by: Yanna [YoHana] Bat Adam -- Heartist on October 14th, 2014 | 6 Comments »
Credit: Yanna Bat Adam -- Heartist
It seems to me that more and more people are realizing that we need to aspire to something higher than what life presents us on its surface. Pleasures such as good food, sex, family life, money… even honor and knowledge, simply do not feed our deepest need, which is spiritual.
Are you one of these people? Lucky you.
This means that we are looking for “something else.” Something that will give us what might be called pleasure, but is in reality something far more enduring, yet hard to define. Something of deeply felt meaning that will finally bring an end to the endless boredom, compensatory diversion, and repetitive frustration that commonly comprises our lives. Something that will make us simply happy without a cause.
Credit: Creative Commons/Southbank Centre
I switched on my computer early this morning to get a lovely surprise: Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014. For all those who think Muslim women are too oppressed, too quiet, or too busy being mothers and housewives, to make international news, todays’ announcement from the Nobel Peace Committee may have come as a bit of a shocker. For me, it was validation of a lot of things.
If you can’t tell from these words that I am bursting with pride, let me break it down: I am absolutely ecstatic! Here’s why:
by: Howard Cooper on October 9th, 2014 | No Comments »
Inside of a sukkah, a temporary hut constructed during the festival of Sukkot. Credit: Creative Commons/Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis
Just as the lulav that we shake on Sukkot, the festival of rest amidst the desert wanderings, is made up of three different trees — palm, myrtle and willow — I want to share with you another group of three that I’m going to bind together and wave in your direction. And we’ll see if we can add in that exotic etrog element along the way.
Over the last few months I happen to have seen three films, each as different from the other as are the species that make up the lulav. Taken together, they add up to more than the sum of their parts.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sits down for an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Credit: Creative Commons/IsraelinUSA
It has now become a full fledged campaign: stifling criticism of Israel by warning of a new wave of anti-Semitism that is seizing the planet. The latest entry comes from French philosopher, and life-long Israel defender, Bernard-Henry Levy in (naturally) the New Republic who screams that anti-semitism in 2014 is a “ticking time bomb” that, if not countered, will inevitably lead to Binyamin Netanyahu’s vision: the return of 1942.
Like all opinion pieces of this genre, Levy’s case is built on the idea that there is no causal relation between Israel’s actions and the outbursts against Jews that he describes.
In its essence, the argument goes like this: Anti-Semitism is not caused by anything. It is innate, a poison that lives in the hearts and minds of evil people, needing only a pretext for it to explode. Israel’s actions can’t cause anti-Semitism. They can only be a pretext for it.
Originally published in The Huffington Post
Ferguson protestors raise hands in solidarity in Washington D.C. Credit: Creative Commons/ep_jhu
If you are one of tens of thousands of people who can’t stand to hear another story about another black man being shot by another policeman, you may want to go to Ferguson, Missouri this October 10-13. Your showing up may not stop the shooting(s), but at least it will let people know that you see. You hear. You notice.
If you can’t go to Ferguson or get to Ferguson, there’s nothing wrong with raising your hands in worship next weekend. Yup. Hands up. Hands over the head. Hands that know they know and know that others know and know that we know what we know. Congregations all over the country will wear a kind of hoodie this weekend. We will say that we know. We see.
by: Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite on October 7th, 2014 | 7 Comments »
President Obama addresses the nation on his ISIL strategy. Credit: Creative Commons/CreoFire
This time it will be different. That’s what President Obama said as he assured the American people that an American effort to “degrade and destroy” ISIL, the vicious terrorist group, “will be different from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
No, Mr. President, it won’t. Not in any meaningful sense. This is just more war, and it is certainly not a Just War according to many of the tradition’s principles.
Police use tear gas on protestors as the unrest in Ferguson continued into its sixth day in August. Credit: Creative Commos/Wikipedia
Saturday before last I attended religious training. At the close, the leader gave a brief and moving sermon. He spoke of the unspeakable pain that he, as a white man in America, could never feel. He spoke of the shooting down in Ferguson, Missouri of a young black man, Michael Brown. The following day, I attended my church, where a visiting white cleric also pointedly touched on Ferguson. The avuncular preacher spoke of how much we still needed to do in Obama’s America. Racism is alive and well.
