According to a Pew survey, American Jews are becoming increasingly critical of Israel, with nearly 50 percent no longer believing that its leaders are sincerely interested in making peace with Palestinians.
The Pew survey’s findings are particularly significant when one considers what Peter Beinart calls the “American Jewish cocoon.” Within many segments of the American Jewish community, honest looks at the Israeli-Palestinian conflict are not normative in synagogues or Jewish institutions, and a majority of Jewish leaders tend toward reflexively supporting Israeli policies (such as settlements and the occupation) which are both self-destructive and hurtful to Palestinians.
However, the views of American Jews at large are straying from the institutional norms, particularly, and perhaps most significantly, the 18-29 set.
by: Robert Cohen on October 15th, 2013 | 2 Comments »
(Simon Schama/ Credit: Creative Commons)
In Britain, the BBC has recently finished airing a landmark documentary ‘The Story of the Jews’, written and presented by the British historian Simon Schama. The ratings were good and the praise was high from both the mainstream media critics and from most British Jews. It was a highly passionate and emotional telling of ‘our story’. This time, unlike Schama’s previous television histories, it was personal.
I had certainly enjoyed much of Schama’s presentation until he said this:
“…in some sense if you don’t live in Israel – I don’t live in Israel – you’re morally obliged to be nearly silent, nearly silent.”
It was the final episode. After four Sunday nights of television and three thousand years of Jewish history, here was the telling of the modern State of Israel. Simon Schama had entitled it: ‘Return’.
by: Ian Hoffman on October 8th, 2013 | Comments Off
(Credit: Creative Commons)
At the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, I met and later dated a Swedish woman. She was tall, blonde, blue-eyed, and older than me, but none of this mattered much in the giddy and stuffed atmosphere that was the festival’s after-party, at the Swedish American House (actually, she had gotten her tickets through a friend working at that house). Like me, she was delighted to be at a party that was in many ways an imitation of a big Hollywood bash – standing in line, for instance, next to the actress we had just watched onscreen.
A hundred years back, none of this would have been possible. Jews were mostly living in fringe communities spread across Europe or, if not, we were relegated to second-class citizenship within cities plush with anti-Semitism. This is all old hat, but sometimes being a Jew in the twenty-first century makes it easy to forget how lucky we are.
We can meet and date Swedish women who might have once thought us anathema. We once would have thought them untouchable.
That’s why the movie I most enjoyed at the film festival – Nono, the Zigzag Kid – was not particularly Jewish. Rather, it was about how Judaism has faded into the background of life; for so many of us, it is not a distinguishing mark anymore. And yet that does not mean that we’re not Jewish.
by: Ada Glustein on October 3rd, 2013 | 6 Comments »
Exciting days in Vancouver! Six local groups recently formed the Palestine Awareness Coalition, coming together to present the now famous four-map poster showing “Disappearing Palestine.” The posters have appeared in several US cities, including New York and San Francisco. They are now on 15 city buses and at one (soon to be two) SkyTrain stations. The coalition was extremely glad to be working together with other groups for this effort. Each group has its own mandate and approaches the issues of Israel-Palestine in different ways, but all groups had the common desire for the public to be made more aware of the ever-diminishing land for Palestinians since 1946. All groups recognized that awareness is the seed that is needed for the plant to sprout and for any positive action to flourish. A grassroots fundraising campaign took place to pay for an initial four weeks of the mural display, and we were thrilled with the response and appreciative of the transit authority and ad-makers for agreeing to post the maps.
by: Kelsey Waxman on September 30th, 2013 | Comments Off
(Credit: Creative Commons/ Jstreet.org)
Saturday night, 2800 Jewish Americans and their domestic and international allies congregated in Washington, DC to begin the 4th annual J Street National Conference. J Street, founded in 2008, is a Jewish-American political advocacy organization that markets itself as “Pro-Israel, Pro-Peace.” The organization, which also runs its own PAC (Political Action Committee), presents a vision for security and stability in Israel/Palestine through its lobbying in the form of an American-brokered two-state solution. This year’s conference, entitled “Our Time to Lead,” features three days of panels hosted and moderated by American, Israeli, and Palestinian speakers from diverse professional backgrounds. culminating in an “Advocacy Day” in which conference delegates will disperse throughout Capitol Hill to meet with Congressional representatives to lobby for the passing of political policies that they support. The conference will also include a keynote address from U.S. Vice President Joe Biden.
