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Helen Prejean: The ‘Whole Death Penalty System is Botched’

Aug5

by: Viji Sundaram on August 5th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

(Cross-posted from New American Media.Question & Answer,Viji Sundaram)
Credit: New American Media

Editor’s Note: The recent botched executions of three death row inmates – Joseph R.Wood III in Arizona in mid-July, Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma in April and Dennis McGuire in Ohio in January – have brought the death penalty issue under intense scrutiny once again. Wood reportedly gasped for air some 600 times over the course of two hours after being injected. Longtime anti-death penalty crusaderSister Helen Prejean, author ofDead Man Walking,has been a spiritual adviser to many death row inmates in her home state of Louisiana. She shared her thoughts on the latest executions with NAM health editor Viji Sundaram.

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We Refuse to be Enemies: “Vision Camp” for Israel-Palestine Ends on a Hopeful Note

Aug4

by: Leila Dregger on August 4th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Bombs turn play areas, refugee camps, entire streets into ruins. In these ruins, children bleed to death. Ten thousand people looking for shelter, but hospitals are overcrowded and exhausted doctors. Operations are carried out under mobile phone flashlights because, after the destruction of the only power station in Gaza, there is no electricity. On the other side, an entire people re-experience an age-old fear of attacks and extermination every day, after the discovery of tunnel systems. Eighty-five percent of the Israeli population is, according to the polls, pro-war. Dehumanization, demonization, and hatred exist on both sides. Meanwhile, there is a completely marginalized peace movement – powerless, abused, and threatened. Economies such as the USA or Germany, that have raised their arms exports up to a quarter in the last year, have failed to provide adequate aid, while an airplane with medicine for Gaza was denied landing permission in Egypt.

The only response for an open heart in hearing this news is to act.

Credit: Vision Camp Facebook

Amidst this seemingly hopeless situation Sabine Lichtenfels, co-founder of a peace research center called Tamera in Portugal, initiated what she calls a “vision camp” in the West Bank. It had mainly one goal: to create and maintain humaneness, trust, and equal exchange between Israel and Palestine. Even the international flight cancellations to Tel Aviv could not stop her; Sabine did not give up until she and her team had managed to get the last seats in a fully booked Israeli airplane. Finally, fifty peace workers from Palestine, Israel, and other countries met from July 24 to 29 in a completely open area, near Bethlehem.

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Upcoming Conference Call with Sami Awad and Recommended Articles

Jul30

by: Tikkun Administration on July 30th, 2014 | Comments Off

UPCOMING CONFERENCE CALL

Monday, August 4th — 2:00 p.m. EDT / 11:00 a.m. PDT

Sami Awad will be speaking to us from Palestine on the Israel/Gaza War. Sami Awad is the Executive Director of Holy Land Trust (HLT), a Palestinian non-profit organization which he founded in 1998 in Bethlehem. HLT works with the Palestinian community at both the grassroots and leadership levels in developing nonviolent approaches that aim to end the Israeli occupation and build a future founded on the principles of nonviolence, equality, justice, and peaceful coexistence.

Sami Awad will call in from Bethlehem, Palestine and will be joined by Rabbi Michael Lerner and Cat Zavis (executive director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives).

Conference Call Number: 1-267-507-0240

Conference Code: 241099

Please Note: This Call is for or NSP–Network of Spiritual Progressives currently paid-up members, Tikkun subscribers and Beyt Tikkun members. (Call our office at 510-644-1200 or click here to join today!)

Articles Worth Reading From Around the Web

Editor’s Note: Rabbi David Seidenberg, one of the most creative rabbinic voices explicating the Jewish mystical tradition and championing the environment, presents an important Jewish religious perspective on the religious ethical issues raised by Israel’s war in Gaza. Please share these articles with anyone you know in the Jewish world who has given blanket support to Israel’s current actions in Gaza. Also please read the article by Peter Beinart on the lies being told by the American Jewish establishment and the impassioned plea from Israeli pop singer Noa.

Rabbi Michael Lerner

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Abe’s Babes: Interfaith Theater to Counter Prejudice at the Dinner Table

Jul30

by: Sara Weissman on July 30th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

When we encounter systemic racism, we know where our moral obligation lies. We speak out. But what happens when prejudice finds its way into the most intimate setting, the dinner table? “Well, you know how they are. They can’t be reasoned with. Could you please pass the salt?”

Abe's Babes members dine together.

Abe's Babes members dine together around their own laden table. Credit: Yvonne Perczuk.

Disparaging comments about another group are unfortunately common in many communities. When these kinds of off-hand remarks emerge in our own homes or in the homes of our friends, how are we supposed to respond? Abe’s Babes, a group of six Jewish, Muslim, and Christian women in Sydney, Australia, may have found an answer.