Almost every black man of my acquaintance has his testimony; these range from my Hong Kong-educated Senegalese financial planner to my twenty-something nephew. I have my own story. Thirty years ago, while running down a freezing street on Chicago’s North Side, I was stopped by police with guns drawn. I froze and raised my hands. I was given no answers to my questions about what was going on. Instead I was led through an alley to a brownstone. A woman, who looked shaken up, was in the doorway. “Is this him,?” the cops asked her. “No,” she replied. “He’s too old.” I was then a thirty-something junior professor at Northwestern University. Had I not stopped running initially, I am sure my career would have ended then and there. No black man can be sure he is proof against the crime of running or driving while black.
by: Paul Koberstein on October 7th, 2014 | No Comments »
Dust swirls around the GMO test fields on the Hawaiian island of Kaua`i near the town of Waimea. Data reported by the state of Hawaii shows that heavy amounts of the insecticide chlorpyrifos are being applied to these fields. Photo by Klayton Kubo
The bodies and minds of children living on the Hawaiian island of Kaua’i are being threatened by exposure to chlorpyrifos, a synthetic insecticide that is heavily sprayed on fields located near their homes and schools.
For decades, researchers have been publishing reports about children who died or were maimed after exposure to chlorpyrifos, either in the womb or after birth. While chlorpyrifos can no longer legally be used around the house or in the garden, it is still legal to use on the farm. But researchers are finding that children aren’t safe when the insecticide is applied to nearby fields.
Like a ghost drifting through a child’s bedroom window, the airborne insecticide can settle on children’s skin, clothes, toys, rugs, and furnishings.
In fact, it’s likely that the only people who needn’t worry about exposure to chlorpyrifos are adults living far from the fields in which it is sprayed. That includes civil servants who work for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which regulates the stuff, and executives with Dow Chemical, the company that manufactures it.
In a regulatory process known as re-registration, the EPA will decide in 2015 whether it still agrees that chlorpyrifos is safe for farming, or whether it will order a complete ban, as Earthjustice, the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Pesticide Action Network have demanded in lawsuits filed in 2007 and in 2014.
Credit: Creative Commons/Wikipedia
Public rhetoric is thousands of years old, yet even in an era of high-res video and magnificent audio, to hear a great talk in person is special. That was absolutely the case on Friday night, October 3rd, at Santa Clara University when Dr. Cornel West, public intellectual and democratic leader, spoke extemporaneously and movingly for an hour and forty minutes and received two standing ovations.
Why was it so inspiring? West was not a pulpit speaker in the style of the Reverends Martin Luther King Jr. or Jesse Jackson, but was warm, charming, and often funny. He opened his speech with a point about rhetoric: paideia, frank speech, the kind that got Socrates killed. I was reminded again that truth heals. We need desperately to talk about the emperor’s new clothes or the elephant in the room, especially when the talk is critical, but not hateful, love but “tough love,” as West said with a smile.
There, in that packed room of mostly privileged, mostly white people, who, before the talk began, had been speaking about their horses and far-flung vacations, West made a connection. That was very important too.
For those of us who have spent years, if not decades, trying to make Americans understand the horrors of the Israeli occupation, this should be a time for some serious re-thinking. There is no evidence whatsoever that Americans (led by Jewish Americans) reacted to the Gaza war any differently than to any previous war involving Israel.
The media (with a few notable exceptions like Chris Hayes on MSNBC) propagated the Israeli line while mostly ignoring what the IDF was inflicting on the civilian population of Gaza. The President had nothing to say about the innocent Palestinian dead except in the vaguest and most balanced tones. If he felt any outrage about the dead children in Gaza, he kept it to himself. As for Congress, Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, came together as one to reduce the leveling of Gaza to the simple issue of Israel’s “right to defend itself.” As for the organized Jewish community, it backed the war as stridently as ever, with even J Street intimidated into support for it. A notable exception to all this was Tikkun which, consistent with its principles, vocally opposed the killing.