Cat Zavis is the Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP), working to bridge spirituality and politics to build a loving and just world. She leads trainings in Spiritual Activism – Prophetic Empathy and Radical Love. To learn more, go to www.spiritualprogressives.org.
Judaism teaches us that there is a correlation between the ethical and moral structure of a society and the environmental structure of the universe. Cat Zavis and Rabbi Lerner have written a prophetic translation of one of the daily prayers in Jewish liturgy that speaks to this reality.
Cat Zavis reports on a recent interfaith action at the U.S.-Mexico border to demand respect for the human right to migrate and seek asylum, an end to the militarization of border communities, and an end to immigrant detention and deportation and the defunding of ICE and Border Patrol.
At this very moment, hundreds of mothers and children are being separated from one another by a truly unconscionable decision of the Trump administration to separate children from their parents when coming to this country fleeing violence and seeking asylum. These children, some as young as 53 weeks old, do not know if they will ever see their mothers or fathers again and are being warehoused in cages with metallic blankets. I have struggled with how to best respond to this horror and am in conversation with other organizations. In the meantime, I have decided to see if there might be a way to reach Ivanka Trump. She is in a unique position to influence her father, and as a mother and self-identified feminist, perhaps if we speak to her with compassion she just might open her heart and be moved enough to try to convince her father to change his policy. Here is the letter I tweeted to her in an effort to encourage her to act.
Some people have asked me what is a defining moment in your life that made you ‘you.’ And I always tell the following story. When I was 12 years old I was sitting in my living with my mom, dad, and older sister. We were watching the television show Roots. Whenever I tell this story, including now, I have a flashback to our living room. I can picture exactly where I am sitting, on the floor in front of the coffee table with my eyes glued to the screen.
Yet one area where psalms have not been traditionally used is in the area of social justice, which is surprising given the fact that Jewish theology and the Torah are filled with ethical teachings and lessons on the need to stand up to the powerful and to empire, that the world can be fundamentally transformed (i.e., that slaves can be freed), and that God calls for your participation in changing and transforming the world and freeing yourself and others.
THERE ARE SO MANY WAYS to read and interpret Torah and then to share that with others. We can read it literally and stop there. We can see what Torah commentators wrote about these texts over the past two thousand years of conversation among the generations of Jews who treasured these texts even as they re-read them in light of their own developing understanding. And we can look at it from the perspective of what lessons we can take from it—what we can extract from its meaning for how to live and understand life today—undoubtedly placing our own spin on it. It is in this latter way that I am engaging with the story of Sarah and Hagar.
As I enter Shabbat with a heavy heart, I hold in my heart the memories of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, their family members and all who loved them, the Black women and men who are reminded once again of their own fragility in a country that is supposedly free, and of all the lives throughout the world who are killed and whose true stories we are unable to see.
In case you who missed it, here's Rabbi Lerner's talk at Muhammed Ali's funeral. His vision is all the more relevant given the horrific killings in Orlando and the way it is being used to promote fear, hatred and Islamophobia. It has gone viral on social media and inspired over a million people already. If it inspires you as well, please read below for how to be an ally with Rabbi Lerner to help build the world he describes.
Thousands of activist groups work to save the environment, address the needs of the homeless and hungry, ensure we have a safe and adequate supply of food and water, and fight racism and economic injustice. Many are making valiant efforts. Yet we continue to see the devastation and destruction of our environment, an increasing divide between the haves and the have-nots, and deepening racial tensions.
We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives are delighted to announce that Vandana Shiva, the internationally acclaimed environmental activist from India has become the international co-chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives along with Rabbi Michael Lerner. Dr. Shiva has contributed in fundamental ways to changing the practice and paradigms of agriculture and food. Her books The Violence of the Green Revolution and Monocultures of the Mind pose essential challenges to the dominant paradigm of non-sustainable, industrial agriculture. Through her books Biopiracy, Stolen Harvest and Water Wars, Dr. Shiva has made visible the social, economic and ecological costs of corporate-led globalization. In her letter to us accepting the position of NSP co-chair, Vandana Shiva requested that we send out to you her request that you read the information below, and then sign and send the letter included below to President Obama and President Modi.