by: Liza Behrendt and Jessie Lowell on April 9th, 2015 | 5 Comments »
By fighting the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, J Street has allowed itself to be get distracted from its goal of opposing the Occupation. Above, a billboard of Benjamin Netanyahu leading into the 2015 Israeli elections. Credit: CreativeCommons / Dr. Avishai Teicher.
The American Jewish community is now at a crossroads. The recent Israeli elections, following the latest war on Gaza by just six months, highlighted the deep divisions between the liberal values held by a majority of American Jews, and an increasingly right-wing Israel that systematically suppresses the rights of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line.
The two of us found our first political homes in opposing oppressive Israeli policies with J Street, after witnessing a piece of the everyday inhumanity of the Occupation while traveling in Israel/Palestine. The more we learned, and the more we experienced, the harder it was for us to reconcile Jewish social justice values of full equality and freedom with what we saw happening to Palestinians under Israeli control.
by: Gary Yarus on April 9th, 2015 | 2 Comments »
As Jews around world prepare to remember the Holocaust (Yom HaShoah) on April 16th, they too should pause a week earlier to remember the massacre at Deir Yassin on April 9th, exactly sixty-seven years ago. In both cases, Jews should shout, loud and clear: “Nie wieder!” Never again!
Deir Yassin was a tiny Palestinian village outside the area assigned by the UN for the future Jewish state. Being on the high ground between Jerusalem and Jaffa, it was of strategic military value. The villagers had sought to stay neutral in the fighting around it, when it was stormed early in the morning of April 9th, 1948, by 130 Jewish militiamen of the Irgun, headed by Menachem Begin, and the Stem Gang, one of whose three commanders was Yitzhak Shamir. The assault by the two “Jewish Underground” militias received artillery support from Haganah, the future Israeli army. The resulting massacre, in which more that 200 Palestinian men, women, and children were killed, is considered a turning point in Palestinian history.
Credit: WikimediaCommons / Richard Simon.
There are many ways to interpret the epic story of Moses hearing God’s voice at the Burning Bush. For this Passover season, I share one way that I understand this story and its meaning to our lives in the present time.
Moses, who grew up as a prince of Egypt, had witnessed violence and abuse of the Israelite slaves and was horrified by it – as any person who has not hardened his/her heart would understandably be. Out of rage, horror and grief, Moses reacted by killing an Egyptian who was abusing the slaves. He is then forced to flee the palace (his life of privilege, the only life he has known). Though he was able to create a new and somewhat comfortable life for himself married to the daughter of one of the chief priests of Midian, he could not forget what he had experienced in Egypt. So while tending the sheep of his father-in-law’s house, one lamb wanders off and he chases it as it wanders up a mountain (that tradition later identifies as Sinai). There he experiences most fully the burning message in his heart that simply refuses to burn out. Moses envisions it as a burning bush that is not consumed, and from that fire within he hears a voice that tells him he is to return to Egypt and demand that Pharaoh let his people go.
by: Elana Baurer on April 8th, 2015 | 3 Comments »
Then Pharaoh gave this order to all his people: “Every Hebrew boy that is born you must throw into the Nile, but let every girl live.”
Each year, we retell the story of the Israelites’ exodus from Egypt as if it were our own liberation. Jews and non-Jews alike gather around the seder table all over the world and go through the steps of the seder. Some choose to commemorate the enslavement of the Israelites under the Egyptians as though it really happened, while others approach the story as symbolic. Exodus is an empowering, joyful story of freedom, liberation, and journey from the small, narrow places to expansiveness.
Though President Obama has been roundly criticized for having a soft foreign policy, he continues to prove the value of dialogue. Credit: CreativeCommons / Gage Skidmore.
A corollary to the old saying “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,” is the reverse, “If it’s broken then fix it.” Well, the U.S. and other nations’ policies of imposing sanctions alone to inhibit Iran’s nuclear ambitions and capabilities has been tried, and it has failed in its stated purpose. It has, though, succeeded in at least pressuring Iranian leaders to talk with us and some of our European allies at the negotiating table.
While the full terms of the agreement are to be drawn up by the end of June, the framework coming out of Switzerland garnered support from our chief European allies, the British and the French.
The movement gaining support in State Houses around this nation, as exemplified through Indiana’s new ironically named “Religious Freedom Restoration Act,” permits businesses to refuse service to lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans* people, and members of all other groups they consider nonconformists to their judgments and precepts.
