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All Disasters Are Miracles


by: Rabbi Eliahu Klein on March 21st, 2016 | Comments Off

(A work of fiction)

Fifteen inmates showed up for today’s Jewish services. Seven inmates were Jewish, seven were a mixture of African American and seven were Latino. I, Jewish Chaplain Weitz, talked about the history of the Jews as it relates to the miraculous and enigmatic Purim story.

“Has anybody ready the Book of Esther in the Bible?” I announced to the attendees in the prison chapel. There were no hands today; I began to introduce the history of King Nebuchadnezzar who destroyed the First Temple in Jerusalem. How tens of thousands of Jews were sent into exile and were forced to live in Babylon. And how the story of Purim took place right before the return of the Jews under the leadership of Ezra and Nehemiah. McAllister, a black inmate, yelled out:

“Rabbi, with all due respect, this sounds like one more ancient story. I don’t want to hear another sob story. What’s the real meaning of the story Purim?”

I turned to him. “That’s a great question,” I said, “I believe it’s a narrative that shows how God manifests in many ways. In Biblical times people believed in miracles that broke the rules of nature. These revealed miracles manifested as clear as day; a miracle manifested and the rules of nature were broken.  There are other miracles, whereby one can’t tell that there was a miracle; however, one knows that a miracle did happen. This is called a concealed miracle. There is God revealed and God concealed.  God revealed is God revealing Himself as it were, to Moses on Mt. Sinai. God concealed is God during the Holocaust.”

As I was speaking I looked around the room and tried to gauge how my guys were taking all this in. I could tell something was missing. I could feel they weren’t getting what I was saying. There was silence. The dead silence of no understanding. The silence of dead souls yearning to be awakened.


Strengthening Collaboration through Encouraging Dissent


by: on March 18th, 2016 | 3 Comments »

Tom Atlee

The first time I heard that groups thrive on dissent, I didn’t like the idea. It came up in conversations with Tom Atlee of the Co-Intelligence Institute, back in the mid-1990s. Tom was clear, based on his experience in activist movements and especially on a cross-country peace march, that dissent is essential for groups to function intelligently. So much so that if a group had too little dissent, he advocated for actively cultivating it to keep the group fresh and creative.

At the time, I was still holding on to a different dream: that we can find, somehow, the “right” people, and then a group can finally collaborate because of enough alignment and harmony. Agreement, I imagined, would serve as the glue that brings people together. In this dream, dissent was a form of conflict, and as such, I saw it as a distraction, sapping energy from a group and diverting focus away from the shared purpose.

This dream stayed with me, unexamined, through my earliest years of learning and sharing Nonviolent Communication (NVC), which later became part of the root system for the Center for Efficient Collaboration. I now can see that I was thinking of NVC as a tool for preventing rather than transforming conflict. Somehow, I believed, if only everyone could just speak their feelings and needs and make clear requests – the central skills I was teaching – disagreements would diminish if not disappear altogether.


Tikkun Throwback: Stopping David Duke and Patrick Buchanan: A Strategy for the 1990s


by: Michael Lerner on March 15th, 2016 | 5 Comments »

Photo printed originally in Tikkun, Volume 7, Number 1, January/February 1992.

In some ways, it’s understandable that many Americans are still reeling in disbelief about the rise of racism, sexism, and xenophobia during this presidential campaign.
Recently, David Duke, who has been a major figure in the Ku Klux Klan, wore a Nazi uniform and spouts anti-Semitic ideas, embraced a leading candidate. Far-right ideology is more prevalent in today’s mainstream politics than in the 1990s, and some candidates today, like Duke and presidential candidate Pat Buchanan two decades ago, have tapped into the deep anger and humiliation felt by many White Americans.
In the 30th anniversary issue of Tikkun magazine, which subscribers will receive this summer, we are reprinting some of our most enduringly valuable articles from the first decade of our 30 years of existence. I came across editor Michael Lerner’s article on the psychodynamics that underlie the appeal that Duke and Buchanan had 25 years ago and thought “wow, this was prophetic in its time, and is extremely relevant to understanding the current realities of American politics.”
For example, Lerner wrote “the problem is that liberals and progressives rarely understand this issue, rarely ask what legitimate needs are being spoken to when the fascists start to gain a mass audience, and hence are often unable to develop an effective strategy to prevent the David Dukes and Patrick Buchanans of this world from reaching power.”
So instead of waiting to put the article in the magazine for late summer, I thought you might want to read it right now, on the day of major primaries in Ohio and Florida for both Democrats and Republicans — it is amazingly as relevant to this moment as it was when it was first published in Tikkun so many years ago!
–Ari Bloomekatz, Managing Editor, Tikkun Magazine
An important note: Tikkun does not endorse or oppose any candidate running for political office.


