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Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Michael Lerner




Violence Begets Violence

Jun15

by: on June 15th, 2017 | 4 Comments »

We at Tikkun were glad to hear Senator Bernie Sanders unequivocally condemn the shooting by Bernie supporter, James Hodgkinson, who injured five Republicans, one of them a Congressman, who were part of the Republican Congressional group going to play a for fun annual baseball game with Democratic Congresspeople in Washington DC this morning, June 14th. In his statement, Senator Sanders said: “I am sickened by this despicable act. Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society, and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only be obtained through nonviolent action and anything else runs counter to our most deeply held American values.”

We at Tikkun are fully aligned in our opposition to violence of any sort and condemn it in the strongest possible terms. We do so on spiritual, religious, and ethical grounds. Human life is sacred and should be protected and helped to flourish. This is a central teaching of the Bible and of Judaism through the ages. We also oppose it on strategic grounds. When anyone who could be seen as connected to liberal and progressive causes engages in violence, (against property even, but especially against human beings) he or she creates a new opportunity for the most reactionary forces in our country to pass new laws restricting free speech, to bring indictments against social change activists, to incite law enforcement to use excessive levels of violence, and to build popular support for new measures of repression.

While we agree with Sanders on most of what he said, we are also aware of statements made by others that have picked up  the notion that violence runs against American values or is in some way oppositional to what America stands for in the world. We will soon be celebrating Independence Day, July 4th, in which many Americans will celebrate the violent revolutionary uprising against the British and sing songs like the national anthem with its praise of “rocket’s red glare, the bombs bursting in air” and set off firecrackers to relive that violence. The sad fact is that the United States of America has consistently used violence to achieve its policy aims, invading other countries with troops (Korea, Dominican Republic, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the list goes on), training South and Central American police and military at the “School of Americas” in Ft. Benning, Georgia, in the use of violence and torture to defeat populist movements challenging undemocratic governments, , the Obama and Trump administration’s’ bombing from drones or airplanes civilian populations (e.g. these past many months assaulting the people of Yemen as part of our growing alliance with the reactionary and repressive and human-rights-violating regime in Saudi Arabia), and the policy of the Obama presidency to select individuals to be assassinated by drones and without trial in countries around the world who are suspected of being or aiding terrorists (and in the process, murdering at least several thousand non-combatant civilians). It sickens us to listen to the hypocrisy of those in the media who talk about this latest (immoral) assault on government officials as if it is somehow outside the path of violence that has been part of American society and celebrated as such by many.

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Seeing Double: A Middle Eastern Comedy of Errors

May22

by: Henri Picciotto on May 22nd, 2017 | 1 Comment »

In the 1980′s, few Americans knew much about life in the territories Israel had occupied in 1967. Fewer still understood the PLO’s historic offer to settle for a state in less than half what had been Palestine. Yet in 1989, the San Francisco Mime Troupe produced Seeing Double, a mistaken-identity farce that argued for a two-state solution. The seeming unfitness of the genre for the topic proved the secret of the show’s success: laughter allows room for hope.

Twenty-eight years later, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is better understood, but no closer to resolution. Indeed, decades of US military and diplomatic support for Israel’s actions and its “facts on the ground”, have made a solution increasingly unlikely. Last summer, the writers of Seeing Double decided we would update the play, to fit today’s harsher realities and to address the U.S. role.


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The Women’s Balcony — a delightful film!

May18

by: on May 18th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

The Women’s Balcony, a movie which captures a beautiful
slice of Israeli life, is a huge upper at a time when many
people are feeling depressed and saddened by the state of our world.
The movie captures the way that Jewish women have been
marginalized in parts of the Israeli Orthodox religious world,
and how they mobilize themselves to achieve power in the face
of rabbinic authority that is dismissive of their concerns. Yet this is
not another of those “religion is evil” or “men are jerks” kind of
dismissals, but rather a sensitive portrayal of how men and
women find a way, even within the boundaries of orthodoxy, to
recapture each other’s humanity, to stand up against irrational
rules, and find a path that is at once affirming of women and
affirming of parts of the Jewish tradition that these Israeli women
wish to retain in their lives. It is, in its own caring and complex way,
a celebration of the actual and potential power of Jewish women, and
it’s highly enjoyable to watch.–Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun Magazine

