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Archive for the ‘Politics & Society’ Category



The Need for Nurture: “Do the Good in Front of You”

Oct16

by: Bev Alves on October 16th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

In light of our nation’s current political/social environment, and because I’m now in the latter decade(s) of my life, I would like to share some of the experiences and insights that my late husband Joe and I encountered, that would/could hopefully, create a better society, and a sense of more personal fulfillment for our people, and for people anywhere.  I believe if we want to create healthy human beings and a healthy society it all begins (and ends) with nurture and support!

My husband Joe and I met at Rutgers, at the Newark “campus,” in the winter of 1962.  I was 18, a sophomore, Joe was 21; he was beginning his first year after being in the service. We were both psych majors and went to many of the same classes; we also hung out with the same crowd.  It always puzzled me that at    that time some of the other students called our group “The Decadents.” I could never understand why?  We weren’t doing anything “worse” than any of the other groups on campus; in fact, most of the people in our group seemed to be kinder, and more intellectually inquisitive than many of the students in some of the other groups. Of course, being young people, we wore the label “Decadents” with pride!

Throughout the years, from time to time however, I would wonder why some of the other students had labeled our social network “decadent.”  Recently, I realized why!  During the time period we were in school, during the early 1960’s, most ethnic and cultural groups didn’t “mix.” At that time, for the most part, people stayed with people who were like themselves, their “Own Kind.” Our social group however, included people who were different from each other. Our group was comprised of white kids and black kids, Gentiles and Jews, males and females, heterosexuals, homosexuals and those in between.  It didn’t matter to the people in our group, as long as you were basically “nice.”

Joe and I liked each other, but we never dated in college.  I graduated in June 1964, and we didn’t see each other again until Nov 1968.  At that time, one of my friends had a house party; he invited some friends from college.  I heard Joe would be there and decided to go.  After not seeing each other for more than four years, Joe and I talked all night.  He had become a special Ed teacher in Newark; I had been working as a social worker in an anti-poverty program also in Newark.  We seemed to have a lot in common. The next weekend Joe came over to my place; less than three weeks later he proposed, and a month later we got married. (Introducing him to my cat probably was a deciding factor; both of us loved cats!) 

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Live in NYC or Rockland County? You’re invited!

Oct13

by: on October 13th, 2017 | No Comments »

You are invited a series of events when Rabbi Lerner speaks in NYC and Rockland County!  The President of Brooklyn College has invited him to make a major address Thursday Oct 19 in the series she set up in response to the growth of hate in U.S. politics.  That morning he will speak on a panel at Medgar Evers College. And then on Friday night and Saturday he will be the scholar-in-residence at a synagogue in north Nyack in Rockland County where on Friday night he will address “Developing Empathy for BOTH Israel and Palestine” and on Saturday morning he will address  the Torah reading (about Noah) and the theme of “Environment and How it is Impacted by Ethics and America’s Spiritual Crisis.”

 

All of these events are free.  Details are below.

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Jesus’s Message? It’s Tikkun Olam!

Oct12

by: Jim Vrettos on October 12th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

Always with Us? What Jesus Really Said about the Poor —- a new book by Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, reviewed by Jim Vrettos

The Rev. Dr. William Barber of the Forward Together Moral Movement and Repairers of the Breach Movement often refers in his sermons to “standing at the gap and speaking a truth that has a moral focus — not merely a democratic version, a republican, or a liberal version, but a moral focus of what our government ought to be.“   As he puts it, “it’s time for people of faith to come out of the sanctuary and preach in the public square”. .. it’s time to uphold  higher ground moral values, preaching as King did, that “we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values.”

Increasingly, major voices on the progressive left have directed their attention toward taking these spiritual values seriously, advocating their use in their academic and political critiques.

Michelle Alexander, for example, author of the award winning The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2014) works to spread awareness about the crisis of mass incarceration Americans into a full-scale movement that embraces the possibility of redemption and forgiveness.  To win the battle against mass incarceration, Alexander insists that people of faith must wake up to the realities of systemic racism in our country, but also “need to be willing to tell this truth in our churches and places of worship.”

Raising consciousness won’t be enough, Alexander argues.  “We’re going to have to be willing to get to work,”…”and in my view that means being willing to build an underground railroad for people released from prison— an underground railroad for people who are trying to make a genuine break for real freedom… opening our homes, opening our hearts, opening our places of worship, opening our schools to people returning from prison who need help finding work, getting an education, finding housing, perhaps even getting access to food.”

