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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category



The Blind Alley of J Street and Liberal American Zionism

May22

by: Abba A. Solomon and Norman Solomon on May 22nd, 2014 | 10 Comments »

Editor’s Note:

Tikkun supports J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Jewish Voice for Peace, Rabbis for Human Rights, the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives, and any other organization that is vigorously and non-violently working to end the Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza and that does so in ways that avoid demeaning the Jewish people or the Palestinian people and that avoid denying to the Jewish people and the Palestinian people the right of national self-determination.

Having said that, we at Tikkun believe that nation states and nationalism should be transcended and the world’s political and economic nations should be reconfigured around environmental districts to address the two overarching problems facing the human race:

1) The pressing need to end poverty, homelessness, hunger, inadequate education, and inadequate health care, on the one hand, and

2) The way conflict between nations has obscured for most people on the planet the need to unite as one humanity to save the planet from environmental catastrophe and save the peoples of the world from immense suffering.

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Moving Away from Nationalism and Towards Liberation

May21

by: Dylan Kaufman-Obstler on May 21st, 2014 | 3 Comments »

Moving Away from Nationalism and Towards Liberation:

The Shortcomings of the ADL’s “Largest Survey Ever on Anti-Semitic Attitudes”

Last week the Anti-Defamation League came out with a report on anti-semitism conducted in 100 different countries, calling it “The largest survey ever of anti-semitic attitudes.” In the survey, participants were given 11 statements of Jewish stereotypes and were then asked whether they were “probably true” or “probably false.” Participants who answered “probably true” to 6 or more of the stereotypes were categorized as harboring anti-semitic attitudes. Of the 11 statements, the study found that the one most widely believed is that Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the countries in which they live.

This finding raises an interesting question: why does the ADL treat the belief that Jews are more loyal to Israel as an anti-semitic stereotype when the ADL has worked so hard to promote pro-Israel sentiment in Jews living outside Israel?

The mission of the ADL prioritizes Israel advocacy as its weapon of choice in the fight against anti-semitism. The ADL monitors what it calls the “anti-Israel movement” and “anti-Israel groups,” essentially using criticism of Israel as the litmus test to determine whether an organization or individual is anti-semitic. This is especially apparent when it comes to Jewish organizations that disapprove of Israeli policies. In the page on the ADL’s website devoted to Jewish Voice for Peace – an organization that calls for the boycott of, divestment from, and sanctioning of Israel (BDS) – the ADL states, “JVP, like other prominent Jewish anti-Zionist individuals and groups, uses its Jewish identity to shield the anti-Israel movement from allegations of anti-Semitism and provide it with a greater degree of legitimacy and credibility.”A central aspect of the ADL’s work is to equate anti-zionism with anti-semitism and discredit any Jewish organizing that criticizes the state of Israel, naming their Jewish identity as a “shield” rather than a legitimate basis for their criticisms.

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Atheism and the Modern World

May14

by: Mitchell Stephens on May 14th, 2014 | 7 Comments »

Many Americans view atheism as an odd and obnoxious intrusion into American life – just look at the Gallup polls that have repeatedly placed atheism at the top of the list of qualities Americans would not want in a president. But atheism in fact has been a major contributor to the Enlightenment worldview that has shaped the core political and intellectual values of the United States.

Indeed, the path that leads to the modern world can be said to have begun with an atheist – an unlikely one: a French country priest who died in 1729 and had been unknown outside his two tiny parishes in northeastern France.

That priest’s name was Jean Meslier, and after his death four copies were discovered in his home of a lengthy handwritten manuscript attacking all religions – most definitely including the one he preached. “I did not dare say it during my life,” he wrote. “But I will say it at least in dying.” He says that what has been preached about “miracles,” about “the magnificence of the rewards of heaven,” about “the dreadful castigations of hell,” about the existence of God, is “nothing but delusions, errors, lies, fictions and impostures.”

Jean Meslier’s manuscript stands as perhaps the first argument for atheism published in Christian Europe to which a real name, albeit that of a man who was now dead, was attached. It became an underground sensation in Paris. “I believe that nothing will ever make more of an impression than the pamphlet of Meslier,” Voltaire gushed in a letter. Voltaire printed an excerpt himself. (Although in Voltaire’s version Meslier becomes a Voltaire-like deist rather than the atheist he was.) Denis Diderot would borrow some of Meslier’s ideas. At one point during the French Revolution the National Convention proposed erecting a statue in Paris of Jean Meslier.

