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Dave Belden
Dave Belden

Rabbi Michael Lerner: A Quarter Century Devoted to Repairing the World


by: on March 14th, 2011 | 4 Comments »

Today Truthout has done that rather unusual thing: given a leader of the religious left a lot of space to tell their story. As that’s the Tikkun story, as told by Rabbi Michael Lerner, I am particularly happy about it. Asked what Tikkun‘s successes and failures have been, Michael responded in part:

Our greatest achievement has been to legitimate – in the Jewish world and increasingly in liberal and progressive circles – the idea that there should be a middle path that involves support for both Israel and Palestine and critique of both Israel and Palestine. That critique must include the way both peoples are responsible for the current mess, at the same time recognizing the vast disproportion in power and Israel’s consequent preponderant responsibility to create a politically and economically viable Palestinian state.

This position has earned Tikkun a reputation in the Jewish world establishment as self-hating, etcetera, even though we support the existence of the state of Israel and see this as the best way for Israel to embody its own values.

Some sectors of the left see us as apologists for Israel.

Increasing numbers of young Jews now accept the worldview we’ve put forth in Tikkun, although it still is rejected by the Jewish establishment.

And the failures?


Our Thanks To All On Our 25th Anniversary


by: on March 14th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

A San Francisco Bay Area web magazine editor called me this morning to offer congratulations on Tikkun‘s 25th Anniversary, and also on my letter to the editor about it that she saw published in the San Francisco Chronicle this morning (below). Before Jo Ellen Kaiser edited Zeek she was the longest serving editor at Tikkun, so I said she deserved the congratulations more than I did.

Indeed all of our past staff are included in our gratitude today. And all those who have written for us. You may not realize that no one who writes in Tikkun gets paid: that’s nothing we are proud of, in fact we are ashamed to say it and wish that we knew how to be a better-funded organization; but still we are amazed and filled with gratitude that so many people do want to write for Tikkun out of passion, love and whatever other reasons.

And there is you, the reader, the center of the whole enterprise, whose interest and involvement and readiness to shell out for a subscription (it’s not too late to subscribe now!) or to donate is what in the end makes this possible. If you weren’t seeking how to tackle the problems we have with a different kind of thinking than the thinking that created them (to paraphrase Einstein) we wouldn’t be here.


Our Beautiful New Website


by: on March 9th, 2011 | 3 Comments »

For the last six months we have been designing and constructing a new website for Tikkun magazine and it went live late on Saturday night. Do check it out here and through the “Tikkun Main Site” link above.

In his Welcome to Our New Website Michael Lerner writes:

Tikkun magazine is a voice for all who seek to build what we call the “Caring Society – caring for each other, caring for the earth.” We are a voice for all who refuse to accept that environmental destruction, wars, poverty, oppression, racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, Islamophobia, hatred or fear of Jews, or despair are inevitable. We are the voice of those who refuse to be “realistic” and who instead are engaged in the struggle (a long-term struggle to be sure) to build a world of love and kindness; generosity; compassion; repentance and forgiveness; ethical and ecological sensitivity and responsibility; and awe, wonder, and radical amazement at the grandeur and mystery of the universe.

The print magazine is continuing to exist as a shorter quarterly publication, but the web is where we will now be publishing the majority of our content.


“El Général’s rap broke the spell of fear”


by: on March 9th, 2011 | Comments Off

El Général

Here’s another story about a individuals who made a difference in generating the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. The article starts with an anecdote about our own Mark LeVine, Tikkun‘s longest serving contributing editor and author of Heavy Metal Islam, in Tahrir Square saying to a friend “This is really metal!” Then it gets to Hamada Ben Amor – better known as “El Général” – a 21 year old rapper in Tunisia, a fan of Tupac Shakur, whose Arabic raps against the dictator led to his arrest by the regime.

Eventually, thanks to a storm of public protest, El Général was released and returned to Sfax in triumph. Even the cops were now treating him as a celebrity. “People were proud of me,” he says cheerfully. “I took a risk, with life, with my family. But I was never scared, because I was talking about reality.”

El Général’s rap broke the spell of fear and showed his peers that it was possible to rebel and survive. Rap’s power is its simplicity. “People can just record songs in their living room,” says the Narcicyst, an Iraqi-born rapper living in Toronto, who got together with other MCs from the Arabic rap diaspora, such as Omar Offendum, and released a tribute track called “#Jan25 Egypt”, which has become a huge viral hit. “It’s something that can be easily done in the middle of a revolution.”

