today capitalism has outlived its usefulness, it has brought about a system that takes necessities from the masses to give luxuries to the classes.” What this means is that three years before the 1955 Montgomery Bus Boycott, for virtually his entire public career, King had a specific commitment to democratic socialism.

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Markets of the Mind

May27

by: Tony Curzon Price on May 27th, 2015 | No Comments »

A graphic of a golden head silouhetted with currency signs.

"A sense of sin, of having to redeem yourself through deeds, is the banker in the head." Credit: http://www.indiainfoline.com.

Debt and guilt have much in common. It’s time we found better ways of organising both ourselves and the economy.

Feeling guilty and being over-indebted have much in common. You’ve done something wrong and now you’re paying for it. The feeling of guilt is a flow of pain due to you from past recklessness, maybe from your original sin. The flow might abate if only you could redeem yourself. You’re all set up to beg forgiveness. A payment is due, and if only you’d do your duty, you’d pay your dues, the pain might just abate. The language of guilt and debt seem inseparable: redeem, forgive, bondage, dues…

George Gilder, onetime business guru, evangelical Christian and speechwriter to Richard Nixon, was a prophet of the virtues of massive debt for companies. His logic would have appealed to the protestant theologian and autocrat John Calvin. When you pile a company high with debt — up to the maximum that its financial projections will allow — the chief executive will have just one purpose to his day: to fulfill his promises; to meet the monthly installment. And if he doesn’t (it usually is a ‘he’), he’ll have to confront a stern and wrathful investor. That investor is, in Goldamn Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein’s entirely non-ironic formulation, “Just doing God’s work.” To make the payment or else … that’s exactly the motivational structure of the guilty mind: there’ll be hell to pay if I don’t perform.

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Educated Hope and the Promise of Democracy

May26

by: Henry A. Giroux on May 26th, 2015 | No Comments »

The following is a commencement speech given by Professor Henry A. Giroux at Chapman University to the class of 2015 at Chapman University on May 24th, 2015.

I am very moved and humbled to accept an honorary degree on this important occasion today, and to be with all of you in sharing this wonderful achievement of graduating from Chapman University. As a father who struggled to put three boys through higher education, I think it is appropriate that I should begin by first acknowledging those parents and family members, whose support throughout the years helped to make it possible for you to achieve this tremendous milestone in your life. And as Stephen Colbert said to a graduating class at Northwestern University, “If you don’t thank them now, you’ll have plenty of time to thank them tomorrow when you move back in with them.” Just kidding, I hope.

I am especially honored to be in the presence of so many of you who have chosen education as a field of study. I can think of no generation for whom education is more important than it is for yours at this particular time in history. At a time when the public good is under attack and there seems to be a growing apathy toward the social contract, or any other civic minded investment in public values and the larger common good, education has to be seen as more than a credential or a pathway to a job. It has to be viewed as crucial to understanding and overcoming the current crisis of agency, politics, and democracy faced by many young people today. One of the challenges your generation faces is the need to reclaim the role that education has historically played in developing critical literacies and civic capacities. At the heart of such a challenge is the question of what education should accomplish in a democracy. What work does your generation have to do to create the economic, political, and ethical conditions necessary to endow young people with the capacities to think, question, doubt, imagine the unimaginable, and defend education as essential for inspiring and energizing the citizens necessary for the existence of a robust democracy?

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Zero-tolerance for BDS in Canada

May26

by: Donald Mcgrath on May 26th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

On May 11 of this year, CBC News published an article in which its senior Washington correspondent, Neil Macdonald, wrote that Canada’s Harper government “is signalling its intention to use hate crime laws against Canadian advocacy groups that encourage boycotts of Israel.” Macdonald drew this conclusion after an e-mail exchange with Josée Sirois, an aide to federal Public Security Minister Steven Blaney. Macdonald asked Sirois to clarify a comment that Minister Blaney made in a speech delivered at the United Nations General Assembly Session on Anti-Semitism on January 22 of this year. In this speech, Blaney stated that “Canada has taken a zero-tolerance approach to anti-Semitism and all forms of discrimination including in rhetoric towards Israel, and attempts to delegitimize Israel such as the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.”

Macdonald asked Sirois to clarify what “zero tolerance” meant in this context. He also referred to a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between Canada and Israel that was signed by Canada’s former Foreign Affairs Minister, John Baird, in January of this year prior to Blaney’s UN address. The MOU commits Canada to the fight against anti-Semitism and describes the BDS movement as “the new face of anti-Semitism.” Macdonald wanted to know if this agreement has any force in Canadian law and if the authorities who answer to Blaney are doing anything about the BDS movement here.

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