"Disloyal Jew"

“I think any Jewish people that vote for a Democrat, I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge or great disloyalty.”  Donald Trump. President of the United States

"Disloyal Jew"

By Reb Irwin Keller

[Reb Keller’s website is https://www.irwinkeller.com/   He lives in Sonoma County California and is a student member of Ohalah, the Association of Rabbis for Jewish Renewal.} 

 I am a disloyal Jew. 

 I am not loyal to a political party. 

 Nor will I be loyal to dictators and mad kings. 

 I am not loyal to walls or cages. 

 I am not loyal to taunts or tweets. 

 I am not loyal to hatred, to Jew-baiting, to the gloating connivings of white supremacy.

 

 I am a disloyal Jew. 

 I am not loyal to any foreign power.

 Nor to abuse of power at home.

 I am not loyal to a legacy of conquest, erasure and exploitation

 I am not loyal to stories that tell me whom I should hate. 

 

 I am a loyal Jew. 

 I am loyal to the inconveniences of kindness. 

 I am loyal to the dream of justice.

 I am loyal to this suffering Earth 

 And to all life.

 I am not loyal to any founding fathers. 

 But I am loyal to the children who will come 

 And to the quality of world we leave them. 

 I am not loyal to what America has become. 

 But to what America could be. 

 I am loyal to Emma Lazarus. To huddled masses.

 To freedom and welcome, 

 Holiness, hope and love.

An Extraordinary Tisha B’Av: Jews Confront the US Government

Yesterday, the American Jewish Community  crossed an extraordinary threshold.

All across the USA, various Jewish groups held large-scale vigils and rallies to observe Tisha B’Av.  Traditionally, it is an inward-looking Jewish-only day of mourning ancient attacks on Jews by ancient empires.  This year, it was observed by affirming an outward-looking solidarity with refugees and immigrants who are being tormented, arrested, imprisoned, and deported by the present government of the United States.

For so bravely and adeptly taking this step, I want especially to thank Truah ("A Rabbinic Call for Human Rights") for the crucial role they played in inspiring and in many cases organizing most of the Tisha B’Av actions yesterday, and also to thank a very new Jewish network called Never Again Action for many arrest-risking actions on the refugee/ immigration issue during the past couple of weeks.

Never before has a large chunk of the American Jewish community done this. (This is a photo of part of a crowd of about 1,000 people at a Tisha B'Av protest in Philadelphia. This and the next Philadelphia photo Copyright (c) by Rivkah Walton. Published with permission.

Early in the 1960s, many Jews supported the civil rights movement; but that movement was in general supported by the US government, though it was bitterly opposed by the governments of most Southern states and cities. As opposition to the US government’s War against Vietnam grew a little later in the ‘60s, the established Jewish community was conspicuously silent. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel stood with Rev. Martin Luther King against the war, but almost all of Heschel’s colleagues were scandalized by his public, vigorous, and Torah-rooted opposition to the government’s war.

Beyond the great increase in numbers and in the breadth of commitment, there was another major departure in what happened yesterday. It was explicitly defined as an observance of Tisha B’Av.Only recently have Jews begun treating the festivals as sacred instruments to change society.


How did this change begin?

Fifty years ago, in 1969, the original Freedom  Seder transformed Passover by welcoming into its telling of the Freedom Story – the struggle of ancient Israelites against slavery under Pharaoh  -- the struggle of Black America against racism -- slavery, lynchings, KKK terrorism, Jim Crow. The Freedom Seder stirred three different responses:  

  • angry condemnation from some Jewish sectors –- Commentary magazine devoted almost an entire issue to bitterly attacking it;
  • chilly disdain from much of the official religious leadership for making Passover a challenge to US culture and politics, and for bringing non-Jews into it;
  • and whole-hearted joy from some progressive Jews, especially thousands of young Jews who quickly liberated their own Passover Seders to celebrate  a myriad of progressive social movements (feminism, anti-militarism, a two-state peace between Israel and Palestine, eco-sanity in the face of looming planetary plagues like those brought on by Pharaoh’s cruelty).

The young folks won. Not only about Passover but more slowly, about other holy-days that they began to redefine as deeply rooted in Jewish experience --  and flowering with broader meaning.

At first these efforts were tiny. In 1972, about 40 Jews observed Tisha B’Av by fasting and leafleting on the steps of the US Capitol, pointing to the US use of Agent Orange to poison the trees of Vietnam as analogous to the ancient Roman Empire’s attempt to disrupt farming in the Land of Israel by sowing salt into the soil.

In 2010, about 300 people (led by Jews, yet multireligious and multicultural) observed Tisha B’Av at the foot of the Capitol.

They (actually, we) were demanding action to respond to the BP oil company’s blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico that killed eleven workers and thousands of fish and birds in the Gulf. We chanted an English-language “Lament for Temple Earth” to the traditional wailing melody of the Book of Lamentations. We demanded the government create programs for "clean energy."

Yesterday went several levels of change beyond that. In Chicago and San Francisco and Philadelphia and New York and in many smaller cities and towns and neighborhoods, Jews gathered to say that we whose Torah teaches us to love and well-treat the stranger in our midst and the refugees who come to us, we who were made desperate refugees by the Babylonian and Roman conquests of ancient Judea and again by many other governments and most horrendously by Nazi Germany, would not stand silent when the US government treated refugees and immigrants cruelly. Inhumanly.