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Jews in America: Our Conflicted Heritage

May12

by: on May 12th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Two young girls wearing banners that read "Abolish child slavery" in English and Yiddish. Credit: Creative Commons

On the one hand, Jews are deeply grateful that America provided us with a safe haven when so many other Christianity-dominated cultures had represented us as demon Christ-killers and created the preconditions for the rise of both secular and religious anti-Semitism. American Jews rejoiced in the promise of freedom and equality before the law, and played a major role in organizing, shaping, and leading social movements that could extend that promise to all of America’s citizens. The role of the United States in defeating Nazism at the expense of so many American lives remains an enduring source of pride even for the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those who fought in World War II, and an enduring source of appreciation for this amazing country. And the generosity of the American people toward Jews has made it possible for us to thrive and feel the kind of safety we haven’t felt for two thousand years of exile and diaspora.

On the other hand, Jewish well-being in America came not because this society didn’t seek scapegoats, but rather because it already had a scapegoat long before most Jews arrived on these shores – African Americans, Native Americans, and other targets (most recently, feminists, homosexuals, and “illegal” immigrants). While other immigrant groups from Europe found their safety in part by identifying with the dominant culture and becoming “white” (a social construct for all light-skinned people who bought into the existing systems of privilege and power), a significant section of the Jewish people in the past 150 years of presence in the United States chose instead to identify with the oppressed – most significantly with African Americans, but also with the poor (of which we were a significant part in the years 1880-1940), the oppressed, the homeless, and the hungry.

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Supreme Court Ruling on Public Prayer Re-enforces Christian Supremacy

May12

by: Warren J. Blumenfeld on May 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

American politicians have prayed before public gatherings since the Founding Fathers crowded into a stuffy Philadelphia room to crank out the Constitution. The inaugural and emphatically Christian prayer at the First Continental Congress was delivered by an Anglican minister, who overcame objections from the assembled Quakers, Anabaptists and Presbyterians. The prayer united the mostly Christian Founding Fathers, and the rest is history.

Indeed, as U. S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy write in the 5-4 majority opinion in The Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway , “…the rest is history.”

Church Ave and State Street intersect in Knoxville, Tennessee. Credit: Creative Commons/ Wyoming_Jackrabbit

While a strict separation of synagogue and state, mosque and state, Hindu and Buddhist temple and state, and separation of atheists and state and virtually all the other approximately 5000 religions and state has been enacted, on the other hand, church – predominantly Protestant denominations, but also Catholic – and state, have connected virtually seamlessly to the affairs and policies of what we call the United States of America, from the first invasion of Europeans in the 15th century on the Christian Julian to the Christian Gregorian Calendars up to 2014 Anno Domini (short for Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi – “In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ”).

In the court case, two local women from Greece, New York filed suit against city officials for approving invocations with primarily overtly Christian content at monthly public sessions held on government property. However, according to Kennedy, “The town of Greece does not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports with our tradition, and does not coerce participation by nonadherents.”

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Open the Eyes of My Heart

May8

by: on May 8th, 2014 | 13 Comments »

So begins a prayer that could well be sung while touching the feet of the newest life-size public sculpture of Jesus: Jesus the Homeless. Sleeping on a bench with his nail-scarred feet protruding from the hem of his blanket lies Jesus, adorning the front of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in the upscale neighborhood of Davidson, North Carolina.

The statue has sparked both commendations and disapproval from Davidson residents, one of whom even called the police thinking the statue to be a live person.

Pointless spectacle or profound statement?

Recently a friend and I were talking about the church as compared with other religions. When most people in the United States think of Buddhism they don’t think of the intolerance expressed in the Buddhist expulsion of Hindus from Bhutan or the anti-Muslim riots in Sri Lanka. They think of meditation. When most people think of Hinduism they don’t think of the Hindu communal riots against the Muslims. They think of yoga. When most people think of Judaism there’s a tension between the powerful Jewish stand for justice through the centuries and the current bad behavior of Israel. “If only Christianity could get to the place where Judaism is!” We laughed.

