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Archive for the ‘Empathy’ Category



Final report from Jerusalem

Jul8

by: Cherie Brown on July 8th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Dear all,

Credit: Creative Commons

It is Tuesday morning in Jerusalem and I fly home to DC early tomorrow (Wednesday) morning. It is hard to believe a month has passed.  I am sad to be leaving Israel, to be leaving all the people here I love, the views of the Old City from our apartment window, the sights and smells of the Shuk (the Marketplace), and all the beauty and the complexity of this wonderful, ancient place. At the same time, I am very much looking forward to coming home.

This last week has once again been a week of amazing contrasts. This past Tuesday night, we were on Jaffa road (where our apartment is).  We were just walking to dinner, when we got caught in an ugly, racist mob scene with hundreds of young, mostly Orthodox Jewish men, throwing rocks, pulling Arabs out of stores, shouting,  ”We want revenge” and “Kill Arabs,”  and waving banners proclaiming,  ”We are all Kahane”.  I have never been more pained– or more terrified.  What has happened to our people?

The horrible events of the past week, the discovery of the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers and the horrific revenge killing of the Palestinian teenager only added to the information I had been receiving all month from the tours to Hebron, the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills, and the Negev.  All together, each event and each tour has given me a stark, realistic picture, not only of the horrors of life for Palestinians under the Occupation, but also, the depth of collusion, rigidities, and racism of the settler movement, the Israeli army, and the Israeli government — and it’s leadership.  The events of this past week only confirmed what I was already learning and witnessing on the ground all month.  

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July 4: Picnics to Honor Human and Environmental Rights

Jun25

by: on June 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Let’s use July 4 to celebrate all those who have stood up for peace and non-violence, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, human rights, and a world of love and generosity!

We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives invite you to create a local picnic to honor all those in the past and all those in the current world (including YOU) who have taken steps to move the world toward a more loving and just, peaceful and non-violent, environmentally sustainable and generosity-filled reality. Not just the famous people, though we’ll also honor the MLK jrs and the freedom riders and the women who were in the vanguard of the 2nd wave of feminism and the brave glbtq people who fought against homophobia, but ALSO the people who took risks at a smaller level, in their personal lives, possibly alienating friends or family or risking their professional or job advancement, or in other ways that you can tell us. So bring your stories to this celebration.

Here in Berkeley where our office is, we are inviting anyone in Northern California who wants a different kind of energy on July 4 than that of “rockets were there, the bombs bursting in air,” to come to an NSP (Network of Spiritual Progressives) picnic starting at2 p.m.at Picnic Area No. 1 of the Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck ave, Berkeley (look for us–you’ll find us in a somewhat hidden area). At2:30we’ll have vegetarian pot-luck. At3:30we’ll start the program and Achi Ben Shalom will lead the music. Please bring songs, poetry, your own stories of how you’ve stood up for peace, justice and/or environmental sanity, and your musical instruments to sing along! We’d welcome your political organization, synagogue, church, mosque or ashram to cosponsor this event with us–let us know! Later that night you’ll be invited to celebrate the Sabbath with Rabbi Lerner at his home at7 p.m.–an energy that will offset the noise of fireworks, at least partially.

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Laughing in Prison – A Short Reflection

Jun15

by: Ben Theimer on June 15th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Patheos Blog

How do we make sense of laughter?  We all know its liberating power, but we also know its debilitating sting. On the one hand, laughter has the cumulative strength to tear down seemingly, immovable walls. On the other, it may be the last recourse for sanity, when those walls encroach upon us and overwhelm us.  How then, can laughter be both generative—a force for life and power—and protective—a last and often weak defense against the hells of our world? Taking a Project TURN class inside a North Carolina prison got me thinking about Jesus and laughter.

