by: Tikkun Administration on June 12th, 2014 | No Comments »
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.
by: Alfred Gluecksmann on June 2nd, 2014 | 8 Comments »
Credit: Creative Commons
This spring, an obscure, right-wing extremist, organization which oxymoronically characterizes itself as the “American Freedom Defense Initiative” (AFDI), has managed to force Washington DC’s transit authority to be misused for the purpose of the posting of their odious speech and imagery, not necessarily protected by the First Amendment according to the 1942 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire. It wasn’t the first time: this happened once before, in September of 2013, as well.
The ads currently being displayed on buses of our transit system, state “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in The Quran” and next to an image of Hitler is the caption which states that a Palestinian he is talking to is “His Staunch Ally (and) The Leader of the Muslim World.”
by: Jonathan Zimmerman on May 20th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
News Anchor (in a hopeful voice): So will you bring us some sunshine tomorrow?
Weathercaster (grinning): Well, I can’t promise anything. But I’m working on it.
Welcome to a standard news program in the United States, where weathercasters serve as our goofy national soothsayers. They’re screwballs, alright, donning ridiculous hats and delivering wacky one-liners. But they’re also trusted oracles, who employ the latest scientific wizardry to divine the mysteries of the skies.
So why won’t they discuss the science of climate change, too?
According to the American Metereological Society, we have “unequivocal evidence” that “human activities” – especially the burning of fossil fuels – have changed the earth’s climate since the 1950s. But you rarely hear a weathercaster acknowledge it on the air.
Now the White House is trying to change that. Last week, President Obama invited eight weathercasters to discuss a new national report on climate change. Citing floods and wildfires, Obama stressed that climate change is “a problem that is affecting Americans right now.” And he called on weathercasters to emphasize the same.
Last week the world of American Muslim social media (if there is such a thing) was rocked by an unexpected victory. A proposed ABCFamily show provocatively entitled Alice in Arabia was cancelled after a protest by American Muslims. The reason: this tale of an American girl kidnapped by Saudi relatives and held, veiled against her will in Saudi Arabia was all too familiar as stereotypical orientalism. The question then becomes, with films and television shows preceding it rife with the racist prejudices of our American consciousness, why was Alice in Arabia different?
Last week the U.S. District Court dismissed a long-standing case against the NYPD for their secret surveillance of Muslims in New York and New Jersey in the years after 9/11. Yet few Americans outside of the American Muslim community spoke out against the judgment, and not all newspapers carried the news. For the average American of a different faith, this wasn’t really too newsworthy. Here’s why they are wrong.
by: Sharon Abreu on February 25th, 2014 | 13 Comments »
An environmentalist friend of mine whose religion is Christian Science recently sent me a 2010 article from the Christian Science Sentinel. The article is about author John Merritt (called “The Green Baptist” by Christianity Today) and his book Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet. Merritt is quoted as saying, “How can you be a Christian and not care about the environment?”
This question excited me. And, not surprisingly, it brought me back to the Network of Spiritual Progressives, which I joined in 2003 when it first sprang from Tikkun as the “Tikkun Community”. So much of our work since 2003, and so much of Rabbi Lerner’s work over decades, has addressed the question of why so many people seem to vote against their own best interests, which includes voting for candidates who promote natural resource extraction over environmental protection, progressive energy policies, and the health and well-being of the voters who put those politicians in office.
I’ve been encouraged over the last few years to see more Christians speaking out in favor of environmental protection, acknowledging the reality of climate change and the likelihood that human activity is intensifying global warming. I appreciate groups like Restoring Eden and Christians for the Mountains, who understand that the rights of nature and of people are inseparable.
(Ariel Sharon/ Credit: Creative Commons)
The media has no problem focusing on the petty offenses and sexual infidelities of public figures but seems unable to acknowledge when some have engaged in or abetted human rights abuses or inflicted pain, violence, or murder on civilians. So we’ve been subjected to the iconization of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and — since his death earlier this month — of former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon. Of all the murders he ordered, the one that sticks out most in my mind is the first set, in which he ordered his clandestine military unit in the early 1950s to take revenge on Palestinians who had been crossing the Armistice lines of 1949 in order to reclaim land that had been theirs before the Israel’s military victories that pushed hundreds of thousands of Palestinians out of their homes. To terrorize the Palestinians, his unit entered and massacred a Palestinian village, setting fire to homes in which primarily women and children perished.
