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Israelis Living in America Who Oppose Gaza Violence Ask U.S. Jews to Reconsider ‘Pro-Israel’

Aug21

by: on August 21st, 2014 | 6 Comments »

A group of Israelis currently living in the United States, who oppose Israel’s military operations in Gaza and the blockade of Gaza, have recently formed a group called Israelis For a Sustainable Future. This group, with 128 members and growing daily, has written a searing letter to the American Jewish community.

The letter implores Jews in America to reexamine their uncritical support for Israel’s actions and to speak out against the occupation those actions serve. In short, it asks the Jewish community to step away from a binary, zero-sum perspective doing so much damage to both Israelis and Palestinians. At one point, they write, “We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. We argue that these terms might be one and the same.”

Beautiful and honest, the letter in its entirety appears below.

An open letter to American Jews

We are a group of Israelis currently living in the US. We are reaching out to you because we oppose the actions of the Israeli government in operation “Protective Edge.”

This does not mean we don’t recognize the threat presented by Hamas to the Israeli people. We oppose firing of weapons into civilian population and the sacrifice of civilians by the regimes of both Hamas and the Israeli government. Calling to stop the bombing of Gaza does not mean we don’t realize the impossible conditions imposed on the residents of southern Israel. Nor does it mean we don’t demand security for them. But we also recognize that their plight is consistently ignored by the Israeli government until it becomes convenient for exploitation. We have seen three major military operations in less than six years. They repeat themselves because they don’t work. Yes, Hamas reserves are temporary depleted and the group is temporarily hindered. But this is not a moral price worth paying. Even if it were, killing thousands of civilians and displacing of hundreds of thousands doesn’t weaken Hamas in the long run. This bloodshed only feeds the one resource it can’t go without: hate. Only meaningful peace talks and an end to the ongoing occupation in the West Bank and in Gaza (a blockade is still occupation) will prevent both the next round of rockets into Israel and the next round of indiscriminate killings in Gaza.

We are reaching out to you because we want to re-examine what it means to be pro-Israel or pro-Palestine. We argue that these terms might be one and the same. We believe that supporting equal rights for both peoples is the only way to build a better Israel and a better Palestine and we want the American Jewish community to stand behind that message.


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Border Lessons: Jewish Resources for Resisting Nationalism

Aug18

by: Mandy Cohen on August 18th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Last month I was in Warsaw. I was on my way home to LA after two weeks traveling with a group of university students through places that Yiddish-speaking Jews once called Lita, Lithuania. Jews from this area are called Litvaks, Lithuanians, they have distinctive dialects of Yiddish, and a reputation as intellectuals, given that Lita was the home of the greatest yeshivas, houses of study, in Jewish Europe.

Today, cities and towns that once belonged to the same Russian province are now separated not only by national borders, but by the border of the EU, which feels like it has re-concentrated all of the displaced energy of the open borders within the Schengen zone. All of the stress of border crossing that has disappeared between, say, Poland and Germany, feels manifested on Poland’s eastern border with Belarus. In order to travel through the places that were part of the largest state in Europe in the sixteenth century, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, we now travel between Belarus, Poland and Lithuania, moving between time zones, currencies, alphabets, languages, and the legacy of the Soviet Union and her satellite states.

Helix project

Exploring creativity in the places where writers and artists lived for centuries. Credit: Yiddishkayt

I am an instructor in The Helix Project, a program that offers students – Jewish and non-Jewish – an opportunity to learn about the rich intricacies, complexities, and variety of Jewish life in Europe in its 1000 year history, focusing on Yiddish culture, literature and daily life in the great blossoming of that culture beginning towards the end of the nineteenth century.

Necessarily we confront the Holocaust, as we face the reality of towns that were once 60-90 percent Jewish and are now 90-100 percent Polish, or Lithuanian, or Belarusian. But we try to contextualize the Holocaust by giving equal attention to the long history preceding it and the history that continues to be written.


