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Going on the Offensive: A State-Based Strategy for the Democratic Party


by: on February 22nd, 2017 | No Comments »

Although Tikkun does not endorse candidates or political parties, we here send out editor-at-large Peter Gabel’s imaginative article on how the Democratic Party can regain the idealistic ground to begin to set the agenda for a progressive politics, instead of remaining restricted to a defensive posture in response to the agenda being set by Donald Trump.

This article originally appeared on Truth-out.org.

Having lost control of the White House, Congress and probably the Supreme Court, the Democrats appear consigned to a defensive, resistance-based role in the coming years. But this is only true in the federal arena. By thinking imaginatively about how to channel their very substantial support within many of the nation’s largest states into collective political action, the Democrats may actually be able to go on the offensive in presenting and carrying out a socially progressive, idealistic agenda in a way that they have not been able to do for decades in the gridlock of Washington politics.


Broken Hearts Bring Hope


by: Susan Bloch on February 21st, 2017 | 3 Comments »

When a Seattle mosque was burned down, an unlikely alliance of kids gathered outside to support those who had lost their place of worship. Holding signs that said, “We Stand with our Muslim Neighbors,” were kids with yarmulkes, hijabs, and others wearing golden cross earrings. These kids later came together at a Kids4Peace and Muslim Association of the Puget Sound-AMEN Conference, united in their fight against Islamophobia. They were here to learn the power of advocacy in the media.

Making sure her hijab was securely pinned in place, twelve-year-old Sabreen Tuku, a 14-year old American, Muslim-Ethiopian girl, stepped up to the podium, her voice unsteady. “I have a dream,” she began. “I dream that one day every person, no matter their ethnic group, religion, or sexual orientation, will be treated respectfully. One day, I want to walk down the street and not have to fear . . . only feel love and acceptance.”


Loving America and Resisting Trump – The New Patriotism


by: Frida Berrigan on February 16th, 2017 | 4 Comments »

Editor’s Note:  From the start of Tikkun magazine close to 31 years ago, we’ve been trying to convince people on the Left that we should be embracing and celebrating all that is good in the U.S. even as we critique what is not. Lets understand its appeal both in the U.S. and around the world as a compensation for what is so hurtful in the global impact of capitalist consciousness. The center of capitalist ideology is its self-justifactory fantasy that the system is based on a meritocracy, so that those who are making it are successful solely because they deserve that success.

  • The hurtful consequence is that most people who haven’t “made it” are taught that this is their own fault–and that causes great deal of pain for a large swath of people who end up blaming themselves, not understanding that it is the whole class structure that guarantees that only a small section of people will ever move up the class ladder. No wonder that they turn to right wing forms of  religion and nationalism, because in those communities they are accepted as valuable just because they are a creation of God (in the religious world) or as a member of nation x, y or z (in the world of nationalism).
  • That desire to be valued just for who they are and NOT because of what they accomplish in the competitive marketplace is a fully legitimate desire. That’s one very good reason why liberals and progressives need to take up and build a progressive patriotism that simultaneously rejects the “America first” forms of nationalism with their racist and chauvinist elements.
  • Every year we at Tikkun send out a scrpt for a progressive July 4th celebration of America that affirms the good while acknowledging all that deserves to be ruthlessly critiqued–the genocide of Native Americans and the continuing racist legacy of slavery and the suppression of the rights of women, gays and lesbians, and the manipulation of nationalism to undermine the struggle for equality, social and economic justice, and environmental sustainability.
  • But unless we do that and other public embraces of what is good in America even as we critique what is not, Trumpism or other variants of a fascistic nationalism are likely to grow here just as variants of fascistic nationalism are growing all around the world!
  • If you think there is something important in the analysis presented above, please post it on your Facebook or other social media, on your own website. Don’t wallow in despair at the latest horrors of the Trump presidency– how about bringing your friends together for an evening or weekend brunch or afternoon to talk about this article and about our strategy to overcome Trumpism which you can send to them beforehand–read it at www.tikkun.org/strategy.  Please encourage your friends to join our NSP–  Network of Spiritual Progressives and support Tikkun and to sign up for our online training for spiritual activism in the age of, ugh, Trump at www.tikkun.org/strategy. At the very least you could up your level of support for Tikkun or the NSP (how about giving us a dollar a day? Never say “I didn’t know what to do in those dark days” because joining our efforts in the ways we are proposing in our strategy and in our training are precisely the things that everybody could do–and we are putting that right in front of you!!!

Rabbi Michael Lerner   rabbilerner.tikkun@gmail.com

The article below appeared first in TomDispatch.com, our media ally. 