The psychiatrist James Gilligan, in his more than thirty years of work with the most violent of our citizens in our prison systems, has called for an end to punishment in the prisons and establishment of therapeutic training hospitals in its place for violent inmates –almost all of whom have suffered unimaginable abuse, humiliation, shame and disrespect that that has left them as essentially “dead souls,” devoid of deep feelings of spiritual self-esteem and love.

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Hillel at the Crossroads: Feud Resolution or Escalation

Oct8

by: Edwin Black on October 8th, 2017 | No Comments »

This article is the fifth in a series. Click here for part one, part two, part three, or part four.

At about 5 AM on September 20, 2017, before the sun rose over the Boston skyline, Gilad Skolnick tumbled out of bed. He hadn’t slept much the night before—the sheer excitement of starting a major new phase of his life weighed on his mind. He dressed and then, as usual, stopped at the gym as the first order of business. By 8:30 AM, Skolnick had tucked his white shirt into his khaki pants, emerged from the gym filled with anticipation, and made his way to 70 Saint Stephen Street—Northeastern University Hillel [NEU Hillel].

Before he arrived that day to assume his post as the newly hired executive director, Skolnick knew that NEU Hillel had started a firestorm in the Jewish and campus community. The 33-year-old former director of campus programming at the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, the pro-Israel media watchdog group known as CAMERA, was accustomed to controversy. But this was something beyond that.

Weeks earlier, NEU Hillel had gained national media and collegiate attention as the local chapter that had vociferously rebelled against Hillel International over what NEU Hillel board chairman Sheldon Goldman termed “an inquisition” of interference, retaliation, threats, and strong-arm tactics. Goldman loudly blamed Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut and his senior staff. Fingerhut and other Hillel International personalities have either denied, or refused to answer various allegations.

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REPORT FROM CATALONIA

Oct6

by: Dana Walker on October 6th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

With a visionary, hopeful politics hardly even on the horizon here in the US, it has been inspiring to see the people of Catalonia calling upon the great traditions of freedom and radical community established in and around Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War to fight for their independence in today’s conservative Spain. Since their rebellion and Declaration of Independence has hardly been covered in the American press, we here publish this short Report dated Oct. 4th from Prof. Dana Walker of Northern Colorado University, who is in Barcelona to teach and promote the liberatory uses of radio and other forms of indigenous mass communication within the youth culture of Catalonia.–Peter Gabel

People marching in Catalonia

People marching in Catalonia, photo courtesy of author

 

Barcelona, Catalonia – Oct. 4, 2017

Leading up to October 1st, the day of the vote or “referendum” on independence, there was a tremendous sense of excitement and hopefulness, especially among the students. I asked people if they were worried about what the response from the Spanish security force would be, and not a single person expressed any fear of a violent crackdown. Students I spoke with talked of a new future, free of the monarchy and the conservative Spanish society. I told friends that I was worried, having lived through a civil war in Central America, and aware that the repressive Franco regime died only in 1975, not long enough ago. Catalonia was a primary target of the Franco fascists, who came first for the teachers and the language they used for teaching the children (the movie Tongue of the Butterfly by José Luis Cuerda, should be seen – again).

Every night at 10pm the people in the neighborhood have been banging their pots and pans on their balconies – a sign of protest and of warning. The helicopters are still circling overhead.

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I Surrender

Oct2

by: on October 2nd, 2017 | No Comments »

This morning when I opened my tablet to the newspapers, I was greeted with the reports of another mass shooting in the United States. This time, it is the deadliest mass shooting in history. I had no words. No tears. No feeling. I watched with a kind of numb sense of surrender. I told myself it was time to face the awful tragic fact that I live in a country that does not mind mass murder. They happen nearly every day in the United States and only make the news, only make us stop in our tracks, when the numbers are high. We value guns more than human life.

I have written about gun violence in the country over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over again at the Tikkun Daily Blog alone.

This June, in my Juneteenth essay, I wrote about our nation’s enslavement to gun violence.

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2017/06/19/juneteenth-2017/

In April, I tried to take a more humorous view of gun safety laws as a homage to April Fool’s Day and called for a rule that no white man under the age of 65 be permitted to buy a gun

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2017/04/01/a-modest-proposal/

In June 2016, after the mass shooting in an Orlando night club I wrote about how this happens over and over.

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2016/06/13/here-we-go-again/

I have written about the gun culture in the United States as idolatry.

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2016/01/11/human-sacrifice-and-the-idolatry-of-the-gun/#more-58931

After the mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, where a young white racist gunman killed black people at a prayer meeting, I wrote a two-part essay about the Cost of Cowardice, the cowardice to face issues of race, and the cowardice of our elected official to defy the National Rifle Association and give us gun safety laws.