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Tisha b’Av: This Year We Mourned the Calamity We Have Created

Aug13

by: Max Cohen on August 13th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Tisha b'Av New York IfNotNow

If Not Now, When? Tisha b'Av evening service in New York City last week Credit: Gili Getz

Tisha b’Av is a cursed day. It was on the ninth day of the Jewish month of Av that the Babylonians destroyed the First Temple in Jerusalem and exiled the Jewish People from the Land of Israel. Megillat Eicha, the Book of Lamentations, describes with the utmost poetic sorrow the destruction that occurred on that fateful Ninth of Av two and a half millennia ago. And so it is that every year on Tisha b’Av we read in Eicha of the destruction, remember it, and mourn it.

But there’s one catch that makes Tisha b’Av not a bad dream, but a recurring nightmare: we kept on experiencing total calamity on that exact date for thousands of years afterwards. On that date in history, the 9th of the Jewish month of Av: the Romans destroyed the Second Temple in Jerusalem and exiled us from Israel for a second time; the Jewish people were exiled from England, France, and Germany, all in separate years; the Spanish Inquisition began; the Final Solution was formally approved by the Nazi Party; the Warsaw Ghetto began to be liquidated; and too many other eerily timed tragedies to count…

So Tisha b’Av is a holiday about adding to the heap whatever calamity Jews have most recently experienced. The profound insight of Eicha, Lamentations, and the rabbis of the Talmud, is to understand our calamities by focusing not our attackers or their moral status, but on our own moral failures.


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Genocide in Iraq

Aug11

by: Anouar Majid on August 11th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Editor’s Note: Anouar Majid’s critique of ISIS is also a critique of many in the Islamic world who are too quiet about the crimes being done in the name of Islam. For that reason, we at Tikkun have to consider his views, just as we ask the Jewish world to consider our views about many in the Jewish world who are too quiet about the Israeli use of violence in Gaza. What worries us is the degree to which Majid may be willing to abandon Islam entirely, something we are not willing to do in regard to Judaism.

 

Tangier, Morocco:

When the world awoke to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, some wondered why no one had taken the previous destruction of the 6th-century Buddha statutes in Bamiyan, Afghanistan seriously. Those attacks should have warranted a massive airstrike on the Taliban government and its supporters. Blowing up a part of our history in such a cavalier fashion amounted to a crime against humanity, but enlightened people shrugged their shoulders, chalked up such behavior to backward Muslim extremists and moved on. They should have known better. Who knows? Immediate military intervention could have spared us many years of strife and sorrow.

The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), now known only as the Islamic State, did the same a couple of weeks ago when they detonated the tomb of the biblical and Qur’anic prophet Jonah in Mosul. It was one of their many attacks of pre- or non-Islamic monuments and even people. For the caliphate-crazed Wahhabi-inspired fanatics who trampled on the heritage of a city that was more than 6,000 years old when Islam was born, such monuments, as well as Christians or any group of people who are not like them, are desecrations that that have to be violently uprooted. It should, therefore, come as no surprise at all that ISIS is now waging a genocidal war against the Yazidis, a people whose religion has remained an enigma for centuries. Like many Muslims, ISIS considers the Yazidis as ungodly and must, therefore, be eliminated.


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Torah Commentary- Shabbat Nachamu: Hope means Justice in the Present

Aug7

by: on August 7th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Only for the sake of the hopeless ones have we been given hope. (Walter Benjamin, Schriften I)

The world today is ugly, one in which we can read of children dying as a result of political battles in too many places in the world, without shedding a tear, or worse, justifying this outcome as valid or expected. We must cry out for an end to this kind of suffering and cry out for an end to these horrors.

This Sabbath is known traditionally as Shabbat Nachamu, The Sabbath of comforting. The Isaiah 40 (well known outside the synagogue as the opening of Handel’s Messiah) is a prophecy of hope read at this point in the calendar, just after the commemoration of the horrors of war which twice led up to the destruction of the Temple and the creation of millions of refugees. As a result of these experiences, traditional Jewish culture is marked by an emphasis on hope, on a belief that injustice will be overcome, and that the “weary will be given strength”, as the end of this chapter in Isaiah proclaims.

Hope seems one of the more lofty spiritual aspirations of mankind, yet one of the least frequently defined. Schiller seems to have summed it up for the Romantic era as:

Im Herzen kuendet es laut sich an:

Zu was Besserm sind wir geboren!

The heart proclaims it loudly within

We were born for better things!