So reality has inexorably, inescapably penetrated my life.  It didn’t take long. Yes, Donald Trump is actually the president of the United States. In that guise, in just his first weeks in office, he’s already declared war on language, on loving, on people who are different from him — on the kind of world, in short, that I want to live in. He’s promised to erect high walls, keep some people in and others out and lock up those he despises, while threatening to torture and abuse with impunity.


Craven, Contemptible, Political Hackery


by: on February 8th, 2017 | 5 Comments »

craven: having or showing a complete lack of courage

contemptible: not worthy of respect or approval

political: involving, concerned with, or accused of acts against a government

hack: a person who works solely for mercenary reasons

–ery: the practice of

–Merriam-Webster Dictionary


Let us be clear. When Mitch McConnell and the Republican majority in the United States Senate voted to silence Senator Elizabeth Warren as she attempted to read from a document that had been sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee and kept out of the Senate record, they showed their true colors as craven, contemptible, political hacks. Under the cover of Senate Rule 19, using the same tortured, twisted hermeneutical logic that led him to think he and his party were not acting against the US Constitution when they stole a nomination to the Supreme Court under President Obama, McConnell trashed the first amendment to the Bill of Rights on the Senate floor.

Fortunately, this nonsense only had authority on the Senate floor, and Senator Warren was able to continue to read a letter sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee in 1986 by Coretta Scott King in opposition to the nomination of Jeff Sessions for a federal judgeship. If it is true that past is prologue, the concern then, as if is now, was that Sessions would not uphold voting rights for all citizens of the United States.

Coretta Scott King said in her letter:

“Anyone who has used the power of his office as United States Attorney to intimidate and chill the free exercise of the ballot by citizens should not be elevated to our courts. Mr. Sessions has used the awesome powers of his office in a shabby attempt to intimidate and frighten elderly black voters.”
In a written statement to the Judiciary Committee, King testified to “politically motivated voting fraud prosecutions” on the part of Sessions and “. . . indifference toward criminal violations of civil rights laws.”

Unfortunately, her words still resonate in the wake of a Supreme Court decision that gutted the Voting Rights Act with a number of states instituting laws that make it more difficult for citizens to vote, especially minorities, the poor, and the elderly. The current president of the United States has made unfounded claims of voter fraud that only feeds the myth that widespread voter fraud exists and that laws that actually restrict legal voting are necessary.

King wrote of the importance of the Voting Rights Act to our democracy:
“The Voting Rights Act was, and still is, vitally important to the future of democracy in the United States.” She wrote about voter intimidation and Sessions’ participation in it:

“The actions taken by Mr. Sessions in regard to the 1984 voting fraud prosecutions represent just one more technique used to intimidate Black voters and thus deny them this most precious franchise.”

She wrote of the long way we as a nation have to go “before we can say that minorities no longer need be concerned about discrimination at the polls.” She says further:

“Blacks, Hispanics, Native American, and Asian Americans are grossly underrepresented at every level of government in America. If we are going to make our timeless dream of justice through democracy a reality, we must take every possible step to ensure that the spirit and intent of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Fifteenth Amendment of the Constitution is honored.”

More than thirty years ago, then chair of the judiciary committee, Strom Thurmond, wanted to keep Coretta Scott King’s words out of the Senate record. In February, 2017, Mitch McConnell tried and failed to do the same thing. After he silenced Senator Warren, some of her male Democratic colleagues completed the reading. He did not silence them. In the end, Coretta Scott King’s words were heard.

Political pundits are reading this event within the context of presidential politics. Are the Democrats still angry about the outcome of the 2016 election? Is this the first step by Senator Warren on the road to a presidential run in 2020? Neither of these questions gets to the heart of the matter.


The Holocaust, Israel, and Trump’s Jewish Myopia


by: Matt Sienkiewicz on February 6th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Sean Spicer standing behind a White House podium.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer

After a weekend of controversy, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was no doubt well-prepared on Monday to explain why the President had removed any mention of anti-Semitism in his statement on Holocaust Remembrance Day. Spicer began by reiterating the counter-intuitive notion that by ignoring the near annihilation of European Jewry, President Trump’s team, likely lead by Steve Bannon, was somehow being inclusive. The logic behind this idea is impenetrable, unless one assumes that Presidential statements have 140 character limits, making it impossible to affirm the centrality of anti-Semitism to the Nazi worldview while also acknowledging the broad range of people targeted by their hate. Just as bad, however, was Spicer’s pivot. American Jews, he suggested, have no right to be offended by the Holocaust statement for a simple, single, and seemingly unrelated reason: Israel.

