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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



The Language of Cancer

Feb21

by: Allen B. Saxe on February 21st, 2014 | 11 Comments »

Open any local paper and you are likely to read the following headline: “Survivor Loses Battle with Cancer.”

We have adopted the language of war. Those with the disease are described as heroes. Finding a cure is a war. Our medical community leads our forces. Everyone must join the fight.

I challenge this metaphor. My former wife, Barbara, died from cancer, and my current wife, Jessica, has faced her second form of cancer.

Barbara was diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer at the age of 34. She wanted to fully understand her disease, and she undertook every medical advance available.

The problem with the warrior metaphor is that it focuses less on life than death. The “courageous warrior” suggests toughness, certainty, and strength.

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Female Rabbis at the Tent of Meeting?

Feb21

by: Rabbi Galina Trefil on February 21st, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons

The female rabbinate is a progressive sign of equality between the sexes; a bold, new stroke written out in the history of Judaism, whose pages have always been male-dominated…or so it is frequently assumed. As the old adage goes though: there is nothing new under the sun. While, at one point, a female rabbinate was unthinkable, its ever-growing numbers are giving rise to the question if the position is indeed new or if, instead, modern Judaism has decided to come full-circle. Is there evidence that professional female spiritual leadership ever existed in the Torah?

“He made the basin of bronze and its stand of bronze, from the mirrors of the ministering women who ministered in the entrance of the tent of meeting.”–Exodus 38:8

It is a sentence that packs a spiritual punch so subtle that it seems many don’t even notice its potential revelation. Once attention is drawn to it, one might then question what the position of these women entailed; expect some immediate follow-up giving details. However, this is where such curiosity will meet with strict disappointment, as this mention stands alone. Not only was this particular passage vague, but the Tannakh as a whole remains so. Only once more are these women ever referred to at all, in Samuel 2:22, where it states: “Now Eli was very old and heard all that his sons did unto all Israel and how they lay with the women that assembled at the door of the tabernacle of the congregation.”

Analysis of the simple math shows that, if they existed from the time of the Exodus to the time of Eli, the position the women played in relation to the holy sanctuary stood steady for several hundred years.

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We Want to Have a Common Language: Carolina Jews for Justice Stand Out in the Moral Mondays Crowd

Feb21

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.

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Deceleration & Sustainability

Feb21

by: on February 21st, 2014 | No Comments »

In her concluding keynote for Staging Sustainability 2014, Adrienne Goehler exhorted conference attendees to support a “basic income grant” as a universal right. She put it succinctly: the current system forces overproduction in all realms, even art. The current system of grants for artists, inadequate in so many other ways, operates almost exclusively on a project basis, forcing artists who seek support to think in terms of novelty and output rather than allowing adequate time for work to evolve and emerge organically. As Adrienne said, sustainability needs deceleration. All of us need the leisure to rest, ruminate, imagine ways to throw off the chain of overproduction and overconsumption and rediscover a way of living in balance with each other and the life this planet supports.

“Guaranteed annual income,” “basic income grant,” and “guaranteed minimum income” (or six other ways of saying the same thing) describes a stipend available without a means test or other conditions to any and every person. There’s an international coalition – Basic Income Earth Network (BIEN), which holds its 15th annual congress in Montreal this summer – organized around three simple principles defining a basic income:

it is being paid to individuals rather than households;
it is paid irrespective of any income from other sources;
it is paid without requiring the performance of any work or the willingness to accept a job if offered.

The phrase “basic income grant” struck me with a powerful resonance – two, in fact.

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Leaving Auschwitz

Feb20

by: Jerome Richard on February 20th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

A statue of Dimitar Peshev, who saved 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from deportation during WWII. Credit: Creative Commons

On November 14, 2013, a street in Washington D.C. was renamed Dimitar Peshev Plaza in honor of a man credited with saving the lives of 50,000 Bulgarian Jews from deportation during World War II. Peshev had been recognized as “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, Israel’s Holocaust Memorial so the honor appeared to be, if anything, overdue.

Bulgaria has long been lauded for saving its Jewish population, but the U.S. Holocaust Museum used the Peshev memorial proposal to point out that while no Bulgarian Jews were deported, over 11,000 Jews from Macedonia and part of Greece, then occupied by Bulgaria, were sent to the camps.

Radu Ioanid, a director of the U.S. Holocaust Museum, said “The callous and devious attempts to distort the history of Bulgarian Jewry is insulting to the victims of the Holocaust and is damaging to the image of Bulgaria…”

It was like interrupting a memorial service to announce that while the deceased was a splendid fellow his brother was once arrested for manslaughter.

Bulgaria’s ambassador to the United States, Elena Poptodorova, was insulted by what she called the museum’s “very rude” response.

There are thirty-six Holocaust museums in the United States, including the major one in Washington D.C. There are five in New York State, four just in Los Angeles. There are Holocaust museums in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and Terre Haute, Indiana. Many more in other countries. Isn’t that excessive, even to commemorate such a monstrous crime as the Holocaust?

Of course, a full and accurate account is essential for an understanding of history, but there seems to be something else going on here. The proposal, after all, was to honor one individual. Why use that to tarnish the whole country’s reputation? It smacks of what someone said when asked if another Holocaust museum was needed. “Yes,” he replied. “We should rub their noses in it.” By they he meant the whole non-Jewish world.

