Paul Ryan’s Trickle-Down Budget

Although Ryan claims that the budget offers a “better way” to address widespread poverty and near poverty in the United States, this approach to policymaking is anything but a better way. In actuality, it is an egregious transgression of the foundational ethical principle of every major religion: loving our neighbors and caring for their needs as if they are our own.

Jacobs, the Jew

Jacobs knew he was different: after his bar mitzvah he left all that mishigas behind. He looked at himself now simply as an American. He even thought about changing his name, but he knew it would kill his father.

American Post-Judaism with Shaul Magid

Judaism Unbound (http://www.judaismunbound.com) is a project of the Institute for the Next Jewish Future, a project that catalyzes and supports grassroots efforts by “disaffected but hopeful” American Jews to re-imagine and re-design Jewish life in America for the 21st Century. In the third of a four-part series discussing the Jewish future in America, Shaul Magid discusses his 2013 book American Post-Judaism and explores various challenges that face Jews and Judaism in America in the next generation. Focusing on the idea that America is moving into a post-ethnic phase whereby ethnicity no longer defines collectives the way it once did, Magid talks about various new forms of Jewish spiritual practice, syncretism and hybridity with other religions, the role of the non-Jew in the Jewish community, the developing role of the Holocaust and Israel in American Jewish life, the cresting of Habad’s influence, the normalization of intermarriage, the contributions ex-haredi Jews can make to American Judaism, and two models he calls “survivialism” and “spiritual humanism” that have emerged as competing paradigms in the 21st century.

Nigel Savage of Hazon on a Jewish Food Movement

Nigel Savage is the founder and executive director of Hazon, one of the most significant new organizations in Jewish life in the past several decades, focused on food policy Tikkun magazine’s Sprint 2016 print edition is focused on food policy, and this article should be read in conjunction with the articles in that issue which are not primarily focused on how these issues play out in the Jewish world, but rather on the worldwide food crisis and how to solve it. Hazon is certainly part of that solution, so we are delighted to have this opportunity to present to you some of the thinking of its most visionary leader. Rather than break up the text with questions from Tikkun, we’ve mostly eliminated the questions and tried to tie together different parts of what Nigel Savage is saying to enhance the flow of the article.To get the Food Policy edition of Tikkun, subscribe at www.tikkun.org/subscribe. To get more info about Hazon, please go to www.hazon.org

Can We Talk About Intimate Justice?

Despite staggering statistics and horrific personal accounts, intimate partner violence remains a normalized part of life. Even when videos of intimate partner violence committed with the hands, mouths, and privilege of sports stars and celebrities flash across our screens, outrage dissipates as soon as a new scandal arises. It is easy to become desensitized to intimate partner violence and the many forms it takes — verbal, psychological, financial, physical, spiritual. But intimate partner violence continues at epic levels, killing and wounding our women, children, and men, and depriving communities of fullness of life.

Galjonen

It was one of Majda’s don’t-know-how-many attempts to land a job. After an entire week of visiting cafés and all the other glassed-in spaces, and hoping that two young foreigners who didn’t possess the language or any special skills wouldn’t fall into prostitution, but into decent manual labor instead, the girls decided to split up. They grabbed the addresses from the yellow pages stolen from a phone booth at the railroad station. Heads meant east, tails meant west, and so Majda took the bus number three-three-seven all the way to Stockholm’s suburbs. The name of the restaurant was Galjonen.

The Human Body in extremis: Brecht’s Mother Courage and Her Children at the Berliner Ensemble

