by: Lynn Feinerman on July 16th, 2014 | 7 Comments »
July 3rd, 2014, Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi left his body, dying after a long, deep, and rich life. I consider Reb Zalman a teacher of mine…a master able to impart knowledge of an authentic Jewish tradition and practice.
Reb Zalman escaped the Holocaust in Nazi Europe and joined the Chabad Lubavitch movement in the United States. The Lubavitcher Rebbe chose Zalman to become a shliach, a messenger and “pied piper” to the great number of unaffiliated young American Jews in my generation.
He was the perfect messenger, an open hearted, open minded man who dropped acid with Timothy Leary, prayed with all others who prayed, and eventually was recognized by the Muslim community as a Sheikh, in addition to being world renowned as a Jew. His sweet, laughing, knowing soul shares a light-filled gaze with the Dalai Lama, in one of my favorite photographs of him.
My sense of Zalman was that he didn’t hate – ever. He’d been there and seen the Holocaust, lost most of his own loved ones. He even requested to be buried with ashes from Auschwitz – the notorious Nazi concentration camp and crematorium – because most of his family never got a proper burial. But he never expressed hatred or desire for revenge. In fact, this great soul had fled the flames and strengthened in reverence for life, love, and forgiveness. May the memory of his blessing take us all there as well.
If you live in a major U.S. city chances are that you’ve heard of Ramadan, the sacred Islamic month in which Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. Ramadan used to be a strange and unknown religious celebration in the United States a few decades ago. Now, thanks to the negative and positive publicity American Muslims have received in recent years, everybody knows when and why we are fasting. Everyone from the White House to the local church and synagogue is holding interfaith iftar events (breaking of the fast) for their Muslim friends and neighbors. I should be proud and happy that my esoteric religious ritual is no longer looked upon as an undue hardship forced upon me by my religion. That finally the American public is ready and willing to accept me, with my five daily prayers and my fasting and my hijab, as one of them. I should be attending those interfaith iftar events with happiness and fervor. But I’m not.
Once again the violence of the Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza and the violence of Hamas and other extremist groups in Gaza have combined to create a spiraling violence that serves the extremists on both sides who can point to the intended violence on the other side to justify their own. We call upon both sides to agree to an immediate cease fire from both sides.
In my book Embracing Israel/Palestine, I show how both sides have co-created this mess, and why it is futile, stupid, intellectually lacking in credibility, and ethically perverse to try to pin the blame on one side or the other, because both sides have been incredibly tone deaf to the suffering of the other side and the most negative possible interpretation of the other side’s intentions increasingly prevails in the public perceptions on each side of the intentions of the other. Of course at the moment there is no equivalence in power or violence. Israel has already killed over 150 Palestinians, and wounded hundreds; Gazans have not inflicted any deaths and few injuries on Israelis (which I’m glad about–I don’t want Israeli blood to flow any more than I want Palestinian blood to flow! My fervent prayer: STOP ALL THE VIOLENCE, END THE OCCUPATION AND CREATE A LASTING PEACE AND A RECONCILIATION OF THE HEART. This reconciliation does not deny the vast inequality of power between Israel and Palestinians, and the corresponding responsibility of the more powerful force to take the first major steps toward a real peace, NOT a “peace process” which goes nowhere, but a true resolution of the conflict.
by: Cherie Brown on July 1st, 2014 | 3 Comments »
At four in the morning on Tuesday, I find myself wide awake. The devastating news that the bodies of the three Israeli teenagers were found just came in last night. I had been attending a Teachers’ and Leaders’ class in co-counseling taught by the leader of the Israeli co-counseling community, so we didn’t hear the news until we were in a car on our way back to Jerusalem.
Credit: Creative Commons.
Soon after hearing the awful news, a screaming fight broke out in the back seat of the car I was in between two co-counselors. One is a long time peace activist. The other is an ultra Orthodox woman who knew many people in the Yeshiva where the three murdered boys had studied. Each was screaming at the top of their lungs at the other, “You don’t understand anything.” One claimed the other had no sympathy for the murdered Israeli teenagers but only cared about Palestinians. The other screamed back, “You don’t see the outrageous things being done to Palestinians under the Occupation. You have no ability to listen to the other side.” And here I was in the front seat; it’s almost midnight and they are non-stop screaming at each other. The news that the bodies had been found brought up such painful, raw emotion that even these two seasoned co-counseling leaders temporarily could not use their own co-counseling listening skills. I kept thinking how much harder it must be in crisis moments like this for those who don’t even have these listening tools.
There are three events of the last few days I want to write about. All three are deeply etched in my heart as I continue to be confronted by the realities here and search to think through new ways to view what I am learning.
by: Cherie Brown on June 28th, 2014 | 12 Comments »
I traveled to Jerusalem this summer to spend a month living in Israel and to learn as much as I could about the on-the-ground realities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, I wanted to offer my support and resources to the co-counseling community in Israel.
Co-counseling is a process whereby people are trained to exchange counseling help with one another to free themselves from the negative effects of unhealed grief, rage, and fear. One of the goals of co-counseling work is to identify and heal from past experiences of trauma and group oppression to be able to think freshly about all current situations.
There are communities of people in all different parts of the world that do co-counseling with one another. Co-counselors in Israel are using the tools of co-counseling to heal from any feelings of powerlessness, discouragement, or isolation that can make it difficult to sustain leadership over time and with others on Israeli-Palestinian peace work and all social justice work.Upon arriving in Jerusalem, my husband and I settled into an apartment right next to the Machaneh Yehuda – an incredible open-air market with streets of stalls and all kinds of produce. Our apartment was on the 14th floor, giving us a panoramic view of the Old City from our window. Each morning we woke to a spectacular view of the Old City before us. After having been in Jerusalem for a week, I settled into the daily rhythms of life and led a gathering for the co-counseling community in Jerusalem.