It would be silly to imagine that neo-Nazism or fascism is about to sweep through the U.S. in the 1990s. But the candidacies of David Duke and Patrick Buchanan for the Republican presidential nomination are likely to give new publicity and respectability to only barely disguised racist, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic ideas in American politics. Right-wing extremists are creating a poisonous tendency in American political discourse, as they seek to establish a pseudo-community among the white middle class by mobilizing anger against the poor, the homeless, welfare recipients, immigrants, Blacks, gays, Jews, or the Japanese, and by rallying around talk about “America first” (the slogan of the pro-Nazi isolationists in the 1930s). The social conditions that allowed David Duke to capture 55 percent of Louisiana’s white vote are likely to be more rather than less prevalent in the US. over the next generation, and the type of politics Duke and Buchanan represent will likely command a large audience nationwide. So this article is not particularly concerned with this year’s election – we think it unlikely that either Duke or Buchanan will win the nomination – but with the social movements that they will be mobilizing in the years ahead.


All the News That’s Fit to Print: How the Media Hide Undocumented Workers


by: Aviva Chomsky on March 1st, 2016 | 3 Comments »

Source: Flickr (Jon S).

In our post-modern (or post-post-modern?) age, we are supposedly transcending the material certainties of the past. The virtual world of the Internet is replacing the “real,” material world, as theory asks us to question the very notion of reality. Yet that virtual world turns out to rely heavily on some distinctly old systems and realities, including the physical labor of those who produce, care for, and provide the goods and services for the post-industrial information economy.

As it happens, this increasingly invisible, underground economy of muscles and sweat, blood and effort intersects in the most intimate ways with those who enjoy the benefits of the virtual world. Of course, our connection to that virtual world comes through physical devices, and each of them follows a commodity chain that begins with the mining of rare earth elements and ends at a toxic disposal or recycling site, usually somewhere in the Third World.

Closer to home, too, the incontrovertible realities of our physical lives depend on labor — often that of undocumented immigrants — invisible but far from virtual, that makes apparently endless mundane daily routines possible.


SF Police Murders (Murderous Police in the City of Love)


by: Rebecca Gordon on February 25th, 2016 | Comments Off

The original post can be found here at TomDispatch.com.

 Murderous Police in the City of Love

Posted by Rebecca Gordon

In one of the widely circulated cellphone videos of the killing of Mario Woods by San Francisco police in December, you can hear the young girl filming his death screaming. “Are you fucking serious?” she shrieks over and over at the crowd of cops encircling the young black man. According to police, Woods had refused to drop a kitchen knife they claim he was carrying. He was nonetheless attempting to walk away from the officers. “You had to shoot him that many fucking times?” the girl cries.

The Supreme Court has ruled that police officers are justified in using deadly force under two circumstances: either to protect their own lives (or the life of an innocent person) or to prevent a suspect from escaping as long as the cop believes that suspect is about to kill or seriously injure another person.

Did the officers really believe that Woods — who appears in the video to be much smaller than the five officers who fired on him, and who is clearly trying to get away — would have suddenly lunged at them all and killed one or more of them? Did they truly believe that Woods, who had already been pepper-sprayed and pummeled by bean-bag rounds, was about to immediately slay an innocent bystander?

Both scenarios sound absurd, but the law puts great faith in the credibility of a police officer’s fear. Under the legal standard governing police use of lethal force, the existence of an actual threat hardly matters, as long as the officer has an “objectively reasonable” belief that there is such a threat. In that belief, there’s plenty of room for unconscious racial bias. It may be hard to accept that those five officers couldn’t have found another way to neutralize Woods short of death, but as Vox‘s Dara Lind noted in December, “There are plenty of cases in which an officer might be legally justified in using deadly force because he feels threatened, even though there’s no actual threat there.”

Add one more factor to this mix: police officers are trained to shoot to kill, not injure. They are taught to fire at the chest because it improves their chances of hitting their target. Combine the unimpeachability of an officer’s judgment under the law with the racist impulses virtually none of us can escape and a kill-not-capture modus operandi, and you end up with the startling figure of 1,134 killings by law enforcement officers across the U.S. last year, a figure you would expect to come out of an actual war zone.  Of those who died at the hands of the police in 2015, young black men were nine times more likely to be victims than other Americans.

No city is immune from the American epidemic of police killings that has only recently begun to gain wide attention — not even a liberal bastion like San Francisco. In her latest post, TomDispatch regular Rebecca Gordon, whose new book, American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes, will be published in April, takes a look at officer-involved killings in the “City of Love.” 


The Impossible Will Take a Little While – Experiments in Gift Economy (Part II)


by: on February 24th, 2016 | Comments Off

In my last post I spoke about the immense challenges inherent in experimenting with a gift economy within the current economic structure. In this post, I look at how experimenting with the full gift economy can only take place from a position of privilege, and what, ultimately, we can do to begin and continue these experiments in a sustainable way.


The Jewish Progressive Tradition: Examples from Chicago’s Labor and Socialist Movements


by: Harry Targ & Jay Schaffner on February 24th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

The 1910 Chicago Garment Workers' Strike (Source: Wikipedia)

We crafted the essay below from personal and historical experiences for a series of talks on Jewish radicalism in the United States. Rather than survey a growing literature on labor and leftwing politics we chose to write about four Jewish radicals representing different twentieth century moments. Our thought was to glean insights(and perhaps inspiration) from reflections upon these four lives.

