by: Murali Balaji, Aamir Hussain, and Manpreet Teji on October 28th, 2014 | No Comments »
South Asian American students at Bryn Mawr College participate in a demonstration against racism on September 19. Credit: The Bi-College News (http://www.biconews.com)
People from all walks of life seem to agree that news over the past few months has been downright depressing. Whether it’s conflict overseas or the infernos of injustice here in the United States, there is still so much that stands in the way of achieving what we know can be the best of humanity: love for all beings, respect for the earth, and a promotion of peace. Over the past few months, we’ve been reminded of the many struggles we continue to face in promoting equality, justice, pluralism, and mutual respect.
Within the South Asian American community, we have faced many trials together. From the early immigrants from India in the nineteenth century (the majority of whom were Sikh) who faced constant and institutionalized discrimination and racial violence, to the South Asians who arrived in the United States right after the repeal of the Asian Exclusion Act (only to find cities on fire and racial antagonism), our community has endured collective trauma. But we have also made collective progress.
by: Michael Orion Powell-Deschamps on October 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »
The Vatican released a preliminary document calling out churches to welcome gays into their communities. Credit: Creative Commons/The National Churches Trust
Some big news happened earlier this month. The Vatican released a preliminary document calling for the church to welcome and accept homosexuals. It was the culmination of an expected change during Francis’ tenure. Since becoming pope, Pope Francis has made verbal overtures towards gay Catholics, famously saying, “If a person is gay and seeks the Lord and is of good will, who am I to judge him?”
Credit: Creative Commons/Edgar Jiménez
Many years ago, as I walked back to the pew after receiving Communion, I saw the outline of a man kneeling in another pew, his head in his hands. As Catholics often do when they see someone during Mass that they have not seen for while, I wordlessly tapped him on the shoulder to say the silent hello. I was not prepared for the sight of his face. As he looked up, his face was gaunt, and there were dark circles under his eyes that I had never seen before, not even the time he cried in front of me.
Several months prior to that, I drove him back to his condo after Mass, where he finally opened up to me why he was refraining from receiving Communion: having recently had sex with men, he believed he was not in a state of grace, and therefore not worthy to receive the body and blood of Jesus Christ.
On Saturday night, I looked out upon a standing-room-only audience, people fidgeting and giddy, barely able to conceal the significance of what was about to occur. I was onstage at Harvard University electric and buzzing, flanked by three distinguished professors – Judith Butler, Steven Cohen and Shaul Magid – the four of us representing various streams of Zionist, post-Zionist, and anti-Zionist thought.
At first, I was awed by the company I had been asked to join, thinking, What on earth am I doing here? That thought was quickly replaced by another as the room erupted with boisterous cheers when a student organizer stepped to the microphone; this is a historic moment, a thought I Tweeted when the feeling came over me, and five days removed I still deeply believe.
So what occurred that was so historic? On Saturday night, a grassroots-led and student-driven movement called Open Hillel launched a three-day conference, determined to create what Jewish institutions have largely refused to permit: dynamic spaces where both Zionists and anti-Zionists can come together and discuss Israel as equals, and with equally valuable perspectives as respected members of the American Jewish community.
by: Yanna [YoHana] Bat Adam -- Heartist on October 14th, 2014 | 6 Comments »
Credit: Yanna Bat Adam -- Heartist
It seems to me that more and more people are realizing that we need to aspire to something higher than what life presents us on its surface. Pleasures such as good food, sex, family life, money… even honor and knowledge, simply do not feed our deepest need, which is spiritual.
Are you one of these people? Lucky you.
This means that we are looking for “something else.” Something that will give us what might be called pleasure, but is in reality something far more enduring, yet hard to define. Something of deeply felt meaning that will finally bring an end to the endless boredom, compensatory diversion, and repetitive frustration that commonly comprises our lives. Something that will make us simply happy without a cause.
by: Donna Nevel and Elly Bulkin on October 13th, 2014 | 6 Comments »
While many of us have been concerned about, and appalled by the recent Islamophobic ads on NYC subways and buses and have responded to them in a number of different ways, we also recognize that Islamophobia extends far beyond those ads.
Credit: Creative Commons/Southbank Centre
I switched on my computer early this morning to get a lovely surprise: Malala Yousafzai won the Nobel Peace Prize for 2014. For all those who think Muslim women are too oppressed, too quiet, or too busy being mothers and housewives, to make international news, todays’ announcement from the Nobel Peace Committee may have come as a bit of a shocker. For me, it was validation of a lot of things.
If you can’t tell from these words that I am bursting with pride, let me break it down: I am absolutely ecstatic! Here’s why:
by: Howard Cooper on October 9th, 2014 | Comments Off
Inside of a sukkah, a temporary hut constructed during the festival of Sukkot. Credit: Creative Commons/Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis
Just as the lulav that we shake on Sukkot, the festival of rest amidst the desert wanderings, is made up of three different trees — palm, myrtle and willow — I want to share with you another group of three that I’m going to bind together and wave in your direction. And we’ll see if we can add in that exotic etrog element along the way.
Over the last few months I happen to have seen three films, each as different from the other as are the species that make up the lulav. Taken together, they add up to more than the sum of their parts.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu sits down for an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Credit: Creative Commons/IsraelinUSA
It has now become a full fledged campaign: stifling criticism of Israel by warning of a new wave of anti-Semitism that is seizing the planet. The latest entry comes from French philosopher, and life-long Israel defender, Bernard-Henry Levy in (naturally) the New Republic who screams that anti-semitism in 2014 is a “ticking time bomb” that, if not countered, will inevitably lead to Binyamin Netanyahu’s vision: the return of 1942.
Like all opinion pieces of this genre, Levy’s case is built on the idea that there is no causal relation between Israel’s actions and the outbursts against Jews that he describes.
In its essence, the argument goes like this: Anti-Semitism is not caused by anything. It is innate, a poison that lives in the hearts and minds of evil people, needing only a pretext for it to explode. Israel’s actions can’t cause anti-Semitism. They can only be a pretext for it.
by: Roni Finkelstein on October 8th, 2014 | Comments Off
Ruth Golmant believes in the process of creating art as a powerful tool for healing. The art therapist located in Stafford, Virginia lives with one husband, two children, two invisible disabilities, and her ever-evolving Jewish spirituality.
After studying art as an undergraduate at Mills College in Oakland, California, Golmant moved to Virginia to complete a degree in art therapy at George Washington University. Upon graduation she began working with patients in St. Elizabeth’s hospital’s acute trauma unit, where she realized the power of art amidst pain. She recalled: