by: Rabbi Howard Cooper on April 13th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Credit: Creative Commons
As we sit down to our Seders – with family, with friends, or in community – we in the so-called ‘First World’, in 2014, intuit that as Jews we are living, historically speaking, lives of immense privilege. While we speak of oppression in Egypt and celebrate the journey our people made from slavery to freedom, we acknowledge the freedoms we now enjoy, unprecedented in Jewish history: freedom to assemble as we want, free to celebrate without persecution, free to speak our minds without fear of a knock on the door, free to express our Jewish selves in whatever style we may choose. The NSA may be monitoring every move we make – but would we want to alive in any other era of our millennia-old history?
Yet the challenge of Seder night is not just to remember the past, not just to recall the extraordinary longevity of our story with its roots in servitude and its mythos of the Jews as a people liberated into a different kind of servitude – servitude to a vision of how things could be, how freedoms of many kinds could be the inheritance of all peoples; as UK Rabbi John Rayner z”l expressed it: ‘freedom from oppression, freedom from want, freedom from hunger, freedom from hatred, freedom from fear; freedom to think, freedom to speak, freedom to learn, freedom to love, freedom to hope, freedom to rejoice – soon, in our days’. The Seder night is, of course, all of that. But it is more than that.
by: Ronnie Barkan and Joshua Tartakovsky on April 4th, 2014 | 28 Comments »
A recent law obligating military service on religious Yeshiva students reveals the inherent flaw in Israel’s claim to be Jewish
An earlier version of this article has appeared on AlterNet
Prime Minister David Cameron got more than he expected at the Israeli Knesset in his last visit, receiving a cold shoulder from ultra-Orthodox and Palestinian legislators who share common interests, being the state’s most oppressed communities. Cameron’s visit to the Knesset took place on the same day that two controversial laws, the Conscription Law and the Governability Law, were finally approved following a prolonged legislative battle. As Prime Minister Netanyahu welcomed the guest of honour the ultra-Orthodox parliamentariansleft the plenary session in protest while their colleagues, Palestinian Members of the Knesset, refused to attend the event altogether. This was the culmination point of several months of heated protest over the Conscription Law which brought to the surface contradictions between Zionism and Judaism.
Hundreds of thousands of ultra-Orthodox Jews (Haredim) of all denominations took to the streets of Jerusalem to oppose the draft law several days before its legislation. In a mass prayer, the worshippers-protesters declared their faithfulness to Torah study rather than to the military. United under the banner declaring that “the State of Israel is fighting against the Kingdom of Heaven” they held signs stating that military draft is a spiritual suicide. The event was not merely an opposition to the law but nothing short of a battle cry against the very legitimacy of a state that encroaches upon their spiritual autonomy and poses a danger to their religious liberty.
by: David Hartsough on March 19th, 2014 | No Comments »
Credit: Creative Commons
As April 15 approaches, make no mistake: The tax money that many of us will be sending to the U.S. government pays for drones that are killing innocent civilians, for “better” nuclear weapons that could put an end of human life on our planet, for building and operating more than 760 military bases in over 130 countries all over the world. We are asked by our government to give moral and financial support to cutting federal spending for our children’s schools, Head Start programs, job training, environmental protection and cleanup, programs for the elderly, and medical care for all so that this same government can spend 50 percent of all our tax dollars on wars and other military expenditures.
My wife Jan and I have been war tax resisters since the war in Vietnam. We cannot in good conscience pay for killing people in other parts of the world.
Does it make sense to work every day for peace and justice and then contribute one day’s pay each week for war and war-making? In order to wage wars, governments need young men and women willing to fight and kill, and they need the rest of us to pay our taxes to cover the cost of soldiers, bombs, guns, ammunition, planes and aircraft carriers. The cost of just the wars being fought now is in the trillions of dollars.
In one of his “Early Addresses” titled “Judaism and Mankind,” Martin Buber said:
Every man whose soul attains unity, who decides, within his own self, for the pure and against the impure, for the free and against the unfree, for the creative and against the uncreative, every man who drives the moneylenders out of his temple, participates in the great process of Judaism.
Though I’m Catholic, these words resonate with me and, like much of Martin Buber’s accessible discourse, serves as a reminder of the sheer idiocy of any form of supersessionism: the belief that Christian faith yields a holier heart and mind than what is contained in Judaism. Indeed, Martin Buber delivered those words over a hundred years ago, between 1909 and 1911; just this week, a glaring headline in the National Catholic Reporter read “Vatican office calls religious sisters, priests to live poorly, reject capitalism.”
