by: Roslyn Bernstein on April 29th, 2016 | No Comments »
Off the Derech
The program called for an all-day conference, culminating with a keynote address by author Nathan Englander, but my calendar said that I could just squeeze in a noon panel on “The Body and Selfhood: Gender, Identity and Ultra-Orthodoxy.” The panel was moderated by Lani Santo, the Executive Director of Footsteps, the only organization in North America that assists people who wish to leave the ultra-Orthodox community. The panel especially interested me because I had wrestled with that subject for more than two decades and had not come up with any conclusive answers.
My own daughter, now a mother with a with a family of seven, had become Haredi when she was barely twenty, settling in a Haredi community some twenty minutes south of Jerusalem. I had spent years pondering how she got there, moving from her former life as an artsy, Stuyvesant High School young woman who wore two different color socks to a woman who covered her hair with a tichel and wore skirts that scraped the floor.
I sat in the audience awaiting enlightenment. Maybe I could learn something from folks who had moved in the opposite direction.
Ayala Fader, a professor of cultural and linguistic anthropology at Fordham University and the author of Mitzvah Girls, spoke about her new research on Off the Derech (OTD) girls who have lost their faith. Social media, Fader admitted, was playing a significant new challenge in this crisis of emunah (faith). Fader acknowledged that men who have doubts have an easier time than women. Why? Because they have greater mobility and they are better connected. They drive cars and they have smart phones. They go to shul. Women, who lead double lives and are consumed with doubt, have a much harder time. Many fear losing their children.
by: Sarah Brammer-Shlay and Sam Jewler on April 27th, 2016 | 5 Comments »
Dear American Jewish Community,
(Photo Credit: Gili Getz)
This is a love letter. And we mean LOVE in every sense of the word. The type of love that draws you close, makes you want more and yet can hurt you so deeply. This is the type of love we and other members of IfNotNow DC brought to a mass public seder at the doors of Hillel International on the morning of April 19, three days before Passover.
This love is complicated and disturbed by our community’s support for the inhumane occupation of Palestinians. For both of us, our Jewish identity has at times come into deep conflict with our desire for justice in Israel/Palestine.
We were raised to believe that Israel was a utopia and solely a victim and it was our duty as diaspora Jews to protect and defend the state. Then we learned a more complicated tale, a tale that included the horror and daily nightmare of the occupation for Palestinians. That’s when the heartbreak began. We felt betrayed by the American Jewish community, and we felt that everything we had learned about repairing the world came into contradiction with the community’s support for Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
Our hearts broke and it was hard to look at you. It was hard to believe that you would support a state without question that contributed to the suffering of the Palestinian people. It was hard to believe you could do such a thing. Through our community’s history of trauma and persecution, could we really be the perpetrators of oppression ourselves?
What lesson did we learn from our pain? That no group of people should suffer based on its identity? Or that Jews should militarize and try, futilely, to use domination to push the fear away?
by: Allen Roland on April 26th, 2016 | 4 Comments »
(Credit: Sergey Melkono
Sooner or later we will all have to come to grips with the collateral psychic damage we have wrought in the Middle East with our Drone assassinations on both innocent victims as well as the perpetrators themselves ~ for chaos reins on both sides when accountability ends: Allen L Roland, PhD
“A drone strike is a terror weapon, we don’t talk about it that way. It is; just imagine you are walking down the street and you don’t know whether in 5 minutes there is going to be an explosion across the street from some place up in the sky that you can’t see. Somebody will be killed, and whoever is around will be killed, maybe you’ll be injured if you’re there. That is a terror weapon. It terrorizes villages, regions, huge areas. It’s the most massive terror campaign going on by a long shot.” ~ Noam Chomsky
There are not many singers whose songs captivate the imaginations of both me and my children. When we play Prince in the car, both my son and I sing along. The only time I saw Prince live in concert was with my daughter and her father. Prince broke down generational barriers with the power of his musical truth. His was a life and artistry of radical love.
Since the sudden, shocking, unexpected and as of this writing unexplained death of Prince Rogers Nelson– musical cultural icon, philanthropist, and sage– at the age of 57, much has been written about his genius that transcended easy, simplistic, and lazy categorization. He was a virtuoso performer on several instruments, among them key boards, drums, and guitar. He wrote music that became hits for himself and for other artists that was his own genre, a combination of R&B, funk, pop, rock, and jazz. His self-presentation was androgynous and beyond racial category.
Such a way of crafting and living one’s humanity requires both imagination and courage. Too, too many of us would not recognize our faces in the mirror without a group definition to tell us who we are and therefore who we are not. Our group identities tell us on whose side we are. It tells us who to love and who to fear. It gives us a false sense of self, either of inferiority or of superiority. We so often have to work against the definitions the world would impose upon us. These definitions very often constrict our humanity. Prince refused.
by: Liza Behrendt on April 21st, 2016 | 5 Comments »
In the war to silence criticism of Israel, the Palestinian voice is the ultimate target.
Last week, progressives celebrated Senator Bernie Sanders’ appointment of Simone Zimmerman, an activist opposing Israeli occupation, as the Jewish Outreach Coordinator of his presidential campaign. Their celebration would be short.
Right-wing blogs scoured her Facebook page for incriminating information, and institutions purporting to represent the Jewish community demanded she be fired. Just two days later, the Sanders campaign suspended her.