Perspectives on Purim

Mar6

by: Rabbi Dev Noily, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Michael Kagan, and Aryeh Cohen on March 6th, 2017 | 6 Comments »

A note from Rabbi Lerner:

We at Beyt Tikkun have been struggling internally about how to deal with the Jewish violence and revenge that is part of the Purim story. We will be talking about it at our Shabbat morning service this coming Shabbat of RemembranceMarch 11 at 951 Cragmont Ave, Berkeley Ca. starting at10:30 a.m.and followed by a veggie pot-luck (and then at 7 that night we will be joining the Aquarian Minyan for reading the Book of Esther and their Purim play which undoubtedly will deal with Trump (will he be the evil Haman or the buffoon kind Ahashverus?)

The question we struggle with is: Should we boycott this holiday entirely? Is there a way to challenge its hurtful parts without discrediting the legitimate joy our people feels when it is saved from the intended violence against us?

These are some of the issues raised in the articles below. In the last chapters of the Megillah of Esther the acts of mass killings by Jews against our supposed enemies is recounted with nary a word of regret or sadness. This is so unlike the Passover seder when we dip from the cup of joy when naming the plagues visited on the Egyptians-a symbolic way of saying that we cannot be fully happy when our own liberation comes at the expense of the suffering of others (in that case, including the death of the first born children of Egypt, few of whom had anything to do with the oppression of Israelite slaves). Our community Seder this year will take place 2nd Seder night,Tuesday April 11th. Registration info will be on our Beyt Tikkun websitewww.beyttikkun.org


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Grieving the Orlando Massacre

Jun16

by: on June 16th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

We at Tikkun reaffirm our commitment to the safety of and respect for the LGBTQ community.

“They” are “us”–we are both straight and gay, bi and trans, Jewish, and Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist, Hindu and earth-based religions of every variety, young and old, religious, secular humanists and atheists.

We will not let any sector of “us” get scared that the rest of us will abandon them. Just as I said at Muhammed Ali’s funeral that Jews will stand with Muslims in the face of growing Islamophobia (all the more needed now that some politicians are trying to use the horror of the mass murder of members of the LGBTQ community in Orlando by a supposedly Muslim young man to justify repression against Muslims). We will not let any of them become an “acceptable” target for the haters. Not the LGBTQ community, not anyone.

We are one global “we,” and we must never let any part of us become the target that is somehow made a “legitimate” target.

But true solidarity needs to go beyond standing with the victims of hate crimes, including, homophobia, Islamophobia, racism, anti-Semitism, sexism, xenophobia and all the other variants of hatred. True solidarity should guide us to the imperative to develop strategies to heal the distortions and pains that lead people into communities of hate.

Our strategies must separate the hateful behavior from the pain in people that underlies their misdirected rage, and sometimes violent actions. We must develop ways to speak to those deep psychic wounds and hurts, and show people that there are better and more effective strategies to deal with those pains than to act them out on others, whether that acting out be in the form of demeaning, raping, making war against others, or in the form of mass politics of hatred.

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Sanders is Israel’s Best Friend in 2016

May27

by: on May 27th, 2016 | 6 Comments »

NOTE: As a non-profit, Tikkun magazine does NOT endorse any candidate or political party. Nor does Rabbi Lerner. This article is a response to distorted media coverage of Sanders’ appointment of prominent progressives to the Democratic Party’s Platform Committee whom the NY Times, the Jewish Forward and other media are describing as anti-Israel. Some of our readers support Bernie Sanders, some support Hillary Clinton, some support Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, and there may be other candidates that some of our readers support. This article is not meant to enter into that debate, but only to challenge the media coverage of Sanders on Israel.

(Source: Flickr/ Phil Roeder)

I wasn’t surprised when the NY Times on May 26th made a front page story out of the alleged damage Senator Bernie Sanders was doing to the Democratic Party by placing among his 5 representatives on the Democratic Party’s Platform committee a few people who might support Sanders’ view that the US needs to be “more even-handed” in the Israel/Palestine struggle.