More here and here.

C.K. Williams To Be Honored March 14 at Our 25th Anniversary Celebration


by: on March 3rd, 2011 | 2 Comments »

The last time the Tikkun Award went to a poet, it was Allen Ginsberg who received it in person at a ceremony at Columbia University in New York City. He joined a list of significant figures who had previously received the award including Grace Paley, Irving Howe, Alfred Kazin, U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone, and Abba Eban.

Tikkun‘s poetry editor Joshua Weiner provides some context on why it is going this year to C.K. Williams.

What is the role of the poet in Tikkun‘s core vision, of commitment to peace, social justice, ecological sanity? What is the role of the poet in a movement that aims to foster solidarity, generosity, kindness, and radical amazement? What is the role of the poet when it comes to social change and individual inner change?

Poetry is often discussed in our culture as a kind of commodity that few people are buying; but like meditation, reading poetry, listening to poetry, is less of a product, and more of a process, of coming into fuller awareness. Awareness of what? Our sense of connection to others starts within, moves without, and returns. The reciprocity between self and world is one of continual fluctuation, and there is no poet writing today who is more attuned to the ethical implications of that existential flux than C.K. Williams.


Mysteries of Male Behavior (Mass Pyschodynamics)


by: on March 3rd, 2011 | 6 Comments »

Harriet Fraad’s illuminating piece here last week about marriage has got me thinking about men. We men are still not getting what the women’s revolution can give us. At least, many are but way more are not. We’re not getting it en masse. The evidence for this is that women are turning their backs increasingly on marriage. Why? Because it’s becoming a bad bargain for them. They increasingly realize how much more they contribute in a marriage than their man does. They grew, but men didn’t keep pace. Women still do much more of the emotional work and the housework, even while working full time jobs. Why can’t men clue in to the benefits for us of learning to give as good emotional support and practical caring as we get? Why can’t we realize that it’s good riddance to patriarchal male power, which isolated us from women and children and taught us hierarchy — for which male bonding could be a compensation, but often in a hearty way that prevents emotional openness, self-revelation and vulnerability.

Well, here’s a fascinating article about men changing en masse – actually it’s about future men, which is even better. Mark McCormack writes in openDemocracy about boys in England:

In the 1980s and early 1990s British society was gripped by extreme homophobia….

During this period, given the stigma attached to homosexuality, boys went to great lengths to show that they were straight by trying to prove that they were neither feminine nor gay. They espoused homophobic and misogynistic views, and sometimes fought to prove their masculinity. Sociologist Mairtin Mac an Ghaill, summing up the result, described heterosexual boys as being pre-occupied with “three F’s”: football, fighting and fucking. This type of control over gendered expression also led to the suppressing of many emotions. For example, while boys were permitted to vent anger, they were not allowed to emote: the expression of fear, intimidation or love for a friend were all feminised and condemned. Boys grew up to become emotionally stunted adults.

No surprises yet, but then the author does a study in current sixth forms (the equivalents of 11th and 12th grade in US high schools) and finds a truly dramatic change.


The Global Center of Gravity Shifts to the Arab World


by: on February 27th, 2011 | 7 Comments »

“The people want to bring down the regime” is the cry of the people of Libya. But what will they create? Well, that’s always the question with democracies. Guess who said

Democracy leads to anarchy, which is mob rule.

No surprise, it was Plato. Even “the best people,” perhaps especially them, those high-minded patricians who want an ethical, moral government, tend to fear that the people will become a mob. There are plenty of examples from history to back them up, but plenty more that show how popular government muddles its way towards more just government. I don’t know of any country that made that transition fast or that isn’t still struggling with its oligarchies.

Kristoff has a good column today on the Western racism involved imagining that Arabs, Africans and Chinese are somehow unfit for democracy.

But the piece to read is by Mark LeVine (Tikkun‘s longest serving contributing editor): “History’s Shifting Sands, The revolutions sweeping the Arab world indicate a tectonic shift in the global balance of people power.”

In Kristoff’s piece you still feel a little bit of the self congratulation Americans feel about their own democracy, along with the magnanimity to believe others are capable of it too. In LeVine’s, you get the sense that many of us have watching these Arab uprisings, that their democratic energy is by far eclipsing ours at present. He doesn’t downplay the value of the example of Western democracy, but he is also clear-headed about what it has always lacked, not least in Western attitudes to the Arab world:

Ever since Abd al-Rahman al-Jabarti, the great Egyptian chronicler of the French invasion of Egypt, brilliantly dissected Napoleon’s epistle to Egyptians, the peoples of the Middle East have seen through the Western protestations of benevolence and altruism to the naked self-interest that has always laid at the heart of great power politics. But the hypocrisy behind Western policies never stopped millions of people across the region from admiring and fighting for the ideals of freedom, progress and democracy they promised.

