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Remembering History


by: on October 22nd, 2016 | No Comments »

When Donald Trump asks his supporters to go to certain neighborhoods to “watch” at the polls on Election Day, he clearly has never known, has forgotten, or does not care about the painful, tragic, and racist history of voting in the United States. He does not remember the days when African Americans faced torture and terrorism for exercising their constitutional right to vote. He does not remember that the franchise was restricted to white citizens in many states where slavery was against the law. Remembering history, we as a nation will not go back to those days.

It is important to remember that the founders did not trust ordinary people. To this day, the president and vice president are not elected by the popular vote. When the Constitution was first adopted, qualifications for voting rights was a state matter. In most states, the franchise was restricted to white men who held property. In the early 1800s only five state allowed free black men to vote – New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and North Carolina. Later as voting rights for white men expanded with some states dropping the requirement that voters own property, the property requirement remained for black men. After the Nat Turner rebellion, blacks lost the right to vote in North Carolina.

African Americans were second class citizens throughout the United States both before and after the Civil War. Between 1820 and 1850 blacks in Philadelphia and other cities were the targets of mob violence with their offense being “uppity behavior.” Thus, whiteness carries with it social, economic, and political privilege.

In the PBS documentary “Africans in America”, historian Margaret Washington comments on racism in the north.

“So it would seem as though the nation itself had an attitude that African Americans were inferior. And if you look at some of the laws that were in existence in the northern states, African Americas were not supposed to ride on streetcars; African Americans were not supposed to ride on steamers. The whole idea of Jim Crow and segregation of the races really originates in the north. African Americans couldn’t vote in the north. African Americans couldn’t vote in most states, even if they owned property.”

Any white immigrant coming into the country had more rights than blacks. Washington says: “So while immigration became a form of economic and social mobility for whites, it became a form of degradation for African Americans.”

Because social, economic, and political privileges were reserved for white people, whiteness becomes an important category. In the same documentary, historian Noel Ignatiev observes:

“So definitely white people gained from the system of racial supremacy. Without that whiteness itself would have been a meaningless category. It would have only been a physical description like tall.”


Peace Day 2016 and Blood on the Street in Charlotte, North Carolina


by: on October 14th, 2016 | No Comments »

September 21 is the United Nations International Day of Peace and Global Ceasefire – Peace Day. It is a day that reminds us of the hope of humankind to make a world where everyone lives a life of sustenance and joy. Peace Day coincides with the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly, but it is also a day when ordinary people do various acts and things to promote peace. Yet, every year, Peace Day dawns with some awful tragic reality to remind us of how far we have to go to arrive at the goal of peace.

On Tuesday afternoon, September 20, Keith Lamont Scott, 43, was sitting in his S.U.V minding his own business. Police who were on the scene attending to another matter say they saw him rolling what seemed to be a marijuana blunt with a gun on the front seat. When Scott exited the S.U.V., police say he had a gun and did not follow their commands. Despite his wife who was on the scene telling the police that Scott was unarmed, that he was not dangerous, that he suffered from traumatic brain injury and had just taken his medication, the situation escalated to where Scott was shot and killed by the police. He was another in a long line of African-American men who had been shot and killed by the police under questionable circumstances.

Peace Day saw protests in the street of Charlotte, North Carolina. Protestors wanted the police to release video tapes so that the public could see what happened to Mr. Scott. The night of Peace Day, during the demonstrations, 23-year-old Justin Carr was fatally wounded. There was blood on the street in Charlotte, North Carolina on Peace Day.

When we see only the blood on the street, we see the essential liquid of a living being. We cannot tell just by looking from which of the animal species it comes. When we only see the blood on the street, we do not know if it is police blood or protestor blood. We do not know whether the bleeding body was black or white or brown or yellow or red; whether the person was Muslim or Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or atheist; whether the person was young or old, male or female, transsexual or pansexual; whether the person was rich or poor. We do not know if the blood is related to us. There is no party affiliation or class distinction evident in a pool of blood on the street. All of the things that would make us hate a person, that would make us want to kill a person are gone. There is nothing left in a pool of blood, but the life force wasted, something to be washed away and forgotten or remembered with either the will to revenge or the will to forgive.


Another Truth Without Reconciliation


by: Helen Josephs on October 14th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

Josephs and her father, Harry Josephs. Summer 1961

Is it possible to have reconciliation from some of the world’s worst injustices?

South Africa ended apartheid with Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings. Georgetown University has acknowledged their financial gain from slavery, and is making reparation plans for the descendants of the slaves they sold. Do these and other efforts ever come close? Is it too late to right a wrong?

My story of reconciliation from state sanctioned injustice stems from the horrors committed by Nazi Germany. My parents were Jews who survived prewar Nazi Germany and the years of World War II in Holland. My mother survived partly by staying in hiding and partly in the Dutch underground; my father in Westerbork Camp.

My parents spoke little to each other about what happened. I grew up knowing that somethings were left unsaid and accepted, but the aftereffects of the War on my family was pervasive. My father, as a consequence of poor health from Westerbork, had his first heart attack when I was 8 and died 5 years later. These years of sickness were difficult and his death left my mother raising two teenagers. In the U.S., my mother worked as a seamstress, as the Nazi’s banned my mother from school at age 14. At 18 I left New York City, without a plan or forethought. I traveled until I ended in Alaska – a place so different that it felt like an escape. I changed my surroundings, married, became a mother and a grandmother. But there are triggers – news reports like those about Georgetown or other discussions of the way we struggle as a society to reconcile past injustices – that cause a visceral pain and remind me that so many of us carry an unreconciled, painful past with us.


On Turning Sixty: Counsel From My Inner Wisdom on How to Live


by: Charles Burack on October 12th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Notes on Turning 60 From Charles Burack

Sow Seeds of Gratefulness and Forgiveness

Wake up with thanks on your lips. Throughout the day behold the goodness everywhere, even amidst the pain and violence. See the light within and behind the darkness. Accept what is and support what should be. Nurture the holiness waiting to be born. Appreciate small deeds and seemingly ordinary events, knowing every action creates endless ripples in the ocean of existence and beyond. Prize your life by maintaining healthy habits. Have faith in — and discover for yourself — the sanctity of existence and its boundless Source. Drift off to sleep with gratitude in your heart.

Forgive others who have hurt you and don’t let grievances fester. Kindly express your hurt feelings and describe the actions that aggrieve you while refraining from critical judgments and character attacks. Request what you need to repair the connection. Apologize and make amends to those you have hurt. Forgive yourself for your mistakes.

Be a Disciple of Peace

Take time each day to be still and silent as a tree. Slow down, pay attention to your experience, make inner silence your basic mode of being. Centering practices, such as prayer, meditation, and yoga, bring you to your quiet core. Many people center themselves through relaxed walking, singing, swimming, or spending time in nature. As you rest in the stillness, you may encounter the formless Reality that endlessly generates all forms.


Trump: Jung’s Warning


by: Thanissara Mary Weinberg on October 11th, 2016 | 2 Comments »

We are in a red alert situation. Like the Ebola Virus, Trump is tearing up the fabric of American society. Actually, he is worse than Ebola. Ebola eats at the flesh, but Trump is eating at America’s soul. This war for the soul of America is building to a terrifying possible outcome: the election of President Donald Trump. On Sept 21, 375 top scientists and 30 Noble Prize winners, including Stephen Hawking, warned in a signed, open letter that a Trump presidency would have “severe and long-lasting” consequences, both for the planet and for the United States’ credibility.

When Trump first appeared on the scene in his red emperor’s power tie gambit, this warning from Carl Jung kept floating in the back of my mind:

“We know today that in the unconscious of every individual there are instinctive propensities or psychic systems charged with considerable tension. When they are helped in one way or another to break through into consciousness, and the latter has no opportunity to intercept them in higher forms, they sweep everything before them like a torrent and turn men into creatures for whom the word ‘beast’ is still too good to name. They can then only be called ‘devils.’ To evoke such phenomena in the masses, all that is needed is a few possessed persons, or only one. If this unconscious disposition should happen to be one which is common to the great majority of the nation, then a single one of these complex-ridden individuals, who at the same time sets himself up as a megaphone, is enough to precipitate a catastrophe.”

Anne Baring, in her marvelous book, The Dream of the Cosmos, which records Jung’s insight and explains it further in her section, “Demonizing the Enemy: the Manipulation of Shadow Projections”:

“Jung developed his ideas about the danger of the archetypal power of the shadow to overwhelm civilization in his essays on events in Germany. There he analyzed how negative projections onto others can develop and spread like a virus until they can contaminate a whole group or nation, causing it to fall into a psychosis, as in Nazi Germany or Maoist China. One of Jung’s most important realizations was that when we project evil onto others, particularly when we feel threatened, we may lose the possibility of insight and the ability to deal with evil, becoming very easily contaminated by it ourselves.”


The Big, Orange Shofar


by: Mike Rothbaum on October 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

Donald Trump shouting with an orange face.