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2015/06/24/the-cost-of-cowardice-part-one/#more-56596

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2015/07/22/the-cost-of-cowardice-part-two/#more-57034

In 2013, I wrote about the Power of Mothers to bring about change, comparing the relatively new organization Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America to Mothers Against Drunk Driving. My hope was that as women organized around the issue of gun safety laws, it would make a real change in our nation’s politics.

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2013/05/16/the-power-of-moms/#more-38552

After the killing of elementary school children in Newton, Connecticut, all I could do was lament and keep saying that we have to elect representatives who will not fear the NRA.

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2012/12/24/a-lamentation/#more-35141

In December of 2012, grieving over the deaths of children in Newton, I quoted a portion of my book where I propose the unicorn as a symbol for the world of justice and peace that we want to establish.

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2012/12/21/unicorns-exist/#more-35139

After the mass shooting that nearly killed Rep. Gabby Giffords, I wrote about the Second Amendment within the context of 21st century technology. This amendment was not intended for a moment where guns can kill tens and wound hundreds in a matter of minutes.

http://www.tikkun.org/tikkundaily/2011/01/10/21st-century-weapons-technology-and-the-second-amendment/#more-18559

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Hillel at the Crossroads: Accusations of Intimidation in Boston

Oct1

by: Edwin Black on October 1st, 2017 | No Comments »

This article is the fourth in a series. It originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

When one speaks to Eric Fingerhut, CEO of Hillel International, one hears a quiet voice speaking carefully and thoughtfully. Managing thousands of interconnected programs at more than 500 independent local Hillels, walking a tightrope between a spectrum of Jewish political and religious persuasions – all vying for primacy at the nation’s Jewish campus outposts, Fingerhut is accustomed to organizational tension and finding middle ground.

But when he had to answer open allegations that he and Hillel International were engaged in strong-arm tactics to dominate and control independent Hillels and their boards, it struck him deeply. The accusations included bullying, intimidation, threats of defamation suits, interference, whisper campaigns, and retaliation against critics that could include punishing innocent staffers.

Moreover, the charges were not whispered among a few disgruntled local Hillel personalities or partner organizations. They were being broadcast to hundreds of local Hillel directors, officials and their boards in open letters and emails calling for the removal of Fingerhut, demanding a cessation of what was termed “intimidation tactics.” The continuing J’Accuse comes from Sheldon Goldman, board chairman of the local Hillel at Northeastern Campus (NEU) in Boston.

Goldman says he has witnessed for more than a year what he called an administrative “inquisition” undermining NEU Hillel operations and staff.

After months of disagreement between NEU Hillel and Hillel International, things came to a head in December 2016. A dedicated NEU Hillel staffer was notified she would be receiving a prestigious Hillel International award for excellence at the Hillel International General Assembly in Orlando. But then the award was mysteriously withdrawn. After numerous protests, the award was ultimately bestowed upon her last March in Washington D.C. at the AIPAC Policy Conference. But that incident last December 2016 became the back-breaking straw that resulted in the chapter’s well-regarded director, Arinne Braverman, to resign on the spot in Orlando.

When Goldman tried to replace Braverman with a carefully-curated Israeli Hillel staffer, Hillel International only deepened the chasm between them, reminding Goldman that he could not hire a replacement without Eric Fingerhut’s personal involvement and approval, per a pre-existing procedure.

In a series of widely-distributed emails and letters, Goldman denounced Hillel International and Fingerhut for “fear-based tactics.” One such email decried, “Eric Fingerhut’s attempts to discredit me within the Boston community … and his threats of a defamation suit against me. These actions,” the missive continued, “shed further light on his character and are reasons why I believe he must be replaced as the leader of Hillel. This cannot be done quick enough as his character is leaching away whatever moral fiber remains at SIC [Schusterman International Center].”

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The Waters of Remembering and Gratitude

Sep29

by: on September 29th, 2017 | No Comments »

Our well line broke this week. We live far from city water—or gas, or waste collection. We compost scraps, haul our own recycling, burn paper instead of flushing it to some unknown but surely polluted location. The issue coincided with days of heavy rain, welcome in New Mexico but also saturating the ground and thus postponing repairs. We haven’t had running water since Tuesday, especially inconvenient as we planned to host beloved friends coming here to lead Yom Kippur services.

