by: Ian Hoffman on October 8th, 2013 | Comments Off
(Credit: Creative Commons)
At the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, I met and later dated a Swedish woman. She was tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and older than me, but none of this mattered much in the giddy and stuffed atmosphere that was the festival’s after-party, at the Swedish American House (actually, she had gotten her tickets through a friend working at that house). Like me, she was delighted to be at a party that was in many ways an imitation of a big Hollywood bash – standing in line, for instance, next to the actress we had just watched onscreen.
A hundred years back, none of this would have been possible. Jews were mostly living in fringe communities spread across Europe or, if not, we were relegated to second-class citizenship within cities plush with anti-Semitism. This is all old hat, but sometimes being a Jew in the twenty-first century makes it easy to forget how lucky we are.
We can meet and date Swedish women who might have once thought us anathema. We once would have thought them untouchable.
That’s why the movie I most enjoyed at the film festival – Nono, the Zigzag Kid – was not particularly Jewish. Rather, it was about how Judaism has faded into the background of life; for so many of us, it is not a distinguishing mark anymore. And yet that does not mean that we’re not Jewish.
by: Larry Rasmussen on October 8th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
We would all be well advised to listen to the counsel of Wendell Berry, who has been for the past fifty years America’s foremost teacher on the subject of the wholeness of creation. “To cherish the remains of the Earth and to foster its renewal,” he warns, “is our only legitimate hope for survival.” There is no more effective way to cherish the remains of the Earth than first, to recognize the primal elements of earth, air, water and fire as sacred and therefore worthy of reverence. Then, as we perceive more deeply the wholeness of creation, we understand as well that we have been born to belonging to the sacred primal elements, of which we are composed and without which we could not live.
(CC-BY-NC-SA by www.martin-liebermann.de)
From the moment we are born until our death, we need air. Likewise water. Our body mass is, like the planet’s, 70 percent water. As the descendents of Adam, whose name derives from the Hebrew word adama (soil), we are groundlings, earthlings, the good clods who became the cultivators. We are creatures of dust, a little water, and the breath of God. Our identity is in our belonging to the sacred elements, a heritage that unites us with a past stretching back millions of years; yet, this identity has current implications as well. We live in a period of transition from an industrial-technological civilization to an ecological civilization, a transition that some have called the greatest that humans have ever faced. This transition marks the emergence from the Holocene Age to the Anthropocene Age.
by: Ada Glustein on October 3rd, 2013 | 6 Comments »
Exciting days in Vancouver! Six local groups recently formed the Palestine Awareness Coalition, coming together to present the now famous four-map poster showing “Disappearing Palestine.” The posters have appeared in several US cities, including New York and San Francisco. They are now on 15 city buses and at one (soon to be two) SkyTrain stations. The coalition was extremely glad to be working together with other groups for this effort. Each group has its own mandate and approaches the issues of Israel-Palestine in different ways, but all groups had the common desire for the public to be made more aware of the ever-diminishing land for Palestinians since 1946. All groups recognized that awareness is the seed that is needed for the plant to sprout and for any positive action to flourish. A grassroots fundraising campaign took place to pay for an initial four weeks of the mural display, and we were thrilled with the response and appreciative of the transit authority and ad-makers for agreeing to post the maps.
by: Kelsey Waxman on September 30th, 2013 | Comments Off
(Credit: Creative Commons/ Jstreet.org)
Saturday night, 2800 Jewish Americans and their domestic and international allies congregated in Washington, DC to begin the 4th annual J Street National Conference. J Street, founded in 2008, is a Jewish-American political advocacy organization that markets itself as “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace.” The organization, which also runs its own PAC (Political Action Committee), presents a vision for security and stability in Israel/Palestine through its lobbying in the form of an American-brokered two-state solution. This year’s conference, entitled “Our Time to Lead,” features three days of panels hosted and moderated by American, Israeli, and Palestinian speakers from diverse professional backgrounds. culminating in an “Advocacy Day” in which conference delegates will disperse throughout Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional representatives to lobby for the passing of political policies that they support. The conference will also include a keynote address from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
by: Margaret Morganroth Gullette on September 27th, 2013 | Comments Off
As soon as the Battered Women’s Shelter opened in my Sister City in Nicaragua, I got to know the abused girls (all thirteen to fifteen years old), who came to live there. I have a favorite, Adelina, the silent, skinny, thirteen-year-old who came first. Adelina had been prostituted by her mother to a neighbor who paid in groceries. Social services found out, arrested Adelina’s mother and neighbor, and sent Adelina to us.
(Credit: Amnesty International/ Creative Commons)
Adelina thought she was in love with the perpetrator. I met her the next morning, after her night of wakeful tears. I knelt down, watching her draw and speaking to her through a finger puppet. “Me gusta tu dibujo,” the puppet said in a squeaky voice: “I like your drawing.” Eventually, by saying “I wish I could draw, but I don’t have any fingers,” in puppet-voice, I succeeded in making her laugh. That laugh founded an affectionate relationship.
She lived in the shelter for over a year, studied, and proudly got admitted to the Free High School for Adults. Then she was remanded back to her mother, continuing to arrive for therapy every day. Now I learn she is pregnant, by a boy three years older. He is a drunk who has been seen passed out on the waterfront. I am distraught and helpless. She is vomiting and miserable.
by: Adam Duhan on September 26th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
Every once in a while, you get the artistic perfect storm of an exceptional raconteur and brilliant teacher, an extremely talented set of technical people, and a right-on, topical subject, all coming together. Jacob Kornbluth’s latest movie, Inequality for All (starring Robert Reich), is terrific documentary cinema.
