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Cat Zavis
Cat J. Zavis
Cat J. Zavis is the Executive Director of the Network of Spiritual Progressives and a collaborative divorce attorney, mediator, coach, and conflict resolution, Empathic Communication trainer.

Grieving and Mourning Israel/Palestine & Communicating Across Differences


by: on August 26th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Israel-Palestine Are you upset about what is happening in Israel/Palestine?

Are you tired of the vitriolic discourse with friends, family members, or on social media?

Do you want to learn skills to communicate compassionately and effectively across differences? Want a safe place to grieve and mourn?

… If so, this workshop is for you.

Come meet others who care deeply about ending the suffering in the Middle East, and learn how to effectively communicate with others with whom you might not agree!

The Network of Spiritual Progressives and Tikkun are offering a four-hour workshop where you willlearn techniques to deal with your distress, rage, and upset about the situation in Israel and Palestine and also have opportunities to learn and practice skills for hearing those who don’t agree with you and expressing yourself more effectively. You will leave feeling empowered to engage in healthy discourse, even with those with whom you disagree.


The Murder of Mike Brown: A Call To Action


by: on August 15th, 2014 | 2 Comments »

The murder of Mike Brown and response by the St. Louis Police Department to nonviolent protestors is emblematic of the persistent racism in our country and disproportionate response to peaceful actions and protests. It was only 13 months ago when a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murder for his shooting of Trayvon Martin and here we are again, this time with a police officer shooting an unarmed black man as, according to witnesses, his hands were raised — the officer was not in any danger.

And then the St. Louis police department, a week after the incident, finally announces the name of the officer who killed Mike Brown. Why a week? Well, one can only wonder, but during that week they uncovered a video of an African-American man who robbed a convenience store in the neighborhood and shoved the store owner, possibly laying the foundation for a defense case for the officer. Three witnesses to the shooting of Mike Brown say that he had his hands up when he was shot dead. How dare the police department attempt to justify the killing of an unarmed civilian because he might have stolen a box of cigars earlier that night? Once again the victim is being demonized and the very government that is meant to protect and serve ALL is instead unwilling to champion the victims of classism and racism in America.

Why should anyone be surprised? This is not new — Obama abandoned those who voted for him when he bailed out the banks rather than the individual homeowners who were the victims of the scandal, our Congress does it every time it approves more corporate welfare while cutting welfare for individuals and demonizing recipients at the same time, and it is done every time a woman is asked what she was wearing when she was raped.

Institutional racism and perpetuation of blaming the victim is alive and well in our country and results in the murder of innocent African American men and now free speech and assembly, in protest of that racism, is on the butchering block as well.


Compassion and Empathy: the Path to a Peaceful and Just Middle East


by: on July 14th, 2014 | 29 Comments »

I have been struggling with how to respond to the current crisis in Gaza (and frankly, the craziness of so many things in the world right now – including the horrific reality that Obama is closing our doors to refugee children sending them back to their countries to face horrors unimaginable).

My heart is broken. At Shabbat services Friday night, as we sang a prayer for healing, my thoughts turned to all the victims in Gaza – images of their maimed and murdered bodies (that I had unfortunately seen on the internet) flashed before my eyes, resulting in tears running down my cheeks and sobs of sorrow and grief), just as I mourned the death of the three Israeli teenagers. I sometimes feel a sense of hopelessness at the current situation and know many people don’t have any idea what to do to stop this madness, nonetheless I am now working to expand our Network of Spiritual Progressives to help spread a different worldview and to bring a voice of compassion and empathy to the situation.

Israel, with its overwhelming power, has a moral responsibility to stop bombing Gaza. Israel is killing innocent civilians under the guise of wiping out Hamas when in fact, this sort of attack will only strengthen militant forces and voices in Palestine who will use the attacks to further their position that Israel (and “Jews”) are murderers and only care about controlling all of Israel and Palestine. In addition, this behavior by Netanyahu only perpetuates anti-Semitism and puts Jews at greater risk around the world. When the actions of the State of Israel are equated with the actions of Jews, Jews ultimately suffer.In fact, just today I read about pro-Hamas protesters in Paris trapping hundreds of Jews in a synagogue, chanting “Death to Jews” while throwing rocks and bricks at the synagogue. The police dispersed the crowd. The members left the synagogue – two were lightly injured. Anti-Semitism, like any form of racism, is always illegitimate. But when so many institutions of the organized Jewish communities around the world line up in solidarity with whatever military or political action the State of Israel takes, I can easily see how easy it is for some to equate the activities of the State of Israel with the entire Jewish people (unfair though that is).


