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Demographic Threats and the Passover Story

Apr8

by: Elana Baurer on April 8th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”

Exodus 1:22

Each year, we retell the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt as if it were our own liberation. Jews and non-Jews alike gather around the seder table all over the world and go through the steps of the seder. Some choose to commemorate the enslavement of the Israelites under the Egyptians as though it really happened, while others approach the story as symbolic. Exodus is an empowering, joyful story of freedom, liberation, and journey from the small, narrow places to expansiveness.

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An open Internet, for God’s sake!

Apr7

by: Valarie Kaur and Cheryl Leanza on April 7th, 2015 | No Comments »

NYC Rolling Rebellion Advocates for Net Neutrality and Takes on TPP & Fast Track.

What do faith and religion have to do with net neutrality? Above, NYC Rolling Rebellion protests for net neutrality in New York. Credit: CreativeCommons / Backbone Campaign.

Last month, a handful of Republicans will hold hearings on the Hill to challenge new federal rules protecting the Internet. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reclassified providers who connect us to the Internet as common carriers and adopted strong rules banning them from blocking or slowing down sites and charging access fees.

The vote is already touted as among the greatest public interest victories in U.S. history, most vocally by the tech world. But also among those celebrating this vote are America’s Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs, and humanists. What’s faith got to do with it?

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This Easter, forgo the eggs and, like Jesus, rise up for social justice

Apr4

by: Rev. Rich Lang on April 4th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

A close-up of a statue of Jesus in despair.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Lisa.

This weekend, Christians will remember the last week of Jesus’ life. If you ask Christians what the significance of Jesus is, they will tell you that Jesus “died for our sins,” paving the way for our souls to go to heaven after we shed this mortal coil. This common view is really a rather odd answer.

Some Christians tell the story as if God, the spiritual source of the material world, is really angry with us human beings. We are a rebellious sort who eat apples off the wrong trees and have sex with the wrong people. God the spirit is so angry with us that when our mortal coil is shed, our own spiritual essence will descend into an eternal torture chamber for an afterlife marked by weeping and gnashing of teeth. But thankfully, Jesus takes one for the team, becoming the scapegoat that represents all of us filthy sinners, and in doing so, appeases the God who otherwise would roast and toast us like an eternal marshmallow at a campfire. If you don’t believe Christians talk this way, just ask one: “Why did Jesus die on the cross?”


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A Meditation on “Dayenu”

Apr4

by: Roxanne J. Fand on April 4th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A hand holding green onions/scallions.

Jews in Iran and Afghanistan hit each other with bundles of green onions during the Seder song 'Dayenu' to remember the Jewish people's yearning for food during exile from Egypt. Credit: CreativeCommons / Rachel Barenblat.

Ever since I could remember, I loved Passover Seders, especially the song, “Dayenu,” whatever it might mean. Perhaps the story of freedom from slavery appealed to me as a child “enslaved” by parental and school authority. When I was old enough to read the English translation, “It Would Suffice Us,” and followed along stanza by stanza, I simply recognized gratitude for all the benefits God gave to the Israelites, from being freed of their Egyptian servitude to their regaining the Promised Land.

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The Prison Rabbi: Impossible Passover Blues

Apr3

by: Eliahu J. Klein on April 3rd, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Someone spreading peanut butter on matzo bread on a blue doily.

Every year there are Passover food shortages in prison. If Passover food isn't served though, Jewish inmates can sue California for violation of First Amendment rights. Credit: CreativeCommons / Idit Narkis Katz.

In the Department of Corrections Operations Manual it states clearly, that every religious group of inmates are allotted no more than two religious banquets a year. The State claims to cover the expenses for these religious banquets. The following is a narrative history of one of these events.