Trump, Spicer articulated, is a perfect friend to both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the state he represents. That being the (much debatable) case, how could Jews possibly interpret anti-Semitism in anything Trump does? Aren’t Jews and Israelis always of the same mind? The answer, of course, is that not all Jewish people care singularly, or even primarily, about Israel. Furthermore, there’s plenty of room in contemporary white nationalism, with its fundamental commitment to racial separation, to support a nation way over yonder in which Jews wear their funny hats, eat their funny food, and mind their own business. And if this all comes at the expense of a bunch of Muslims, well, even better. It’s an ugly, unfair view of Israel, but it’s one that the alt-right can easily get behind.

Trump’s team, via Spicer, was offering American Jews a deal: Give up that part of your identity that’s so concerned with the Holocaust and accept one in which Israeli strength, just or unjust, defines what it means to be who you are. Some Jews, of course, tend to agree. Perhaps, they argue, Jewish fascination with victimization is past its expiration date. This would be true, were it not for the obvious fact that many Jews in America and beyond understand the Holocaust not merely as a defining trauma, but also as a call to action. Holocaust remembrance motivates Jews to care about the long-term security of the Jewish people, certainly. It also, however, causes Jews throughout the world to identify Jewishness with the ability to look beyond their own tribe and towards mankind. It convinces millions of Jews to donate to Jewish charities that offer their services to all in need, regardless of religion. It makes Senator Chuck Schumer, a man whose great-grandmother was murdered for being Jewish, cry when he thinks about Iraqi refugees being turned away at JFK. It helps Jews understand that a strong identity need not preclude a commitment to mankind.

The people who prepped Spicer’s response are not terribly interested in mankind or, for that matter, Jews. Sure, they can find a way to make use of them. If the Jewish people can be reduced to an ethnic clan locked in a bitter, eternal struggle with Arabs and Islam, then they fit right in. If their commitment to Israel’s Jewishness makes claims of America’s Christian Soul more plausible, that’s great. If their need to understand and accept Israeli security measures makes building a Mexican border wall appear more morally palatable then, by all means, be as Jewish as you want. But if being Jewish means looking back at events such as the Holocaust and using them as inspiration to protest the wall, fight the ban, and #resist, then they’d just as soon see that line deleted.

In a multicultural democracy, minority groups make compromises. It’s simple math. Politicians, seeking their majorities, never take the time to really understand what makes a subculture tick. Filmmakers and TV producers, aiming for a wider audience, boil their representations down, simplifying the complexity of minority life and, at times, drifting into stereotypes. This reality is unfortunate, but if it comes with a sense of progress towards respect and security, the price may be worth paying.

Bannon, Trump, et al., however, are asking for far too much and giving far too little in return. By deleting Auschwitz and offering Israeli settlements, they are asking Jews to give up the messy history and psychology that is so central to contemporary Jewish identity. Particularly in America, Jews often live in a state of constant contradiction, striving to be both tribal and universal, feeling both empowered and in a state of potential victimhood. In exchange for this difficult but very meaningful struggle, the President is asking Jews to embrace a static, one note, identity-based ethno-religious fervor for Israel. It’s a bad, bad deal. I hope we turn them down.


Matt Sienkiewicz is a Modern Orthodox Jewish American who researches and teaches global media at Boston College. His documentary Live From Bethlehem is available from the Media Education Foundation and he can be followed on Twitter.

Do we want Democracy? Or the Electoral College?


by: on January 31st, 2017 | 4 Comments »

It’s time to make a choice: do we want democracy or a dangerous tradition? A few efforts were made, after the last split between electoral and real, i.e.,popular votes, to shrivel the Electoral College and make sure it never stands between the people and their will again. Now it’s time to get serious and stay serious.

Consider this: how do American advisors sell our system overseas to the “less enlightened” nations where we are endlessly “spreading democracy”?

Dictator: so how does democracy work?

American advisor: “Well, you hold elections, the people vote, and sometimes the loser gets to be President.”