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Sticks, Stones AND Names Can Damage the Spirit

Feb18

by: on February 18th, 2014 | No Comments »

Words HurtDr. Warren J. Blumenfeld shared a post that struck a very loud chord, loud enough that with his permission we’re sharing it here. Dr. Blumenfeld is one of a group of wonderful people who have reviewed the pre-release version of Speaking Out: Queer Youth in Focus, a powerful photo-essay book by Rachelle Lee Smith which our teams at Reach And Teach and PM Press are publishing this Fall. Dr. Blumenfeld’s experience, as described in this post, is all too familiar, not just to those of us who lived back in the day, but today.

Despite incredible progress for GLBTQ rights and increasing levels of understanding and acceptance, taunting, bullying, name-calling, and other hurtful behaviors are still epedemic in our culture. Dr. Blumenfeld alerts us to an article in the Feb 17 2014 issue of Pediatrics, in which a Boston Children’s Hospital study clearly and compellingly shows the long-term impact on quality of life bullying can have, especially bullying that occurs over long periods of time.

We’re sharing Dr. Blumenfeld’s post in the hopes that it will spark a desire in anyone reading it to make a difference. After his post we share a YouTube video of a song called “Don’t Laugh At Me” which we hope people will use to start a conversation with children AND adults in their lives. Talk about the pain that our words, laughing AT someone, teasing, bullying can cause. If each one of us takes the time to find a way to talk about this with someone, we may be able to start to make a real difference. Boys and girls shouldn’t come home from school crying, or be afraid to go to school, or go to school with stomach aches because they know how bad it is going to be. We can make a difference.

Thanks Dr. Blumenfeld for sharing your story, and thank you Mosaic Project, for providing a song and an entire curriculum that can be used to truly make a difference.

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Aesthetics & Sustainability

Feb18

by: on February 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

In my keynote for Staging Sustainability 2014, I was asked to define “sustainability.” “The implicit meaning of the term refers to its opposite,” I told the group. “We fear having damaged ecosystems so much that life on Earth will soon be unsustainable, so sustainability names our search for whatever can heal that damage and allow us to carry on.” But I have some problems with the word’s way of setting the bar too low, of putting a supreme value on continuation.

David Buckland of the Cape Farewell Foundation (which I wrote about in my previous blog) said that he preferred “resilience” and so do I, because it encompasses the thing we must now all do, learning from loss. But Adrienne Goehler, a impressive fellow speaker at the conference, wants to rescue “sustainability” from the various forms of abuse and dilution to which the term has been subjected. She understands it as “continuous renewal.” And I’m down with that, understanding that the process of renewal entails leaving behind whatever no longer serves our capacity to thrive as we carry whatever supports our well-being into the future.

In Conceptual Thoughts on Establishing a Fund for Aesthetics and Sustainability, published by the Heinrich Boll Stiftung and downloadable from their site, Adrienne preferences her mission this way:

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Imagining a Moral Economy

Feb15

by: Christine Boyle and Seth Klein on February 15th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Credit: Creative Commons/The Value Web

Rarely are we invited to consider ethical questions of right and wrong in matters of economic development, particularly in times of economic fragility, when jobs and investment are in high demand.

But as any society debates core economic and policy ideas, the battle for moral leadership matters. And so, at this critical time, it is vital that progressives reclaim some of that language.

For too long, we’ve been told that our values must take a backseat to the imperatives of economic growth and the associated promises of job creation; that what best serves the interests of large corporations will ultimately benefit the rest of us.

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The Way of Peace is the Way of Truth: Interfaith Resources for Reconciliation in Israel/Palestine

Feb14

by: Mary Grey on February 14th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Like readers of Tikkun I am passionate about peace in Israel-Palestine as well as in the wider Middle East. Being a theologian/writer with a background in Jewish-Christian dialogue, I have mainly sought to speak  to peaceseeking Christians—and others—who are willing to look beyond the polarity of being either pro-Palestinian or pro-Israeli towards envisioning a solution for both communities and building on the prophetic traditions of each other.

I believe—like Gandhi—that you have to look truth in the face, and take the courage to tell it.

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February 2, 2014: Protest by Picnic

Feb14

by: on February 14th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

"For months activists have been coordinating tent cities in the heart of Bangkok

I’m no expert at Thai politics. But I do know a good protest when I see one.

Let me be more clear on how little I knew about what’s going on in Thailand before this week: My best friend, Ariel Vegosen, and I, having spent the past two months studying Gandhian nonviolence and working with the anti-GMO movement in India, decided we wanted a little vacation to just chill out, so we booked a flight to Thailand. A flight to Bangkok, that is, which would arrive, unbeknownst to us at the time of booking, on Chinese New Year’s Day, one day before the highly controversial national election, on a weekend when the US State Dept. was warning Americans not to enter the country, the BBC was reporting violence in the streets, and protesters were threatening to shut down the entire city. Oh! I thought we were just headed to “Amazing Thailand,” land of tropical beachy paradise, cheap, delicious pad Thai, lush jungles and some elephants. But try as I might to play American tourist while on a short sabbatical from activism, here I was flying directly into the eye of the revolutionary storm. God must be laughing. Real hard.

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