by: Rachel Kutcher on May 18th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Programs like Yahel Social Change are eradicating individual and systemic forms of discrimination experienced by the Ethiopian Israeli community. Above, protestors react to police brutality in Israel earlier this month. Credit: CreativeCommons / Lilach Daniel.
There seems to be a broad consensus that the protests over the last few weeks are not only about police violence, but rather that police violence against an Ethiopian Israeli soldier was simply the catalyst for protests against broader discrimination against and disparities experienced by the Ethiopian community. Indeed, during my time in Israel and the Yahel Social Change program, I have often become angry when learning about these disparities. While volunteering at Tebeka, a legal aid organization serving the Ethiopian community, I’ve been appalled by both individual and systemic forms of discrimination experienced by the community. I’ve been frustrated by the ways in which Israel’s absorption of the Ethiopian community failed to respect a strong Ethiopian Jewish culture, with strong leaders and community social systems. I’ve wanted to shake some sense in to the people who have claimed the primarily Ethiopian neighborhood in which I live and have been warmly embraced is “dangerous.” I believe the anger and frustration that is fueling the protests is well justified. Both the news media and a few of my Yahel peers have written about these social disparities and discrimination, and about the challenges in the Ethiopian aliyah to Israel, so I’d like to offer a complementary perspective.
B.B. King — the king of the blues — is dead. He made his transition from time to eternity on May 14, 2015 at age 89 leaving behind a legacy of artistic expression that helps us all to hear and feel and know the complexity of our humanity. His life was an interpretation of the wisdom Jesus the Christ taught: “blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”
We live in a world that mistakes meekness for weakness. We think humility is humiliation, and we count gentleness equal to cowardice. This is a deception. The Greek word that is translated as meek in several versions of the Bible – praus – also means humility and gentleness. To be meek is a kind of power, the power to endure, the power of patient striving, the power to bear the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to and then wait for our just due. The life of B.B. King shows us a man born into a context of grinding poverty and vicious racism, but he was also born into a family of faith. His mother took him to church as a child, and it was within his faith community and a community of family and friends where he found his sense of self-worth.
A preacher friend of his family came over to eat on Sunday afternoons and brought his guitar. The preacher taught young Riley B. King how to play. Later, as a young man, he joined a gospel singing group. During the week, he worked from can to can’t (from first light in the morning until dark.) On the weekends, he went into Indianola, Mississippi to sing for passersby to put money in the hat. During the day he played gospel. At night, he played the blues. The blues people gave him the most money.
He was told that at some point he would have to make a decision, that he could not play God’s music and the devil’s music. Time passed and one day while working as a tractor driver, he thought he had turned the tractor off, but it kept going and was damaged. He ran away to Memphis. While there he found a group of guitar players who gave him master’s classes in blues guitar. About six months later, he decided to go back to Mississippi and to work off the debt he owned to the farmer whose tractor he had damaged. He was proud that when he left Mississippi the second time to start his career in Memphis, he started correctly.
by: Rabbi Michael Rothbaum on May 15th, 2015 | No Comments »
If you’re not in a rush
take a train
take their time through
the country has a
in the Spring
rushing by like a bullet
by: Aisha Abdelhamid on May 13th, 2015 | No Comments »
With the official launch of its “Islam is Green” climate action campaign, the Islamic Education and Research Academy (iERA) also inaugurated its official website to help Muslims learn more about climate change. The iERA activities were timed to coincide with London’s “Time to Act Climate Change” march, as well, and resulted in huge support from the general public in London, England.
Events on the day of the climate action march included a lecture at a local community center provided by iERA volunteers on the Islamic perspective of caring for the environment. Afterwards, iERA members joined a group of over 5,000 assembled in central London expressing concern about mitigating global warming and requesting global climate action.
Handing out flyers to the public during the “Time to Act Climate Change” march, iERA members reported “overwhelmingly positive” response. The flyers presented information expressing the seriousness with which Muslims regard caring for the Earth, and preserving natural resources. This supportive stance on climate action surprised many demonstrators, initiating discussions and eliciting interest in learning more.
The “Islam is Green” Climate Action Campaign
The “Islam is Green” climate action campaign is centered around the Muslim understanding that humans have been given the role of caretaker of the Earth. We must protect it and maintain it, just as we would our own garden with blossoming fruit trees and vegetable plants. As Islam’s Prophet Muhammad, God’s peace and blessings be upon him, taught:
“If a Muslim plants a tree or sows seeds, and then a bird, or a person or an animal eats from it, it is regarded as a charitable gift (sadaqah) for him.”
[the Prophet Muhammad]
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?- Rabbi Hillel, Pirke Avot 1:14
Our world is riddled with tragedies: the epidemic of killings by police in the U.S. of African Americans, boats capsizing with hundreds of people fleeing war-torn countries in search of security, safety and well-being, children dying from illnesses stemming from malnutrition at alarming rates, women and girls being raped as victims of wars, and the list goes on. As spiritual seekers we desperately yearn for a day when peace and nonviolence, love and care, kindness and generosity as well as a deep connection with the sacred in one another and with the creative force of the universe reign.
Many of us, in our despair, turn to spiritual guidance and practices to soothe our pain and find solace. Feeling powerless to impact the enormity of the problem and recognizing that social change efforts often lack deep spiritual integration and wisdom, we instead decide to focus our energies on our inner work rather than align ourselves with larger social change movements. We find comfort in the belief that personal transformation alone can and will result in societal transformation.