This year, all Jewish inmates of any race, creed and color residing at Happy Valley State Prison had their annual Passover Banquet without any delays, obstructions and obfuscations. All the memos were signed off by no less than twenty-six officials for a Jewish religious event situated in two separate yards (each yard housing a specific category of prisoner, such as violent or non violent; gang or non gang; general population or protected), for a total of fifty-two Jews. Everything went according to plan. I even coaxed some of my attendees to share what they were going through and they were warmly heard by the rest of the congregation; as far I could tell. There was the satisfaction of cutting through the enormous chain of command in order to celebrate a religious holy day, a day of freedom and redemption. I must be frank; the Passover banquets were much anticipated events, a sacred ritual performed on the first two nights of Passover. These Passover Banquets, the ones I performed and facilitated were performed four days into the Holiday or days before the holiday since I am a religious man and cannot travel during the actual holyday. Nevertheless, they still worked. Why? Well first off, the inmates receive a lot of extra food and free Passover food donations from Return- the National Outreach to Jews in Prisons. I watched their faces. I know it’s a big thing for these guys. An event that happens once a year for Jewish inmates. Two: Everybody relates to freedom and redemption. The entire Jewish community affirms with all their buddies how essential and endearing the story of the Exodus is to all oppressed peoples of the world. To be honest with you, I have experienced African American participants truly experience liberation and redemption in deeper ways than a lot of the Jewish inmates who do not let on what is truly going on deep in their hearts. The Black brothers, they express themselves and I hear from them that they “got” the Exodus story, the story of Passover and the function and meaning the telling of the Haggadah. My Jewish brothers definitely intellectually know a lot more than the non- Jewish participants and they show off more. On the other hand it is challenging to decipher the condition of their hearts.

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A Sikh and Hindu chai chat over progressive action and social justice

Apr3

by: Manpreet Teji and Murali Balaji on April 3rd, 2015 | No Comments »

A red Sikh symbol.Over the past decade, South Asian Americans of all faiths have become increasingly active in social justice causes, whether it’s been combating xenophobia and anti-Black racism, fighting for LGBT rights, religious tolerance, and for comprehensive environmental justice.

Sadly, even as the community comes together on these issues, interfaith dialogue among South Asian Americans continues to be a sore spot. As Sikh and Hindu activists, respectively, we seek a way forward in discussing how our communities – which have occasionally experienced tensions among advocacy groups – can work together to solve the problems we face together. Moreover, we need to talk about how Sikhs and Hindus – who both come from inherently progressive spiritual traditions -can present a united front in championing for social change.

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Thoughts About Israel, Passover, Freedom

Apr2

by: Rabbi Dov Taylor on April 2nd, 2015 | 1 Comment »

The recent re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel is a sad portent for Israel, for many Americans – including many American Jews – and for the Palestinians. Netanyahu didn’t hesitate to make a racist appeal to people’s fears, urging his supporters to turn out to vote because “the Arabs are voting in droves.”

“The Arabs” of whom he was speaking are citizens of Israel, exercising their democratic right to vote. To imply that citizens exercising one of the most precious rights of a democracy are somehow a threat is the worst kind of demagoguery.

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A World of Violence: On Women Who Refused to Live in Silence and Be Consigned to Oblivion

Apr2

by: Eduardo Galeano on April 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »

A butterfly perched on top of a leaf with sunlight shining through.

Credit: CreativeCommons / Paulo Brandao.

The following passages are excerpted from Eduardo Galeano’s book Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History, just out in paperback (Nation Books) as crossposted from TomDispatch.com.

The Shoe
(January 15)

In 1919 Rosa Luxemburg, the revolutionary, was murdered in Berlin.

Her killers bludgeoned her with rifle blows and tossed her into the waters of a canal.

Along the way, she lost a shoe.

Some hand picked it up, that shoe dropped in the mud.

Rosa longed for a world where justice would not be sacrificed in the name of freedom, nor freedom sacrificed in the name of justice.

Every day, some hand picks up that banner.

Dropped in the mud, like the shoe.

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The Iconography of Sorrow: How Easter Transforms Our Response to Suffering

Apr1

by: Luke Bretherton on April 1st, 2015 | No Comments »

From pictures of poor farmers in Depression era America to bloated children in Sudan, the contemporary aesthetics of poverty subtly reinscribe the ancient division between the children of the soil (chthonoi) and children of the gods (theion) familiar to us from the Greek and Babylonian myths.

Those who live some form of what is often deemed the ideal “Western” lifestyle look down from Olympus with sympathy on the sons and daughters of the soil and their visceral imprisonment to nature and necessity.

“We” who benefit from consumer lifestyles, technological advancement and decent sewers contemplate the photographs of stricken faces and think: “If only they can be more like us.”

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Professor Tyrone Howard Speaking on Racial Justice in U.S. Education

Apr1

by: Silver Scharlach on April 1st, 2015 | No Comments »

Let’s all take a moment to reflect on Women’s History Month, thanking the men in our lives who do make the effort to support our struggles against patriarchal oppression. This is my thank you to one of my personal heroes for doing just that.

I had the fortune today of listening to Tyrone Howard speak at the Diablo Valley College campus. This UCLA Professor discussed racial justice in the U.S. educational system–who has it, who does not, and what we can do about it.

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