If Donald Trump’s campaign was hoping for strong support from American Jews, they are surely disappointed. Trump’s support among Jewish voters is at an historically low 19%. There is an active website with contributions from rabbis and Jewish leaders called jewsagainsttrump.com. The Jewish social justice organization Bend the Arc has shared a satirical video of Jewish grandparents threatening to haunt their offspring if they vote for Trump. Rabbis, normally fearful of running afoul of congregants and IRS regulations, are openly considering speaking against the man on the High Holidays.

For many Jews, the choice is obvious. Trump’s use of xenophobic language about Latinos plays to white America’s basest instincts. His record of slurs against women he finds unattractive is shameful; and his boasting about assaulting women he does find attractive even more so. He all but bragged at the first Presidential debate about his record of shady business ethics. His proposals for a “shutdown” of immigration from Muslim nations calls to mind the religious bigotry that has plagued Jewish communities over the centuries. And there is, of course, the stereotypical Jew-hatred Trump himself shared in a room of Jews, during a meeting with the Republican Jewish Coalition, in which he referred to Jews as deal “negotiators” and claimed we would not support him “because I don’t want your money.”

For Jews, of course, this isn’t just election time. It’s also the Yamim Noraim, the awesome days in which we are invited to confront our own failings and shortcomings. A key part of that process is the sounding of the shofar. The cry of the shofar is designed to wake us up from our ethical slumber, an alarm clock of the conscience.

So while it may make us feel good, or even smug, to say that we’re better than Mr. Trump, to do so would miss the point of this time of year. Our reaction to Trump’s candidacy, instead, is an invitation to look at our own actions, as individuals and in Jewish community. What if we saw him not just as a man who evokes hatred and fear, but as a walking talking wake-up call, a big orange shofar reminding us to get our own houses in order? Consider the following:

  • Racism and xenophobia. Most Jews are rightly outraged by Trump’s shocking comments about Mexicans, and his support of racist stop-and-frisk policing initiatives. But what is our record as Jews? Do we respect and honor the 1-in-5 Jews in our communities who are Jews of color? Do we actively support Jews of color taking leadership positions? Do Ashkenazi Jews say “we Jews” when we really mean “white Jews?” Do we ensure our publicity materials and school textbooks feature Jews of color? If we are employers and landlords, do we give fair consideration to people of color as employees and renters? Do we challenge a criminal justice system that unfairly and disproportionately targets people of color?
  • Sexism and misogyny. Trump’s comments about women are despicable. But they reflect a culture that too often judges women’s worth by their appearance. How do we challenge that culture? Do we pressure Jewish women to “look pretty” so they can “find a husband?” Do we challenge gender roles that shut women out of our most cherished Jewish rituals? Do we raise up young girls to be scholars? Do our congregations consider women as rabbinical candidates? Do we challenge congregants who say they could “never pray with a woman rabbi,” or who judge the women who do serve as rabbis on the basis of their hair and clothes?
  • Business Ethics. Trump made jaw-dropping comments boasting how it was “smart business” not to pay contractors and skirt his tax obligations. How do we fare on that score? Do we see paying workers and supporting the public good as the mitzvot that they are? Do we take seriously the volumes of Jewish learning regarding business ethics, or subordinate those teachings to “more important” mitzvot like kashrut and Shabbat observance? Do we see supporting civil society and keeping “honest scales” as the holy obligations that they are?
  • Islamophobia.  While we’re right to challenge Jew-hatred and ensure our safety and the safety of our children, do we do what we can to make sure that doesn’t slide into bigotry? Do we criticize Muslim Jew-hatred and give a pass to the Jew-hatred that comes from our Christian neighbors? Have we made the effort to meet the Muslims who live in our towns, go to our schools, work in our offices?
  • Jew-hatred. Trump’s snide remarks about Jewish “negotiators” were rightly condemned. But how many times have we heard the same language used within the walls of our own homes and communities? Do we make the easy joke about Jews being cheap? When we hear our kids make these kinds of jokes, do we challenge our children to love themselves and take pride in their remarkable heritage of learning, personal and social ethics, and tzedakah?

One last thought. Donald Trump is, sadly, not the only one to make regrettable comments during this election season. While it pales in comparison to Trump’s despicable record, it was nonetheless disappointing that Hillary Clinton labeled half of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables.” Racism, homophobia, and xenophobia are, indeed, deplorable. But there is a difference between labeling actions deplorable, and writing off people as deplorable. To take Judaism seriously, and to take the process of teshuvah seriously, means to reject the idea that people are irredeemable.  To her credit, Clinton has since apologized for the statement.