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Israel’s 66th Birthday Celebration: a Spiritual Progressive Perspective

May7

by: Tikkun Administration on May 7th, 2014 | 6 Comments »

I still celebrate Israel’s existence even while I deplore its racism and oppressive policies toward the Palestinian people, just as I celebrate the existence of the U.S. even as I deplore the genocide of Native Americans and the enslaving of African Americans which accompanied the creation of my homeland here in North America.

–Rabbi Michael Lerner

Yesterday was Israel’s 66th birthday. Rabbi Michael Lerner reflected on the meaning of this day from a Spiritual Progressive Perspective, and his article appeared on the home page of Huffington Post. Please click here to read it and leave some positive comments on that page to offset the “it’s a sin to criticize Israel” folk who often are well-organized and dominate the mass media when anyone expresses the slightest critique of Israeli policies.

Of course, as you know, Lerner is both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine and believes that there is a win-win possibility, which he presented in the Winter 2014 issue of Tikkun (If you haven’t subscribed yet, or haven’t re-subscribed, how about now? Please subscribe even before you read the Huff Post piece!). You won’t read this kind of visionary analysis anywhere else – and it is explored more fully in his book Embracing Israel/Palestine. Lerner predicted long in advance the failure of the Kerry/Obama sponsored negotiations because they failed to present the kind of balanced but visionary win-win that we’ve been advocating in Tikkun.

Why is this piece on Huffington Post? Every once in a while we think it a good idea to take some of the topics we consider in Tikkun and put them out to a few million people who might not yet understand why they should be reading and subscribing to Tikkun. Your encouragement and support in helping us spread the word of Tikkun is greatly appreciated.

Church and State in America: A Brief Primer

May5

by: on May 5th, 2014 | Comments Off

The Supreme Court has ruled, 5-4, that Greece, New York, can open its town meetings with a prayer, even though nearly all the prayers have contained distinctively Christian language. No doubt advocates and critics of the opinion are scouring American history, looking for proof that their view is correct.

If they look with an unjaundiced eye, they’ll quickly discover one basic principle: Whatever position you hold on this issue, you can find some support in our nation’s history. So history alone cannot resolve the ongoing debate. But it can help inform the debate.

To understand that history we have to begin in the European Middle Ages, when the Roman Catholic Church held sway over the religious life of almost all western Europeans.

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Nonviolence and the Ransomer of Souls

Apr30

by: Alastair McIntosh on April 30th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

As Good Friday drew nigh this year, I (a Scottish Quaker) joined together with a Catholic archbishop and a Church of Scotland convenor outside a nuclear submarine base at Faslane in an act of public worship: a Witness for Peace of Scottish Christians Against Nuclear Arms.

We stood on a podium drawn from the folds of many different denominations represented there that day, the underlying undivided Christian church that prays: “Thy kingdom come.”

We prayed thy kingdom come – not Caesar’s kingdom come, but God’s; and so Pontius Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you a king, then?” To which the Prince of Peace replied: “King is your word.” And he spoke unto Pilate of nonviolence, saying: “My kingdom is not of this world. If it was, my followers would fight….” (Jn. 18:36-37).

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Digging Under the Dam: A Story about Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Apr29

by: Sara Davidson on April 29th, 2014 | Comments Off

Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. Credit: Creative Commons

In 2005, Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who founded the Jewish Renewal movement, made a pilgrimage to Ukraine to the grave of the Baal Shem Tov, who founded Hasidism.

Reb Zalman felt a kinship with the Baal Shem Tov, which means master of the good name, because, like Zalman, he’d diverged from the dominant Jewish culture of his time. “In every generation,” Zalman said, “there are people who say, ‘These are the boundaries in which you must stay,’ and there are those who say, ‘I have to grow, I can’t stay within the old skin.’”

The Baal Shem Tov, called the Besht, had never studied at a yeshiva but had come to know God through devotion, singing, and prayer. He told his followers that “the person who recites the psalms wholeheartedly is already on the same level or maybe even higher than the elite scholars.” The Besht started a tradition based on experience, on passionate reaching for oneness with the Divine.

Reb Zalman, after fleeing the Nazis in Vienna, was ordained a Hasidic rabbi in the Lubavitcher community in Brooklyn. During the 1950′s he was dispatched to talk with disaffected young Jews at college campuses. At a B’nai B’rith Hillel conference for young adults, Reb Zalman, then 31, walked out by himself into the fields one night and began to weep.

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