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Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Michael Lerner




Black Lives Matter: Go to an African American Church in Solidarity This Coming Sunday Morning

Dec10

by: on December 10th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Tens of millions of Americans are deeply disturbed by the racism that has recently gotten the focus that it should have had for the past many decades. The failure of juries to indict police who kill African American males was not new, but the awareness of this reality which has been just one of the many faces of racism that weigh down the lives of African Americans in this society was quite unusual and momentarily broke through the dominant discourse that “that problem has been solved decades ago after Martin Luther King, Jr. saved his people by ending segregation and winning the voting rights laws.”

Of course, even now there are many in the media who try to deny the ongoing significance of racism in our society. Yet the outpouring of anger that we’ve seen on college campuses and in the streets of the U.S. is a reason for hopefulness that when the media turns its attention away from this issue some of the consciousness about racism will remain alive beyond the peoples of color who can never forget it as long as it is shoved in their face by police, unemployment, hunger, poverty, harassment, and endless opportunities to experience the contempt that many whites feel toward them.

Is it any wonder that some young African Americans find it hard to believe that there is a strong connection between how hard they work and how well they will be treated in this society? Does anyone really think that if a Black cop had killed a middle class white youth or strangled and then let die a white man that the grand jury would not have indicted him? What we have been hearing more clearly than ever in the past few years is the tremendous fear that African Americans carry with them at all times — fear of white majority and their occupying force in communities of color that we call police and some of us call “pigs,” and fear of the way the system keeps on undermining them, manifesting contempt for them, and treating them as though their lives did not matter.

That’s why I am so glad that this Sunday, December 14, the Progressive National Baptist Convention has called for a morning of standing in solidarity with African Americans. I strongly urge you to find a Black church near you and show up in solidarity. The focus is not only on mourning but in publicly proclaiming: “Black Lives Matter.” That afternoon, we at the Network of Spiritual Progressives will be holding a strategy conference to assess what needs to change in the way the liberal and progressive forces have developed in the past few decades that has rendered them less influential and hence less able to defend the mini-steps that were taken in the past to overcome American racism. I’m hoping that our event will spur dozens of others.

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Not All is Lost: A strategy conference after the Right takes Congress

Nov25

by: on November 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Too many people have responded to the victory of the Right by feeling powerless. “What can I do? They have the money, control the media, and the Democrats have no vision or strategy.” But there is something you can do, not alone, but with a movement that we are creating. The liberal and progressive forces have made some big mistakes – but we can change that, and we have a strategy for how to do that and how to Reclaim America. We need you to be part of it–and we need to learn from you as well, because we know we don’t have all the answers! We approach this task with humility but also with excitement about the possibility of forging a new direction. A direction that could rebuild our society on a whole new bottom line, appealing to many people who have not yet been moved by the conventional way liberals and progressives have advanced their message, and/or people who have liked one part of the message but don’t yet see the connections. We are here to show you there can be connections between the different movements for environmental sanity, social and economic justice, non-violence, human and civil rights, etc.!

Join us:

Rabbi Michael Lerner: editor of Tikkun, author ofThe Left Hand of God: Taking Back our Country from the Religious Right)

George Lakoff: Prof of Cognitive Science and Linguistics at the UC Berkeley,author ofDon’t Think of an ElephantandMoral Politics

Mathew Fox: Liberation Theologian, Authorof Original Blessing, andThe Coming of the Cosmic Christ

Rebecca Kaplan:Oakland City Council President

Cat Zavis: Attorney, Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, mediator, and teacher of Empathic Communication

And more! (Our speakers will start the discussion, but the most important person to be there is YOU).

We will come together to develop strategy to Reclaim America and build The Caring Society – Caring for Each Other and Caring for the Earth.

YOU Are Invited to this:

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I need your help and I need it now.

Oct27

by: on October 27th, 2014 | No Comments »

Rabbi Lerner I understand if you feel deeply troubled by what has been happening in the United States and around the world this past year. I know I do. But I also have a lot to be grateful for in my personal life – my son finished writing his first book (on a phenomenology of hope with a special focus on Martin Buber) and my grandchildren are flourishing into wonderful pre-adolescents. And I’m very proud to tell you that four weeks ago Tikkun magazine received the “Magazine of the Year Award” from the Religion Newswriters Association, reminding the public at large of the high quality of our magazine. And I’m proud that we were among the cosponsors of the Great Climate March in New York City. A Tikkun and Network of Spiritual Progressives contingent marched in it, and I loved being there with 400,000 demonstrators – so many caring and joyous people!