So what can we infer from those religions that justify such discriminatory treatment of other human beings? On what sacred tenets would a baker refuse to bake a confectionery delight; a photographer refuse to preserve joyous moments; a caterer refuse the pleasures of delectable sustenance; a florist refuse the beauties from the garden; a jeweler refuse a band connecting human souls; a realtor refuse showing shelters signifying new chapters in one’s book of time; a shop owner refuse selling the common and special objects supporting and enhancing life; a restauranteur refuse anyone a time away from the kitchen; a spiritual advisor refuse to treat one’s neighbor as oneself?
by: Rabbi Dov Taylor on April 2nd, 2015 | 1 Comment »
The recent re-election of Benjamin Netanyahu as prime minister of Israel is a sad portent for Israel, for many Americans – including many American Jews – and for the Palestinians. Netanyahu didn’t hesitate to make a racist appeal to people’s fears, urging his supporters to turn out to vote because “the Arabs are voting in droves.”
“The Arabs” of whom he was speaking are citizens of Israel, exercising their democratic right to vote. To imply that citizens exercising one of the most precious rights of a democracy are somehow a threat is the worst kind of demagoguery.
by: Eduardo Galeano on April 2nd, 2015 | No Comments »
Credit: CreativeCommons / Paulo Brandao.
The following passages are excerpted from Eduardo Galeano’s book Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History, just out in paperback (Nation Books) as crossposted from TomDispatch.com.
In 1919 Rosa Luxemburg, the revolutionary, was murdered in Berlin.
Her killers bludgeoned her with rifle blows and tossed her into the waters of a canal.
Along the way, she lost a shoe.
Some hand picked it up, that shoe dropped in the mud.
Rosa longed for a world where justice would not be sacrificed in the name of freedom, nor freedom sacrificed in the name of justice.
Every day, some hand picks up that banner.
Dropped in the mud, like the shoe.
This is meant as a supplement to the traditional Haggadah. You can use it in addition to a traditional Haggadah, introducing whichever parts you like to your Seder to provoke a lively discussion, or you can use this as the basis for an alternative Haggadah, which can then be supplemented by the traditional Haggadah.
"Passover" by Lynne Feldman (lynnefeldman.com).
A Note to Non-Jews: You are very welcome at our Seder! Jesus was a Jew, and the Last Supper was a Seder. Our supplement affirms the liberatory message that is part of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and is found in many other religious and spiritual traditions as well. You may find some of this ritual helpful if you create your own rite to celebrate the key insight of Easter or of any of the spring holidays of the world: that rebirth, renewal, and transformation are possible, and that we are not stuck in the dark, cold, and deadly energies of winter. Judaism builds on that universal experience of nature and adds another dimension: it suggests that the class structure (slavery, feudalism, capitalism, or neoliberal imperialism) can be overcome, and that we human beings, created in the image of the Transformative Power of the Universe (God), can create a world based on love, generosity, justice, and peace.
We understand God in part as the Transformative Power of the Universe – the force that makes possible the transformation from that which is to that which ought to be, the force that makes it possible to transcend the tendency of human beings to pass on to others the hurt and pain that has been done to us, the force that permeates every ounce of Being and unites all in one transcendent and imminent reality. In short, we understand God in part as the ultimate Unity of All with All, of whom we are always a part, even if we are not always conscious of the part of God we are, or the part of God that everyone and everything is. And you are welcome at our Seder even if you think all of this makes no sense and there is no God.
by: Laura Payne on March 31st, 2015 | No Comments »
When peace and violence are examined through a faith-based lens, a different set of factors come to the foreground. Above, young men at the Melanesian Brotherhood in the Solomon Islands, a religious order working for peace in the region. Credit: Laura Payne.
A glance at the daily news confirms that religion is regularly complicit in violence. In early January of 2015, Boko Haram killed up to two thousand people in Baga, Northern Nigeria. As this massacre unfolded, two men stormed into the offices of Charlie Hebdo magazine in Paris and murdered 12 people. Hijacking a car, they told the driver “If the media ask you anything, tell them it’s al-Qaeda in Yemen.” Both before and after these events the so-called Islamic State (IS) drip-fed films showing the beheadings of civilians and hostages in territory it controls.
We are all too familiar with the idea of violence in the name of religion, and not just Islam. Other faiths have been complicit in violence throughout history, from the Crusades in the Middle Ages through to the recent brutalities of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa. In July 2014, Israel’s massacre in Gaza killed nearly 2,200 people, virtually all of them Palestinian Muslims.
But to recognize that violence often involves religion is not the same as saying that religion is the driving force of violence. Conflicts normally have their causal factors firmly embedded in the material world. Politicians and armed groups use religion to divide neighbour from neighbour, call people to arms, and raise the stakes in their pursuit of power. Religious identity and ideology matter, but they tell us more about how conflicts are set in motion than about their causes.