by: Michael Hulshof-Schmidt on September 26th, 2013 | 37 Comments »
(Credit: Creative Commons)
I am the first to admit that I am not one that has been able to appreciate the work of Russell Brand. I’ll further admit that the only thing I have seen him in was the re-make of Arthur, which should never have been remade. When you have a cast like Dudley Moore, Liza Minnelli, the late Sir John Gielgud, and the late Geraldine Fitzgerald what are the hopes of doing better than that, even with my beloved Helen Mirren? As it turns out, Russell Brand is a rather impressive young man with a keen awareness of homophobia, class, distribution of wealth, and history. Bravo, Mr. Brand!
Brand was just recently the recipient of a British GQ Oracle award, which is sponsored by Hugo Boss. Upon receiving his award, Brand took the opportunity to remind the audience of the deep ties Hugo Boss had to the Nazi Party during WWII. Hugo Boss not only supported the Third Reich, but also made an enormous amount of money making the uniforms for the Nazi soldiers. The uniforms were often made by prisoners of war – a truly horrific irony. Despite Boss’ prohibition from operating the business after the war, he transferred power to a relative and the business continued on its ill-gotten gains. During the push for reparations in the 1990s, the company paid lip service to the effort but refused to publicize any findings regarding their activities and contributed what adjudicators called “a bare minimum” to the reparation fund. What an awful example of soulless corporate greed.
I was on the bus, returning to Washington from New York where I spent Yom Kippur.
I wouldn’t have talked to the kid next to me him except I could not find the outlet near my seat to charge my phone. He saw me struggling and helped me find it. (It was camouflaged under the seat in front of mine). We started to talk and, after I told him I had been in Manhattan for the Jewish holiday, he said that he had been there for the same reason.
We talked about Georgetown and why he chose to go there and then he asked me what I did.
I told him “my story” which led him to say that he had no interest in the Middle East at all. His issue was income inequality in the United States.
by: Mark Kirschbaum on September 12th, 2013 | Comments Off
As the “Day of Atonement” approaches I invite you to reflect on two of my previously posted essays.
First, Yom Kippur: Time and Teshuva- A Place for Healing, which explores:
- The relationship between time and teshuva (repentance) and how we can change the past with actions from the present.
- The startling similarity between R. Kook and Nietzsche on the retroactive force of history- and healing the past.
- How Yom Kippur can provide a safe place for self-healing as it places us “outside of time.”
Second, Book of Jonah Dvar: Delivered at Temple Beth Shalom, Las Vegas, Mincha of Yom Kippur 2011, speculates:
- How a traditionally somber day is actually one of the happiest.
- Why we read the Jonah story on Yom Kippur.
by: Cat Zavis on September 4th, 2013 | Comments Off
“So what do the rich do every day that the poor don’t do?” A few months ago I read an article that was posted in a Facebook business group of which I am a member. The article is titled: 20 Things The Rich Do Every Day. It was posted at http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/20-things-the-rich-do-every-day (although the original article was written by someone else).
Image courtesy of sheelamohan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
The blog lists 20 different things, including eating less junk food, exercising aerobically daily, listening to audio books, reading 2 or more books to their children a month, and the list goes on and on.
I was deeply disturbed by this article because of what it failed to mention – particularly the real life, socially constructed systems and structures in our society that perpetuate economic disparity between the rich and the poor. At the same time, this was posted on the Facebook page of a business group I joined to improve my ability to succeed in the competitive marketplace, and I want to be seen in that group in a way that might encourage the members to send me referrals or other business help, right?
by: Mark Kirschbaum on September 3rd, 2013 | Comments Off
For Rosh Hashanah, I invite you to reflect on:
- The interrelationship between time and consciousness, and how they can be transcended and healed.
- How to relate to the holidays when one is in no mood to relate to the holidays.
- The meaning of this metaphor of the “book” of life. How do we relate to the “events” of our life (following Badieu) and can we transform these events into a narrative?
Click here to explore these questions through my 2012 Rosh Hashanah essays.