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Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Few ‘Degrees of Separation’ from Massacre Victims


by: on December 18th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

Forgive me if I seem egocentric here. My sister has lived in Connecticut most of her adult life, where her husband is a recently retired math professor at the University of Connecticut. Her home is in Storrs, where UConn has its main campus, in the northeastern corner of the state, at least a two-hour drive from the scene of the school massacre in Newtown, CT. She’s informed me that she met one of the victims once, because she was a family friend of a UConn colleague. This victim was the school psychologist, Mary Sherlach, 56 years of age.

I also recall that I had a similarly remote connection to one of the victims of the attack on Mumbai, India in 2008, again through my sister. Her oldest son had a colleague, an Indian-American, who was murdered by the Islamist terrorists because he was discovered to be a U.S. citizen.

What’s that notion of all of us being connected within just a few degrees of separation? Regardless, anyone with a modicum of human feeling will be moved by such terrible events.

I know, as discussed on this blog, that we need to wrestle with more profound cultural changes than passing some laws or regulations. But I dearly hope that this time, this horror provides enough momentum to outlaw assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips. We may not yet be able to win the battle to outlaw all handguns — pistols actually take many more lives than rapid-fire assault weapons — but we can make progress on that front as well.


Doing the Right Thing: From Tolstoy to Minimum Wage


by: on November 3rd, 2012 | 5 Comments »

Recently two seemingly unrelated events came together: I volunteered for Measure D to raise the minimum wage in San Jose to ten dollars an hour, and I watched another episode of the BBC’s excellent production of War and Peace.

War and Peace BBC

In the episode I watched, a wealthy family, the Rostovs, is crating up their numerous possessions, china, furniture, dresses, vases, and clocks, to flee Moscow in the face of Napoleon’s oncoming troops. They look out the window: a long line of wounded Russian soldiers is wending its exhausted way through the city – now abandoned by most of the rich. At first, the family watches, curious, as the soldiers drag and are dragged past their front door. Then the daughter, Natasha, a person of great spirit and integrity, asks what it could hurt to let the wounded be brought inside and laid on the floor; the family is leaving the city anyway for their country estate.

Just as the family is about to leave, an officer begs them to take a few of the wounded along. Natasha’s father okays replacing a few boxes with soldiers. But when his wife hears of this, she bursts into an impassioned plea: These goods are our children’s heritage! You’ve mismanaged our money, made bad business decisions, and now you’ll deprive them of this too?

Her husband, chastened, goes back on his decision. Natasha, however, explodes: These are only things! I don’t want them! How can you save things instead of human beings? She points down at the soldiers: These are human beings!

In the end, they make the miraculous decision to leave their goods and fill the carts with wounded soldiers. As it happens, lying among the wounded is someone they know, someone very important, but they only find that out after the decision is made.


Punishment and Rewards


by: on October 22nd, 2012 | 5 Comments »

I have been carrying a vivid memory with me for over 50 years. In it, my father is chasing me around the little circle of dining area, kitchen, corridor, and living room that existed in our apartment. In my memory, this has happened already, to me and to my older sister. I don’t know, in actuality, if it was a one-time event or recurring. As I am running away from him, I suddenly realize there is just no way I can manage to escape. He is bigger, and faster, and I am small, not as strong. Sooner or later he will catch up with me. I stop, crushed by the futility of the effort, and turn around to accept the inevitable slap in my face I know is coming. I stand in my small body facing him as he is coming my way. I close my eyes as tightly as I can, contracting the muscles around them, raise my face in his direction, and wait. The burning sensation of that slap is still imprinted on my cheek. More significant by far is the impossibility, to this day, of having a visceral understanding of how a grown man could look at his five year old daughter, see her stand the way I remember me standing, and still deliver the slap. What could possibly make it appear to be the right thing to do?

I have no awareness of what the “transgression” was that led to this event. I do know that making me submit to his will was a major project for my father. As it is for so many parents in relation to so many children.


Video Critique of UC Report on Anti-Semitism


by: Shani Chabansky on September 27th, 2012 | 3 Comments »

Recently, the California State Assembly passed a bipartisan resolution called HR35 that pressures the UC to take harsh measures on anti-Semitism on campus. The bulk of the resolution targets groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and the Boycott and Divestment Sanctions movement as the main perpetrators of anti-Semitism. Many have criticized HR35 for silencing what is actually free speech.

HR35 is based on a recently-released report on campus climate for Jewish students on the UC. The report similarly asks the UC to stifle groups like Students for Justice in Palestine and the BDS movement under the allegation that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic. In Rebecca Pierce’s video, students and community member express their deep concerns with the report’s shoddy methodology and silencing of free speech:

Embracing the Shmita Cycle: A New Year Vision


by: Yigal Deutscher on September 16th, 2012 | 1 Comment »

For what many of us happens to be a subconscious pattern, at every single moment our bodies are set to move with an internal rhythm, a frequency of flow. It is so obvious, so integral, and so taken for granted that it is most likely not something we pay that much attention to. This rhythm is breath, and without this beat, there is no life in the bodies we reside in. The beautiful thing about this simple and subtle, often forgotten, internal movement is that when you pay it some attention, it can take on the force of powerful winds, of strong waves. It creates its own gravity and momentum, each movement taking on an exaggerated expression. Each inhale lifts your lungs and belly, inflating what now feels like elastic skin. Each exhale becomes a gratifying release and surrender, an emptying of something you never knew could ever be so full.


California Scholars’ Response to UC Campus Climate Reports


by: Shani Chabansky on August 24th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

UC Santa Cruz students protesting Israeli government

UC Santa Cruz Jewish and non-Jewish student protesters. Credit: Matt Borden.

Two months ago, UC President Marc Yudof’s Advisory Council on Campus Climate, Culture and Inclusion released a report on the experiences of Jewish students on UC campuses. Co-authored by Rick Barton, a council member of the Anti-Defamation League, and Alice Huffman of the California NAACP, the report marks the culmination of what many have come to see as an attack on free speech and academic freedom under the disguise of protecting Jewish students from criticism of Israel.The following letter is a response to the report from an organization of UC professors and other academics who are focused on maintaining free and open academic debate.

Please sign this petition if you would like to urge President Yudof to disregard the report.

Dear President Yudof,

We, the California Scholars for Academic Freedom** write to urge you not to adopt the recommendations of the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report. We find the report’s recommendations pose a clear threat to academic freedom at the University of California. First, the report is based on sloppy methodology and clear bias. A comparison with the Muslim and Arab Student Campus Climate Report is instructive. The latter explains exactly how many people they spoke with, how they were put in touch with them, and lists their names and affiliations. The Jewish Student Campus Climate Report merely implies that they spoke with a range of people but never specifies with whom and how they were chosen. In fact, the two people who conducted the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report appear to have spoken almost exclusively with those who would like to silence criticism of Israel on UC campuses.

Second, the Muslim and Arab Student Campus Climate Report explains in great detail the exact nature of the discrimination that Muslim and Arab students experience on UC campuses, while the Jewish Student Campus Climate Report quotes unnamed people as feeling upset about criticisms of Israel. In fact, the report focuses almost exclusively on criticism of Israel as a supposedly objective measure of anti-Semitism while giving short shrift to the broad range of Jewish student experiences on UC campuses. The Jewish Student Campus Climate Report, despite a brief one-sentence disclaimer, essentially equates criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism, despite having to acknowledge that much of this criticism comes from Jewish faculty and students.


Leavening and The Oneness of God: Spiritual + Cultural Paradigm Shifts


by: on August 20th, 2012 | 2 Comments »


In my last article I discussed The Wild Goose Festival as a paradigm shift. Now I want to explore the shift in a greater, and lengthier context as I lead into describing (in coming articles) the way it is informing and being informed by a larger global culture, a larger spiritual and religious culture, and shifts within all which also lead to increased conversations within and outside of all current contexts of identity. We are restructuring the world, in tiny steps so small that it is often hard to see at the micro-level.

