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What to do, when they play during the Star Spangled Banner

Jan10

by: Ron Seigel on January 10th, 2018 | 1 Comment »

In the very very olden days, when I was growing up, there was a popular song that declared, “You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.”

Those of us who share progressive values have to expose what is negative in our society.   As an investigative reporter, I have done so for nearly half a century and am proud of doing so.  All too often, though,  as progressives have uncovered what is negative, we all too often failed to communicate the positive values that are motivating us to do so.

One might see this in the incidents where football players protested the police shootings of Black people, including little children.  They did so by refusing to stand for our national anthem.

Many interpreted this protest as an attack on America.  It was actually an expression of basic American values, the exact same values expressed two centuries. ago in ‘The Star Spangled Banner.”

That song, as well as the very creation of this country in the American Revolution,   represented a protest against the centuries’ old abuses of the European feudal system and the tyranny of the kings.  It expresses feelings of Americans about  the denial of human rights in the Europe that they had  left, and their determination not to allow such things here.

However, it is clear that can not only result from foreign invaders but from authorities within.

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Finding My Place as an Anti-Occupation Reform Jew

Dec19

by: Netanya Perluss on December 19th, 2017 | 10 Comments »

This past week at the URJ Biennial, I was blessed to celebrate social justice and my Jewish values, traditions, and songs with 6,000 Jews from across the world. As President Trump unilaterally announced the move of the American embassy to Jerusalem, I was so glad to be with the two Jewish movements closest to my heart: the Reform Movement and IfNotNow.

I grew up in the Reform Movement. I was deeply involved in at my temple, found my home away from home spending summers at URJ Camp Newman, and formed deep and lasting friendships in NFTY. I spent a semester in Israel on NFTY EIE, and found my voice as a songleader at URJ Kutz Camp.

Through all these experiences, from all these communities, I learned to laugh, love, sing, and learn.  But most importantly, I was taught that Tikkun Olam, or fixing the world, was a responsibility of the Jewish people. My Jewish life encouraged me to call out injustices and work to make our world a better place. Through liturgy, songs, programs at camps, youth group events, and sermons at temple, I was called into action, often with a line from the history of our people:

If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?

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I wonder if Mary––

Dec12

by: Stephanie Van Hook on December 12th, 2017 | 5 Comments »

“The Virgin’s name was Mary.” Luke 1:27

“And the angel said unto her, Fear Not, Mary, for thou hast found favour with God.” Luke 1:30

 

 

If we could bring her back

For just a morning,

For a cup of coffee, a cranberry scone,

And the day’s headlines,

To really talk with us,

 

If she would have said

#metoo?

 

She’d remember things

Differently than we were taught

To believe.

 

She’d start off blaming

Herself.

Drunk as she was

On God’s wine that night–

Hearing how He favoured her

“Amongst all women,”

The scent of white lilies, and

Shining with the honey-sweet smile

And soft face

Of an angel.

 

“No, thank you,” or

“I don’t even know you,” or

“I’m in love with someone else.”

She could only accept Him–

All-powerful as He was, and she,

A frightened adolescent, in some ways,

Still a child, alone

In her room that stormy March eve.

She could not push Him off

Or His intentions away.

Predestined, as she was.

Chosen before the World was created,

So they said.

 

Who said that?

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On Kenneth Marcus, Anti-Semitism, and Free Speech on College Campuses

Dec11

by: Ariel Gold on December 11th, 2017 | 5 Comments »

As Jews, we generally take great pride in the support we have shown for civil rights and free-speech. The 1964 sit-in of a thousand students in UC Berkeley’s Sproul Hall, which catapulted the free-speech movement into the headlines, included a Hanukkah service organized by Rabbi Michael Lerner. Lerner was asked to join the Free Speech Movement’s Coordinating Committee after he had organized a protest to oppose legislation being considered in West Germany at the time to grant amnesty to former Nazi leaders. Hundreds of students who had chosen to remain in Sproul Hall building despite pending arrests attended the Hanukkah service and sang songs of freedom and danced the Hora!

We still invoke and feel inspired by Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel who said, of his participation with Dr. King in the Selma march of 1965, “I felt my legs were praying.”

