Two young girls wearing banners that read "Abolish child slavery" in English and Yiddish. Credit: Creative Commons
On the one hand, Jews are deeply grateful that America provided us with a safe haven when so many other Christianity-dominated cultures had represented us as demon Christ-killers and created the preconditions for the rise of both secular and religious anti-Semitism. American Jews rejoiced in the promise of freedom and equality before the law, and played a major role in organizing, shaping, and leading social movements that could extend that promise to all of America’s citizens. The role of the United States in defeating Nazism at the expense of so many American lives remains an enduring source of pride even for the grandchildren and great grandchildren of those who fought in World War II, and an enduring source of appreciation for this amazing country. And the generosity of the American people toward Jews has made it possible for us to thrive and feel the kind of safety we haven’t felt for two thousand years of exile and diaspora.
On the other hand, Jewish well-being in America came not because this society didn’t seek scapegoats, but rather because it already had a scapegoat long before most Jews arrived on these shores – African Americans, Native Americans, and other targets (most recently, feminists, homosexuals, and “illegal” immigrants). While other immigrant groups from Europe found their safety in part by identifying with the dominant culture and becoming “white” (a social construct for all light-skinned people who bought into the existing systems of privilege and power), a significant section of the Jewish people in the past 150 years of presence in the United States chose instead to identify with the oppressed – most significantly with African Americans, but also with the poor (of which we were a significant part in the years 1880-1940), the oppressed, the homeless, and the hungry.
by: Warren J. Blumenfeld on May 12th, 2014 | 3 Comments »
American politicians have prayed before public gatherings since the Founding Fathers crowded into a stuffy Philadelphia room to crank out the Constitution. The inaugural and emphatically Christian prayer at the First Continental Congress was delivered by an Anglican minister, who overcame objections from the assembled Quakers, Anabaptists and Presbyterians. The prayer united the mostly Christian Founding Fathers, and the rest is history.
Indeed, as U. S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy write in the 5-4 majority opinion in The Town of Greece, NY v. Galloway , “…the rest is history.”
Church Ave and State Street intersect in Knoxville, Tennessee. Credit: Creative Commons/ Wyoming_Jackrabbit
While a strict separation of synagogue and state, mosque and state, Hindu and Buddhist temple and state, and separation of atheists and state and virtually all the other approximately 5000 religions and state has been enacted, on the other hand, church – predominantly Protestant denominations, but also Catholic – and state, have connected virtually seamlessly to the affairs and policies of what we call the United States of America, from the first invasion of Europeans in the 15th century on the Christian Julian to the Christian Gregorian Calendars up to 2014 Anno Domini (short for Anno Domini Nostri Iesu Christi – “In the year of our Lord Jesus Christ”).
In the court case, two local women from Greece, New York filed suit against city officials for approving invocations with primarily overtly Christian content at monthly public sessions held on government property. However, according to Kennedy, “The town of Greece does not violate the First Amendment by opening its meetings with prayer that comports with our tradition, and does not coerce participation by nonadherents.”
Credit: Creative Commons/John Wright
(Originally published on Patheos)
The Caring Bridge is a great example of spirituality reshaping technology and technology reshaping spirituality. Caring bridge is a website. It lets caretakers stay in touch with the community of people who also care about the afflicted person. If I get cancer, my husband will want to update people on my status. He will have little time for phone calls and repeat information. Thus he might distribute information through a web site, a bridge that cares. By broadcasting, he is creating a bordered space, for hugs and intimate conversations with those who are his real web and real net, not his World Wide Web or “internet.” Community is the word for both the bordered and the outer circles.
Caring Bridge can also announce a death – as can an email. At my congregation, we are just developing etiquette for how to announce a death on line. We have arrived at the following formula. There is nothing great about it; instead it is a compromise about using our list serve to create nets and distribute information. “Sad News” is what we say in the message line. Details follow in the body of the email. In the old days, the telephone, just another technology would suffice to spread information. “Everybody” would know but not all at once. One of the biggest concerns was who would be left out. “Don’t let her find out before she hears from you.”
What is good about talking about human suffering and death using technology? What is not? At these moments of great stress and distress, we want nothing counterfeit. Thoreau said that humans often become the tools of our tools. Spirit is finding its way on line, through technology in multiple ways. You can go to church on line. You can contribute to church on line. Even our Sunday School kids show up for Sunday School with cell phone in hand. All the other kids gather round the cell phone and play the game and connect eye to screen. If I thought their parents weren’t on line during the sermon, I might be concerned. We don’t even do the “turn off” message any more.
by: Anna Challet on April 24th, 2014 | Comments Off
(Crossposted from New American Media)
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.
Crossposted from Feminism & Religion
In John’s account of the Resurrection, Mary Magdalen mistakes Jesus for the gardener. Or perhaps it is not a mistake or not just a mistake but also a poetic truth. In any event, John’s Gospel makes clear: the Resurrection takes place in a garden!
(For the feminist significance of horticulture, I refer you to Carol Christ’s recent post Women and Weeding, the first 10,000 years on the feminismandreligion.com blogsite.)