After my fellow Duke students and I went through the metal detectors of the prison, we entered into the foreign world of clanking doors, multiple control centers, long windowless hallways, and dull, florescent bulbs. Our walk to the classroom took us at least ten minutes. Though we ascended floors, the disorientation of it all felt like we were descending into a dungeon. Halfway there, we walked by men who wore red jumpsuits—the classification for death row. It was a sobering walk, one of quiet conversations and occasional head-nods. There definitely wasn’t much or any laughter. But once we entered our classroom, we were greeted as guests (as if you could be a guest in prison) with warm smiles, friendly handshakes, and over time, the handshake to shoulder touch to concluding fist pump.

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CA Leaders Ask SF Archbishop To Cancel Participation In Anti-Gay Event

Jun12

by: Tikkun Administration on June 12th, 2014 | Comments Off

We are proud that Rabbi Michael Lerner, co-chair of the NSP– Network of Spiritual Progressives, and rabbi of Beyt Tikkun Synagogue-Without-Walls that meets in S.F. and Berkeley, stood with other community leaders in urging the conservative Catholic archbishop of San Francisco to withdraw from an anti-homosexual group’s rally in Washington, D.C.

This is nothing new for Rabbi Lerner or for Tikkun. Tikkun critiqued homophobia in the Jewish world starting in 1988, and the famous Rabbi David Hartman, founder of the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem and a champion of tolerance in other respects, resigned from the Tikkun Editorial Advisory Board after telling Lerner that Tikkun’s support for gay rights “might endanger the Hartman Institute’s legitimacy in the orthodox world,” given the opposition to homosexuality in the Orthodox Jewish world. Lerner refused to relent in Tikkun’s critique of homophobia both in the orthodox and Conservative Judaism worlds. Rabbi Lerner officiated at gay and lesbian marriages from the time he was ordained in 1995.

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Bergdahl and the Broader Conversation

Jun11

by: on June 11th, 2014 | 5 Comments »

It is indeed a joyous time: the last American POW is finally home. Who can deny that the U.S. military has indeed fulfilled its promise that it will leave no man (or woman) behind? Sargent Bowe Bergdahl has hardly been released, however, when the magnificent, wonderful story of courage and patriotism was transformed into, in Jon Stewart’s words, a complicated, clouded, controversial story. He has been called a deserter, a traitor and a coward. It seems as if even our soldiers are not guaranteed our respect after risking their lives for our freedoms.

 

As a Muslim, should I care? As an American, I certainly should, because my hope is that every soldier comes home safely to his or her family. The problem is, of course, that controversy inevitably follows anything even remotely connected to Muslims today. In the case of Bergdahl, who remained for five years in Afghanistan in the custody of the Taliban, there are indeed a myriad of connections that make me uneasy, but perhaps for not all the same reasons as Republicans.

True, there is the issue of the five Taliban released from Guantanamo Bay in a prisoner exchange. Who knows what they will be up to after their release? For many, that’s a serious concern. It should be, because unconstitutional imprisonment and torture is bound to make people even angrier with the U.S. government. Who knows when or where we’ll meet those five again.

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My Letter to Bob Bergdahl

Jun7

by: on June 7th, 2014 | 25 Comments »

Dear Bob,

I know this is a difficult time for you and your family, which is partly why I’m reaching out, to let you know that I feel a deep kinship with you, despite the many differences in our circumstances and perspectives. While you lean conservative in your political views, I am an unyielding progressive. While you reside in a small town in Idaho, I am composing this from Pittsburgh, the city in which I live. And while your son was held captive for many years by the Taliban – while you struggled to secure his release with the determined focus only a father’s love could generate – I have struggled in a different way, working to move beyond the terror attack which injured my wife in Israel, an attack which has propelled me to fight for the human rights and dignity of my so-called enemy.

Despite these differences, our struggles have shared several fulcrum points, and these points have made it so difficult for me to watch politicians and the media exploit you and your family’s pain. There are moments this past week in which I have trembled with anger, have felt the need to lash out, to grip someone by the throat and scream, ‘Leave them alone’.

But I’m not a violent person. I’m a writer who acts with the pen, not with fists, and as such I’ve chosen to write to you in public as a way to support you in a country where so many want to reflexively do the opposite.