Even as recently as 1995, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) proudly stated its position in defense of the first Amendment, “we cherish these protections, not only because they are the hallmark of true freedom, but because we also know that the vibrant political discussion they foster strengthens our nation.”

Following leaders like Rabbi Heschel and Rabbi Lerner, who was a student of Rabbi Heschel’s, and reaching as far back as Maimonides, we take pride in thinking of ourselves as staunch champions for ethics and justice. And so, we should be appalled at the nomination of Kenneth Marcus for Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the Department of Education.

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You’re invited: art opening in Berkeley on 12/15!

Dec8

by: on December 8th, 2017 | Comments Off

To readers of Tikkun and Tikkun Daily, please see below for a special invitation from one of our contributors, Meir Rotbard, whose show goes up in Berkeley next Friday, December 15!

 

Courtesy of Meir Rotbard

 

Dear Friends, new and old,

Hope that many special things are happening for you, wherever you are. This is a very special time in history, where we are getting to heal from the baggage of human trauma. I spent many private years, and thousands of hours preparing this work, and am so happy to finally be at a place where I can share it with you. If it resonates with you, please come on down to my opening. I would love to meet you. If you are part of the Tikkun community, you are part of the solution. Thank you for that.

Best,

Meir Rotbard

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What Do We Value? It’s Time To Re-Consider Our Relationship With Money

Dec8

by: Nadia Colburn on December 8th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

I grew up in liberal, mostly Jewish circles in New York City. One of the messages I got again and again was that without the support of ordinary Germans, Hitler would not have come into power. It’s not only leaders, but the regular citizens who direct the course of history.

As a result, it was our job to make sure that history not repeat itself. And we did that by being vigilant ourselves of our values and our actions.

As a Jew I was on the “right” side of history. But as an American, a white person, a member of the educated middle class, I have often been worried that I am on the “wrong” side of history: do I stand up for the values that I really hold?

It takes not just a few rogue individuals but a nation of citizens to set the stage for violence, bigotry and gross inequality. This is what we see unfolding in Trump’s America. And let’s not get too complacent here: it’s not just Trump. The entire Republican party signed onto a tax bill that takes from the poor and gives more to the rich; that robs 13 million—and counting—of health insurance, many of whom are children; that steals protected national land; that, in an age of increased climate crisis, drills for yet more oil in Alaska.

We have seen time and again that trickle down economics doesn’t work—over the past two decades, as the top one percent has grown richer, wages have remained stagnant for the bottom 50 percent.

But the reality of contemporary economics was hardly an issue: pushed through in the middle of the night without even being brought to debate, this bill was never about helping anyone. It was about pushing a certain ideology through as quickly as possible—by an entire party.

I hope that the Republican party does some serious looking at itself and that Republican voters do some serious soul searching: is this the change you were hoping for? 

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Anti-Ageism: The Next Big Social Movement

Dec7

by: Ruth Ray Karpen on December 7th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

A Review of Ending Ageism or How Not to Shoot Old People

By Margaret Morganroth Gullette

Rutgers University Press, 2017

 

Forty years ago, Erdman Palmore, a senior fellow at the Duke University Center for the Study of Aging and Human Development, published a series of questions – the Facts on Aging Quiz – designed to provoke group discussions about aging and old age.  To his surprise, the quiz revealed that most Americans knew very little about the aging process and harbored many misconceptions, most of them negative. Among the most common misconceptions were that the majority of old people (age 65+) were bored, angry, irritated and unable to adapt to change and that at least 10% of them lived in nursing homes.  For years Palmore and other gerontologists, used the quiz in classes and public forums to educate people about the facts of aging.  They knew from previous research that the more knowledge people gain, the less negative and the more positive attitudes they hold about aging.

In 2017, Americans still need to be educated, perhaps even more so, if the proliferation of negative behaviors and hate speech toward old people is any indication.   Of all the prejudices that divide us, ageism is still the most universally shared and tolerated.  It can be hostile and overt, like the Facebook comment that “anyone over the age of 69 should immediately face a firing squad,” or more subtle and passive aggressive, like the birthday card that makes fun of getting old, the comment that a retired colleague has “let herself go” or your own disgust at the wrinkles and brown spots on your face.  These are mere bagatelles, however, compared to the most serious forms of age bias.

