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.
by: Shari Motro on September 3rd, 2013 | 5 Comments »
Credit: Scott Ableman/Creative Commons.
Jewish law requires that all synagogues have windows. We’re not supposed to pray in separation from the world; we’re supposed to pray with the world, conscious of its cycles, in a space that invites connection with them. Unfortunately, most authorities interpret this rule as permitting synagogues to have windows that never open – windows that seal congregants in an air-conditioned bubble, even on days when outdoor temperatures are moderate.
Synagogues, like other houses of worship, are no different from the majority of our secular spaces. Our default building methods presume round-the-clock mechanical air circulation – windows do not open, and natural cooling designs like cross-ventilation, high ceilings, porches, and recessed doors and windows are quaint rarities. The official guided tour of Washington DC’s National Building Museum, built in 1887 and inspired by Michelangelo’s church architecture, features the building’s ventilation system literally as a museum piece. Visitors are informed that the building’s great hall was designed to “create a healthful building with plenty of fresh air” – but in step with the times, the days of natural airflow there too are gone.
Like many Jews, my only visits to synagogue are during the High Holy Days, which begin this week with Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. This is also one of the periods when the ubiquity of air conditioning saddens me most. It saddens me because of the sheer waste. It saddens me because I like to wear white linen to usher in the holiday and walk to services carrying nothing, rather than packing layers fit for the tundra as I do when I go to the office, the megaplex, or the airport. And it saddens me because sealed windows separate me from the signs and wonders with which nature beckons me to contemplate the very same lessons that are at the heart of what Rosh Hashanah is all about.
Credit: Creative Commons
As has been widely reported, Pope Francis began his papacy with an already strong relationship with the Jewish community. Yet only time will tell if this pope will put the final nail in the coffin of Christian anti-Judaism: namely, an official end to the absurd notion that Christian faith produces more compassion and mercy in the human heart than does the Jewish faith.
It is worth noting that in addition to his expressions of solidarity with Argentina’s Jewish community, Pope Francis, while archbishop of Buenos Aires, participated in a Jewish-Catholic Tzedaka service; a charity effort where Jewish and Catholic volunteers went out – together – distributing aid to the poor and downtrodden of Buenos Aires.
Arguably, inter-faith Tzedaka-like service programs could be a template for a healthy, and I would argue very necessary, reform of Catholic religious life: specifically, the kind of reform that would help to end the utter fiction that Christians are more loving and compassionate than Jews.