I was in Berlin last October by design.  The original plan was to turn up the heat studying German, work on some translations, reconnect with friends, and move deeper into the city’s jagged, darker spaces.  By August it was clear the Syrian crisis was changing Germany, Europe, and the rest of the world.  Having the opportunity to be there would, I felt, require diverting attention to the Syrians and others entering Germany to escape the horrors of violence at home.  After a particularly cold and rainy day interviewing refugees in the compound of Lageso (the Landesamt für Geshundheit und Soziales), I decided at the last minute to see Mutter Courage und Ihre Kinder, Bertolt Brecht’s play about an opportunist canteen operator who sells her wares over the course of 17 years during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Mother Courage plays in Berlin like the musical Cats in New York — seemingly interminably.  But the situation in Germany now, with so many refugees running from sectarian violence and civil war, creates a new urgent context for the play.  The Berliner Ensemble, Brecht’s theater house, was only a twenty-minute walk from my flat in Mitte, straight down Friedrichstrasse.  The theater lobby was packed, definitely a sold-out show, but I got in line, or what kind of looked like a line in front of the ticket booth inside the lobby.  Stereotypes about German order break down when it comes to waiting lines, as Germans often push forward or make end runs to jump on trains or, apparently, get tickets to see a Brecht play.  It looked hopeless.   A guy standing to the side of the line holding a ticket in his hand like a kind of sign catches my eye – he’s selling.  Twenty euros later, I’m in my seat. The only other production I’ve seen of Mother Courage is the David Hare adaptation that starred Kathleen Turner in the title role (at Washington D.C.’s Arena Stage in 2014).  Turner used her aging yet still robust and big-boned physique to good effect; but Carmen-Maja Antoni, who plays Mother Courage in this new Berlin production, is a tough dumpling.  The tension between her short physical stature (her stature in Germany as an actor is legendary), her age (she’s ten years older than Turner), and conniving swagger make an immediate impression — her character is fully evident in her first movements, as she hops off the canteen wagon to confront the recruiting officers, one of whom will sign up her son while she tries to close a sale with the other.  This is the internal tension in the character of Mother Courage — the maternal instinct for her children constantly plays against her instincts for economic survival and the low-grade opportunity of selling cheap goods to desperate people.  Opportunity always takes the upper hand, and one by one she loses her children to the war.  Brecht’s intention was for the audience to see this clearly — how necessity distorts the personality; but to his great frustration, the audience always over-identified with Mother Courage.  He couldn’t create his desired alienation effect — his technique of disturbing the theatrical illusion by displaying its artifice —strongly enough to counteract the audience’s sympathetic response to Mother Courage’s situation.  The character he created was larger than his idea about Epic Theater itself, the scale of singular suffering greater than the apprehension of the social and political structures metaphorically evident in the machinery of the stage.  The audience, watching an old woman try to bear up under such terrible circumstances, always felt more sorry for her than critical of her, the implications of her compromise, and the implied assertion about the loss of sovereignty in a system driven by an ideology of God and death.  Why?  Maybe because the spectacle of seeing an aging human body strain in real space and in real time evokes a sympathy that cannot be intellectually redirected.  Consider: Mother Courage is an anti-Mary without a Christ or pietá.  When she holds her dead, mute daughter in her arms, it is only for a moment before she pays some farmers to carry her off and bury her.  But what’s left for Mother Courage? To put on the harness and put her shoulder to the wagon yoke, and with real effort literally pull the cart off the stage herself — the physical theater of that grim spectacle has an independent power.  Even the teenagers sitting next to me, who spent much of the performance bent over their cell phones, were rapt by the play’s final scenes (which they all knew well, they tell me at the intermission, having studied the play in school). Mother Courage is deluded by the specter of opportunity; her children are seduced by false narratives about heroic adventure (her sons) and sexual adventure (her daughter).  There is no enlightenment, no epiphany, no coming into understanding (‘Courage has learnt nothing,’ writes Brecht in a production note) — that is left to the audience; but too often it chooses the sympathy it can safely contain, with asses in seats, rather than an awareness that leads to action once the show is over.  (There is no significant conversation or argument in the play about religious or political ideology, the conflict between Protestant and Catholic in the seventeenth century as opaque and seemingly over-nuanced, it often appears to many in the West, as the murderous conflicts now raging between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.  By changing the flag on her canteen wagon as needed, Mother Courage saves her skin and lives to make another paltry sale and move on.  The two flags are nearly identical: a black cross on white / a white cross on black).   A play, in other words, that takes place adjacent to the crisis in Syria.  And as much about the internal workings of the audience as they watch the play as the fate of its characters.  Well, that is what a play is.  But what Brecht wanted it to be was a spur to action in the world – against capitalism, against imperialism, both forces also at work today in Syria and the larger Middle East.  His was an ideal, but not a utopian ideal.  Poetry may make nothing happen, as Auden maintains; events are, almost by definition, verifiable; but the effects of art are real however they cannot be measured.  And it is not a question of eloquence.  In the theater, where the bodies of the audience age in real time with the bodies of the actors, the ultimate pathos is in the fate of the body itself.  The theater is never, as is film, a spectacle of shadows (and therefore it is never, as is film, quite a projection of our dreams).  Watching the real old body of Antoni, the actor, pull the canteen wagon strikes a pathetic chord, no question.

A Second Scientific Revolution Reveals the Mortality of the Modern World

In this essay I explain how I moved from a critique of a metaphor of two worlds, America and Europe, to a critique of a metaphor of two worlds, modern and traditional. I also now see America and the modern as symbolic representations of a limitless frontier. I see Europe and the traditional as symbolic representations of a limited home. Once I saw Europeans leaving home to come to an American frontier; now I see modern people leaving traditional homes to come to a universal frontier/marketplace. And I see this powerful modern prophecy of an exodus from a limited old world to a limitless new world as the major cause of our dangerous environmental crisis. We do not nurture our earthly home because we believe we are going to a frontier of unlimited resources.

The Problem of Evil: Campus, 1968

A Short Story

Elena was saying something about how exploited the TA’s were. Maureen, who was also a TA, leaned her head closer, trying to hear her above the din of the students’ chatter in the cavernous auditorium. Then Elena suddenly sat up and pointed toward the front. A short man with long, wavy white hair was rapping a ruler against the podium, attempting to get the students’ attention. He began clearing his throat authoritatively.

Through Amichai’s Window

Editor’s note: We deeply appreciate the way that Yehuda Amichai was available to Tikkun magazine. He not only allowed many of his poems to be printed in Tikkun, but also participated in the Tikkun Conference in Jerusalem, where we brought together all the various factions of the Israeli peace movement to reflect on why they had been less successful than they could have been. Amichai’s presence there, and his reading of his poetry as part of the conference program, was a powerful statement of his commitment to peace and reconciliation with the Palestinian people. 

A widely acclaimed poet of the 20th century, Yehuda Amichai was a voice of sanity in a world that often denies it. Born in Germany, Amichai immigrated to Palestine in the mid-1930s and spent the rest of his life trying to make sense of the calamitous events that his generation endured. He won numerous awards, both in Israel and abroad, and was a frequent contender for the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Legacy of Jewish Trauma

It is now seven decades since the liberation of our people from the jaws of the Nazi death machine. Looking back and facing forward, we have cause for both profound humility and proud celebration that our people is alive on earth and flourishing in so many ways. It is also an opportune moment to study the legacy of our oppression. What are we taking with us into the future? Jewish tradition has long understood that children bear the burden of their parents’ legacy.