Celebration became outrage. The hashtag #IStandWithSimone trended on social media and thousands signed a petition demanding Zimmerman’s reinstatement. Articles and op-eds condemned Sanders and the Jewish institutions that pressured him, rightfully pointing out that Zimmerman’s politics on Israel represent a generational shift in the U.S. Jewish community. But most of the conversation failed to link Zimmerman with a broader Palestinian-led movement that is systematically silenced, especially those engaging in Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) to pressure Israel.
by: James S. Gordon on April 18th, 2016 | No Comments »
The other night I dreamt about Donald Trump. I hadn’t planned to and hadn’t wanted to. I don’t know him personally and I’ve never before dreamt about a presidential candidate or a politician.
But there he was, large and urgent, washing his hands at a sink with ornate golden faucets in a very big marble bathroom in one of his residences. As I waited to use the sink myself, I could hear the noise of a party.
Mr. Trump is, of course, becoming a central figure in the daily drama of our national life. He’s there whenever we open the paper or turn on the news. And virtually every day, he is being described, discussed, and analyzed in the op-ed columns. He’s an uninvited presence at dinner table conversations and on phone calls from friends everywhere on the planet.
A few days before my dream, I’d received an email from a philanthropist who was congratulating me on The Center for Mind-Body’s work with population-wide psychological trauma. Just before he signed off, the philanthropist observed that if the Republican primaries were any indication, our work with psychological trauma might become even more necessary.
by: Henry A. Giroux on April 18th, 2016 | 2 Comments »
The dark times that haunt the current age are epitomized in the monsters that have come to rule the United States and who now dominate the major political parties and other commanding political and economic institutions. Their nightmarish reign of misery, violence, and disposability is also evident in their dominance of a formative culture and its attendant cultural apparatuses that produce a vast machinery of manufactured consent. This is a social formation that extends from the mainstream broadcast media and Internet to a print culture, all of which embrace the spectacle of violence, legitimate opinions over facts, and revel in a celebrity and consumer culture of ignorance and theatrics. Under the reign of this normalized ideological architecture of alleged commonsense, literacy is now regarded with disdain, words are reduced to data, and science is confused with pseudo-science.
Thinking is now regarded as an act of stupidity, and ignorance a virtue. All traces of critical thought appear only at the margins of the culture as ignorance becomes the primary organizing principle of American society. For instance, two thirds of the American public believe that creationism should be taught in schools and most of the Republican Party in Congress do not believe that climate change is caused by human activity, making the U.S. the laughing stock of the world. Politicians endlessly lie knowing that the public is addicted to extreme violence and shocks, which allow them to drown in overstimulation and live in an ever-accelerating overflow of information and images. News has become entertainment and echoes reality rather than interrogating it. Unsurprisingly, education in the larger culture has become a disimagination machine, a tool for legitimating ignorance, and it is central to the formation of an authoritarian politics that has gutted any vestige of democracy from the ideology, policies, and institutions that now control American society.
I am not talking simply about the kind of anti-intellectualism that theorists such a Richard Hofstadter, Ed Herman and Noam Chomsky, and more recently Susan Jacoby have documented, however insightful their analyses might be. I am pointing to a more lethal form of illiteracy that is often ignored. Illiteracy is now a scourge and a political tool designed primarily to make war on language, meaning, thinking, and the capacity for critical thought. Chris Hedges is right in stating that “the emptiness of language is a gift to demagogues and the corporations that saturate the landscape with manipulated images and the idiom of mass culture.” Words such as love, trust, freedom, responsibility, and choice have been deformed by a market logic that narrows their meaning to either a relationship to a commodity or a reductive notion of self-interest. We don’t love each other, we love our new car. Freedom now means removing one’s self from any sense of social responsibility so one can retreat into privatized orbits of self-indulgence. And so it goes. The new form of illiteracy does not simply constitute an absence of learning, ideas, or knowledge. Nor can it be solely attributed to what has been called the “smartphone society.” On the contrary, it is a willful practice and goal used to actively depoliticize people and make them complicit with the forces that impose misery and suffering upon their lives.
by: James A. Haught on April 18th, 2016 | 1 Comment »
In the chaotic presidential campaign, the remarkable popularity of Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders spotlights a large, not-always-recognized vein of liberal political sympathy in America.
Suddenly, the L-word is popular again — not an embarrassment to be avoided. That’s great, I think, because progressives have been the driving force behind most social improvements in western civilization.
Look at the historical record: In the three centuries since The Enlightenment, democracy, human rights, personal liberties and family wellbeing have blossomed. Life gradually became more decent and humane. Virtually all the advances were won by reform-minded liberals who defeated conservatives defending former hierarchies, privileges and inequalities.
by: Dan Brook on April 18th, 2016 | No Comments »
(Source: Eric Kounce)
Creation is being replaced with destruction. As Jews, we are tasked with remembering, conserving, pursuing peace and justice. On this first night of Passover 5776, which is also Earth Day 47, we recount 10 of the plagues of fossil fuels, which are negatively affecting all countries and most species.
1. oil drilling and coal mining
3. gas guzzling
4. subsidizing fossil fuels and oil corporations
5. overuse of plastics
6. wasting energy
7. using a finite resource as if it’s infinite
8. not putting a price on carbon
9. not boldly transitioning to safe, clean, renewable energies
10. condemning our children and their children and future generations to a world of climate chaos
We can no longer be fossil fools for cheap energy with high eco-costs to satisfy greed and the idolatry of profit. We should no longer be enslaved by the pharaohs of environmental destruction and their doomsday cult.