Yet despite these achievements, the political developments in the United States, Israel, Palestine, Iraq, and Syria have been so upsetting that they have interfered with my sleep and the writing I had planned for the year. I have been so upset by the outrageous behavior of ISIS and the simplistic response of the West (“let’s bomb them and then see what happens”), which threatens to deepen the mess we in the United States helped to create with our last invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.

All this came after a summer in which Israelis, understandably fearful from the daily bombing attempts that sent them (often several times a day) into air raid shelters to avoid the missiles beings launched by Hamas, allowed themselves to forget (if they ever really understood) the horrible conditions that the Occupation has imposed on Palestinians and the hunger and poverty that their seven-year blockade of Gaza has imposed on Gazans (with the resulting attitude of “if we are going to perish, let’s do it by fighting back” that was propagated by the leadership of Hamas). Meanwhile most Americans rallied around Israel, forgetting that Israel had broken off peace negotiations with the nonviolence-enforcing Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. While the American Jewish community told itself Israel “had no alternative,” we at Tikkun were speaking out to remind people that there actually is an alternative: to end the Occupation of the West Bank. In doing so, Israel would need to embrace generous and caring terms that show real respect for the humanity of the Palestinians – in other words, Israel would need to decide to make peace with the Palestinian people rather than beat them into submission. I’ve specified the terms that I think would bring real peace in the Winter 2014 issue of Tikkun and more fully in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine.

And as if this weren’t bad enough, the right wing in the United States may be on the verge of capturing both houses of Congress. This right-wing resurgence has drawn strength from the racism that has been systematically directed at President Obama. At the same time, Democrats have suffered from Obama’s failure to fight for a coherent alternative to militarism, to resist hate-based policies toward immigrants (he deported more undocumented immigrants than any previous president), and to counter the ethos of selfishness and materialism that is championed by our corporate-dominated culture. And now, the Supreme Court has struck down every legislative attempt to restrain the ability of the rich to shape elections and defacto buy themselves the best Congress that their wealth can buy.

Reading the New York Times these days can leave one feeling heartbroken and powerless. Yet, times like these call us to open our hearts in empathy to all beings and take a stand for love, kindness, and generosity). Times like these call us to push beyond our sense of despair to engage in work that promotes a new worldview – one that inspires us to move beyond our limited belief of what is realistic to imagine and work toward what is desirable. And they call for an alternative that we at Tikkun and our Tikkun Community, also known as the interfaith and secular humanist and atheist-welcoming Network of Spiritual Progressives, has been developing. But to keep that alternative alive, we need your support!

We at Tikkun have some very important ideas about how to change the dominance of the militarists, the cheerleaders for the 1 percent, and the voices of cynicism and despair, but I worry that you and others may have gotten so exhausted by the suffering in the world that you might no longer recognize how important it is to keep Tikkun‘s voice strong by making a generous donation now, even if you already donated this year or rejoined our Network of Spiritual Progressives. I want to highlight some of our great work to help you recognize how important our work is and to inspire you to support us yet again with a tax-deductible donation.

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The Climate March Was Great. Now What?

Sep23

by: on September 23rd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Hundreds of thousands of us marched against climate change Sunday to emphasize to the political leaders of the world assembling at the UN in the next few days that this is an issue of intense concern for the people of the world. We demand action, not just pious statements of concern!

There were people from around the world marching down the streets of NY, including people of every imaginable religion and ethnic group. It was an immense outpouring of people who were not content to sit back and just wait some more. And the spirit was one of joyful affirmation of our caring for the earth and the life support system of the planet. There was very little anger – the feeling was one of elation that so many people had come together to show their upset and their caring for the fate of Earth. They came with walkers and with baby strollers, young and old, many people in every age group. They sang, they danced, they cheered, they chanted their messages, and it was a beautiful manifestation of all that is good in human beings! And this scene was repeated around the country in dozens of cities and around the world as well.

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Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel

Aug4

by: on August 4th, 2014 | 30 Comments »

Rabbi Michael Lerner’s article in Salon.com this Monday is being featured on Salon’s home page right now. Below is a fuller and updated version (the Salon article was written on Friday).