The New York Times has consistently turned its news pages into the loudest cheerleader for Hillary Clinton’s bid for the nomination. If mentioned at all, they bury deep in their paper, Bernie Sanders’ primary wins and the many polls that indicate he’d be more likely to win against Trump than Hillary. So it’s no surprise that when Bernie won permission to appoint 5 of the 15 members of the Platform Committee of the Democratic Party Convention, the Times focused the story on the possibility that 2 of these appointees, James Zogby and Cornel West, would turn the convention into a debate about US policy towards Israel, and thereby weaken Hillary’s capacity to fight off Trump in the general election. There was nothing in the story to confirm that these appointees had any such intention, but that didn’t keep the N.Y. Times from making this front page story a way to once again stir worries that Bernie’s vigorous pursuit of the nomination (as Hillary Clinton herself had done in 2008 against Obama even after it was clear she would not win the nomination) was going to hurt Hillary’s chances in the Fall election–thus creating the story should Hillary lose that it was really all the fault of that socialist Jew from Vermont!

The Times ignored the important Bernie appointments of Congressman Keith Ellison, a leader of the Congress’ Progressive Caucus, a supporter of social justice for middle income people and the poor, universal healthcare and a $15 minimum wage, and an opponent of Obama’s use of drones, Rebecca Parker, vice chair of the Tulalip Tribes of Washington State, who is likely to emphasize rights for indigenous peoples and criminal justice reform, and Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org who is likely to push for a tax on carbons and other aggressive policies to save the planet’s life-support system. To turn the discussion solely to Israel, and suggest that somehow Sanders’ very mild call for an even-handed policy that took into account the needs of the Palestinian people is a threat to Israel’s existence is irresponsible and ludicrous.

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Tikkun’s Passover Liberation Seder Haggadah Supplement

Apr15

by: on April 15th, 2016 | Comments Off

"The Seder Table" by Lynne Feldman (lynnefeldman.com)

We are proud to present to you Tikkun magazine’s Passover Liberation Seder Haggadah Supplement, which you will find at the top of our home page tikkun.org or by going to tikkun.org/nextgen/passover2016.

Feel free to download and print it out and/or to use any part of it in your Passover Seder or any other liberation-oriented celebration. It’s not just for Jews, as you’ll see if you read through it. Share it with your friends, place it on your website and send it out on Facebook or other social media!! You don’t have to believe in God or be Jewish to get a lot out of just reading this supplement to the traditional Passover Haggadah. And let me know after you’ve used it what parts worked for you or your family or your friends and what parts didn’t so we can modify it for future use.

And have a joyous holiday celebration! Many blessings to our many friends and readers!
–Rabbi Michael Lerner (RabbiLerner.Tikkun@gmail.com)

How Change Happens

Feb1

by: on February 1st, 2016 | 5 Comments »

Note:As you know, we atTikkundo not endorse candidates or political parties. But we do respond to bad arguments and crooked thinking being done during the elections, and use the elections as an opportunity to discuss public issues. In this case, we address one of the more distorted arguments used against Bernie Sanders–that he is too visionary and that a president must be more “realistic.”

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Bernie Sanders

Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders (Source Flickr, Gage Skidmore)

The assaults on Bernie Sanders’ presidential candidacy reached new lows in the past week. Unable to effectively challenge the value of his policies, the denizens of the status quo have now focused on his alleged utopianism and his supposedly flawed vision of how change happens. In a later column I’ll explain why I believe that if Bernie doesn’t become our next President it will not be for these reasons, but because he is not utopian enough, stuck as he is in an economistic worldview that doesn’t address fully the way that global capitalism invades and distorts our minds, our relationships, our families, even at times our souls. If he tied this together with his attempts to revive the New Deal, he’d break through the resistance that many people have to his style and elements of his politics that seem stuck in the past. But for the moment, lets focus on these current attacks.

Leading the charge was Paul Krugman’s “How Change Happens” in the New York Times January 22, 2016. Krugman, who I believe has been one of the most significant voices of reason when addressing the horrific environmental and social consequences of the unfettered marketplace, suddenly turns chicken about the changes that are really needed to save the planet from environmental catastrophe and U.S. society from further disintegration. Using the massive credibility he has built up as the best known liberal voice in the establishment media, Krugman makes the argument that when looking at history it turns out that the compromisers have delivered real change while the idealists and utopians have failed. Nothing could be further from the truth.

