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Rabbi Michael Lerner
Rabbi Michael Lerner




How Change Happens

Feb1

by: on February 1st, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Note:As you know, we at Tikkun do 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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After Paris: Say No to the Militarists and Fear-Mongers, Yes to a Strategy of Generosity

Nov15

by: on November 15th, 2015 | 10 Comments »

For many years, we at Tikkun and the NSP–Network of Spiritual Progressives have warned that the domination and power-over strategies to achieve “homeland security” have been tried for over 7,000 years and all they have produced is more wars and violence, interspersed with short periods of peace that have, with the help of media and professional apologists for the existing inequalities, managed to hide from public view the degree of covert structural violence that every system of inequality and domination has required.

We have called for a new approach to “homeland security” – the Strategy of Generosity, as manifested in part in our proposed Global Marshall Plan (please download the full version and read it carefully at www.tikkun.org/gmp). It calls for the US to take the leadership with other advanced industrial societies to dedicate 1-2% of their Gross Domestic Product each year for the next twenty years to once and for all eliminate (not just ameliorate) domestic and global poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education and inadequate health care. But it is not only about giving this “objective caring” in the form of economic benefits but also about delivering subjective caring–so that people feel that this is not a bribe but an expression of a new consciousness emerging into the world. Until the powerful countries of the world are seen as mainly driven by a desire to care for the well-being of everyone else on the planet and the wellbeing of the planet itself, and to do so not only out of self-interest but also out of a new consciousness in which we all come to truly understand our mutual interdependence and oneness, what we saw in Paris this past week is destined to be an increasing reality in the coming decades.

The more fear of “the Other,” the more resentment and anger those others will have toward us, and the cycle of violence will become more a part of daily life not only where it already is (mostly in the countries of the Global South and East), but also in the advanced industrial countries. As fear grows, fascistic and racist right-wing forces will grow more popularity, their anti-immigrant policies will be portrayed as “common sense,” their empowering of domestic intelligence forces to invade our private lives will receive greater support, because people will never have heard an alternative path to security as supposedly liberal leaders seek to show that they too can be “tough.” Yet for those of us in the spiritual or religious world, the Torah command to “love the stranger” still resonates, and we could build a very different popular understanding if secular progressives and religious progressives were to unite behind the strategy of generosity rather than simply focusing on resisting the policies of the right.

People need to hear an alternative worldview about what brings on the violence and hurtfulness they see around them in this world. It is only when the people who want a world based on love and justice are willing to explicitly use those words, to explicitly and not just implicitly talk about a strategy of generosity as the alternative to the strategy of domination and fear, that others will feel safe to reconnect to that part of them that actually wants such a world but was afraid to look foolish in a society whose discourse is dominated by the need to show how tough you are to be taken seriously. Healing of our world requires psycho-spiritual sophistication to combat media cynicism and miltarist fear-mongering.

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Obama and Netanyahu: A bad deal for peace, for Israel, for Palestine and for the U.S.

Nov10

by: on November 10th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

OBAMA NETANYAHU

Editor’s Note: Though I published this in the Huffington Post before the meeting, the outcome was exactly as predicted. Netanyahu affirmed his “commitment” to a two state solution, which he has said for years as he continues to expand Israeli settlement in Arab East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and continues with a cabinet filled with overt racists against Palestinians and other refugees. Obama promised him huge new military hardware, as predicted. Netanyahu is paid off for being obnoxious toward the President and arrogant toward the Palestinian people (the latter being the ultimate losers in all this). Of course, I have compassion for Obama, see him as a decent human being, just as I have compassion for the Jewish people still so dominated by Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and seeing the Palestinians through the framework of our past suffering. But unless the rest of us can find a way to heal our Jewish people, the suffering of the Palestinians will continue, as will the growing anger at Jews who are increasingly perceived (unfairly) as having given the Israelis a blank check to do whatever they want to the Palestinian people. My solution can be found in my book Embracing Israel/Palestine www.tikkun.org/eip .

When Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama meet in the White House today, their goal will be to make amends in light of Netanyahu’s unprecedented attempts to manipulate the U.S. Congress and the American public into opposition to the Iran Nuclear deal negotiated by six countries including the U.S.

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TPP finally revealed–a disaster. Take action against it.

Nov6

by: on November 6th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

We at Tikkun’s Network of Spiritual Progressives are part of the Citizens Trade Campaign coalition of forces that have challenged the Clinton Administration and now the Obama Administration in their proclivity to  create trade policies that are destructive to the environment and to the well being of working people here and around the world. The latest such is the Trans-Pacific Partnership which, while having some positive aspects, would restrict countries from passing important environmental and health care related legislation that might interfere with corporate profits. This latest effort to give multinational corporations powers that supersede the powers of national governments is one more reason we need the ESRA–Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The ESRA would, among many other important measures,  overturn any such international agreement that has been approved by the U.S. government or will be approved in the future–please help us get it endorsed after you read it at www.tikkun.org/esra. 