Campaign Financing Is Legalized Bribery (Not to Mention a Violation of the Torah!)


by: on October 18th, 2013 | 3 Comments »

I was reading the Torah a couple months, well actually I read it every week as part of my Sabbath practice, but a couple months ago the Torah portion focused on bribery and stirred me to thinking (the Torah has that effect on me!). Specifically, Deuteronomy 16, sentence 19, states that “You shall not judge unfairly, you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.”


This simple little sentence has a lot to say about our current political structure, wouldn’t you say? “Don’t judge unfairly.” What could that possibly mean? Well, I take it to mean that we should not judge others lest we understand the path they have walked. This speaks to me about being empathic.

What about “you shall show no partiality”? Well that seems obvious enough, if you are a judge or have a position of power that allows you to make decisions that impact others, don’t be partial. Don’t let your biases get in the way of making sound decisions grounded in the facts. But it can also be applied in more mundane situations – as a teacher, parent, friend, lawyer, etc. When I read this as applying in all circumstances (the Torah does not seem to limit its application), what I take it to mean is to find a path of compassion, look at the situation from all sides, don’t assume one person is right and one wrong. That’s rather powerful. Reminds me of Rumi’s poem:

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
 there is a field. I’ll meet you there.

 When the soul lies down in that grass,
 the world is too full to talk about.
 Ideas, language, even the phrase “each other” doesn’t make any sense.


Consumerism: Religion of the Masses?


by: on October 2nd, 2013 | 2 Comments »

Is it no wonder we crave that which we don’t need? Every time I open a new web browser on my Mac computer I get a picture of the new iPhone in yet another pretty color – they even have it in gold now.

Is that like a gold card?

Do you get extra perks or priority seating if you book your airline tickets with your gold iPhone? Can you go through security ahead of everyone else?

Certainly, those who run the marketing department of Mac are no dummies! They know that if they show us enough pretty pictures of a new, clean, gleaming phone in your favorite color – soon enough you will be craving it. In fact, one of my dear friends, who is about to become a Zen priest, told me that she is craving a new iPhone and that the craving will not stop until she gets it. I suggested that perhaps she needed to sit on her cushion more and deal with her craving before she is ready to be ordained!

But this is the nature of capitalism and consumerism and the downside of it too. We live in a culture where buying and consuming the latest and greatest gadget – without any awareness of or concern for the impact of constantly creating new and better products so that we can buy things more quickly from our phone without being inconvenienced by having to wait an extra two minutes, or where we can speak into the phone so we don’t have to waste precious time typing – is the norm.


Hey, It’s Not A Meritocracy!


by: on September 4th, 2013 | Comments Off

“So what do the rich do every day that the poor don’t do?” A few months ago I read an article that was posted in a Facebook business group of which I am a member. The article is titled: 20 Things The Rich Do Every Day. It was posted at http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/20-things-the-rich-do-every-day (although the original article was written by someone else).

Image courtesy of sheelamohan / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The blog lists 20 different things, including eating less junk food, exercising aerobically daily, listening to audio books, reading 2 or more books to their children a month, and the list goes on and on.

I was deeply disturbed by this article because of what it failed to mention – particularly the real life, socially constructed systems and structures in our society that perpetuate economic disparity between the rich and the poor. At the same time, this was posted on the Facebook page of a business group I joined to improve my ability to succeed in the competitive marketplace, and I want to be seen in that group in a way that might encourage the members to send me referrals or other business help, right?


“Barack Needs You, Right Now” – Give Me A Break!


by: on July 28th, 2013 | 6 Comments »

OK, this last email pushed me to my limit. The subject line heading read: “Barack needs you, right now.” You’ve got to me kidding me. Barack needs ME? For what? Well Michelle (the email was sent from Michelle Obama), before I am willing to help Barack, I’d like to see Barack help the people of this country – the people who voted for him, who went doorbelling for him, who stood up for him because they believed in his message of “Yes We Can.” President Obama, your policies, practices and actions since taking office in 2009 are completely opposite of what you said you would do and I will not support you, so stop asking. In case you are wondering why, here is a list of a few of the things you have done that I do not condone and hence why I won’t give you any money or support.