“Free will is granted to all,” wrote the Rambam, the renowned medieval Jewish commentator. “There is no one who can prevent a person from doing good or bad,” he continued. We ourselves decide “whether to be learned or ignorant, compassionate or cruel, generous or miserly.”

As the new year dawns, and the election season mercifully comes to a close, may we commit to making ourselves and our communities learned, compassionate, and generous. And having done so, may we commit to bringing that same spirit to our neighbors, or towns, and — God willing — our whole world.

A slightly different version of this article was first published in The Blogs section on The Times of Israel and reprinted with their permission.


Rabbi Mike Rothbaum serves as Bay Area Co-Chair for Bend the Arc: A Jewish Partnership for Justice, and lives withhis husband, Anthony Russell, in Oakland. He has been extensively involved with faith-based social justice organizations, and spoken widely at conferences and rallies, from Moishe House to the House of Representatives. His writing and speaking has been featured in Tikkun, the Huffington Post, KQED radio, CNN, and Zeek.


Come Celebrate High Holidays with Tikkun and Rabbi Michael Lerner in Berkeley this Octoberby Staci Askelrod

An Autopsy of the Bernie Sanders Campaign by Dan Brook

Reflections on Yom Kippur and Mideast Peaceby Ron Hirsch

Jacob Neusner: In Memoriam


by: Shaul Magid on October 10th, 2016 | No Comments »

Jacob Neunser (1932-2016) died early shabbat morning of Shabbat Shuva, the Shabbat between Rosh Ha-Shana and Yom Kippur.

The New York Times called him the most published individual in history. In his excellent book, Jacob Neusner: An American Jewish Iconoclast (NYU Press, 2016) Aaron Hughes suggests he is the greatest Jewish scholar of Judaism born in the United States. Whether either of these claims are true, and they are certainly reasonably so, he was surely one of the most towering figures in the study of Judaism in the past half century.


On the Road Again


by: on October 7th, 2016 | No Comments »

Did you ever have one of those moments when you were having a discussion with people you knew, loved, and respected, and one of them said something that made your jaw drop, or, in the case of our friend Julie, something that left you standing there with a clicking noise in your head? Have you ever found yourself wondering “How did this person come to think this particular way, especially when I see things SO differently?”

That clicking sound, or the jaw dropping, also represents a moment in many cases where we STOP really listening to each other. We dismiss the other person as being misguided, wrong, out of touch… different. Back in 2008, Julie, realizing that across the country people were having those jaw-dropping moments way too much, and feeling like too many people were dismissing each other rather than truly stopping, picking up our jaws, and listening even more deeply, decided to travel across the country in the lead up to the presidential election to really listen, and share, what was going on in people’s lives that influenced how they felt and how they might vote.

Remember that at the time, our country was in the biggest financial mess since the Great Depression and we had been at war since 2001.

There was a lot to be upset about, worried about, and the differences between the two major party candidates were very clear. There was certainly a lot to talk about as one traveled across the country asking people to share what was going on in their lives that might influence for whom they would vote. The chronicles of her first journey in 2008 can be found here.

She also traveled the country in 2012 and you can meet the people she connected with here.

Quick note about these trips… Regardless of which candidate or party a person, couple, or groups of people were going to vote for, Julie found one constant everywhere she went: hospitality. She was invited into people’s homes, gifted with lovely meals, helped when her transportation broke down, and found an openness to share the good, the bad, and the ugly parts of people’s lives wherever she went. She also found anger, frustration, abuse of power, fear, and despair. That’s America. A lot is wonderful and a lot is broken. And here we go again, blaming one person or another for what’s broken and pinning our hopes on one person or another to fix some of it.

Now, Julie is about to head off across the country again, and while some might say that they don’t see any difference between the two major party candidates (really?????), I’d have to say that beyond that comment, in 2016 I’m finding myself with my jaw dropping more than ever, and asking myself more than ever “What the heck are these people thinking?” “What’s going on in their lives and in their communities that’s driving them to vote for one candidate or the other, OR, to NOT vote at all?”

So, it is with gratitude and a bit of trepidation that I watch Julie head off across America to deeply listen to, and share the stories of, people she meets in the cafes, parking lots, downtowns, diners, truck stops, and department stores. I’ll share some of her posts here on Tikkun Daily, but also hope you will bookmark her web site and visit there every day as she posts videos and writes about her journey across America. And, once one candidate or the other wins, we can read, watch, and listen to the REAL needs across our country and work TOGETHER to do something about making America better because ONE candidate, one person, one president can’t make the good better or the fix the problems without us, we the people, taking charge.