Why America is exceptional – the crowds in the street during the inauguration weekend


by: on January 21st, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Women's March at the Texas Capital Jan 21, 2017

America is an exceptional country in certain interesting ways. Most large democracies today have a parliamentary system of government. The vast majority of democracies with a strong presidential system like ours have experienced either a period of dictatorship or a military coup at some point in their history. America has had neither of these. We’ve always had a peaceful transition of power, and even after some hard fought and contested elections, the losing candidate has always recognized the other as the legitimate winner. We’ve never had one side throw its political rivals in prison. (Admittedly the incoming president has verbally flirted with crossing both of those last two lines.) This successful history is due in large part to our concept of checks and balances – multiple independent branches of government that serve to limit the excesses of each other. When necessary, the public itself serves as the final and most important check and balance. That is what we are seeing now. When hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets in the days surrounding the inauguration of Donald Trump, they are not to be seen as sore losers, nor do they generally deny the results of the election. They are serving their role as the ultimate check and balance on a government when it appears that other traditional checks and balances will likely be ineffective. Our democracy is going to be tested like it never has since the civil war, and it will take patriotic citizens with a strong love for this country to fulfill their key role in our system of checks and balances. Our country is calling on us.

Normalizing Trump’s Authoritarianism is Not an Option


by: Henry A. Giroux on January 19th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

The dark times that haunt the current age no longer appear as merely an impending threat. They have materialized with the election of Donald Trump to the presidency. Trump and his administration of extremists epitomize the dire dangers posed by those who longed to rule American society without resistance, dominate its major political parties, and secure uncontested control of its commanding political, cultural, and economic institutions. The consolidation of power and wealth in the hands of the financial elite along with the savagery and misery that signifies their politics is no longer the stuff of Hollywood films such as Wall Street and American Psycho. If George W. Bush’s reign of fear mongering, greed, and war on terror embodied the values of a kind of militarized Gordon Gekko, Trump represents the metamorphosis of Gekko into the deranged and ethically-neutered Patrick Bateman. Yet, Trump’s ascent to the highest office in America is already being normalized by numerous pundits and politicians, including Barack Obama, who are asking the American public to give Trump a chance or are suggesting that the power and demands of the presidency will place some restraints on his unrestrained impetuousness and often unpredictable behavior.


From Trump to Umm Al-Hiran


by: Shaiya Rothberg on January 19th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, co-founder of Haqel, holding up a picture of 100 year old Umm Al-Hiran resident Musa Hussein Abu Al Qian.

Photo courtesy of Haqel. Rabbi Arik Ascherman, co-founder of Haqel, holding up a picture of 100 year old Umm Al-Hiran resident Musa Hussein Abu Al Qian.

As President-elect Trump consummates the victory of his racist and demagogic campaign, Israel’s discriminatory demolition of homes in Umm Al-Hiran yesterday signified another step away from democracy and towards Jewish ethnic domination. Human identity – the sense people have that they are Homo sapiens and morally responsible for other Homo sapiens – recedes before our eyes in both Israel and America. Trump and Netanyahu make clear in speech and policy that too often they do not see human beings as human beings but only as particular identities, such as Jews or Arabs, Americans or Mexicans, Christians or Muslims.

According to some theories, this receding of humanity is a temporary setback in the consistent (and possibly inevitable) ascension of human identity rather than more particularistic ones. Essentially, the logic goes, since human civilization (environment, communications, politics, law, economy) is now global and thus species-wide, the species-based human identity will prevail. But for those whose homes were bulldozed yesterday in Umm al-Hiran, and for the families of the two people killed during the conflict there, anticipating a more human future is little consolation.


A Memory of Castro’s Cuba


by: John de Graaf on January 19th, 2017 | 2 Comments »

Black and white image of Che and Fidel in military dressFidel Castro’s death on November 25 brought memories of the time, 46 years earlier, when I heard him speak in Havana. I was part of a group of anti-Vietnam War activists from Madison, Wisconsin, who traveled to Cuba with other Americans in open violation of U.S. policy. I have recently been writing a memoir, including my reflections on that long-ago trip.

In the fall of 1969, hundreds of young Americans had begun traveling to Cuba. They were part of a group called The Venceremos Brigade, volunteering to help with the great 10 million-ton Cuban sugar harvest that season. Three friends of mine were part of the second “brigade” in the spring of 1970. They returned excited by what they’d seen and recruited me for the third brigade, set for August.

We left Madison on August 19, riding on a bus to the port of St. John, New Brunswick. From St. John, we would sail to Havana on a Cuban freighter. It was tied up in port when we arrived. We climbed up the long gangplank and were shown to tightly packed bunks in the ship, where we’d be sleeping during the trip. The freighter was called the Conrado Benitez. It was named for a teacher who’d been killed by anti-Castro guerrillas during the Cuban Literacy Campaign that began shortly after the revolution of 1959. Defenders of Castro’s revolution considered Benitez a martyr.

It took nearly a week to reach Cuba. The trip down was pleasant, with calm seas, light winds, and flying fish and dolphins leaping alongside our vessel. Because our quarters were tight on the converted freighter, we spent as much time as possible out on the deck.