After experiencing this brand of “dinner table prejudice” in Sydney’s Muslim and Jewish communities, the group decided to confront the issue with a creative weapon: theater. Collectively, they wrote a play called The Laden Table, which tells of two meals – a Jewish family breaking their Yom Kippur fast and a Muslim family celebrating Eid. After seven years of hard work, the first professional production will take place in Sydney on the nights of July 30, July 31, and August 1.

After hearing prejudiced remarks about Muslims at a Jewish dinner table, Yvonne Perczuk, one of the founders of the playwriting group, felt deeply disturbed. Realizing that similar conversations were taking place in Muslim homes, she decided something had to be done about misconceptions harbored in both communities.

“The fear of the other, the fear of the unknown – all of those fears come out at the dinner table,” Perczuk said. “They come out in a spontaneous way so that’s where you hear the truths about how people feel.”


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The Solution to Middle East Chaos

Jul30

by: Tala Haikal and Saliba Sarsar on July 30th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Aggression and war insidiously and savagely consume the hearts of humanity. Huge amounts of energy, ingenuity, resources, and sacrifice are continuously wasted as people fight in the name of freedom, self-defense, self-determination, God, righteous conquest, justice, national security, and power, typically to no avail.

The specter of vicious but pointless conflict is today most evident in the Middle East, where extremism is on the rise and antagonisms are often fierce. Such dynamics make history, to paraphrase a line from James Joyce’sUlysses, a nightmare from which we are trying to awake. The record of human suffering there is long, and in many ways, it is getting worse.

Gaza, Syria, and Iraq are pained by that same disease of extremism and conflict. Civilians, more specifically children and women, are bearing the brunt of the injustices. In today’s Middle East, we have sacrificed a generation to the flames of rage.

Woman in Gaza/Credit: Creative Commons

The ongoing hostilities between Hamas and Israel, the third outbreak of such violence since 2008, is tragic. Fear grips both Israelis and Palestinians and as innocents die or are wounded, with the majority being the elderly, women, and children. The Palestinian death toll, as of July 23, 2014, has reached over 680 and the wounded more than 4,220.UNRWA says more than 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza are internally displaced. This is not to mention the destruction of homes, schools, hospitals and basic infrastructure.

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“Israel Provoked This War: It’s Up to Obama to Stop It” and Recommended Articles

Jul29

by: Tikkun Administration on July 29th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Editor’s Note: July 27, 2014, Sunday morning: As of yesterday with over 1,000 fatalities in Gaza, 928 fatalities had been identified by name as of 10 A.M. and revealed that 764 were civilians, including 215 children and 118 women. Over 30 Israeli soldiers and 2 Israeli civilians have been killed. Israel rejected a proposed ceasefire and furiously critiqued Sec. of State Kerry for proposing it without allowing Israel to continue (during the “ceasefire”) to destroy Hamas tunnels. Kerry backed down and apologized. Please read the following articles, which may provide you with some of the information and analyses you won’t find in Western media.

Below we have an article by Henry Siegman who was once the powerful director of the American Jewish Congress. In those days he refused to write for Tikkun or join our board–our insistence that Israel should negotiate with the Palestinians was considered far too radical, and Siegman, who told me he personally agreed with Tikkun’s position, lacked the courage to challenge the major American Jewish mainstream of which he was a part. As has happened to so many people after they lose their positions of power, he became more forthright in his articulation of what needed to change. I imagine the same thing will happen with Obama after he leaves office. It’s a terrible shame that these people didn’t have the courage to do so when they had the power to make a difference.

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A Reflection on the Passing of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Jul29

by: Rabbi Sammy Intrator on July 29th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons

I am in pain over the loss of a great spiritual guide for our generation in the passing of Reb Zalman. He was perhaps the last of a breed, that bridged generations and who had lived on both sides of the great Jewish divide in these generations.

He understood the depth, the beauty and the love of the old world of Hasidim through the deep exposure he had to that world in his early years. His Rebbe (teacher) was Reb Yosef  Yitzchok Schneerson, the 6 th Lubavitcher Rebbe and father in law of the last Rebbe whose 20 Yar Ziet anniversary was just commemorated a few weeks ago.

Yet for much of his life, especially from the 60′s and thereafter, he was a beacon of light to a younger generation, who as the Torah in the beginning of Exodus says “did not know Joseph” and had no understanding of that world. With depth, with love, with humor, and with songs he imparted a spiritual conscience of an old age that spoke to the generation of a new age. The renewal Judaism he helped found was not really meant to create another branch of Judaism, but rather to influence and inspire its existing branches. His deeply universal message was powerfully influenced by his deep Jewish roots.

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What Would a Transformative Justice System Look Like — Politically, Economically, Spiritually and Intellectually?

