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Archive for the ‘Judaism’ Category



Ethiopian Israelis Rise Up Against Discrimination and Injustice

May18

by: Rachel Kutcher on May 18th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

Ethiopian Israelis gathering protesting outdoors.

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.

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Ethnic Solidarity Without Militarized Nationalism: Insights from Jewish Eastern Europe

May14

by: Ri J. Turner on May 14th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Israeli flag flying near the Dead Sea.

The quintessential question of how to reconcile communal identity with a society based on universal equality and individual rights, is still the primary tension underlying Jewish communal politics, indeed is at the heart of much international and intranational conflict today. Credit: CreativeCommons / Micah Walter.

In the context of modern, secular nation-states in which citizenship is based on human equality and individual rights, what happens to collective cultural, religious, and ethnic history and identity?

Contemporary global “answers” to this question are far from satisfying. They include global capitalism (in which consumer identity replaces ethnic identity); militarized state nationalism (in which citizenship is synonymous with association with a certain army; national identity (which theoretically trumps or replaces ethnic identity); and global white supremacy (the development and dominance of a valorized white “ethnic” identity that is ahistorical and defined primarily in terms of control of global power and resources).

These “answers” rest uneasily on the underground rumblings of the very same question: in a world in which privilege, opportunity, and resources are accorded to the few who are able to escape labels of “otherness” (racial, ethnic, gendered, sexual, ability, age, class) to become the “universal human being who is deserving of rights” (as that is defined in terms of Western white supremacy) what, indeed, happens to communal ethnic, religious, and cultural history and identity?

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Media Alert: Jews Congratulate Pope Francis

May13

by: on May 13th, 2015 | 7 Comments »

Jewish liberals and progressives reacted with enthusiasm to the announcement today that the Vatican will recognize the Palestinian State.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun Magazine: a Quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics, Culture and Society, the most prominent voice of liberal and progressive Jews and our non-Jewish spiritual progressive allies, released the following statement on May 13:

“Many liberal and progressive Jews congratulate the Vatican on the important step toward peace it took yesterday in announcing that it will recognize the State of Palestine.

“We have rejoiced in the many steps that Pope Francis has taken to take seriously the biblical injunction to pursue justice and to protect our global environment. Now he has entered a highly contested arena with the courage he has shown on other issues.

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Call Off the Warriors and Call in the Mediators (or psychologists or musicians)

May8

by: Edith Lutz on May 8th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

Israeli soldiers standing next to a tank.

The perennially increasing military budgets of world powers have resulted in unprecedented militarization, in the middle of which often sits Israel. Peace, on the other hand, is a child of nonviolent communication and empathy. Credit: CreativeCommons / Palestine Solidarity Project.

Promoting the capacity for empathy and supporting measures that help to develop empathy would be the better way to pave the path towards peace in the Middle East — and perhaps the only viable one.

It would certainly be a cheaper one. According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) the total sum of the world’s military expenditures in 2014 amounted to 1,776 billion dollars. With $610 billion, the United States was far and away at the top of the league. The U.S.A. exported armaments worth more than $20 billion, making it the world’s leading exporter, too. In some cases the United States is very generous and offers additional military aid (supporting their own killing industry in the process). Israel, for example, is such a beneficiary. It receives military aid of about $3 billion annually. The U.S. has also helped with additional aid in special cases, such as the funding of the Iron Drone project with $429 million in March 2014 or with $576 million for the Tamir interception missiles in July 2014 (Haaretz,10 March/18 Aug 2014). Egypt is the second-largest recipient of U.S. foreign aid. “In the interest of U.S. national security” and despite the protests of human rights activists, the States is going to resume its frozen military aid. President Obama has asked the Congress for $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt per year. (Reuters)

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Cartoons of Free Speech or Hate?

May5

by: on May 5th, 2015 | 2 Comments »

Within two of the most prominent monotheistic religions in the world, Judaism and Islam, tradition dictates it blasphemous and highly insulting for any person to physically depict their G*d in Judaism, and the Prophet Muhammad in Islam, even positively or respectfully. So why then did the so-called American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) and its leader, anti-Islam activist Pam Geller, organize their “Muhammad Art Exhibit and Cartoon Contest” at the Curtis Culwell Center in Garland, Texas, a small suburb near Dallas? Geller offered a $10,000 prize to be awarded for the “best” cartoon caricature of Muhammad.

According to Geller, as well as the invited keynote speaker, far-right politician Geert Wilders, head of the Dutch Freedom Party, the event was called as an exercise in free speech. Evidently, Geller chose the site in reaction to a pro-Islam gathering, “Stand with the Prophet” held there last January. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which follows extremist hate groups, defines AFDI as an extremist right-wing organization.