Consider these facts of contemporary life in America:

  • Midlife men, especially those once considered at the peak of their ability and experience, are now widely discriminated against in the workplace.  In some places, such as tech companies in Silicon Valley, discrimination starts at the age of 35.
  • Among the Facebook groups that focus on older adults – approximately 25,000 members – 74% “vilified” older adults, according to one study, and 37% thought they should be banned from public activities like driving and shopping.
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What Kind of Peace Plan Is Trump Trying To Sell?

Dec7

by: Michael J. Koplow on December 7th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Whatever one thinks of the Trump administration and its approach to Middle East peace, you have to give the Trump team high marks for its ability to keep a secret. Speculation has abounded for months about what Jared Kushner, Jason Greenblatt, and their colleagues are working on and what their peace initiative will contain, whenever it is unveiled. For those who wish their efforts to be successful, Sunday’s New York Times reporting on the details of the Trump plan are not encouraging.

According to the Times story, following Kushner’s visit to Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) summoned President Abbas to Riyadh and presented him with a plan that sounds like something out of Prime Minister Netanyahu’s wildest dreams. It would involve sovereignty over non-contiguous territory in the West Bank – presumably Areas A and B, and some parts of Area C – with a Palestinian capital in Abu Dis rather than East Jerusalem, and no evacuation of settlements from Area C. It is unclear whether this would be a final status agreement or an interim accord that could be expanded later, but its terms are more in line with maximalist Israeli positions rather than any sort of compromise. The Times further reported that MBS heavily pressured Abbas into not only sitting down at the negotiating table but accepting a deal on these specific terms, and that he is prepared to use his financial leverage to reward Abbas for accepting or pressure him to resign if he rejects it.

This report is curious in a lot of ways. For starters, Kushner himself publicly caused reason to doubt its veracity at the Saban Forum on Sunday by extolling the importance of a final status agreement that will put many of the issues between Israelis and Palestinians to bed. The terms as described by the New York Times story do none of that, and instead sound like a series of half measures in preparation for something else down the road. The problem, of course, is that trying to convince the Palestinians to sign off on something to which literally no Palestinian leader could acquiesce will doom any later part of this plan, since it will never get past the first step. If the Trump administration used MBS to float a trial balloon, it backfired spectacularly, but it also goes against the grain of Kushner’s preference for a comprehensive deal – a preference that he expressed so strongly that he even endorsed the concept known as linkage, which holds that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will make the region’s other problems go away. President Trump’s qualifier in his recognition of Jerusalem’s capital yesterday that it does not prejudice final status issues also points toward a desire for a comprehensive deal over interim half measures.

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48 mm: Film Festival From Nakba to Return

Dec7

by: Olga Gershenson on December 7th, 2017 | 1 Comment »

Image of the Zochrot brochure

Image of the Zochrot brochure

Film festival of Zochrot (an Israeli NGO, working to promote accountability for the injustices of the Nakba) at Tel Aviv Cinemateque: probably the best films in the line-up were “Born in Deir Yassin” and “Jerusalem We Are Here” (I’ve written about both of them for Tikkun, in the forthcoming issue). Another important film is “Looted and Hidden,” a new documentary by Israeli curator and art historian Rona Sela. It’s super-dense with images and stories, but basically, it’s about several Palestinian photo and film archives, that were stolen by Israelis in 1948, in 1967, and in 1982, from PLO research center and from a Cinema Center in Beirut. The good thing is that the audience gets to see tons of these documents–family photos, studio portraits, battle snapshots, pictures of atrocities, etc, along with snippets of narrative films, army reports, news footage, and even an excerpt from a Soviet anti-Zionist documentary. This plenitude is both a blessing and a curse–a curse because in 45 minutes, it’s impossible to contextualize all these still and moving images, tell what’s behind them, AND let them speak on their own terms. It took Rona Sela, a Jewish Israeli with a stubborn mind and legal assistance, over 10 years to even get access to these visual documents. All of them are locked up in the Israeli archives, with absolutely no hope for them to ever be open, especially in the current political climate. What a paradox it is, that it takes an Israeli to recover the hidden visual history of Palestinians–a Palestinian, obviously, would not stand a chance in the tightly censored IDF archives.