Participating in activities like dance, sports, and even graduation ceremonies are the norm for well-off families, but costs for gear, uniforms, and equipment are prohibitive for many. Credit: CreativeCommons / Beth Rankin.
This is the first of a short series of posts by Lita Kurth on the privatization of education.
Should the parent who paid the most get the best seat at graduation? Should the children of wealthy donors get private time with public school teachers? Should a choice parking space in front of the school be reserved for the highest bidder? Anyone with a child in a California public school knows how thoroughly riddled with private-school fundraising many schools have become. I admit to anguished feelings: I can’t entirely oppose fund raising because without such stopgaps, public schools have no art, theatre, debate, music, robotics, sports, or field trips – and some public schools lack all of these! In many cases, generous and public-spirited parents try to fill the enormous gap left by Proposition 13 and raise funds for all the kids, but inevitably, when a small group coalesces around a favored activity, one in which their own children participate, the precious cornerstone and sign of democracy – universal access – is marred, and at times, completely eroded.
by: Jeff Vogel on May 9th, 2015 | 6 Comments »
Oil and finance executives will hide the truth about their products for as long as we let them. These religious extremists worship the false idol of money. Above, a flare at an ExxonMobil oil refinery. Credit: CreativeCommons / Kristian Dela Cour.
We live in an age of terrifying high-definition spectacles, with beheadings and massacres some of the horrors that fill us all with fear and dread.
These gruesome spectacles have profound side effects on our perspective. They obscure the brutality and terror caused by our bombs and drones and they distract our attention from those predators who cause suffering on a far grander scale than any jihadists.
These grander predators wear power suits. They run our largest banks and corporations. They run them recklessly. The financial industry frauds that nearly collapsed the world’s economy left behind, according to the best estimates, at least 5,000 suicides, to say nothing of the millions of people who lost their jobs and homes. We have auto industry execs who value profit over safety, defense contractors who pound the drums for military engagement, private prison company chiefs who lobby to keep their cells full.
I consider all these power suits religious extremists. They worship money.
Cultural comparisons can be useful, but tread with caution!
In the case of the Baltimore/Tel Aviv protests, most people are focusing on the similarities rather than the differences. This is a major mistake.
It’s fair to point out that both American and Israeli societies need to reevaluate their attitudes towards difference, particularly in regards to race. People of color have been continually marginalized throughout history, and it is clear that we are not living in the post-racist society that many of us so eagerly want to believe in.
But the similarities must stop there.
To reduce the situations into “black vs. white” is to erase both historical context and what’s actually happening today. Not to mention the fact that it is demeaning towards both Ethiopian-Israeli and African-American populations. They are different people who are struggling with very different issues.
by: Mark Karlin on May 5th, 2015 | No Comments »
Credit: Quinn Dombrowski
When the New York Times starts posting articles warning of a dystopian future in the United States due to income equality, you know that the alarm bells are starting to sound even in the corporate mass media.
On April 28, the Times posted an analysis by reporter Eduardo Porter in its economy section. Porter bluntly stated:
But when it comes to the health, well-being and shared prosperity of its people, the United States has fallen far behind. Pick almost any measure of social health and cohesion over the last four decades or so, and you will find that the United States took a wrong turn along the way.
Porter manages to find a glimmer of hope in the grim statistics about the real state of the union. However, his sliver of optimism is only due to the fact that the deterioration of the nation as a community is so bad that he believes it will ultimately force a political solution. “The silver lining in these dismal, if abstract, statistics,” Porter writes, “is that they portend such a dysfunctional future that our broken political system might finally be forced to come together to prevent it.”
by: Joshua Brett on May 4th, 2015 | 2 Comments »
At first glance, the fields of economics, religion, and comics seem utterly apart; a combination of two of them, let alone all three, would seem incongruous. However, in her innovative work, economist, artist, and activist Kate Poole delivers impassioned yet playful critiques of capitalism from a spiritual perspective.
Illustrator Kate Poole's time with the Buddhist commune Santi Asoke has influenced her art and beliefs. Credit: Kate Poole
While Kate Poole has been publishing comics online since 2013, her exploration of the spiritual dimension of economics started much earlier. Poole was brought up Jewish, attending a Conservative synagogue, but in a family that she describes as scientific and secular, filled with doctors and professionals. In an experience she has recounted in several comics, after her semester studying at a monastery in India in 2007, Poole lived with the Santi Asoke commune in Thailand. Asoke’s radically anti-capitalist Buddhist economics challenged Kate to reconcile her class privilege with her religious beliefs.
When she returned from life on the commune, Poole was inspired to integrate her spiritual values with her economic actions. Since returning from Santi Asoke, Poole has plunged headlong into the often murky intersection of economics and religion, drawing from Buddhist teachings as well as her own Jewish heritage. After finishing her studies at Princeton with a thesis on the economic and religious thought of Santi Asoke, Poole dove headlong into working on building sustainable and local economies. She has worked with the Schumacher Center for a New Economics, conducted research for Local Dollars, Local Sense and most recently, has been working with Friends Rehabilitation Program, a Quaker affiliated group providing housing and social services in poverty-stricken areas of Philadelphia.
See more of Kate Poole’s art in Tikkun Daily’s Online Gallery