It is certainly true that we will always need the legislators and technocrats to work out the details of new legislation and budget proposals that embody the ideals of a just and sustainable society. But getting to that society takes a very different kind of leadership–one that can project and mobilize people around a vision that they believe to be worth struggling to attain.

Yet such leaders are only possible if they emerge from and are supported by larger visionary movements to whom they are accountable.

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Twelve of the Eighteen Former Military Arrested in Guatemala are SOA Graduates

Jan15

by: on January 15th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Editor’s Note:  We at Tikkun have been involved for the last decade in supporting the important work of the SOA, the religious progressive organization that challenges the U.S. government to shut down its school (formerly known as the U.S. Army’s  School of the Americas, and operating out of Fort Benning in Georgia) that trains torturers and murderers who go back to Central and South America and uses the latest techniques and equipment that they’ve learned at the School of the Americas to intimidate, torture or murder those whom they consider a threat to the oligarchs whose oppressive rule they are asked to protect. The SOA organization brings thousands of people to Ft. Benning the weekend before Thanksgiving each year to protest and demand that this horrific school be closed by the US Army.  The demonstration also mourns the thousands of people killed by the actions of the graduates of this horrific institution.–Rabbi Michael Lerner

Last week, eighteen former military officials were arrested on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity in one of the largest mass arrests of military officers Latin America has ever seen. Twelve of them were trained at the SOAThe arrests happened one week before the January 14th inauguration of newly elected President Jimmy Morales, of the National Convergence Front (FCN).

Morales, whose party has close ties to the military, faces pressure in the face of the current developments. Morales’ right hand man, Edgar Justino Ovalle Maldonado, who is also the FCN party co-founder, newly elected congressman, and retired colonel, is also facing similar charges, though he was not arrested because of his immunity as a congressman. Guatemala’s Attorney General, however, has requested the Supreme Court look at the case to strip him of his immunity. Ovalle Maldonado, who is also an SOA graduate, is linked to massacres and disappearances during the 1980′s.

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Selective Empathy by Rabbi Zalman Kastel

Nov19

by: on November 19th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Selective empathy and relationships with ‘others’ – Vayetzei

Terror has struck us’ again. I write us’ referring to Westerners who identify with the Paris victims. I feel angry about this attack against ordinary people in a Western city. A terrible destruction of life perpetrated against people who live in a‘normal’city like I do. I am surrounded by outrage and solidarity expressed in French flags, on Sydney‘s Harbour Bridge, the OperaHouse and all over Facebook. But surely, every life of a non-combatant taken violently is an utterly unacceptable violation of the sanctity of life?

I am disturbed to read Facebook posts by my Arab and Muslim friends rightly expressing their hurt at the implication that French lives appear to matter more to Westerners than Arab or Muslim lives. Some posts list the names of places where Arab or Muslim blood has been spilled, including the terrible attacks in Beirut. Yet, none of these posts mention the recent stabbings of Israeli civilians. I feel a deep sadness about the selective empathy so much in evidence right now.

The term selective empathy‘ is almost a tautology because researchers in this field explain that empathy is by its very nature geared toward people we see as being like us. We can overcome this natural tendency to limit our circle of empathy either by calling on increased compassion (which is not naturally restricted to people like ourselves) or by changing our relationships with ‘them’ so that they become part ofus’.

The inclusion of those we are unfamiliar with and whom we regard as alien can feel quite threatening. After the Biblical Jacob left his village and the people familiar to him he put rocks around his head when he stopped for a nap along the way. This act is considered highly symbolic. Jacob protected his mind from the influences of a new place. Only his hands, symbolising action, were to connect with the new place, but his mind had to remain ‘unpolluted’(1).

Despite the fear some people have about how they might be changed or lose their identity, they do often make efforts to connect with the other. When Jacob met the ‘strangers’ among whom he would live he addressed them as my brothers (2)“.It is easier to regard people as abstract threats when you are not interacting with them face to face.

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