The biggest revelation for me was an archival screening of the 1972 Syrian film, “The Dupes,” by an Egyptian director Tewfik Saleh. It’s based on a novella “Men in the Sun” by a late Palestinian writer and activist Ghassan Kanafani. The action is set in 1948 and the plot follows three Palestinian refugees who are trying to get to Kuwait to work. Without plot-spoiling, the film ends in tragedy. Besides being a beautiful (although heart-breaking) black-and-white art film, what is so remarkable is that it lets us experience the immediate aftermath of 1948 from the Palestinian perspective. In addition to the narrative plot, it includes also what looked to me like documentary footage: tents, lines to food kitchens, snippets of daily life in early camps. The narrative plot is structured as road film, following the three men, intercut with flashbacks telling their individual stories leading to the lethal journey. That structure, with flashbacks to the stories of characters reminded me of “Hill 24 Doesn’t Answer” – a 1955 Zionist film that is also set in 1948, telling a parallel, albeit very different story.

Another significant film was a new doc by another Israeli woman filmmaker, Anat Even, “Disappearances,” recovering the memory of a Palestinian neighborhood Al-Manshiyaa, which today is buried under the lawns of beach-side Clore Park and high-rise buildings in Tel Aviv. The story is familiar: in 1948 the neighborhood is “cleansed” of its original citizens, and new immigrants – Holocaust survivors and North African Jews move into abandoned houses. Later, even that proves out as an insufficient erasure of the past, and so the entire thing is razed, with only one old Arab building remaining. Ironically, today it’s a site of the Etzel Museum. The film is quietly political – personal and moving. Anat Even doesn’t tell this story at once, there is no didactic voiceover, instead, she brings in to the site families who once lived there. These include Palestinian refugees, some of whom haven’t been to the place for decades, as well as Jewish Israelis who were relocated to other places, also against their wills. Additional commentary is provided by voices of architects – some who designed the current park, others, who give it a critical interpretation. The Hebrew title of the film, יזכור למלנשייה, is way more successful than the English translation – I think she should have kept the Yizkor there, a word with rich and tragic association in the post-Holocaust world.

I also watched a bunch of predictable shorts, as well as “1948: Creation & Catastrophe,” which is a more standard edition doc, with talking heads, maps, archival footage, and male voiceover. Although not without problems, it can be productively used for education, especially if paired with a documentary presenting Israeli perspective.

Even though the festival presented significant films, there was something provincial and sad about it: announced speakers weren’t always there, the speakers that were there weren’t best prepared, whatever Q&As there were, weren’t moderated, English subtitles promised in the program sometimes didn’t materialize, etc. But most of all – empty theaters. It’s not that Tel-Avivians are apathetic–thousands showed up for the March of Shame to protest Netaniyahu’s corruption. This for them is urgent, political, and personal, whereas memory of Palestinian loss, let alone taking responsibility for the violence that caused it, is not. This for me was among the main takeaways of the festival.

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Olga Gershensonis Professor of Judaic and Near Eastern Studies and Film Studies at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Who Gets to Speak about Anti-Semitism? “Anti-Semitism and the Struggle for Justice” at the New School for Social Research

Nov30

by: Shaul Magid on November 30th, 2017 | 4 Comments »

Editor’s note: Shaul Magid answers below a set of criticisms being published in other Jewish publications about a forum on anti-Semitism sponsored by JVP, the leading Jewish organization supporting Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) in the Jewish world. Tikkun has not endorsed BDS, and our readers have a wide variety of different opinions about its wisdom as a strategy to achieve what we do endorse–peace and justice for both Israelis and Palestinians–but we do support the right of others to support those versions of BDS that do not seek to end the existence of the State of Israel. We plan to have a fuller discussion of BDS in a forthcoming Tikkun focused mostly on its wisdom as a strategy.

-Rabbi Michael Lerner

On the evening of November 28th, 2017 the New School for Social Research in Manhattan, an institution long devoted to progressive politics and cultural critique, held an event entitled “Anti-Semitism and the Struggle for Justice.” It was in part a celebration of the book On Anti-Semitism: Solidarity and the Struggle for Justice published in 2017 by Haymarket Books sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace. There were four panelists in attendance; Leo Ferguson who works for Jewish for Racial and Economic Justice, Lina Moralis a Chicago-based Latinx-Ashkenazi Jewish activist who identifies as bi-racial and who is openly anti-Zionist, Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of JVP, a progressive Jewish organization that supports BDS against Israel, and Palestinian-American activist Linda Sarsour. The event received sharp criticism in the Jewish media days before it took place, claiming, among other things, that these panelists have no right, nor are sufficiently equipped, to speak about anti-Semitism. Outside the New School auditorium stood a crowd of protesters from the wide swath of the Jewish center-right to far-right, some calling for de-funding the New School for staging such an event. The event went off without a hitch, save two small disruptions during the Q & A period.

I attended the sold-out event and below I share a few reflections that I hope will be informative and foster further conversation. I will not be too descriptive as a video of the event is on-line for those who are interested to judge for themselves. Below I make five basic observations.

First, to the question as to why these four people should have the right to speak about anti-Semitism? This was not an academic panel, nor a panel of “experts.” This was a panel of activists, progressive people working in the streets of America on a variety of issues dealing with inequality, injustice, bigotry, and hatred. Anti-Semitism is one of those. So there were no clever readings of Foucault or any intricate critical analysis comparing Gavin Langmuir to Robert Wistrich (two historians of anti-Semitism) or discussions of historical precedent or comparative genocide. No clever Lacanean, Deleuzean, or Zizekean twists. Everyone on the panel was very clear about who they were, what they do, and how this issue impacts their work and their lives and why it matters.

As Annette Yoshiko Reed said to me, this was about positionality in the best sense. And here perhaps the biggest lesson for me was why many American Jews have such a hard time understanding where these people, many of whom are also American Jews, are coming from. For the panelists, anti-Semitism is not sui generis (at this point many American Jews just stop listening); it is one of a variety of forms of unacceptable hatred. Yes anti-Semitism has its own long and painful history, as does racism in America, and I do not suggest collapsing all forms of hatred into one neat package. But for these panelists anti-Semitism is not something that has to be examined as categorically distinct from other forms of bigotry. This very point remains a point of contention in the academic study of Holocaust and genocide studies. And anti-Semitism is certainly not only about Israel but also about the Jew more generally. The fact that this point needs to be made, and it does, is itself indicative of the problem we face today. The underlying premise of the panel is one of intersectionality, a notion that drives American Jews crazy, a notion that subverts simultaneously championing Black Lives matter and AIPAC, the idea (not new by the way, it already existed in a different form in New Left “internationalism”) that all forms of oppression are connected, in principle and in practice (note: this may be different than the original definition of “intersectionality” coined by feminist civil rights activist and race theorist Kimerlie Williams Crenshaw but is nonetheless a definition that is often used in today’s activist communities). This strikes at the heart of an often reflexive Jewish exceptionalism and harkens back to the difficult challenge for Jews in America that they are not the most othered other; coming to terms with the fact that race trumps anti-Semitism in this fruited plain, that racism, and not anti-Semitism, is part of the very structure (legal, cultural, political) of our country, that a person of color is more likely to be harassed in the streets of one of our cities than a white Jew, more likely to be arrested by our police, and imprisoned by our system. There is certainly anti-Semitism in our society that needs to be addressed, each panel readily acknowledged that; but it is not what threatens to tear this country apart the way it did in Weimar Germany. Race does.

These panelists have right to talk about anti-Semitism the same way they have a right to talk about gender disparity, and racism, and police brutality, and poverty. Because in all of those, and more, they are in the streets fighting every day. Did they make “mistakes”? Yes, certainly. When they ventured too far into history, or even the analytical realm, they made factual and even descriptive errors. But I kind of liked the ragged edges of it all; they made no claim to be experts and their errors did not undermine their basic message.

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