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Archive for the ‘Rethinking Religion’ Category



Arrivals Gate

Jun4

by: on June 4th, 2014 | No Comments »

Remember that montage in Love, Actually when all the couples and families are reuniting at the airport arrivals gate?  That montage turned my heart to mush.  And that scene in real life has the same effect.  Since I was a kid I can recall loving to pick people up at the airport, or be picked up after a long flight; greeted by my mom beaming with smiles as I returned from a faraway trip or my boyfriend holding a bouquet of flowers and wearing a suit and top hat for the occasion.

My high school friends were in the marching band and we used to go to the SFO arrivals gate and play welcome music for random strangers just for fun.  Throw in some free carnation flower handouts and we had ourselves an amusing night out.  That moment of reuniting after a trip hasn’t lost it’s charm after all these years.  In Love, Actually, the British Prime Minister, played by Hugh Grant, says:

Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion’s starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don’t see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere.  Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there – fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends. When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge – they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.

Of course, since 9/11, security protocols have pushed arrivals gate greetings out to the baggage claim area.  Nonetheless, the ritual continues. 

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Young Muslims Choosing to Wear the Hijab Despite Rising Tide of Islamophobia

Jun3

by: Anna Challet on June 3rd, 2014 | 4 Comments »

(Cross-posted from New American Mediaby Anna Challet)

 

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Salmon Hossein, an Afghan-American Muslim working on a joint law and public policy degree at UC Berkeley and Harvard, says that his own family hates that he has a beard. The outward sign of his Muslim faith, he says, makes his family worry about his future.

“They say, ‘How are you going to get a job? How are you going to be successful?’” He knows that they’re just looking out for him, he says. But he intends to keep his beard; it provides him with a connection to his spiritual journey.

Hossein, who spoke on a recent panel of young Bay Area Muslims in San Jose organized by New America Media in partnership with the One Nation Bay Area Project, is among a generation of young Muslims who grew up in the shadow of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and the rise of Islamophobia in America. Some have personal experience with hurtful speech and ignorant comments about their faith. Yet many still choose to show their faith through practices like prayer and fasting, wearing a hijab (head covering), or growing a beard.

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Freedom of Speech or Abuse of Speech? DC Buses Are No Place For Islamophobic Ads

Jun2

by: Alfred Gluecksmann on June 2nd, 2014 | 8 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

This spring, an obscure, right-wing extremist, organization which oxymoronically characterizes itself as the “American Freedom Defense Initiative” (AFDI), has managed to force Washington DC’s transit authority to be misused for the purpose of the posting of their odious speech and imagery, not necessarily protected by the First Amendment according to the 1942 Supreme Court ruling in the case of Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire. It wasn’t the first time: this happened once before, in September of 2013, as well.

The ads currently being displayed on buses of our transit system, state “Islamic Jew-Hatred: It’s in The Quran” and next to an image of Hitler is the caption which states that a Palestinian he is talking to is “His Staunch Ally (and) The Leader of the Muslim World.”

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An Open Letter from ‘The Shondes’

May29

by: Elijah Oberman and Louisa Rachel Solomon on May 29th, 2014 | 52 Comments »

On March 28 Brooklyn rock band The Shondes (Yiddish for “The Disgraces”) were disinvited from the Washington Jewish Music Festival, at which they were scheduled to perform on June 2, due to band members’ views on Israel and Palestine. Founding members, singer Louisa Rachel Solomon and violinist Elijah Oberman, have written this open letter in response.

Credit: Creative Commons/Flickr/Meaghan O'Malley

The idea of “The Jewish Community” gets thrown around a lot, even though we have never been a singular or remotely unified group. Jews have wildly different traditions, experiences, and opinions about what Jewish-ness even is. Are The Shondes part of this often-invoked, elusive community? In many ways the answer is clearly yes. But when its institutional guardians draw borders around it to keep out people and ideas they deem unsavory, out-of-line, or “off-brand,” it is an incredibly fraught belonging, to say the least. That kind of policing is the antithesis of the Judaism we love.


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Critique of the Solomons’ ‘Blind Alley of J Street’

May28

by: Milton Masur on May 28th, 2014 | 12 Comments »

Editor’s Note:

Abba Solomon and Norman Solomon’s article “Blind Alley of J Street and Liberal American Zionism”, responded to below by Milton Masur, has generated lots of controversy among Tikkun readers. Some of it has taken the form of denunciations of Tikkun for publishing the article at all. Milton Masur takes a more balanced approach in his criticisms. However, relying on Gershon Gorenberg’s history of the conflict has its problems. For example, Dr. Masur gives only passing mention of the systematic attempts by right wing Zionist groups to terrorize and massacre Palestinian civilians. In particular, the assault and mass murder at Deir Yassin was aimed at Palestinians who had conveyed their desire to live in peace with the Jewish population of Palestine–thereby conveying to Palestinian civilians that they would not be safe in the emerging Jewish state. The official leadership of the Zionist movement denounced these acts, but did little to prevent them or punish the leadership of these terrorist groups, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, both of whom became prime ministers of the State of Israel rather than brought to trial for conspiracy to commit murder. While there was no official plan to expel the Palestinian people as a whole, Israeli historian Benny Morris demonstrated that the forced march of tens of thousands of Palestinians from their homes by what was to become the Israeli Defense Forces was an outcome of a strong feeling by Ben Gurion and others that eventually the Land of Israel would have to be rid of most if not all Palestinians, though it was important to them to not say so publicly at the time (hence the evidence for this claim lies in their journals and private conversations). Still, much of what Masur writes below deserves serious consideration in tempering one’s assessment of the way Israel came into existence in 1947-49. Moreover, this particular historical fact does not necessarily yield a reason to delegitimate Israel in 2014. The massacre and displacement of Palestinians in 1947-49 looks rather tiny in comparison with the much greater displacements and massacres committed during and after the second world war, and in the creation of the current states of India, Pakistan and China, yet it is only Israel that faces a sustained assault on its legitimacy as a nation state 7 decades later. This imbalance gives credence to the Zionists who claim that the movements in opposition to Israel are motivated by anti-Semitism. And that is one reason among many why Tikkun does not support any movement that seeks to delegitimate the right of the Jewish people of Palestine to have security for the State of Israel, even as we remain strong critics of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people and are doing all we can to oppose the Occupation of the West Bank and the blockade of Gaza.

–Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun


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Shavuot’s Revelation of Self

May27

by: Shmuel Klatzkin on May 27th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Revelation is the heart of Torah. “G-d spoke to you face to face,” Moshe reminds the people as he recounts the great event of Sinai in which they all took part (Deut. 5:4).

That we all took part in it is essential to the meaning of Sinai. The revelation described by the Torah was not the property of one leader alone, or of an elite group, whose report had to be taken as authoritative truth. The authority of the revelation in the Torah is rather to be vouched for by the experience and the memory of each one of the community. Just as the redemption from Egypt was unmediated – “Not by means of an angel, not by means of a seraph, not by means of an agent;” “I, G-d, I and no other” – so, too, was the revelation to which the redemption led: “There was no intermediary,” said Abraham ibn Ezra (ad loc.).

On the path up Mount Sinai. Credit: Creative Commons/Templar1307.

As it was at first, so it remains: the authority of the revelation is to be found within. Its authenticity emerges simultaneously with the emergence of the authenticity of the self. As interesting as all other arguments may be for Torah, this essential argument is not an argument at all. It is pre-argument – the same way that we come to know that we are who we are, that reality is as reality is, so do we intuit how the authority and authenticity of Torah is as it is.

How is the content of that revelation written down for the ages? In some ways, it is not written down, for if it is to be as immediate and present for us as our own identities, there is unfolding something new to say each moment. It is, as Moshe says later in Deuteronomy, “in your mouth and in your heart, as you do it.”

But some of it was written down, engraved in stone, as we have learned to say. And the very first word on the stone is anochi – I.

It is, as it appears in the book, as it appeared on stones, the I of G-d. But the mystics break the word down to its elemental letters, each of which can be re-expanded and then stand for a full word. ANoChY – Ana Nafshi Ketavit Yehavit – wrote My self down and gave it (Likkutei Torah 48d).

Beyond giving of law, beyond imposing an order, the root of the revelation, the root of the Torah is G-d’s giving of self.

The receiving of Torah must match the generosity and the creativity of the giving.

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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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Our Self-Sufficiency is Ruining Relationships — Here’s How to Stop the Cycle

May15

by: Dovid Gottlieb on May 15th, 2014 | 8 Comments »

A psychiatrist asked to consult with me about a problem. He had lived through five failed relationships in a row. Each ended when the other party left him. He could find no reason for the failures. “Rabbi” he explained, “you must understand that I gave each of them everything anyone could wish for. Unlimited money, my time and attention [I never let work or anything else distract me from my responsibility to each of them], my deep understanding of human nature to provide whatever they might need, want, or even fancy. With all that – in spite of all that – each left me. What could possibly account for it?”

I was able to understand his frustration because of my own history of feeling as he did. As a man, and a teacher, casting others as needy and myself as provider came very naturally. It was a struggle to learn where this stance misses the mark. But I finally did learn it from my wife. With her insight in mind, I asked him: “And what did each of them give you?” He answered: “Give me?! Rabbi – I am a giver, not a taker. I asked them for nothing, gave them everything, and yet they walked out on me!?” I answered: “Well, maybe that is precisely what they needed to give to you. To feel validated by what they could do for you. Everyone needs to be needed.” The idea was utterly foreign and unacceptable to him and that is where the conversation ended.

I learned this from my wife when we were counseling a young man who was looking to get married. He presented his “wish list” – the characteristics he desired in a spouse. Compiling such a list is good preparation for the search for a spouse since it takes considerable self-understanding to recognize what one needs and what one wants in a marriage partner. Then my wife added two thoughts. First: “You need also another list – your give list. What can you share, support, encourage, inspire, model or teach a spouse? When you meet a possible match, and each of you has both lists, then see if your give list matches the other’s wish list and vice versa. If so, you have a good chance for a profoundly integrated relationship.”

Second: “And don’t think this is just altruism. It is in your own best interest. Imagine you meet someone who has everything on your wish list and is willing to marry you – but does not need you at all. Would you be happy? In a healthy relationship you need to be needed.”

It was this second thought that I tried to share with the psychiatrist. He did not even recognize his partner’s need to be needed. The illusion of giving when really representing the other as needy and dependent and thereby bracing one’s own fragile ego is a common male problem. It came as a revelation to me to learn that true giving must include showing one’s own needs.

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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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