I kept finding how eager people were for contact, for connection, and for breaking the isolation of being Israeli – with the current separation of Israel from so much of the rest of the world. For example, the husband of one of the co-counseling leaders who came to my gathering had just had a life-threatening stroke, soI gave her counseling time, including giving her the space to heal about her incredible grief at the very real possibility that he might not make it. A Mizrachi woman initially was furious with me, saying how dare I ask this woman to look for even one minute at giving up hope about her husband. The Mizrachi woman went on to say, “We here in Israel are the walking dead, and we can’t afford to allow one another one second even in a co-counseling session to feel any feelings of hopelessness.” After screaming at me, she fell into my arms sobbing, and afterwards everyone present said how helpful it is for allies to offer a place for Israelis to be able to express the deep feelings of hopelessness that sit right under the recordings of forced hopefulness.
I am writing this piece on the airplane, on my way home from two weeks in China, where I’ve wanted to go for at least 25 years. I wanted to see, with my own clearly biased eyes, what life is like there. In part, to have some pre-rudimentary understanding of another culture that’s had such a long tradition and which has given so much to the world. In part, to understand how a country with SO many people can function. Originally, I also wanted to have some grasp on what real life communism means. Although I guess I missed that boat, I still felt a deep pull to be there.
Liu Yi, at right, and friends with Miki in Shanghai, 2013
Then the opportunity came when I met Yin Hua and Liu Yi a year ago, while passing through China (see In Defense of Complexity).
My passion for supporting fledgling Nonviolent Communication (NVC) communities in the world, along with my deep desire to offer the tools of collaboration to people working in NGOs, served as the impetus for arranging this trip.
With the warmth and depth of connection I felt with Liu Yi, with her extensive knowledge of and connections within the NGO world, with her willingness to embark on the unbelievable amount of work that it takes to organize a visit of a foreign trainer, and with Yin Hua’s support of the project, the road was clear for the trip that just ended.
Credit: Creative Commons
In a contentious vote guaranteed to be met with outrage by hawkish U.S. politicians and some Jewish leaders, the Presbyterian Church (USA) voted 310-303 to divest from three major U.S. companies engaged in “non-peaceful pursuits” in Israel-Palestine.
PC(USA) voted on Friday evening at its 221st General Assembly in Detroit to divest from Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions, three companies which provide equipment and technological implements utilized by the IDF in its military occupation of the Palestinians in the West Bank. The church’s divestment overture focused only on these three companies, and was careful not to align itself with the international BDS movement or with any efforts to divest from the State of Israel (per a passed amendment during the proceedings).
At the General Assembly before the vote, Caterpillar was singled out for providing the IDF with equipment used in home demolitions, the construction of settler-only roads and the uprooting of Palestinian farmlands illegally appropriated by Israel; HP was singled out for providing biometric scanners used on Palestinians at checkpoints and customized software for the Israeli Navy; and Motorola was singled out for providing surveillance systems used by the settlements in the West Bank.
by: Cantor Michael Davis and M.J. Rosenberg on June 15th, 2014 | 11 Comments »
Credit: Creative Commons
Editor’s Note from Rabbi Michael Lerner: We invited the Religious Action Center of the Reform Movement and J Street, both of which have opposed the Presbyterian divestment resolution, to respond to those who support the Presbyterian resolution. Neither agreed to do so. Tikkun has sought to be a safe space in which both sides could present their thinking. But it’s hard to get the two sides in the Jewish world to sit together and discuss the issues, since anyone who supports even the very limited form of divestment proposed by the Presbyterians is, as J Street’s Jeremy Ben Ami said recently in explaining his opposition to any form of Boycotts, Divestments or Sanctions, crossing “a red line” and hence, in the view of the Jewish establishment, automatically suspect of being anti-Semitic. We believe a public debate is a more healthy way to conduct this discussion, and so we are disappointed that neither J Street nor the Reform Movement accepted our invitation.
Presbyterian Divestment – A Jewish Perspective
by Cantor Michael Davis, Jewish Voice for Peace Rabbinical Council
The first time I wore a kippa and talit outside of a synagogue setting was four year ago outside a hotel in downtown Chicago overlooking the Chicago river. I was singing with a group of my colleagues, local Reform cantors, to protest the mistreatment of hotel workers. I had the privilege of getting to know worker leaders, edit a national clergy report into worker conditions and organize my fellow clergy in Chicago. This was an exciting time – we took over the lobby of a Hyatt hotel with a flashmob, met with senior executives, collaborated with Christian clergy, traveled to other cities and on and on. Last summer, four years after their last contract expired, the Hyatt workers finally won a fair labor contract from management.
The lessons I learned from this successful worker justice campaign have relevance for me in thinking about how to end Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank.
Please take a second to sign the petition for the ESRA–Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment to the US Constitution! We are working with Moveon.org to get our campaign better known, but they’ll only help us if we can demonstrate real support for this approach. It is by far the most comprehensive strategy to save the life-support-system of Earth, and the only way that can withstand being declared unconstitutional by the current reactionary Supreme Court.
It takes less than a minute! Even if you already signed it on the Tikkun website, the Moveon.org people need to see that there are enough people behind it to give it their attention and support, so we need to ask you to sign it again. And then PLEASE SEND IT OUT TO EVERYONE ON YOUR EMAIL LISTS, FACEBOOK, TWITTER AND EVERY OTHER PLACE, FROM YOU, ASKING THEM TO SIGN THE PETITION AS IT APPEARS ON THE MOVEON PAGE:
Just to remind you, the ESRA: