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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



…Then I Am a Proud Socialist!

Jul18

by: on July 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

Even before the Cold War and the so-called “McCarthy Period” (named after Wisconsin Senator, Joseph McCarthy), individuals and groups on the political and theocratic Right have flung the term “Socialist” from their metaphoric sling shots into the faces of their political opponents to discredit their characters and dismiss their political ideas and policies, and to sway the electorate toward a conservative agenda. This continues to this very day as evidenced by the Tea Party’s representations of President Obama and of various progressive politicians.

As destructive and as freedom-killing as the Right would have us believe,Socialisminvolves “a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole,” where each of us has a stake and advances in the success of our collective economy.

No country in the world today stands as a fully Socialist state, but rather, some of the most successful economies combine elements of Capitalism with Socialism to create greater degrees of equity and lesser disparities between the rich, the poor, and those on the continuum in between.

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Hamas Must Stop Attempting to Bomb Israel

Jul16

by: on July 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

Hamas is “objectively even if not subjectively” the best friend of the Israeli settlers, right-wing Israeli extremists, and the Netanyahu government. Hamas leaders know very well that their bombs are not getting through Israel’s missile shield. There is no possible military advantage to continuing these futile attempts to rectify the imbalance in casualties between the 200 Palestinians already killed by Israeli attacks and the one Israeli killed by Hamas shells. But the extremists in Hamas, like the rogue band of criminals who murdered three Israeli youth, have succeeded in their goal: to create fear among Israelis that leads them to rally to those racists who wish to punish the entire Palestinian people for the actions of a few.  Such reactionaries wish to thereby “prove” to the Palestinian people that there is no possibility of peace with Israel and to discredit the strategy of the Palestinian Authority that has renounced violence for the past 8 years.

Still, the Palestinian Authority achieves little in the way of independence and dignity for all its efforts at negotiations with Netanyahu. Hamas’ actions, particularly its bombings of Israeli civilian targets, are as unethical and outrageous as the human rights violations carried out by Israel in its bombings of Gaza that have caused widespread death and injuries, even while Israel’s seven-year blockade of Gaza leaves the Gazans, most of whom have never endorsed Hamas’ policies, without the medical supplies necessary to heal the wounded.

The message to Hamas from Spiritual Progressives is this: Stop the attempts to bomb Israel.  These acts are immoral, ineffective, and counter-productive toward the only legitimate goal: peace and openhearted reconciliation among the people of the region.

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Memoriam for Zalman, Mourning for Israel

Jul16

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.

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Tony Kushner’s Play: “The Intelligent Homosexual’s Guide to Capitalism and Socialism with a Key to the Scriptures ”

Jul16

by: Frank Rubenfeld on July 16th, 2014 | No Comments »

Credit: kevinberne.com

Today I saw a matinee of Tony Kushner’s “An Intelligent Homosexuals’ Guide…” with a full house attending at the Berkeley Rep. The play first opened in Minneapolis in 2007, and then played briefly in NYC at the Public Theater but did not have its West Coast opening until now.

Most of the more than three hours of the play takes place in a marvelous two-layered set, showing the ground floor and upstairs bed room of the patriarch, seventy-two year old Lou Liberatore, a card carrying member of the Communist Party USA and retired union organizer once active in the Longshoreman’s Union. He has two sons and a daughter, (one son and the daughter are gay), who are presently spending time with him since he’s informed them that he plans to commit suicide soon and wants to settle accounts with them. A year prior, he had made an unsuccessful attempt by slitting his wrists in a bathtub (Roman style). This engendered much upset and anger among his children. The plot line that carries the play forward is whether or not he will follow through on his plan despite the anguished, fervent entreaties of his kids not do so.


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Go to Hell! God’s Gracious Word to American Christians

Jul15

by: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on July 15th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

For every season, there is a message. “Do not be afraid.” “Let my people go.” “Take up your cross.” “I have a dream.”

In America today, I’ve come to believe, God’s Word for us is, “Go to hell.”

Unbeknownst to most Americans, our justice system changed radically in the late 20th century. Like most countries in the modern West, roughly one in a thousand Americans were in prison in the early 70s. Today, we incarcerate 1 in 107 Americans. Over 7 million adults are currently in jails, in prison, or on probation. More than 65 million US citizens now have a criminal record, while another 11 million undocumented people live outside the the law, subject to seizure and deportation.

Legal scholar William Stuntz has described the past 40 years as the “collapse of America’s criminal justice system.” Noting the ways “law and order” has landed more black men in prison today than were in slavery in 1850, Michelle Alexander calls it the “new Jim Crow.” Or, as Piper Kerman puts it, “orange is the new black.”

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Fasting for Peace

Jul15

by: on July 15th, 2014 | 9 Comments »

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.


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Compassion and Empathy: the Path to a Peaceful and Just Middle East

Jul14

by: on July 14th, 2014 | 29 Comments »

I have been struggling with how to respond to the current crisis in Gaza (and frankly, the craziness of so many things in the world right now – including the horrific reality that Obama is closing our doors to refugee children sending them back to their countries to face horrors unimaginable).