Perhaps many of the holy rollers of my church, the Roman Catholic Church – the very ones whose high on the hog living is now the subject of Pope Francis’s reforms – would have done well to read some Martin Buber before making bank off the name of a poor first-century Jew who was killed at 33-years-old by Pontius Pilate. But isn’t a slow learning curve better than none at all?
by: Keren Manor & Shiraz Grinbaum on March 13th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
A Project by Keren Manor & Shiraz Girnbaum at Activestills.org (Crossposted from +972 Magazine)
In honor of International Women’s Day, Activestills paid tribute to more than a quarter century of anti-occupation activism by the ‘Women in Black’ group in Israel. Every Friday since 1988, the women have stood in themain squares of cities or at highway junctions with signs calling to end the Israeli occupation. Often spat at,cursed or violently harassed by passersby, they have become, for us, a symbol of persistence.
A few times a week these days I get a call or email from friends around the country who all ask me the same question: so, what’s happening down there in North Carolina?
I’ve taken to telling them that the Civil Rights Movement is getting born again.
Most of them have read a news story or seen coverage of protests against the extremist takeover of NC government in the past year. (If you have an hour, Bill Moyer’s “State of Conflict” is probably the most informative intro.)
But big business is funding quiet extremism everywhere. What my friends want to know is what happened to inspire over a hundred thousand people to rally at the NC Legislature last summer. How in one summer did half as many people (945) get arrested in one state as were arrested nationwide in 1960′s sit-in movement. And how, many have wondered over the past few weeks, did more than 80,000 people march on a state capitol to demand change?
by: Katie Loncke on March 7th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
Unfortunately, we spiritual-progressive types, including but not limited to dharma heads, seem to be particularly prone to something I call compassion-baiting.
General compassion-baiting sounds something like:
Try having more compassion. If you did, you’d see things my way.
And in social justice situations, specifically, compassion-baiting often sounds like:
You’re more upset / loud / angry about social harm than I, arbiter, deem appropriate. You must therefore be lacking in wisdom or compassion.
F**k that noise, for real.
Why so touchy, you ask? Let’s break it down: 5 major fails associated with compassion-baiting.
by: Donna Nevel on March 7th, 2014 | 40 Comments »
Credit: Jewish Voice for Peace
Many American Jewish organizations claim to be staunch supporters of civil and human rights as well as academic freedom. But when it comes to Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel, they make an exception. In their relentless opposition to BDS, they leave even core principles behind.
The Palestinian-led call for BDS, which began in 2005 in response to ongoing Israeli government violations of basic principles of international law and human rights of the Palestinian people, is a call of conscience. It has strengthened markedly over the last few years among artists, students, unions, church groups, dockworkers, and others. Media coverage of endorsers of the boycott has gone mainstream and viral. Recent examples include Stephen Hawking’s refusal to go to Jerusalem for the Presidential Conference, the successful campaign surrounding Scarlett Johansson’s support for Soda Stream and its settlement operation, and the American Studies Association (ASA) resolution that endorsed boycott of Israeli academic institutions.
Alongside BDS’s increasing strength have come increasingly virulent attacks on, and campaigns against it. These attacks tend to employ similar language and tactics – as if the groups are all cribbing from the same talking points – including tarring BDS supporters as “anti-Semitic” and “delegitimizers.”
Credit: Creative Commons/Forge Mountain Photography
In school rooms across America, kids like mine are coloring pictures of Martin Luther King and watching slide shows about Ms. Rosa Parks. It’s Black History Month again-”the shortest month of the year,” a friend of mine wryly observes. But it’s amazing how broadly we celebrate those who sat-in, marched, and cried out for justice in America 50 years ago. No one in America today can argue that King doesn’t matter. He’s standing on the National Mall, memorialized in stone.
But remembering our history matters little if it doesn’t reshape how we see the present. While communities across America are telling neat and clean stories about the 1960s, most of the mainstream media is ignoring the biggest broad-based organizing effort in the South since that time.
by: Amy B. Dean on February 21st, 2014 | No Comments »
Credit: Carolina Jews for Justice
It can be isolating to be a progressive Jew in North Carolina. In a state where just 1% of the population identifies as Jewish, it can be tough just to find a religious community, let alone a politically active one. Although older Jews who may have been activists in the civil rights movement of the 20th century still live there, it appears their coordinated work for justice ended along with that era. There is no sustaining, Jewish-identified organizational infrastructure that today’s generation of younger North Carolina Jews could revive and harness for today’s fights.
But recently one Raleigh-based Jewish group has tapped into a wellspring of political passion among Jews, and is mobilizing them across the state to challenge the Republican takeover of the legislature. Through building coalitions with other faith and community-based groups, turning Jews out to the Moral Mondays rallies at the state capitol, and organizing laypeople and rabbis to take action, the members of Carolina Jews for Justice (CJJ) are speaking up for the political changes they want to see in North Carolina.