Even with the rise of a swaggeringly belligerent American foreign policy after September 11 on the one hand, and of China as a viable economic alternative to US global dominance on the other, the US’ melting pot democracy and seemingly endless potential for renewal and growth offered a model for the future.

Trading places

But something has changed. An epochal shift of historical momentum has occurred whose implications have yet to be imagined, never mind assessed. In the space of a month, the intellectual, political and ideological centre of gravity in the world has shifted from the far West (America) and far East (China, whose unchecked growth and continued political oppression are clearly not a model for the region) back to the Middle – to Egypt, the mother of all civilization, and other young societies across the Middle East and North Africa.


Why we are honoring Justice Richard Goldstone


by: on February 25th, 2011 | 6 Comments »

We are honoring six spiritual progressive leaders at our 25th Anniversary celebration on March 14:


Of these six the most controversial is surely Justice Richard Goldstone.

Richard Goldstone first got involved in politics as a college student in South Africa where he was an outspoken opponent of Apartheid. He became a close associate of Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s and served on South Africa’s Supreme Court. He was then picked by the UN to head their inquiries into human rights violations in Bosnia, Rwanda, and then most recently in Gaza.

Justice Goldstone approached the Gaza assignment with some trepidation. He refused the assignment until the UN had changed its charge to be one that would include human rights violations by Hamas as well. He had been a noted Zionist in South Africa and had been the international chair of the Jewish ORT — organization for rehabilitation and training — and had been chosen to be a member of the Board of the Hebrew University. He had expected that Israel would fully cooperate in this investigation, and when it did not and he had no recourse but to collect the facts as presented to him by the Palestinian victims of the Israeli army’s assault on Gaza, he made clear that he felt that his report only provided a prima facie reason for a fuller investigation by the UN and the World Court.


Chimamanda Adichie (and Tikkun Daily): The Danger of the Single Story


by: on February 23rd, 2011 | 2 Comments »

My sister in London, Hilary, who is much more of a fiction reader than I am and gives me wonderful tips as to what I would enjoy reading, just sent me this video of the Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie speaking about stories. It’s 19 minutes but worth it.

Here’s the link if the embedded video above fails, as it has done on me several times while writing this post.

Adichie talks about how, raised in Nigeria, she went to college in the United States, and found that her roommate was surprised that she could speak English and use a stove, and liked to listen to American music. This may sound like a straightforward aggrieved litany against white racism and ignorance, but Adichie had already told a story about how she, raised middle class, had once visited a poor family in Nigeria and been surprised that they created beautiful craft objects. She had had only pity for them, in her ignorance.

What Adichie does throughout this talk is to shift from blaming any one particular group, to showing universals of the human condition, and the frame she uses is that of the single story. It’s when we hear only one dominant story about any people or place that we fall into racism, patronizing class attitudes, and innumerable demonizations. The trouble with stereotypes, she says, is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. And at base, of course, it’s about power.


Music at Our 25th Anniversary Celebration #1: Kelly Takunda Orphan


by: on February 20th, 2011 | Comments Off

I will be profiling the honorees at our March 14 celebration over the next couple of weeks (see my last post), not just to promote our event, since most readers of this blog live far away and can’t attend it, but to promote these people and their tremendous contributions, to explain why they are receiving the Tikkun Award. In addition to speeches from the honorees and editors, we will enjoy some terrific music and poetry at the event. Again, for people far away, as well as to bring more of you nearby folks to the event, I am hoping to profile the musicians. (We are also in the last days of creating our new magazine website which will debut in early March so it’s another of those insanely intense two weeks at Tikkun — so who knows what I will actually manage to post about here).

Today I want to start by writing about Kelly Takunda Orphan Martinez, because she has a fundraiser concert of her own this week that I encourage Bay Area people to come to.

I first heard Kelly Orphan play at Oakland’s First Congregational Church (known as First Congo), where she was the music directors for many years. She was remarkable. I tried to explain why when I invited her to play at our event: “I never felt seeing you play at First Congo that your performance was about you: it was always about the people in the pews and the worship of God, about creating the spirit and feeding the spirit. That is the kind of music we would like to have at our event.”