Subsequent to the lectures given and the article drafts written, Senator Bernie Sanders, a New York/Vermont Jewish progressive, and a socialist,from an immigrant family background has surfaced as a viable candidate for the Democratic Party nomination for president. In many wayshis backgroundand political visionisnot dissimilarfrom that of Hannah Shapiro, Jack Spiegel, Herb March, and Jay Schaffner even though the paths taken by these four differed from Sanders. But as many have suggested the Jewish experience in twentieth century America helped shape sectors of liberal, progressive, socialist, and communist politics. The authors believe the histories can serve to giveempathy toward an understanding of the Sanders presidential campaign as it unfolds.


Jewish radicals have figured prominently in social movements in 20th century America. There is much speculation about the root causes of seeming over-representation of men and women of Jewish background in the politics of labor and the left. This paper will suggest ways in which class, ideology, and ethnicity shaped the social movement activity of Jewish Americans, reflecting upon four cases of activists from the first decade of the twentieth century, the 1930s, the 1960s, and the 1990s, drawn from Chicago narratives.


A Day of (Un)Rest in Hebron


by: Ariel Gold and Tali Ruskin on February 23rd, 2016 | 9 Comments »

Ariel Gold and Tali Ruskin sing outside of a Shabbat celebration in the West Bank. Source: Ariel Gold and Tali Ruskin

On a Friday afternoon last November, about 50 Jewish Israelis set up tables covered with white tablecloths, candlesticks, wine, and a Shabbat meal under a canopy of olive trees in the historic West Bank city of Hebron. Some even brought with them sleeping bags and pillows to spend the night under the stars.

While this might sound like a beautiful way to celebrate Shabbat – eating and singing and sleeping outside, surrounded by the warmth of prayer and community – the intention and impact of this encampment was anything but beautiful. The Shabbat encampment took place outside of the Youth Against Settlements (YAS) Center in Hebron. The intent of the encampment was to intimidate and harass the Palestinian organization that uses the tools of media advocacy and nonviolent activism to resist the occupation of their city by Israeli settlers and soldiers. This Shabbat encampment was deliberately set up to obstruct access to the Center, an emblematic example of the restriction of Palestinian movement that is ubiquitous in a city under occupation.

This incident was one of the many egregious attacks on Palestinians that we, two Jewish American women, witnessed while we were spending time in Hebron working with activists at the YAS Center and documenting the daily human rights violations they face.


California’s Dirty Secret Comes to Light: Environmental Racism Meets Black Lungs Matter


by: Rev. Dr. Brooks Berndt on February 23rd, 2016 | Comments Off

A photo from one of the recent rallies held in Oakland, CA.

In December, news outlets ranging from theNew York TimestoMother Jones magazinewere touting the leadership of California at the UN climate summit in Paris. TheLA Timesportrayed Governor Jerry Brown’s active presence in Paris as representing not only the crafting of his “political legacy” but also his preoccupation with preventing “catastrophe.” Yet, environmental lawyers, community activists, and faith leaders are increasingly bringing to the public’s awareness what has long been California’s dirty secret. In a state known for its environmentalism, environmental racism has remained a festering, unbridled sin.

Last summer,a lawsuit was filedagainst Brown and California Oil and Gas Supervisor Steve Bohlen shortly after California instituted regulations for the practice of fracking, the injection of a chemical-water mixture underground to extract oil. The lawsuit asserted that the regulations discriminated against students of color who disproportionately attended schools close to permitted oil wells. More recently, another lawsuit has been filed against the city of Los Angeles for its approval of oil drilling in neighborhoods populated by people of color. Earlier this week theLA Timesreported, “Working-class, minority neighborhoods in Wilmington and South Los Angeles have been plagued for years by foul odors, noise and dirt from oil operations that are practically in their backyards.”

Another battle front against environmental racism is also in Oakland, California. In the low-income, predominantly black and Latino community of West Oakland, a proposed coal terminal is being challenged by local advocates. In a statement entitled “Black Lungs Matter,” the Alameda Interfaith Climate Action Network detailed research that demonstrated how the residents of West Oakland already live in a community that suffers from high levels of pollution. Those living in the neighborhood experience “five times more toxic pollution per person than residents of the city of Oakland,” while “children in West Oakland are seven times more likely to be hospitalized for asthma than the average child in the state ofCalifornia.”


The Impossible Will Take a Little While – Experiments in Gift Economy (Part I)


by: on February 19th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

This post started in response to a colleague who, like me, is aching to bring about a gift economy in the world and is willing to take heat and failure along the way without ever giving up on continuing to experiment. Although she is ecstatic to make it possible for people to take her classes, she is frustrated at how hard it is proving to receive enough for her own livelihood. She wondered why it is so hard.

About twenty years of experimenting came tumbling out of me with the most clarity I’ve ever experienced about this topic: what it means to do a gift economy in relation to our work and livelihood; how the absence of systemic support makes it so hard for any of us to succeed; how our internalized messages interfere with uncoupling giving from receiving; and, finally, in part II, how experiments in gift economy intersect with privilege.