I think the greatest piece of this is the understanding that there is something bigger and better in God than we ever before conceptualized. We are beginning to see that within “my Christianity,” “my Judaism,” “my Islam,” “my Buddhism” there is a small sliver of God we are allowed to see, illuminated both through our own personal sacred texts and our visceral experiences of God in relationship to the faith we have learned (or as I sometimes call it, “faith of origin”). The second half to this is that we are realizing that my sliver of God-light and your sliver of God-light emanate from the same source and that saying that is no longer easily poo-pooed as heretical within my tradition but enhancing the basis of my traditional understanding with a God greater than we have ever been able to see or frame in our world-view before.

We are able to see that God can be many things to many people and to say that doesn’t make me a heretical Christian but makes me a Christian able to see God’s light from many different angles–like a prism refracting and dividing the sun’s light and sending it outward in millions of different directions.


Ride Sally Ride!


by: on July 27th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

Last evening I attended the Global Women’s Leadership Network graduation for a group of amazing women who will now head off to spend the next six months working on projects to improve lives and make the world a better place. A young man approached me during the reception afterwards and introduced himself. He is an engineering student at Santa Clara University and was attending the ceremony as an assignment for a class focused on women in engineering. I asked him how many men and how many women were in the course. “Five men and two women.”

Interesting, don’t you think?

Empowering girls around the world to get equal education, especially in areas of math, science, medicine, and engineering, was a common theme among the dreams that last evening’s graduates had for their work. Sally Ride, who passed away this week after a battle with cancer, would have been there applauding these women and I think the discussion with the young Santa Clara engineering student would have been quite fun.


An Open Letter to Presbyterian Clergy


by: on July 11th, 2012 | 15 Comments »

From Two Jewish Social Justice Advocates

Dear Reverends and Church-goers,

Interfaith delegation including young Jews and rabbis with Jewish Voice for Peace who advocated for boycott and divestment at the Presbyterian General Assembly.

We are writing to you as two young American Jews who have just seen something extraordinary. Last week we were guests at the 220th Presbyterian Church (USA) General Assembly in Pittsburgh where we witnessed the historic plenary vote to boycott Israeli settlement products. We congratulate you as people of faith for aligning your practice with your values and taking a principled stand. Mazel tov!

At the General Assembly we watched Christian clergy and laypeople engaging in dialogue on a very difficult topic – the Israeli occupation of the West Bank – with respect, grace, and open hearts. It is a true blessing to walk the path of peace with you in solidarity. Both of us have spent years educating ourselves on the issues, traveling to Israel and Palestine, and researching companies complicit in the Occupation.


Philanthropic Photography Celebrates SF’s Warrior Mothers


by: Wendy Kenin on June 26th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

There is citizen journalism and then there is photographic philanthropy, and they each serve a purpose. I have been covering Occupy events in my area by shooting photos and making them available on flickr, as well as tweeting them around. A few publications have asked me to post to their sites as a citizen journalist, but I haven’t taken that step yet.

April 26, though, I shot an event that wasn’t about Occupy. It was a photographic exhibit called “Facing Forward” by volunteer Marsha Guggenheim that displayed beautiful profiles of women who had graduated from the Community Health Worker Training Program of the Homeless Prenatal Program, alongside short blurbs about their success stories.

The opening event was packed. Like Occupy, it was a mixer of all kinds of people – culturally and economically. I find it the most powerful when philanthropist types come together in the same space with the economically disadvantaged people being served, with shared goals.

I don’t know what sort of graduation ceremony typically happens for women who graduate the Community Health Worker program, but this event was a truly high and joyous celebration of the 132 women who have graduated from the program since its inception in 1995.