Every hour has brought a reminder of how dependent I am on the conveniences of modern life (even our boondocks version). My body turns on the tap over and over before my mind remembers that no water will be forthcoming. I think of the people in Puerto Rico suffering from the pernicious neglect of a government that purports to watch over them. Those with homes still standing, how often do their bodies flip a light switch before their minds turn to wondering how they will survive in cities and towns without electricity?


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“Complicated” isn’t good enough. It’s time for the Conservative movement to address the occupation.

Sep29

by: Naomi Heisler on September 29th, 2017 | No Comments »

When I spent the winter of 2009 with my Solomon Schechter Westchester classmates on a two month-long trip to Israel and Poland, we were told to keep a journal that would chronicle our thoughts, feelings, and experiences, and would serve as a reminder of our trip and of what we were “fighting for.” This journal would remind us of our tears at Auschwitz, our delight at floating in the Dead Sea, and of squeezing our own letters into a sea of other hopes and prayers at the Western Wall. After our trip, we participated in a seminar led by the David Project, a right-wing Israel advocacy organization that armed us with talking points for defending Israel on our college campuses. The message was loud and clear: the state of Israel would shield us from the unspeakable horrors of another Holocaust, and yet it was under attack. Our role as newly-formed adults was to defend Israel against “delegitimization,” against the scourge of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, against professors who would only teach “one side,” and against our non-Jewish classmates.

I recently came across my old journal, and in between florid descriptions of hikes and play-by-play analyses of each interaction that my crush and I had were the seeds of uncertainty. How did the state of Israel play into my identity as an American Jew? What did it mean to advocate for Israel both inside and outside the bounds of The David Project? And how could I reconcile the way that Schechter took us to the site of the King David Hotel bombing and took us to meet with members of the settlement of Efrat, with Israel we were told was purely peace-seeking country? Was Schechter the school that mentored me as I co-founded the school’s first Young Democrats Club, and asked us to contribute dozens of service hours to our communities each year, or was it the school that couched decades of brutal occupation in the word “complicated,” limiting our role only to unquestioning defenders of Israel?

I grew up within the Conservative movement. I attended Ramah as a child, attended a Conservative shul every week, and spent my weekends as an active member of Hanefesh, my local USY region. My mother grew up within the movement as well, and my grandfather was a Conservative rabbi who served on the Committee of Jewish Laws and Standards. It was my parents who signed my tuition checks, who drove me up to USY conventions in the far reaches of Connecticut, and who walked with me to shul everySaturdaymorning. I did not shop schools or shuls, or decide how observant I would or would not be. As a teenager, I did not choose to be a member of the Conservative movement, though as an adult, I get to choose if I will stay. The teachings and institutions of the Conservative movement helped guide me during adolescence, but also taught me the steep price of dissent. Now, as an adult looking for meaningful Jewish life, but frustrated by the movement’s red lines around Israel-Palestine, I do not know whether or not I belong in this movement.

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Our Own Crimes Are Worse than Those of Our Ancestors: Yes, Slavery Was Bad, But Did You Know You Just Killed 32 Million Muslims?

Sep27

by: Kevin Barrett on September 27th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

René Girard devoted most of his life to exploring one of the darkest secrets of human nature: scapegoating. It seems we have a pervasive tendency to offload our own evil (and the guilt and shame that accompanies it) onto the Other.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the stories we tell about history. Every community tends to downplay its own crimes and exaggerate those of its enemies. To take one example: My Armenian friends have described what happened to their community during World War I as a holocaust of millions of innocent civilians who were killed for absolutely no reason other than vicious Turkish bigotry. But during my month-long speaking tour of Turkey in 2010, I learned that many Turkish intellectuals held a different view. They argued that Turkey was invaded by Russia, that Armenian communities helped the Russian invaders mass-murder Turkish civilians (triggering admittedly horrific reprisals), that the Armenian version of the genocide is exaggerated, and that all the civilian victims of World War I war crimes, including Turks and Armenians, were victims of the insanity of war, not the evil of one particular community.

These same Turkish intellectuals also argued that far more Muslims were murdered in the ethnic cleansings in the Balkans during the years before World War I than Armenian Christians were killed during the war. (We have all heard of the Armenian genocide, but few Americans know about the ethnic cleansings of Muslims from the Balkans.)

Along with telling self-serving war stories, we sometimes offload historical guilt by blaming our benighted ancestors for evils that we, their modern enlightened descendants, no longer commit. The current hullaballoo over slavery is a prime example. By scorning “evil slaveholding Confederates” or “evil slaveholding Founding Fathers” we deem ourselves their moral superiors. But what if we are committing worse crimes without even knowing it?

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