Rabbi Michael Lerner issued the following response about the newly released full version of the TPP:

The TPP agreement violates a basic command of the Bible: that human beings must protect and act as stewards for the earth. Instead, it provides a path for corporations to overturn the most moderate environmental restraints on corporate avarice, much less the far more stringent actions that environmentalists tell us are needed to even begin to reverse climate change and preserve the earth for future generations. This is selfishness and materialism taken to a new height, and every religious communityu should stand up against it.

–Rabbi Michael Lerner  Editor, Tikkun Magazine (winner of the mainstream media Religion Newswriters Association “Best Magazine of the Year” Award in 2014 and again in 2015)

 

Here’s the message we received from the Citizens Trade Campaign which is coordinating this effort:

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Stop the Killing in Israel and Palestine: A Prayer, Analysis & Strategy

Oct16

by: on October 16th, 2015 | 8 Comments »

A prayer and an analysis from Tikkun/NSP (please post this on your social media and your web page, tweet about it, and circulate it widely–you have our permission)

THE PRAYER:
As we watch in horror as violence in Israel and Palestine escalates and there continues to be needless and senseless killings, we offer a prayer of love, compassion and strength.

May Israelis and Palestinians find the love that resides deep in their hearts and pulses through all of us, the love that cries to us from the loving energy of the universe to love the “Other,” the “Stranger.” This is a love that can be hard to access and find and yet it is a never-ending, all pervasive love that encourages and calls us to stand-up for the well-being of each other, for the security of all, for justice for all, for peace. May the Israelis and Palestinians use this well-spring of love to overcome their fears and stand for a new future.

May the Israelis and Palestinians find the compassion that lives in each person but that is often suppressed in times of fear and anger and learn to ask the questions that so many seem afraid to ask. What would cause a young man or woman to kill a stranger? What fear, what sorrow, what pain lurks in the dark crevasses of their hearts? How can we begin to heal the pain, the sorrow, the loss? Where can we start?

May the Israelis and Palestinians access the strength that permeates the roots of Mother Earth and embolden them to demand a different future. To cross divides and build bridges that flow with human beings coming together opening their hearts to each other with generosity and love and work together towards peace and reconciliation.

We bow our heads in sorrow, in grief, in angst and even in rage that innocent lives are being lost on all sides and pray for a healing and reconciliation.

This prayer was written by Cat Zavis, the Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives

THE ANALYSIS:
So where did all this violence in Israel and Palestine come from? Where shall we start? If you want the big historical picture from 1880 to the present moment, you’ll get two very different narratives depending on who is telling it. In my book Embracing Israel/PalestineI try to tell the story in a way that is sympathetic to each side, and critical of each side. The truth is that each side has at times been cruel and unreasonable toward the other.

But if you focus on the past few decades, the reality is that both people are currently suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder–the Jewish people from the trauma of living as a homeless people for some 1700 years, many in a Christian Europe that blamed us for killing their messiah/god or in Muslim countries in apartheid-like powerlessness, eventually culminating in the murder of one out of every three Jews alive at the time from 1939-1945; and the Palestinian people from the Naqba or disaster of having 800,000 driven from their land in 1948 during Israel’s war for independence and then those who remained being conquered in 1967 and living under Occupation or blockade ever since for the past 48 years. While the Israeli army has been occupying the West Bank, what in 1948 was originally in 1948 800,000 Palestinian refugees living in exile have grown to 4 million, many of them living in some of the worst conditions anywhere on the planet, often treated horribly by the Arab countries where they live in refugee camps. Meanwhile, Israel has provided economic and political incentives to Jewish Israelis to move to the West Bank, build settlements there that, under the protection of the Israeli army, have seized Arab lands and expanded and appropriated the water resources while Arab Palestinians have had desperate water shortages. Many of them go not because they want to oppress Palestinians but because they can live in comfortable villas on the hills overlooking Palestinian villages in comfort they could not possibly afford elsewhere in Israel. But once there, most refuse to listen to the stories of Palestinian suffering, and their role in sustaining that, instead, like most Israelis, stuck in the stories of past Jewish suffering, and seeing themselves as victims rather than as perpetrators. PTSD clouds the vision of even the most decent among them.


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Mazal Tov on Overcoming the Fearful & the War Mongers on the Iran Nuclear Deal

Sep17

by: on September 17th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Thank you so very much for your help in making it possible for the the major powers of the world, the U.N. and most of the people of the world to confirm the deal with Iran which will prevent them from developing nuclear weapons for the next ten to fifteen years.

Your support for the Tikkun position, (a position we articulated in full page ads we bought in the NY Times, the Hill magazine read by most Congressional people and staffers), plus your willingness to share your reasons for supporting the nuclear deal, eventually became part of a powerful surge of voices that created the context critical to the ability of Democratic Senators to feel that they could reject the pressure from the right-wing of the Jewish world, represented by AIPAC, The Conference of Presidents of Major (sic) Jewish Organizations, the American Jewish Congress, and many local Jewish Federations and synagogues and instead embrace a deal which, while flawed in some ways, was far better than any achievable alternative. (See, sometimes us little guys can make a difference if we pool our energies and resources.)

 

It was sad for us to see the Reform movement in Judaism unable to take a stand on this issue–the movement that had once proudly proclaimed itself a voice for tikkun olam, but we can have compassion for the leadership that feared it might lose some of its support in being in favor of a deal that raised fears among many Jews who had been influenced by Prime Minister Netanyahu’s manipulation of PTSD flashbacks from the Holocaust. Yet this is the same reason why so many Jewish leaders and rabbis fail to take courageous stands countering Israel’s horrendous treatment of the Palestinian people, behavior in sharp violation of the Torah’s commands “Do Not Oppress the Stranger/the Other.” The excuse of fear of breaking your organization apart or losing some of their supporters starts to wear thin, don’t you think, as we approach the 50th year of Occupation (in 2017)? It would be great if American Jews could push for an end to the Occupation (not just for less abuses inside the Occupation) with a focus on demanding that it be ended by 2017. And, as in the campaign for the nuclear treaty, such a campaign would necessarily require powerful involvement of non-Jews and the next President of the U.S. so check to see if your candidate, whoever that might be, would join such a campaign (the terms of a peace treaty to end the Occupation are spelled out in detail in my book Embracing israel/Palestine which you can get on Kindle from Amazon.com or in print from www.tikkun.org/eip).

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The Best Way to Deal with ISIS

Sep17

by: on September 17th, 2015 | 14 Comments »

Editor’s note:  The two perspectives articulated by Uri Avnery and Rabbi Arthur Waskow below deserve to be well known and discussed. We at Tikkun have a slightly different approach: we believe that the hate-filled and barbarous approach of ISIS will continue to manifest in a world that is fundamentally unjust, creates huge amounts of suffering in daily life for at least 2 of the 7 billion people on the planet, and privileges military power over kindness in its expenditures of money and in the organization of nation states. We have long argued that what we need is to convince the Western powers to privilege generosity over domination, and to launch as a first step in this process a Global Marshall Plan to once and for all eliminate global poverty, hunger, homelessness, inadequate education and health care, repair the global environment, resettle refugees, and eliminate the unjust global trade arrangements (read our proposed version at www.tikkun.org/gmp).  Yet Uri Avnery and Arthur Waskow, both strong allies of Tikkun, have proposals which differ from our approach and from each other, though because they fit into the “realistic” dialogue of power politics both might be achieved sooner than our plan, though Arthur’s seems much closer to us precisely because it does not envision the direct use of force but only the power of the US to implement it.  In my view, it is more likely to get the US population behind a fundamental change in worldview called for by the Strategy of Generosity than to get a piecemeal acceptance of Iran as an ally in the Middle East reconciled to Israel, unless we were simultaneously challenging the notion that their security depends on power over enemies (the Strategy of Domination). But these are the kinds of debates that ought to be taking place in national elections in 2016, so you decide if any of the candidates are even approaching this level of discourse on foreign policy—and if not, what you could do to get them to address this kind of discussion. Rabbi Waskow and Uri Avnery present important ideas for your consideration.  –Rabbi Michael Lerner   rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com

 

Uri Avnery

September 12, 2015

 

                                                The Real Menace

 

I AM AFRAID.

I am not ashamed to admit it. I am afraid.

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All Should Be Repenting for the Suffering of the Refugees

Sep9

by: on September 9th, 2015 | 4 Comments »

This article appeared on the Huffington Post home page column this morning (Sept 9th), view the original here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-michael-lerner/we-all-should-be-repentin_b_8109612.html

As we watch millions of refugees struggling to survive, hundreds of thousands of them seeking refuge in a Europe which has by and large shut its doors to them, it is all too easy for those in the U.S. to piously implore the Europeans to do more. Or for the U.S. government to take in a few thousand of them.

Most Americans seem completely blind to the way that we have played a major role in creating the problem, and have a major responsibility to fix it. Instead, many Americans are rallying behind Donald Trump and other Republican politicians who are competing with each other on who can be more ruthless toward our own domestic refugees who came to the U.S. without official government sanction.

Few Americans realize that there was no major refugee problem until the 1990s. Here’s what happened since then to change the world:

1. The U.S. got involved in Middle East wars, eventually overthrowing Saddam Hussein and throwing out of government and the Iraqi army leadership everyone associated with Saddam’s Sunni Muslim allies. Those thus disempowered began a war with the U.S. occupying forces which the U.S. pursued with torture at Guantanamo and at many torture locations around the world and in Iraq. Millions of Iraqis fled their homes. Eventually Americans’ patience with that ongoing war led to the decision to leave the area.

Not surprisingly, many of those who had felt resentful at the U.S.–and resentful at the Shiite government that the US empowered and left behind in Iraq, and which continued to oppress Sunni Muslims–created the preconditions for popular acceptance of ISIS with its ruthless treatment of Iraqis and Syrians whom they deemed as enemies, making it unsafe for vast swaths of the Iraqi and Syrian populations.

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