My heart is broken. At Shabbat services Friday night, as we sang a prayer for healing, my thoughts turned to all the victims in Gaza – images of their maimed and murdered bodies (that I had unfortunately seen on the internet) flashed before my eyes, resulting in tears running down my cheeks and sobs of sorrow and grief), just as I mourned the death of the three Israeli teenagers. I sometimes feel a sense of hopelessness at the current situation and know many people don’t have any idea what to do to stop this madness, nonetheless I am now working to expand our Network of Spiritual Progressives to help spread a different worldview and to bring a voice of compassion and empathy to the situation.

Israel, with its overwhelming power, has a moral responsibility to stop bombing Gaza. Israel is killing innocent civilians under the guise of wiping out Hamas when in fact, this sort of attack will only strengthen militant forces and voices in Palestine who will use the attacks to further their position that Israel (and “Jews”) are murderers and only care about controlling all of Israel and Palestine. In addition, this behavior by Netanyahu only perpetuates anti-Semitism and puts Jews at greater risk around the world. When the actions of the State of Israel are equated with the actions of Jews, Jews ultimately suffer.In fact, just today I read about pro-Hamas protesters in Paris trapping hundreds of Jews in a synagogue, chanting “Death to Jews” while throwing rocks and bricks at the synagogue. The police dispersed the crowd. The members left the synagogue – two were lightly injured. Anti-Semitism, like any form of racism, is always illegitimate. But when so many institutions of the organized Jewish communities around the world line up in solidarity with whatever military or political action the State of Israel takes, I can easily see how easy it is for some to equate the activities of the State of Israel with the entire Jewish people (unfair though that is).


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End the Violence in Israel/Palestine: Cease Fire NOW!

Jul14

by: on July 14th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

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.

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“Can We Forgive You?”: A Manifesto

Jul13

by: on July 13th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

Though I have contemplated writing this for many years, I have continually put it off because it represents thoughts and feelings I never really wanted to make visible. I believed that if I relegated them to the recesses of my consciousness, over time, they would simply evaporate sparing me the task of putting pen to paper (or more appropriately, key strokes to computer screen). But no matter how hard I have tried to let go of the pain and hurt, nonetheless, these thoughts and feelings keep resurfacing. Maybe now if I write them down, I can let go.

Credit: Creative Commons

It began for me back in 1987 when I first learned that one of my favorite writers and personalities had died in France at the relatively young age of 63. James Baldwin, essayist, novelist, poet, playwright, activist, hero to many including myself, expatriated to France where he lived much of his later life. He was attracted to the cultural and political progressivism of the Left Bank, where he could escape the pressures of Jim Crow racism and the enormity of heterosexism in the United States, and where his creative energy could soar. His numerous works directly tackled issues of race, sexuality, and socioeconomic class with an unflinching and inescapable honesty, and with a clear indictment of the corrupt systems of power that dominated his native land.

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A Variety of Memories of Rabbi Zalman Schachter Shalomi (z’l)

Jul12

by: Tikkun Community on July 12th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

We invited people in the Tikkun community to share some memories of their personal connections to Zalman. We cannot publish them all—so many hundreds of people pouring out their wonderful experiences and wishing to honor this great Tzaddik!  So we’ve selected a representative sample.

I have so many memories myself I didn’t mention in the earlier piece I sent out. One that comes to mind as I read the Israeli press describing mobs of Israelis roaming the streets of Israeli towns and beating up Israeli Palestinians that they come upon, while the Israeli army blows up homes of “suspected terrorists” though they have no plausible connection with the horrible murder committed against 3 Israeli youth last week, and reading about the Palestinian youth murdered by Israeli settlers (according to the latest information from the Israeli investigators of that crime).

Zalman and I spent many months in Jerusalem some twenty years ago, and we were talking about the distorting influence on young Israelis of having to serve in the IDF for 3 years before they could go on to college or university. The activities of enforcing the Occupation, often brutal, always discriminatory and implicit racist, generate in these young people the need to justify to themselves the activities they’ve been assigned to do, and this in turn leads many of them to accept either racist or at least fearful stories of who the Palestinian people really are, ideas which then they bring back with them into their lives as citizens after their army service is finished (well, not really finished, because most have to serve a month each year in the reserves, mee’lu’eem, till they are forty).

So Zalman proposed that we try to create a mikvah ceremony for young people finishing their active duty at which we would both immerse them in the healing waters of mikvah and simultaneously urge them to leave behind the ethos of domination (what I subsequently began to describe as “the Right hand of God) and instead embrace the loving values of Torah, including the notion that vengeance is forbidden and that Jews are commanded to Love the Other (which in the case of Israel today means Love Palestinians—rather than oppress them and treat them in ways THEY experience as oppressive). We proposed this to the Rabin government as something that we’d need government cooperation to do, but Rabin had not yet made his turn toward recognizing the humanity of the Palestinians though he was formally trying to make peace with them, so our proposal was never accepted. Here, as in so many areas, Zalman’s creative genius to make use of Judaism’s treasure-trove of spiritual wisdom, was not fully appreciated.

May his memory be always a blessing!

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