Israeli behavior toward Palestinians is destroying Judaism and creating a new kind of hatred of Jews by people who never before had any issue with Jews. Credit: Creative Commons/Jordi Bernabeu Farrús

My heart is broken as I witness the suffering of the Palestinian people and the seeming indifference of Israelis. Tonight (August 4) and tomorrow (August 5), which mark Tisha B’av,the Jewish commemoration of disasters that happened to us through Jewish history, I’m going to be fasting and mourning also for a Judaism being murdered by Israel. No matter who gets blamed for the breakdowns in the cease-fire or for “starting” this latest iteration of a struggle that is at least 140 years old, one of the primary victims of the war between Israel and Hamas is the compassionate and love-oriented Judaism that has held together for several thousand years. Even as Israel withdraws its troops from Gaza, leaving behind immense devastation, over 1,800 dead Gazans, and over four thousand wounded, without adequate medical supplies because of Israel’s continuing blockade, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu refuses to negotiate a cease-fire. He is fearful that he would be seen as “weak” if Israel gave way to Gazans’ demand for an end to the blockade and the freedom of thousands of Palestinian prisoners kidnapped and held in Israeli jails in violation of their human rights.

Let me explain why Israeli behavior toward Palestinians – not just during this latest assault but also throughout the past decades during which Israel militarily enforced its Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of food and building materials to Gaza – and the cheerleading for such behavior by Jews around the world is destroying Judaism and creating a new kind of hatred of Jews by people who never before had any issue with Jews (not to mention strengthening the hands of the already existing anti-Semites whose hatred of Jews would continue no matter what Israel or Jews do or do not do).

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Israel: Stop the Invasion of Gaza, Stop the Bombing of Gaza, Free the Palestinian Prisoners

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 22 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons/blhphotography

According to Ha’aretz correspondent Amira Hass, the IDF has been conducting mass arrests in the West Bank, between ten and thirty every day. Twenty-four of the arrested are members of the Palestinian parliament from Hamas’ Change and Reform party. The number of those arrested since the kidnapping and murder of the Israeli teens already exceeds 1,000. The Palestinians are convinced that most of those detained have nothing to do with the kidnapping of the teens and that these are mainly political arrests for purposes of intimidation and revenge.

This senseless imprisonment is just the tip of the iceberg. Tens of thousands of young Palestinian men have experienced arrest, torture, loss of employment, and have been unable to protect their parents, partners, and friends from arbitrary and repressive treatment from the Israeli Defense Force Occupation forces. The surprising thing is that despite this inhumane and emasculating treatment, few Palestinians have engaged in acts of violence or desperation.

I’ve argued that acts of desperation can be self-destructive. Many Palestinians will suffer for the acts of the few Palestinian Hamas extremists. But since Hamas activists have come to believe that even if they do nothing they will still be targeted, some are saying that acting out violently against the Occupation is the only thing that can restore their dignity, since nothing will restore their land. I think that this mentality is a mistake for Gaza and the West Bank. Sometimes I think that Hamas doesn’t really even care for its own citizens in Gaza – they care more about showing that non-violence will never work to challenge Israel’s occupation, and they are willing to let the people of Gaza pay the price. Namely, the invasion of Gaza by the Israeli army with the inevitable consequence of many more deaths than the 220 Palestinians already killed in the past two weeks. And yet, it is hard to deny that the Israeli Occupation is so repressive and dishonoring of Palestinians that some young men have taken to violence, while others see those kinds of acts as the only things that can momentarily give relief from the emotional depression that years under Occupation generates. Yet the violence against Israeli civilian targets has pushed the politics of Israel even further to the Right.

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A Prayer for Peace

Jul21

by: on July 21st, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Avinu ve’ emoteynu sheh ba shamayim, tzur Yisra’el ve’ go’aloe

Our Father and Mother energies in the cosmos, the rock of Israel and our salvation,

Credit: Creative Commons

Bless all the peoples of the Middle East with peace, security, environment sanity, and a sense of being genuinely cared for by the world and by the God/dess of all flesh, however they conceive of this God or Goddess, whatever names or language they give to the ULTIMATE SOURCE OF LOVE AND MEANING IN THE UNIVERSE.

In this hour of war, violence, and pain, we reaffirm the humanity and decency of all the people on our planet, and our ability to see the humanity and God-presence in the Palestinian people, the Israeli people, and all people on the planet. We understand that each of the many sides of the conflicts tearing our world apart today have their own legitimacy, but we also know that violence cannot be the path to a peaceful and safe world. We may be outraged at the behavior of governments, political parties, or groups acting in hurtful ways, but we will not accept any attempt to generalize that righteous indignation into generalities about all people of a certain nation, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other such grouping.