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Comics for the New Economy: The Art and Activism of Kate Poole

May4

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


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The Present Hidden Holocaust

May4

by: Yanna Bat Adam on May 4th, 2015 | Comments Off

As my physical body grows old and older, there is in parallel, an essence aware of itself that becomes younger and younger.

Two opposite movements that don’t contradict each other in any way as there is a sense of wonder in becoming older/younger at the same time.

When life is seen as a miracle even the Holocaust is perceived as a gift of the One and Only Force of Nature.

A painting of an eye with a heart for the iris, with a blue background.

A David State of Heart, Yanna, 2015.

When we are identified with our physical body, trying endlessly to meet its corporeal needs for food, sex, family, money, respect control and knowledge we see the world from the 1st story of a 10-story building.

This perspective does not enable us to see much.

Imagine you see the world from the angle of a crawling snake that continuously looks for something to hunt.

We are trapped like animals in a human form, trying to survive as best as possible as do other beasts. It sometimes feels that animals are more “civilized” than us “humans.”

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Don’t Say We Did Not Know: One Man’s Struggle to Bring the Truth to Light

Apr16

by: Mechapesset Atid on April 16th, 2015 | 3 Comments »

The front cover of a small book written in Hebrew.

"Don't Say We Did Not Know" is the defense invoked by Germans after World War II. Activist Amos Gvirtz's mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians. Credit: Donna Baranski-Walker.

When accused of being a traitor to Israel, as Amos Gvirtz has sometimes been, the sexagenarian activist author responds by advising caution.

“If I am a traitor,” he replies, “then Israel, by its very essence, is against peace.”

Gvirtz, who is careful to describe himself as an activist rather than a journalist, is the author of a weekly email blast called “Don’t Say We Did Not Know.” This title and concept refer to a common defense invoked by Germans after World War II when questioned about atrocities committed by their country. Gvirtz’s mission is to ensure that this excuse cannot be used by Israelis when asked to answer for crimes against Palestinians.

“I try to tell stories that I did not see in the mainstream Israeli media,” he says. “I think the Israeli media is ignoring the great majority of the daily human rights violations.”

Gvirtz has recently compiled a number of his own essays for a book with the same title as his weekly email. At present, the book is available only in Hebrew, but he hopes to have it translated so that it can reach a wider audience.

“My editor asked me, ‘Who am I writing to?’ and I said, ‘To everybody who wants to know.’”

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Class Suicide and Radical Empathy

Apr10

by: on April 10th, 2015 | Comments Off

Last Friday, on the first night of Passover, I was asked to share a teaching on Moses, who led our people out of slavery in Egypt. A friend suggested I share it with you:

The idea that always arises for me when I think of Moses and many other leaders of spiritual or political revolutions is Amilcar Cabral’s concept of “class suicide.”

Cabral was the revolutionary socialist leader of the national liberation movement that freed the Portuguese colony of Guinea-Bissau. “Class suicide” describes the act of dying to the privileged class of one’s birth – for instance, by taking a step with no return – and thus sacrificing one’s own privileged position and power in favor of full identification with the oppressed.

In either political or spiritual history, a large proportion of such trailblazers were born into privilege. Siddhartha was the son of chieftain; Mao Zedong was the son of a wealthy farmer; Ho Chi Minh was the son of a Confucian scholar and magistrate; Gandhi’s father was the chief minister of a princely state and Gandhi himself received law training in London. And Moses was raised as a prince of Egypt in Pharaoh’s house.

Clicking my way through a Google search for Cabral’s term, I happened on the work of Frances Ellen Watkins Harper, a freeborn African-American abolitionist and author born in 1825. Her life story is pretty remarkable. One of her books was Moses: A Story of the Nile.


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A Meditation on “Dayenu”

Apr4

by: Roxanne J. Fand on April 4th, 2015 | 1 Comment »

A hand holding green onions/scallions.

Jews in Iran and Afghanistan hit each other with bundles of green onions during the Seder song 'Dayenu' to remember the Jewish people's yearning for food during exile from Egypt. Credit: CreativeCommons / Rachel Barenblat.

Ever since I could remember, I loved Passover Seders, especially the song, “Dayenu,” whatever it might mean. Perhaps the story of freedom from slavery appealed to me as a child “enslaved” by parental and school authority. When I was old enough to read the English translation, “It Would Suffice Us,” and followed along stanza by stanza, I simply recognized gratitude for all the benefits God gave to the Israelites, from being freed of their Egyptian servitude to their regaining the Promised Land.

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