Credit: Flickrcc/Storm Crypt

  • Instead of helping the working class and poor people, you have aligned yourself with Wall Street and the corporate giants of the world.
  • Instead of ensuring protection of our food supply, you have appointed Monsanto executives to your government.
  • Instead of thanking whistle-blowers for uncovering the corruption and violence in our government and private agencies (as you said you would), you are hunting them down and prosecuting them.
  • Instead of ensuring the protection of constitutional rights, you have signed into law the NDAA – allowing for unlimited detention without charges or a trial.
  • Instead of upholding the law and following a path of peace and nonviolence, you have dropped drones and killed innocent children, women, men and community leaders.
  • Instead of protecting the environment, you appoint people in your government who are hell bent on destroying our environment.
  • Instead of confronting issues of race and racism, you talk platitudes while considering appointing the NY police commissioner, Kelly, the one in charge of the controversial stop and frisk policy in NYC that has led to the harassment of black and brown men at alarming rates, as the head of Homeland Security. All the while claiming that Trayvon Martin could have been you or your son.

We Are Better Than This! Let’s Open the Floodgates to Heaven


by: on November 26th, 2012 | 6 Comments »

We live in a time of great ingenuity, incredible scientific advances that extend life, repair damaged cells, modify food supplies, expand the limits of our universe and yet we’ve lost touch with the most important thing in life – the thing that keeps us all alive – our humanity. Consider the reality of our world today:

  • The United States has the second highest child poverty rate worldwide
  • The prison-industrial complex warehouses human beings like animals only to have them either released into society without any greater skills than which they arrived, or left to languish until their final breath
  • We are warehousing and torturing animals in the name of increasing food supplies without a care for how that impacts the animals, the planet or our own health.
  • We are destroying our planet, food and water supply
  • Our corporations’ profits exceed reasonable needs while their employees cannot afford to put food on their tables
  • 1% of the population owns 99% of the wealth
  • We are buying and building bombs instead of supplying food, shelter, education, and health care

The list goes on and on but need I really say more. We seem to have arrived at a place where getting, achieving, taking and winning are more important than caring, concern, generosity and love. And I am left wondering, “when did this happen?”

We have forgotten that what each and every one of us craves more than the latest generation iPhone, car, tv, stereo, etc. is a life filled with meaning, a life of contribution, a life of connection and love — a life that matters.


A Call to Jews: Let’s Find Compassion through Mourning on the Sabbath


by: on November 20th, 2012 | 10 Comments »

I keep getting distracted by posts on Facebook about Palestine and Israel. In particular, people are posting pictures that say “Share if you support Israel’s right to defend herself” or a cartoon like the one on left of Israeli children unable to stand outside as the snow falls because instead of snow falling on them, rockets are falling.

When I see these images, my eyes fill with tears. I am so deeply saddened by this because I value caring for the well-being of all and taking responsibility for how our choices and behavior impact others.

One common question that Jews keep asking is “What would you do?” with a picture of bombs landing on icons from different cities around the world.

What this picture ignores is the daily, ongoing experience for Palestinians.

I have never seen these same people post photos of the suffering of Palestinians or raise concerns or questions about the Occupation, the building of the Wall, the destruction and demolition of Palestinian homes, the imprisonment and killing of nonviolent protesters, children, etc.


A Call for A Politics of Love


by: on November 14th, 2012 | 4 Comments »

Dear President Obama and Democratic Members of Congress,

I invite you to embrace the radical notion that there are fundamental truths and values that the vast majority of US citizens believe in and support. They have chosen you to be the messenger and implementer of those ideas in the form of legislation and actions on a federal level. Now is the time for you to step out of a politics based on fear and limiting beliefs and into the very real possibility and actuality that when you choose to stand in a politics of love, your actions will be celebrated.

This is what a politics of love looks like:

1. Genuine care for the well-being of all, both in the US and abroad.

2. A commitment to the repair of our planet, food and water resources.

3. A belief in the sacred nature of every being.

The vast majority of citizens as evidenced by the occupy movement, votes at the polls, and public discourse, are tired by the politics of hate, fear and money that dominated the 2012 election and our public discourse for years. Instead of a politics of fear, hatred and money, they are yearning for a politics based on love – where the well-being of all overrides the desire of a few.