Jul29

by: Jim Vrettos on July 29th, 2014 | Comments Off

Editor’s Note: This is a piece written by a John Jay sociology professor, Jim Vrettos, and was part of a panel Professor Vrettos chaired at the recent Left Forum held at John Jay College in New York City, which took place from May 30 to June 1, 2014. The panel was entitled: What Would a Transformative Justice System Look Like —Politically, Economically, Spiritually and Intellectually? Other panelists included: Dr. Carl Hart – drug researcher and neuroscientist from Columbia University, Felipe Coronel – the political rapper known as Immortal Technique, Fania Davis — Executive Director of the Restorative Justice for Oakland Youth program in Oakland, California, and Tom Hayden -founder and director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center in Culver City, California.

“The mayor and the commissioner should begin a serious discussion of the future of “broken windows” policing, the strategy of relentlessly attacking petty offenses to nurture a sense of safety and order in high-crime neighborhoods, which, in theory, leads to greater safety and order. In reality, the link is hypothetical, as many cities and towns across the country have enjoyed historic decreases in violent crime since the 1990s, whatever strategies they used. And the vast majority of its targets are not serious criminals, or criminals at all.

(New York City Police Commissioner) William Bratton is a pioneer of broken windows policing and (New York City Mayor) Mr. de Blasio is a stout defender … Mr. Bratton should not be a once-innovative general fighting the last war. Mr. De Blasio was elected on a promise of being a transformative mayor who would recognize the times we live in and respect the communities whose residents fear the police. Now is the time to show it.”

New York Times Editorial —July 25, 2014

Everywhere today we see questioning, imagining, mobilizing and organizing of people into what they think America and the world can or should be. The work of completing America’s revolutionary and transformative promise and indeed, of all humankind’s hopes is now so immediate and profoundly necessary that the fate of the species and natural world literally is in the balance. And the radical left is also vigorously questioning the specter of America’s past and its present destructiveness and dysfunctionality.

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Where are our Cities of Refuge?

Jul29

by: Howard Cooper on July 29th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Let me start with the most immediate, the most obvious, the most unwelcome, the most disorienting, the most frightening of experiences, in this week when we read from the Torah (Numbers 35) about those six Biblical ‘cities of refuge’- places where anyone could go (Jew or non-Jew, resident or stranger) and seek shelter, protection from bloodshed or vengeance, places you could go where you could await justice, safely, await the processes of law to take effect and not be at the mercy of those who had a personal vendetta against you, or who wanted to take the law into their own hands. What an extraordinary concept those cities of refuge were, protected spaces where – whatever blood had been spilled unwittingly – you could still feel safe from the sudden arrival of someone or something intent on revenge.

Credit: Creative Commons

And what is most disturbing, most disillusioning, most damning, most dementing, about the world we live in and we see unfolding on our TV screens and in our newspapers every day more than two and a half millennia since those texts were written, is that in reality there are no places of refuge. The Torah is like a dream. And then we awaken from it – and the nightmare is that there is nowhere that is safe from death’s sudden arrival, however guilty or innocent one might be. You can get into a plane to fly off on holiday or to a conference – and be blown out of the sky. As those of us living in London remember, you can get onto an underground train or a bus on a sunny July morning – as in 2005 – and you find out that nowhere in our modern world guarantees a refuge from acts of human destructiveness.

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YoHana Bat Adam: The Spiritual Heartist

Jul29

by: Sara Weissman on July 29th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

"Ascending" Mixed Media on canvas 23KT Gold leaf, Swarovski Crystals 43.5″ x 55.5″ Carved 22KT gilded Basswood frame

For years, YoHana Bat Adam didn’t call herself an artist. She jumped from one financially sustainable job to the next, from cleaning houses to working in a hair salon. “I was in survivor mode,” she says. But around eight to ten years ago, she can’t quite recall, Bat Adam decided to turn her love of art into a lifestyle. “One day, after doing so many things, I kind of realized, that’s it, from today I am an artist,” she says.I’m an artist because an artist is a state. It’s a state of being creative, being connected to the higher in you and manifesting yourself as you truly are in the moment.” Her career began with an artistic kite shop along the beach in Hertzliya, Israel and, after experiments with media from aerial design to sculpting, her art blossomed into the variety of work she creates today in her studio near Nevada City, California, including colorful paintings on canvas, silk, and wood.

Bat Adam calls herself the “heartist,” a label that she feels embodies the message behind her art. She hopes her work will inspire viewers to soul-search, to “go to their hearts and be present to what they see.” For Bat Adam, “art is kind of a silent language of the heart” and should inspire personal introspection. She finds this inward focus to be lacking in much of modern art, which, in her opinion, is primarily based on shock value. Citing an example, an installation of four cars hanging from the ceiling at MOMA, Bat Adam says, “I’ll remember it, but what did it add to my emotional ability to be in contact with myself? What did it really create? It’s a sensation of the mind, not the depth of the heart.”

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