I hope this letter finds you in peace, and so I’ll begin again by saying שלום עלכם (shalom alechem), which is the Hebrew equivalent for the Arabic السلام عليكم (as-salam aleykum).

Peace be upon you.


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Arrivals Gate

Jun4

by: on June 4th, 2014 | Comments Off

Remember that montage in Love, Actually when all the couples and families are reuniting at the airport arrivals gate?  That montage turned my heart to mush.  And that scene in real life has the same effect.  Since I was a kid I can recall loving to pick people up at the airport, or be picked up after a long flight; greeted by my mom beaming with smiles as I returned from a faraway trip or my boyfriend holding a bouquet of flowers and wearing a suit and top hat for the occasion.

My high school friends were in the marching band and we used to go to the SFO arrivals gate and play welcome music for random strangers just for fun.  Throw in some free carnation flower handouts and we had ourselves an amusing night out.  That moment of reuniting after a trip hasn’t lost it’s charm after all these years.  In Love, Actually, the British Prime Minister, played by Hugh Grant, says:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere.  Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

Of course, since 9/11, security protocols have pushed arrivals gate greetings out to the baggage claim area.  Nonetheless, the ritual continues. 

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California’s ‘Health for All’ Bill Moves Forward

May26

by: Viji Sundaram on May 26th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

(Cross-posted from New American Media)

SACRAMENTO – Irma Montoya, 53, had to wait for three years to get her hip replaced. Her severe pain finally triumphed over her fear of deportation and prompted her to seek the medical care she needed.

Montoya still needs access to health care because she has been diagnosed with diabetes and cancer, but she’ll have to wait for treatment because the hospital has placed her on a waiting list, said her son, Alessandro Negrete.

“I can’t wait to see the bill passed,” said Negrete, 31. “The first thing I’ll do when it happens is get my mom checked for everything and get myself a physical, too. I haven’t had a proper doctor’s visit since I was seven years old.”

Negrete was speaking about a bill introduced by Sen. Ricardo Lara, D-Bell Gardens, which will allow California to fund an expansion of health care to cover its low-income residents who are living here without documents.

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He’s “Assertive,” She’s “Bossy”: The Double-Standard Language of Gender

May22

by: on May 22nd, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., the publisher of The New York Times, fired the paper’s Executive Editor, Jill Abramson, after she served only three years as the first woman in this top position. Though reports conflict over the cause of the firing, Sulzberger claimed that “I chose to appoint a new leader of our newsroom because I believe that new leadership will improve some aspects….”

Abramson seems to have talked with top officials at the paper about the apparent discrepancy between what she is paid in her position compared to a substantially higher salary paid to men who previously held the same rank and title. This, together with allegations over Abramson’s supposed brusque personality and management style “may have fed into the management’s narrative that she was ‘pushy.’”

According to The New Yorker, “Abe Rosenthal, an executive editor during the late seventies and eighties, was never considered a subtle personality, to say the least. And so there is a reason that gender has been widely discussed in relation to Abramson’s firing and how she was judged, even if it was not the decisive factor.”

Regardless of what was the basis for her firing, it is clear that social customs and norms reinforce many shared preconceptions about the sexes in and out of the business world. Some of these may be inconsistent or even contradictory, but they share the common element that they prescribe rules of conduct for us all. These preconceived notions, or stereotypes, become standardized mental pictures that societies hold representing oversimplified opinions, attitudes, of judgments.

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Why Do Israeli Soldiers Bully Palestinians?

May16

by: Tikkun Administration on May 16th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

“The violent behavior of the soldier videotaped aiming his rifle at a Palestinian teen, setting off a storm in the media, especially the social media – was not exceptional.”

So said veteran Israeli reporter Amira Hass in a recent issue of Israel’s most respected newspaper, Haaretz. You can read her story on the Haaretz website.

From Tikkun‘s standpoint, we need to point out that there’s nothing unusual about this behavior: occupying armies regularly brutalize the populations they are sent to police as part of the way they justify to themselves their presence on the streets of someone else’s cities or villages. The task itself is dehumanizing not just for the occupied but also for the occupier.

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