Click here to visit Julie’s web site and join her on her journey.

In Loving Memory: The Yizkor Booklet


by: Lisa Braver Moss on October 7th, 2016 | 1 Comment »

Every year with the approach of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, a certain anxious reluctance creeps over me. It’s not the introspection that worries me, nor the solemnity, nor the fasting, nor the hours of services. It’s not even the making of peace with anyone to whom I might owe amends.

No – what gives me pause is the yizkor (memorial) booklet that’s compiled for the afternoon service on Yom Kippur. For a small donation to my synagogue, I can include the names of my parents in this booklet. Given that I’m a longtime congregant whose parents are both deceased, this would appear to be a straightforward matter. Yet I struggle each year as if newly faced with a baffling choice.

When I was growing up, domestic violence wasn’t thought to exist in the Jewish community. But my father was a batterer, physically attacking my mother, me, and my three sisters on many occasions. Dad also had trouble tolerating me personally. A college dropout, he was irked by my devotion to school, which he felt showed a lack of imagination. Perhaps more to the point, Dad didn’t appreciate my open disdain for him about his violent outbursts.

Mom, too, was destructive. During my childhood and adolescence, she’d cry bitterly after my father’s explosive attacks, but she didn’t seem to grasp that we girls also needed comfort and protection. She, too, would impulsively hit and condemn us. On a number of occasions she talked of “hating” several of us. Apology was not in her range, nor in Dad’s. Since neither parent was a drinker, there was no sobering up afterwards.


A Family Story: John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. Carl Meyer and Her Children


by: Roslyn Bernstein on September 27th, 2016 | No Comments »


John Singer Sargent’s Mrs. Carl Meyer and Her Children

The Jewish Museum

September 16, 2016-February 5, 2017

New York City, New York


Adele Meyer never crossed the Atlantic. Married to Carl Meyer, a Jewish financier who was named the Baronet of Shortgrove in 1910, she led a life of privilege as a philanthropist in the arts and as a hostess, both in London and at Shortgrove, her 1000-acre country estate in Essex.

How fitting, then, that John Singer Sargent’s masterful portrait of the Meyer family, Mrs. Carl Meyer and Her Children (1896), not seen in the United States for the past 10 years and on loan from the Tate Britain, has now been installed in a gallery at the Jewish Museum that was once the dining room of the Felix Warburg Mansion. Warburg, like Meyer was a distinguished banker of German Jewish origin.

Organized by Norman L. Kleeblatt, the Susan and Elihu Rose Chief Curator with Lucy H. Partman, Curatorial Assistant, the exhibit focuses on the Meyers’ portrait, one that Kleeblatt describes as having “near cinematic status.” The painting was shown at the Royal Academy’s 1897 exhibition and subsequently at the Copley Society of Boston in 1899. In 1900, it was awarded a medal of honor at the Exposition Universelle in Paris.

John Singer Sargent, Elsie Meyer, 1908, charcoal on paper. Private collection

Now, building on the painting’s international reputation and resembling an archeological dig or excavation, the show unearths a cache of other works and documents related to the Meyer family, as well as ancillary material, from the personal and intimate to the banal, that illuminates their life in high and popular culture. “Here is a whole family story,” Kleeblatt said, “with John Singer Sargent and Adele Meyer as co-conspirators in this work.” The exhibit is the first in a series that will showcase one work or a group of masterpieces, by examining the larger context of a work of art.

The excavation began during Kleeblatt’s initial networking session at the Tate Britain, when one of the curators there rather casually mentioned that there was someone working as a curator at another museum who was a relative of the Meyers. So, he discovered Tessa Murdoch, Deputy Keeper at The Victoria and Albert Museum (Department of Sculpture, Metalwork, Ceramics and Glass), and also a great granddaughter of Mrs. Meyer, and a granddaughter of Frank Meyer. Adele Meyer bequeathed the painting to the Tate with life rights for two generations.

With Murdoch’s help, Kleeblatt discovered two drawings by Sargent, who stopped portrait painting in 1908, but whom the family clearly continued to patronize: one, from 1908, of Adele’s daughter Elsie Charlotte – looking very much like a Gibson Girl, and the other, from 1909, of her sister Cecile Von Fleischl. The Carl Meyer portrait in the exhibit is the work of Sir Hubert von Herkomer, a well-known portrait painter from the period.