Many prominent (male) theologians, historians, anthropologists, psychoanalysts among them James Frazer, Jung, and C.S. Lewis made the case for and/or against (in Lewis’ case) Jesus being another dying rising god of vegetation with Christianity borrowing imagery and ritual from earlier or even contemporary cults. The argument against insists that Jesus’s life, death and resurrection is historical, redemptive, and unique. From a tour of Bloglandia, the debate pro and con appears to continue unabated. I say better to pull weeds (if you are lucky enough to have a garden) than pontificate.
by: Ariel Vegosen and Rae Abileah on April 13th, 2014 | Comments Off
Seed saving at Nadvanya
in this earth
in this earth
in this immaculate field
we shall not plant any seeds
except for compassion
except for love
Two weeks ago Rae posted a short message on her facebook wall: “Idea ~ what about putting a seed on the Seder plate this year to represent the patenting and owning of seeds, of life, and the movements toward seed freedom, organic GMO-free food, healthy agriculture and thriving communities…? Curious to hear your thoughts…” Instant like-like-like. “Sow brilliant,” commented a compost-making friend. The response was overwhelmingly positive. So we thought we’d post this invite to the interfaith Tikkun reader community and dig deeper into what’s behind this idea and how together we can cultivate a movement for healthy eats and food justice.
by: Donna Schaper on April 11th, 2014 | Comments Off
From the Psalms to the Cloud
by Maria Mankin and Maren C. Tirabassi
Pilgrim Press, 2013
You don’t have to be an environmentalist to wonder about technology. Will it be our great savior or will it be another thorn in the flesh, another opportunity to hear Thoreau’s lament? “Human beings”, he says, “have a tendency to become the tools of their tools.”
This excellent collection of prayers and worship materials finds a way to help us understand the tool of technology. It is a very green book while also being useful. It is green because it gives us a way out of the totalitarian world of the market and into a world that we make with words.
Just about everybody is on the other side of the time famine and the trust famine and deep into digital and connectivity overload. By time famine I mean the pervasive sense that there is not enough time to do what we want, so subjugated is our time to technology, 800 numbers, forms and robotic requests for information. By trust famine I mean all that time we spend worrying about the time famine and wondering if somebody else is in charge. Are we in charge of our tools and our time or are our tools and time famine in charge of us?
by: Rabbi Howard Cooper on April 9th, 2014 | 1 Comment »
Credit: Creative Commons
I once gave a sermon, at the Jewish New Year, during which a thunderstorm broke out and water started to pour through the synagogue roof. I’d like to claim that this was a cleverly-orchestrated special effects stunt that I’d managed to engineer; or even an example of my special relationship with what our tradition, anthropomorphically, calls ‘Our God in Heaven’. (Alas, it was just a leaking roof).
The title of the sermon was pinched – or ‘adapted’, as we writers say – from Martin Scorsese’s ‘The Last Temptation of Christ’ which had come out that year (1988). In view of the release of Darren Aronofsky’ s quasi-biblical epic ‘Noah’ with Russell Crowe as the eponymous hero – presumably not timed to coincide with the publication this week of the latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report which relates what we already know in our guts, that global warming has already left its mark “on all continents and across the oceans”, creating havoc with our global weather including extreme heat waves and floods, as well as endangering food supplies; and that we are on the brink of “abrupt and irreversible changes” – I would like to share with you the text of this story-sermon, which has, sadly, frighteningly, stood the test of time…
by: Allen B. Saxe on March 19th, 2014 | 16 Comments »
Credit: Creative Commons/ abon
American culture needs to develop a new language to describe relationships of love and commitment. Husband and wife are too narrow. Partner too broad. Boyfriend and girlfriend focus on young unmarried people.
For gays and lesbians they have had to rely on the use of “partners” or if gay, “husband,” or if lesbian, “wife.” I feel these are temporary terms as we struggle to find more fitting terms.
This is not just an issue for same sex couples. It is also an issue for heterosexual couples in committed relationships that are not traditional marriages.
My sister-in-law Jacquie and Srulik are in a committed relationship. However they have not married in a religious ceremony or civil ceremony.
When my sister-in-law once referred to Srulik as her partner, she saw either puzzlement or astonishment in the reactions of others. Was Jacquie now a lesbian? To use husband and wife might confuse people who might respond, “So when was the wedding?” or “So why were we not invited to the wedding?” We need to do better.
“Partner” has never reflected the love and commitment that these relationships deserve.
I suggest that we turn to the Jewish tradition of Song of Songs.
by: Zehra Bapir on March 6th, 2014 | 2 Comments »
It all started six months ago when my husband and I first moved to Brooklyn. We had been living in South-East Turkey surrounded by family members and friends in the same complex. I wanted to bring that sense of “neighborliness” with me when we moved to the U.S. and I also wanted the neighbors to know that even though I covered and looked like a terrorist from the desert, at least I was clean and friendly.
Credit: Creative Commons/rottnapples.
The first week we moved in, I made chocolate chip cookies. I know Americans — every one of them loves home-made chocolate chip cookies. That’s like a given. Every culture has a deep love and appreciation for something – English love chips. Turks love tea. Irish love…etcetera.
I was probably the first person to do this in the 21st century but that’s okay. I was going to be assertive in being a neighbor. My new neighbors were going to like me AND my chocolate chip cookies.
The first few doors I knocked on in the building gave me surprised but polite responses “What a nice idea, but I’m on a diet.” “Thank you so much, I’ll give these to my sons.” “This was so thoughtful! Unfortunately I have to watch my sugar intake you know because…” I had a feeling this would happen. I knew from movies a lot of New Yorkers were on diets, especially if they were old.
It wasn’t until I knocked on the last door that I realized most of them weren’t actually on diets.