What these better things might be is not detailed, as yearning itself was enough of a goal in the Romantic era. Whatever hope may be, it was usually something earmarked for future generations. Imber’s Hebrew poem, “The Hope”, later adapted for use as the Israeli national anthem, is built around a similar theme: “As long as within the heart/ A Jewish soul yearns…our Hope is not lost.” This hope is defined as (in the current official version, somewhat different from the original text), “To be a free nation in our land/ The land of Zion-Jerusalem.”

While perhaps in Imber’s time, a harsh time for Jewish existence, a free land may have been adequate to define “the hope”, there are few who would currently feel that hope has been fulfilled only with land ownership, which itself has brought with it some serious challenges, not all of which can be said to have been reached. Certainly we have no less need for hope. So what is it that we hope for? Furthermore, must hope always be something aimed at the future? Is it possible that we can define hope in such a way that it reflects a process which can be actualized in the present, in the here and now? Can we afford to wait for the future when the present is so filled with death and suffering?

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Recording of Yesterday’s Conference Call with Sami Awad

Aug5

by: Tikkun on August 5th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

On August 4th, we held a conference call for NSP members and Tikkun subscribers with Sami Awad, a Palestinian nonviolent peace activist in Bethlehem, Palestine. Mr. Awad has been working to counter Hamas’s hate talk among his fellow Palestinians. Sami Awad talked about the importance of being visionary – putting forth a vision of the world you want and not something more “realistic.”

He talked about the importance of having prophetic voices in each of the different communities – Jewish, Muslim, Christian-to counter the impression that each community has that there are very few people in the other communities that care about a solution to the Israel/Palestine struggle based on justice, security, and peace.

According to Sami Awad, the assault on Gazans in the past month has caused many people in both Israel and Palestine to doubt the efficacy of many of their own efforts to build local face-to-face peace making between Israelis and Palestinians. Awad thinks one reason for this heightened despair by people who have spent months or even years in building dialogue and trained people in peace-making is that the efforts were grounded in the wrong motives, often out of fear of the other (unless we can tame them, they will hurt us) rather than a genuine deep commitment and care to the well-being of all.

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Mourning for a Judaism Being Murdered by Israel

Aug4

by: on August 4th, 2014 | 30 Comments »

Rabbi Michael Lerner’s article in Salon.com this Monday is being featured on Salon’s home page right now. Below is a fuller and updated version (the Salon article was written on Friday).

Israeli behavior toward Palestinians is destroying Judaism and creating a new kind of hatred of Jews by people who never before had any issue with Jews. Credit: Creative Commons/Jordi Bernabeu Farrús

My heart is broken as I witness the suffering of the Palestinian people and the seeming indifference of Israelis. Tonight (August 4) and tomorrow (August 5), which mark Tisha B’av,the Jewish commemoration of disasters that happened to us through Jewish history, I’m going to be fasting and mourning also for a Judaism being murdered by Israel. No matter who gets blamed for the breakdowns in the cease-fire or for “starting” this latest iteration of a struggle that is at least 140 years old, one of the primary victims of the war between Israel and Hamas is the compassionate and love-oriented Judaism that has held together for several thousand years. Even as Israel withdraws its troops from Gaza, leaving behind immense devastation, over 1,800 dead Gazans, and over four thousand wounded, without adequate medical supplies because of Israel’s continuing blockade, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu refuses to negotiate a cease-fire. He is fearful that he would be seen as “weak” if Israel gave way to Gazans’ demand for an end to the blockade and the freedom of thousands of Palestinian prisoners kidnapped and held in Israeli jails in violation of their human rights.

Let me explain why Israeli behavior toward Palestinians – not just during this latest assault but also throughout the past decades during which Israel militarily enforced its Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of food and building materials to Gaza – and the cheerleading for such behavior by Jews around the world is destroying Judaism and creating a new kind of hatred of Jews by people who never before had any issue with Jews (not to mention strengthening the hands of the already existing anti-Semites whose hatred of Jews would continue no matter what Israel or Jews do or do not do).

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Abe’s Babes: Interfaith Theater to Counter Prejudice at the Dinner Table

Jul30

by: Sara Weissman on July 30th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

When we encounter systemic racism, we know where our moral obligation lies. We speak out. But what happens when prejudice finds its way into the most intimate setting, the dinner table? “Well, you know how they are. They can’t be reasoned with. Could you please pass the salt?”

Abe's Babes members dine together.

Abe's Babes members dine together around their own laden table. Credit: Yvonne Perczuk.

Disparaging comments about another group are unfortunately common in many communities. When these kinds of off-hand remarks emerge in our own homes or in the homes of our friends, how are we supposed to respond? Abe’s Babes, a group of six Jewish, Muslim, and Christian women in Sydney, Australia, may have found an answer.

After experiencing this brand of “dinner table prejudice” in Sydney’s Muslim and Jewish communities, the group decided to confront the issue with a creative weapon: theater. Collectively, they wrote a play called The Laden Table, which tells of two meals – a Jewish family breaking their Yom Kippur fast and a Muslim family celebrating Eid. After seven years of hard work, the first professional production will take place in Sydney on the nights of July 30, July 31, and August 1.

After hearing prejudiced remarks about Muslims at a Jewish dinner table, Yvonne Perczuk, one of the founders of the playwriting group, felt deeply disturbed. Realizing that similar conversations were taking place in Muslim homes, she decided something had to be done about misconceptions harbored in both communities.

“The fear of the other, the fear of the unknown – all of those fears come out at the dinner table,” Perczuk said. “They come out in a spontaneous way so that’s where you hear the truths about how people feel.”


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A Reflection on the Passing of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

Jul29

by: Rabbi Sammy Intrator on July 29th, 2014 | Comments Off

Credit: Creative Commons

I am in pain over the loss of a great spiritual guide for our generation in the passing of Reb Zalman. He was perhaps the last of a breed, that bridged generations and who had lived on both sides of the great Jewish divide in these generations.

He understood the depth, the beauty and the love of the old world of Hasidim through the deep exposure he had to that world in his early years. His Rebbe (teacher) was Reb Yosef  Yitzchok Schneerson, the 6 th Lubavitcher Rebbe and father in law of the last Rebbe whose 20 Yar Ziet anniversary was just commemorated a few weeks ago.

Yet for much of his life, especially from the 60′s and thereafter, he was a beacon of light to a younger generation, who as the Torah in the beginning of Exodus says “did not know Joseph” and had no understanding of that world. With depth, with love, with humor, and with songs he imparted a spiritual conscience of an old age that spoke to the generation of a new age. The renewal Judaism he helped found was not really meant to create another branch of Judaism, but rather to influence and inspire its existing branches. His deeply universal message was powerfully influenced by his deep Jewish roots.

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YoHana Bat Adam: The Spiritual Heartist

Jul29

by: Sara Weissman on July 29th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

"Ascending" Mixed Media on canvas 23KT Gold leaf, Swarovski Crystals 43.5″ x 55.5″ Carved 22KT gilded Basswood frame

For years, YoHana Bat Adam didn’t call herself an artist. She jumped from one financially sustainable job to the next, from cleaning houses to working in a hair salon. “I was in survivor mode,” she says. But around eight to ten years ago, she can’t quite recall, Bat Adam decided to turn her love of art into a lifestyle. “One day, after doing so many things, I kind of realized, that’s it, from today I am an artist,” she says.I’m an artist because an artist is a state. It’s a state of being creative, being connected to the higher in you and manifesting yourself as you truly are in the moment.” Her career began with an artistic kite shop along the beach in Hertzliya, Israel and, after experiments with media from aerial design to sculpting, her art blossomed into the variety of work she creates today in her studio near Nevada City, California, including colorful paintings on canvas, silk, and wood.

Bat Adam calls herself the “heartist,” a label that she feels embodies the message behind her art. She hopes her work will inspire viewers to soul-search, to “go to their hearts and be present to what they see.” For Bat Adam, “art is kind of a silent language of the heart” and should inspire personal introspection. She finds this inward focus to be lacking in much of modern art, which, in her opinion, is primarily based on shock value. Citing an example, an installation of four cars hanging from the ceiling at MOMA, Bat Adam says, “I’ll remember it, but what did it add to my emotional ability to be in contact with myself? What did it really create? It’s a sensation of the mind, not the depth of the heart.”

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