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Hamas Must Stop Attempting to Bomb Israel

Jul16

by: on July 16th, 2014 | Comments Off

Hamas is “objectively even if not subjectively” the best friend of the Israeli settlers, right-wing Israeli extremists, and the Netanyahu government. Hamas leaders know very well that their bombs are not getting through Israel’s missile shield. There is no possible military advantage to continuing these futile attempts to rectify the imbalance in casualties between the 200 Palestinians already killed by Israeli attacks and the one Israeli killed by Hamas shells. But the extremists in Hamas, like the rogue band of criminals who murdered three Israeli youth, have succeeded in their goal: to create fear among Israelis that leads them to rally to those racists who wish to punish the entire Palestinian people for the actions of a few.  Such reactionaries wish to thereby “prove” to the Palestinian people that there is no possibility of peace with Israel and to discredit the strategy of the Palestinian Authority that has renounced violence for the past 8 years.

Still, the Palestinian Authority achieves little in the way of independence and dignity for all its efforts at negotiations with Netanyahu. Hamas’ actions, particularly its bombings of Israeli civilian targets, are as unethical and outrageous as the human rights violations carried out by Israel in its bombings of Gaza that have caused widespread death and injuries, even while Israel’s seven-year blockade of Gaza leaves the Gazans, most of whom have never endorsed Hamas’ policies, without the medical supplies necessary to heal the wounded.

The message to Hamas from Spiritual Progressives is this: Stop the attempts to bomb Israel.  These acts are immoral, ineffective, and counter-productive toward the only legitimate goal: peace and openhearted reconciliation among the people of the region.

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End the Violence in Israel/Palestine: Cease Fire NOW!

Jul14

by: on July 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Once again the violence of the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza and the violence of Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza have combined to create a spiraling violence that serves the extremists on both sides who can point to the intended violence on the other side to justify their own. We call upon both sides to agree to an immediate cease fire from both sides.

In my book Embracing Israel/Palestine, I show how both sides have co-created this mess, and why it is futile, stupid, intellectually lacking in credibility, and ethically perverse to try to pin the blame on one side or the other, because both sides have been incredibly tone deaf to the suffering of the other side and the most negative possible interpretation of the other side’s intentions increasingly prevails in the public perceptions on each side of the intentions of the other. Of course at the moment there is no equivalence in power or violence. Israel has already killed over 150 Palestinians, and wounded hundreds; Gazans have not inflicted any deaths and few injuries on Israelis (which I’m glad about–I don’t want Israeli blood to flow any more than I want Palestinian blood to flow! My fervent prayer: STOP ALL THE VIOLENCE, END THE OCCUPATION AND CREATE A LASTING PEACE AND A RECONCILIATION OF THE HEART.  This reconciliation does not deny the vast inequality of power between Israel and Palestinians, and the corresponding responsibility of the more powerful force to take the first major steps toward a real peace, NOT a “peace process” which goes nowhere, but a true resolution of the conflict.

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Israeli Vengeance Runs Wild—Violating Torah Law and International Law

Jul7

by: on July 7th, 2014 | 11 Comments »

“Thou Shall NOT Take Vengeance” is a key law of Torah, but it is being ignored in Israel today both by the government and by significant parts of the people of the State of Israel (read Chemi Shalev’s article and Gideon Levi’s article).

We at Tikkun condemned the kidnapping of three Israeli teens several weeks ago, and we rejected the suggestion by some on the Left and some in the Palestinian world that this act had to be contextualized to the Occupation. Instead we insisted that acts of kidnapping and then subsequently of murder are ethically wrong and should not be minimized or morally excused on the grounds that just before those kidnappings Israeli occupying forces had killed several Palestinians in nearby Hebron.

Now we watch in horror as Israelis march through the streets of Jerusalem and many other cities calling for vengeance, as some Israelis kidnap and murder a Palestinian teen in East Jerusalem, as the Israeli Army blows up dozens of homes of “suspected terrorists” without the slightest attempt to give them an opportunity to defend themselves against this charge, and as the IDF bombs Gaza though there is no evidence that the Israeli teens were killed by order of anyone in Hamas.

A right wing protest after the funerals of the three kidnapped Jewish teens. Lerner writes,"Now we watch in horror as Israelis march through the streets of Jerusalem and many other cities calling for vengeance." Credit: Tali Mayer/ActiveStills

This, of course, is not fundamentally different from what the United States did after 9/11, or what China did after the demonstrations in Tiananmen Square or what many other countries do. But it is particularly vexing to ethically conscious Jews for the following reason: Israel claims to be “the Jewish state,” and yet its Occupation policies and the violence that flows from those policies have a devastating impact on the ethical claims of the Jewish people, defame God’s name, and leave a historical memory that for thousands of years will plague our people in the eyes of others and in the relationship that ethical Jews will have to our traditions.

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