What is equally egregious is the media’s repeating of the lie that Ariel Sharon was on the verge of reducing West Bank settlements when he died, a follow-up to his supposedly peace-oriented move to remove the Israeli settlers from Gaza. But as Sharon’s close assistant and adviser Dov Weinglas explained to the leaders of the Settlement movement, the withdrawal of 5,000 Israeli settlers from Gaza was a strategic move aimed at undermining international pressure to remove settlers from the West Bank. But how could Sharon be sure it would play out in that way? Simple: instead of negotiating the withdrawal with the Palestinian Authority, he would insist that there was “no one to talk to” among Palestinians, and that therefore Israel would simply unilaterally withdraw, thereby assuring that Hamas, which had taken control of Gaza by eliminating the representatives of the Palestinian Authority, would then be in control of Gaza. Yes, from the standpoint of undermining international pressure on Israel to end the settlements, this was a brilliant cynical move. But it was the opposite of a move designed to bring peace. With Hamas in charge of Gaza, the rage of Palestinians would be given full expression, and then Israel could say, as it subsequently did, “see, we gave the Palestinians Gaza and all they did was to use it as a base to attack Israel.” A fuller discussion of this appears in my 2012 book Embracing Israel/Palestine. But the central point is this: Ariel Sharon was the father of the settlement movement, and his ideological and practical political moves were all about holding on to the West Bank as part of Israel. He was not a closet peacemaker, and the attempts in the media to portray him as such were nothing short of bizarre.
After John Miller’s infomercial for the NSA had run its course on 60 Minutes, it was reported – to nobody’s great surprise – that the CBS newsman was ditching his television contract to take a top intelligence post at the NYPD.
For Miller, this was just a continuation of his revolving door professional career, alternating between national security appointments and journalism posts. Problematic? Of course. However, the most troubling aspect was the revelation that Miller had been under consideration for the NYPD post while working on his NSA story.
He wasn’t just a past insider ‘reporting’ on the NSA. This was a future insider doing a story about the inside. This was a journalist having full access to the inside and reporting upon it not to critique it, but to celebrate it, knowing his goal was to become a part of it.
by: Jay Sterling Silver on November 21st, 2013 | Comments Off
The reasoning behind Richie Incognito’s racist bullying of Miami Dolphin’s teammate Jonathan Martin must be fully understood before we can make any sense of the sketchy facts and conflicting opinions surrounding the story, or appreciate how the logic fails.
(Richie Incognito/ Credit: Creative Commons)
As the argument goes, Martin, a mild-mannered, cerebral Stanford grad, had to be “toughened up” to thrive in the heat of NFL battle. Like the verbal abuse heaped on raw recruits in boot camp to engender a fighting spirit, the anger provoked by racial derogation and talk of sodomizing Martin’s sister would, in theory, acquaint him with the fire in the belly that he needed to summon on Sundays to vanquish opposing linemen. This type of bullying, the reasoning goes, promotes the greater good – in this case, of winning football games.
The trouble with this reasoning is two fold. First, the target is non-consenting, since the strategy wouldn’t work if he was. The statement “Mr. Martin, we’ll be calling you horrible names and expressing the crudest desires with regard to your lovely family as a sort of drill, like running laps or lifting weights, so you’ll play better” would thwart the exercise.
Like the office or the plant where the rest of us labor, though, the locker room is a workplace subject to laws that protect the workforce. Certain employers and employees may yearn for the days when harassment wasn’t actionable and the workplace was as hostile as the boss chose to make it, but the legislature saw no need to carve out an exception for racist bullying or threats of violence on the offensive line any more than on the assembly line. Players’ accountsof the rough and tumble locker-room culture where “men are men” are no more morally compelling than wistful accounts of the days when women and minorities “knew their place.” And Dolphins’ head coach Joe Philbin wasn’t kidding when, asked about the locker-room harassment, he responded “I’m not concerned about any of that stuff. My focus is on [the team's next opponent] Tampa Bay.”