Admittedly, when they first sought to answer the question of how the United States got into this ridiculously toxic financial mess, the auteurs had little sense of where this movie would take them. What emerged is a juggernaut of easy-to-follow data, mind-blowing graphics, and engaging interviews of hard-pressed workers and students. Their stories are yours and mine. The icing is the addition of amazingly frank and revealing interviews of the Pacific Pillow Company’s CEO and Warren Buffet, representing the enlightened upper 1 percent.
The movie is loosely based on the content of Secretary Reich’s legendarily popular University of California, Berkeley course “Wealth and Poverty,” and on his 2012 book, After Shock. It takes us through the lascivious coupling of “too large to fail” banks’ mortgage and investment divisions, the death of Glass-Stiegel, and the Congress-for-sale reality created by the Citizens United Supreme Court decision.
by: Mimi Peleg on September 26th, 2013 | 58 Comments »
Mimi Peleg uses cannabis and MDMA to treat PTSD in herself and others. Credit: Ori Sharon.
The issue of drugs, and psychedelic drugs in particular, generally opens up questions which cannot be ignored by anyone seeking a more just and caring society. Current global policies towards psychedelic drugs range from the cruel to the barbaric. Every country in the world, excluding Portugal, currently prosecutes or otherwise severely penalizes individuals who use psychedelic substances.
Since the 1960s, this prosecution has come under question. This is particularly true in the U.S. To many, the pro-psychedelic movement that emerged out of the anti-war movement seems frivolous and non-essential. To observers with these attitudes, psychedelics are viewed as recreational diversions. People who see psychedelics in this way may be bewildered to know that the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies (MAPS), an organization aimed at studying the medical benefits of MDMA (the pure compound in the illegal drug Ecstasy), cannabis, and other drugs, has chosen Israel as a key location for psychedelic research.
To those who follow the growing body of medical research on psychedelics, this choice is much less surprising. Increasingly, scientists have come to view psychedelics as the most powerful tool we possess in treating PTSD, radically changing the old picture of the drug. According to The Israel Center for the Treatment of Psychotrauma (ICTP), a group that has been active since 1989 to contend with the growing phenomenon of psychotrauma in Israel, an estimated 9% of Israelis suffer from PTSD. While this is in the mid-range of PTSD rates in areas near Israel, it is three times the rate of PTSD in the U.S. and other Western countries. Israel’s high rate could be due to the many wars, presence of first and second generation Holocaust Survivors, and numerous other factors.
by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on September 26th, 2013 | 37 Comments »
(Credit: Creative Commons)
I am the first to admit that I am not one that has been able to appreciate the work of Russell Brand. I’ll further admit that the only thing I have seen him in was the re-make of Arthur, which should never have been remade. When you have a cast like Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, the late Sir John Gielgud, and the late Geraldine Fitzgerald what are the hopes of doing better than that, even with my beloved Helen Mirren? As it turns out, Russell Brand is a rather impressive young man with a keen awareness of homophobia, class, distribution of wealth, and history. Bravo, Mr. Brand!
Brand was just recently the recipient of a British GQ Oracle award, which is sponsored by Hugo Boss. Upon receiving his award, Brand took the opportunity to remind the audience of the deep ties Hugo Boss had to the Nazi Party during WWII. Hugo Boss not only supported the Third Reich, but also made an enormous amount of money making the uniforms for the Nazi soldiers. The uniforms were often made by prisoners of war – a truly horrific irony. Despite Boss’ prohibition from operating the business after the war, he transferred power to a relative and the business continued on its ill-gotten gains. During the push for reparations in the 1990s, the company paid lip service to the effort but refused to publicize any findings regarding their activities and contributed what adjudicators called “a bare minimum” to the reparation fund. What an awful example of soulless corporate greed.
by: Bridgette Auger on September 24th, 2013 | 1 Comment »
(Cross-posted from New America Media)
(Mohamad, after receiving bad news in Beirut, Lebanon, April 2013 / Photo: Bridgette Auger)
The second time Mohamad was summoned to Syrian intelligence headquarters, his cousin on the inside warned him to flee or they would kill him. He left overnight to Lebanon, and has been bouncing ever since between Jordan, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. When I first met Mohamad in Syria, he was the successful manager of a Volkswagen dealership, giggling as he told me about a wild weekend and all the women he’d encountered during it. The last time I saw him in Beirut, Lebanon, he’d become a different person — rarely leaving the apartment where he slept on a mattress on the living room floor. Fed up with the instability and lack of daily purpose, he told me he was returning to Syria to escape the misery of exile, accepting the reality that he could die.
Mohamad’s best friend Husam and I met as colleagues at the United Nations Refugee Agency in 2008. He was fully committed to changing Syria for the better, through his burgeoning career in development. He was studying German and Spanish, attending university full time, and was financially responsible for his entire family. When I later visited Husam, now an exile in Marburg, Germany, in March 2013, I hardly recognized him. He was hostile, bitter and isolated.
by: Elena Shore on September 17th, 2013 | Comments Off
(Cross-posted from New America Media)
SAN FRANCISCO – Local leaders of LGBT, women’s rights and immigrant rights groups are looking to Sacramento, not Washington, as the best hope for change.
(Credit: Creative Commons)
With federal immigration reform stalled in the U.S. House of Representatives, activists here are turning their attention to a series of bills moving through the Democrat-controlled state legislature that could make California one of the most immigrant-friendly states in the nation — nearly 20 years after Republican Gov. Pete Wilson pushed to deny health care and public education to undocumented immigrants.
“The [national] landscape has changed in the past two weeks,” since the developments in Syria, said Ben de Guzman of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance in Washington, D.C. “We didn’t know what was going to happen on immigration reform; we have [even] less of a sense of what’s going to happen now.”
But one thing is clear: For many immigrant rights advocates, the greatest hope for reform may lie in Sacramento, not Washington.