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Archive for the ‘Empathy’ Category



Dylan Farrow’s Regret: Why We Need a New System for Rape Testimony

Feb12

by: Tara Kipnees on February 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

The many angles of the Dylan Farrow/Woody Allen sexual assault saga have been dissected relentlessly over the past two weeks. For all the information unearthed, it is increasingly apparent that we will never know what happened between Woody Allen and his adoptive daughter nearly 22 years ago. One thing we do know for certain, though, is that in 1992 the Connecticut state prosecutor Frank Maco found “probable cause” to prosecute Woody Allen, but he did not move forward with filing charges due to “the fragility of the child victim.”

In a November 2013 Vanity Fair article, Farrow told author Maureen Orth “”I have never been asked to testify. If I could talk to the seven-year-old Dylan, I would tell her to be brave, to testify.” Maco, for his part, told the author that he found Farrow too uncooperative to testify. Either way, someone made a decision that it would be too much for Farrow to testify in court against her alleged assailant, and Farrow today wishes a different decision had been made.

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Four Years After the Earthquake, Lessons in Debt and Development

Feb6

by: Andrew Hanauer on February 6th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Timothy Fadek/Polaris

Last month marked the fourth anniversary of Haiti’s catastrophic earthquake, an event CBS News labeled the “worst natural disaster in the history of the Western hemisphere.” The extent of the devastation is well chronicled at this point, as is the fact that Haiti was hardly a prosperous nation before the ground shook in 2010. After the quake, aid money and help of all kinds flowed in to the country from caring people and institutions around the world.

But even as money flowed in, other money flowed out. At the time of the earthquake, Haiti owed roughly one billion dollars to international creditors despite having just received roughly an equivalent amount in debt relief prior to the quake. This meant that in the aftermath of the earthquake, Haiti was sending money in debt payments each month that could have been spent rebuilding the country, providing clean water, and mitigating the cholera epidemic that followed soon after. Today, a sadly similar situation has presented itself in the Philippines, which has now sent almost $2 billion in debt payments to creditors in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Much of the Philippines’ debt is derived from the Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos regime, which spent borrowed funds on repressive instruments of the state, a nuclear power plant built on an earthquake fault at the foot of a volcano that did not produce a single unit of energy for the country, and, of course, on a spectacular collection of shoes.

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Zimmerman versus DMX: No Matter Who Wins, We All Lose

Feb5

by: Kristin McCandless on February 5th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

(DMX / Credit: Creative Commons- Wikimedia)

The first couple of times I heard a celebrity boxing match between George Zimmerman and the rapper known as DMX was in the works I thought the idea was a joke.

But this match is not a joke – it is actually on its way to being contracted. And I’m terrified of what this means for us as a society.

George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator who shot unarmed teenager Trayvon Martin back in 2012 was acquitted of the murder and manslaughter charges against him, so on a legal level, no more can be done to hold Zimmerman to account.

There is, however, much that can and should be done to change the system that allowed that verdict to happen. The way to bring about justice is to use this horrible case and its powerful, emotional backlash to change what is wrong within our system, to make it reflect the peoples’ desire to move forward past racial disparities and unpunished hate crimes.

People are against Zimmerman because they are against his raw, blatant display of hate, violence, and discrimination.

So let me ask: why are we letting him stoke these exact same sentiments through a high-profile boxing match on TV?

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Photo Gallery: Surviving Genocide in Sudan and Congo

Feb3

by: Janice Kamenir-Reznik on February 3rd, 2014 | Comments Off

Ten years ago, the first genocide of the 21st century started in Darfur. It was another in the long list of 46 genocides since the Holocaust, when the world first promised “Never Again!” Despite that promise, we’ve heard a deafening silence from the world as each of these genocides unfolded.

refugee camp

Tea: Miada and her mother share solar-cooked tea in the Iridimi Darfuri refugee camp in Chad. Credit: Barbara Grover.

During Rosh Hashanah in 2004, Rabbi Harold Schulweis challenged the Valley Beth Shalom Congregation in Encino to not stand idly by as another genocide happened in front of our eyes; he asked that we found Jewish World Watch, through which we could bring the lessons of Torah to bear on the horror being inflicted on humankind by perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities.

The Valley Beth Shalom community responded en masse, calling upon Southern California synagogues to unify and raise their collective voices in outrage over the events in Darfur. Over the last ten years, more than 70 synagogues have answered that call; together we have marched, rallied, and advocated – locally, nationally and internationally. We sent delegations to travel to the regions we work in to bear witness and bring survivors the message that they are not alone.

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B.D.S. and the Attack on Liberalism

Feb2

by: on February 2nd, 2014 | 27 Comments »

A person angry at Israel, now angry at Starbucks too. Credit: Creative Commons

Back in 1995, while studying abroad in Jerusalem, an American Jewish friend and myself were invited by a Palestinian friend to go to a pop music concert at Bethlehem University in its outdoor arena. The female Arab singer was fabulously talented and charismatic, and of course she sang all the songs in Arabic. At one point, she led a song with her fist high in the air, repeating a rhythmic chant, with the impassioned audience repeating the chant, fists high in the air. Again, all in Arabic. Because it was so rhythmic, my Jewish friend and I joined in. When there was a break in the music, I turned to a Palestinian next to me who spoke English and said to him, “That was really great! Oh, and by the way, what were we chanting that whole time?”

He said, “Kick the Jews out!” Of course, that meant all of the land, not only the 67′ lines.

Memories of that Bethlehem episode came flooding back after reading Omar Barghouti’s op-ed in The New York Times today titled, “Why Israel Fears the Boycott.” It seems that at least some of those who reject Israel as a Jewish state for the Jewish people – a people who have endured milennia of persecution that culminated in the Holocaust – have finally seen the limited public relations range of fist-pumping exhortations of ethnic cleansing, and have instead gone all Madison Avenue on us. In fact, tobacco companies still holding out hope that they can get 5th graders addicted to cigarettes through all manner of subliminal messaging ought to read Barghouti’s op-ed. They could use some new pointers.

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Peace Through the Hijab

Jan31

by: on January 31st, 2014 | 19 Comments »

Courtesy World Hijab Day

Stereotypes are hurtful, no doubt about it. They assume things about an entire group of people by those who have less than an iota of knowledge about the group. It shrinks each individual in the group to the lowest common denominator, or even to something unrelated entirely to the group. And it’s doubly sad when stereotypes are perpetuated not just externally but internally as well.

Today, perhaps no other group faces more stereotypes than the Muslim woman. The adjectives – I call them labels – used to define her range from the inaccurate to the offensive and even sometimes laughable. Submissive. Oppressed. Quiet. Homemaker. Religious. Devout. Covered.


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The Gap Between Samantha Power’s Moral Vision and Her Toolkit

Jan30

by: on January 30th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Samantha Power, United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Credit: Creative Commons

Three days ago, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power used a word that has been, for the most part, absent in the U.S. discourse surrounding the Syrian civil war: evil. Granted, the word “evil” is actually quite difficult to inject into a sentence structure that also includes phrases like “the two sides need to meet face to face at the negotiating table.”

Ever since George W. Bush’s infamous 2002 State of the Union speech in which he called Iraq, Iran and North Korea the “Axis of Evil,” the word “evil” seems to have left on a jet plane and hasn’t come back again. It seems that for most of the citizenry, from the influential power-brokers in Washington, to the town gossips on Main Street, to anonymous commenters on blogs, the word “evil” is best avoided if one wishes to persuade others.

Before she was even sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Power gave the faux sophisticates of the “no-such-thing-as-evil” crowd a major boost to their cause: her Senate confirmation hearing to be America’s next ambassador to the international body was simply brimming with all manner of denial of the U.S. government’s past atrocities. As mentioned in this article from last July, Power’s confirmation hearing was punctuated in particular with the repeated statement “I will not apologize for America.” Another notable standout from the hearing was her statement to senators that “America is the light of the world.” Needless to say, her confirmation vote passed the Senate with flying colors.

Yet it is precisely that kind of denial, both of history and present reality, that not only leads to foreign cynicism about the intentions of U.S. leaders, but effectively delivers a Betty Crocker cake to those inside the U.S. who would prefer to ignore the evil that Ambassador Power is so devoted to fighting.

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Snapping to the SNAP Challenge

Jan30

by: Sharon Goldman on January 30th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons/Paul Sableman

Jacob is being groomed for empathy. So said Rabbi David Ingber of Congregation Romemu in New York City during a Friday night D’var Torah last November. It was the week of Parsha Vayetzei, the Parsha in which Jacob, with only a rock as a pillow, dreams of angels ascending the ladder. So begins Jacob’s solo journey, one marked by a series of perfidies, betrayals, and disappointments. By the end of Genesis, having experienced both ends of these dynamics multiple times, he has sown the seeds of humility and compassion. Empathy for the patriarch Israel, is a painstaking development. Empathy was also the theme of that particular Shabbas, not only with the focus of the Rabbi’s D’var, but also with the community potluck dinner after evening services, acknowledging the participants of the SNAP Challenge.

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Glory, Fame, and Ambition: the Custer Model

Jan29

by: on January 29th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

George Armstrong Custer. "The last thing we need in our homes, workplaces, and national leadership is a Custer," Kurth writes. Credit: Creative Commons/National Archives and Records Administration.

When I was a girl, my father called me a “glory-hound,” and I was embarrassed and indignant, probably because it was so true. Most writers, it seems, long for glory, fame, acknowledgement. Some of that is a human need to be seen and valued, an experience we all deserve. But lately, I’ve been seeing a very real danger in the obsessive pursuit of fame and even the pursuit of achievement.

What could be wrong with “following your dream” or “being all you can be?”

In a radio interview, a spiritual author writing a book about a religious icon, mentioned a key moment when she was allowed to see the icon. At that moment, her companion and guide, an elderly man, was so affected, he collapsed to the floor. Her reaction was something very close to, Oh, that’s all I need: a dead guide on my hands.

Wow, I thought. Doesn’t a spiritual quest draw us closer to others, make us sympathetic to their suffering and possible death? That moment is undoubtedly not typical of the writer’s attitude overall, but it made me certainly made me ponder ambition, my own and others’, and where it stands in the way of humanity. Where do we find ourselves seeing others and even their suffering as mere obstacles to our goals?

Custer: A Far Scarier Example

Soon after hearing the radio program, I watched a PBS feature on Custer, a horrible and disturbing story. My mind kept flipping back and forth between two visions. One was a popular picture of Custer in his time, glamorous Custer, a “gallant” triumphant competitor, a rule-breaker and risk-taker, adventurous, courageous, confident, dashing, a man who dressed with flare and had a passionate romance with an equally high-voltage woman, his wife, Libby. This, I thought, is the archetype of success in our culture, the fireworks person, the Steve Jobs, the important one who drives himself beyond human limits and achieves fame, power, and money – and makes us feel bad about ourselves.

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Make Guantanamo, and All Torture, History (Update: Link to CNN Report of 11,000 Syrian Government Torture Victims)

Jan20

by: on January 20th, 2014 | Comments Off

Anti-torture activists at the White House fence. Credit: Creative Commons

On January 11th, the dedicated activists from Witness Against Torture broke new ground: they raised public consciousness about the Obama administration’s ongoing torture regime at the Guantanamo Bay military prison and other military prisons, not by holding signs in front of the White House, but by creating a “living exhibit” at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, an unauthorized demonstration where the activists donned the orange jump suits that the United States government forces upon human beings who have never been charged with a crime.

The video of this “living exhibit” demonstration is compelling. Hundreds of tourists of all stripes, who thought they were in for a day of absorbing the extraordinary exhibits on display at the American History Museum, got to witness an exhibit on the most important feature of America’s founding document: the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and the right of free speech, free assembly, and the freedom to petition our government for the redress of grievances – of which protest against the torture of human beings must be paramount, if all the other rights are to have any meaning whatsoever.

The Youtube link to this moving, unauthorized, live-person exhibit of the First Amendment and basic human decency is down below. Thankfully, however, all those of us who are not able to see, or participate in, these crucial anti-torture demonstrations taking place in our nation’s capitol and around the country have another outlet to voice our support.

The organization Women Against Military Madness is sponsoring an anti-torture activist video contest called “Tackling Torture at the Top.” There are eight short videos that have been selected as the finalists, and members of the public are encouraged to cast their votes. The public voting will end on January 30th, and the winner will be announced on February 7th. Make sure to cast a vote.

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