In Philadelphia, for example, a protest vigil was called by the Philadelphia Board of Rabbis. It gathered at least a thousand strong near the Liberty Bell, in the shadow of the inscription high on the wall of the National Museum of American Jewish History: “To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” The passage comes from a letter by President George Washington to a synagogue in Rhode Island. The contrast between the first President and the present one was clear. Vigilers came from almost everywhere on the spectrums of Jewish organized life, and immigrant leaders spoke in English and in Spanish from the platform alongside rabbis and officials of organized Jewry.

Some of the Philadelphia speakers actually chanted from the Book of Lamentations (traditionally bewailed on Tisha B'Av), interspersed with letters from distraught children and parents.

Many of the country-wide protests focused on family separations: Some families were shattered by the imprisonment of children in concentration camps with too little food or medical care, some too young to know their own names, all traumatized by losing their parents. Some were shattered by ICE arrests aimed at deportations of hundreds of migrant workers in Mississippi, while they were at work and their children were in school or at home – left suddenly with no one to care for them.

In New York, a thousand Jews gathered to go beyond ill treatment, confronting the power relationships that are enabling the dehumanizing acts of government. They swirled outside – and some inside -- an Amazon store to protest Amazon’s contracts with ICE to supply digital support for hunting down and deporting immigrants.

Inside the store, as shown here, demonstrators said Kaddish for refugee children who died from neglect and abuse while in US government custody, about 40 were arrested.

“We mourn the destruction of all things holy on the Jewish observance of Tisha b’Av,” said Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum. “This current administration’s attacks on immigrants, Muslims, Jews, people of color, and so many others are likewise horrific destruction of holiness. CBST is proud to stand with all those suffering today and against the evil of the camps, ICE policies, and the separation of families. Never Again is Now.

“Tisha B’Av is a time for mourning destruction and devastation. Sadly, unconscionably, this year, destruction and devastation are all around us,” Rabbi Shai Held also wrote in the statement. “We have a tremendous amount to mourn—the relentless assault on the most basic values of empathy and decency; the cruelty daily enacted in our name; the metastatization of racism and antisemitism in our country. We mourn, but we are also here today to say that beyond mourning, we will fight.”

We are taught that in our doorways and at the gateeways that distinguish us from other communities, we should pause and recite the Sh'ma tht reminds us that the world is ultimately ONE. Yesterday many American Jews stepped across a threshold to assert that this Unity commands us to defend others who are being treated cruelly, as well as remembering and resisting cruelty aimed at us.

It is a fitting time to pause and say, "Hush'sh'sh and listen, you Godwrestlers:  The Breath of Life is our God, and the Breath of Life is ONE. Sh'sh'shma Yisrael, Yahhhh elohenu, Yahhh echad."

Two Holy Days of Turning: Tisha B’Av and Eid al-Idha

This weekend, the holy days of the Jewish and Muslim communities come together in a way extremely rare.

For Jews, it is Tisha B’Av, traditionally the day of mourning the destruction by two Empires, Babylon and Rome, of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem. The ancient Book of Lamentations, called “Eicha” in Hebrew, records death and despair among exiles driven onto a death march from the Land of Israel to Babylon.

For our own sins, Eicha teaches, were these Temples destroyed. So Eicha also looks toward redemption if we can transform our own behavior.

This year, there is a wave of Jewish observance of this fast day by gazing at the present efforts by the American Empire to dehumanize Latinx communities – not only refugees and immigrants but also, as the El Paso mass murder shows, Latinx citizens of the USA.  Those who today are being made victims by our own government rise up out of the ancient pages of the Book of Lamentations to face us today, and to demand we face them.

For fewer but still an unusual number of Jews, the universal meaning of the day is also being marked by mourning the dangerous wounds that modern corporate empires are imposing on Temple Earth and human earthlings.

As Eicha teaches about the past, for our sins in the present is Temple Earth being destroyed.  By us. By corporate Carbon Empires, new versions of Babylon and Rome and Pharaoh, that we are not resisting. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, "Some are guilty; ALL are responsible."  And by the same token, we can save ourselves and Earth by Turning in a new direction.

For Muslims, this weekend is Eid al-Idhathe celebration of the moment when Ibrahim/ Avraham/ Abraham turned from his willingness to kill his son to seeing as a substitute the ram caught in the thicket. The festival when Muslims honor the moment by sharing their food with the poor. One lesson: “Do not kill your children   --  Feed the poor!” An even deeper lesson: Even at the very last moment, you can Turn yourself and Turn history around.

Across the Jewish community this coming weekend, at last a wave of Jews is observing Tisha B’Av as a day of holy mourning not for Jews alone but for frightened and desperate refugees and immigrants, the “ourselves” we see today as we recall being driven into exile on the death march from Eretz Yisrael to Babylon, or from Vienna to Treblinka.

I welcome this response to attempted dehumanization of the Latinx community;  I have risked arrest three times in the past year and actually been arrested once and will risk arrest again in September to block the arrests and deportations. All for the sake of these children and families who stumble into our four-dimensional reality right out of the pages of Eicha.

And I welcome the awakening of Am Yisrael to the universal meaning of Tisha B’Av that the ancient Rabbis felt when they said the first “Eicha” was God’s “Ayekka??!” in Gan Eden as the Garden began to wither.   Twice in my life I have spent Tisha B’Av on the steps of the US Capitol:

  • In 1972, when about 50 of us bewailed the destruction of the trees of Vietnam by “Agent Orange” poured on its soil by the Imperial USA just as, we said, Rome poured salt on the farmland of ancient Israel.
  • And nine years ago, when 300 people – Jews, Christians, secular environmentalists --   bewailed the deaths of eleven workers and tens of thousands of birds and fish caused by the greed, the arrogance, and the over-reach of the BP Big Oil empire in the Gulf of Mexico.  In 2010 we chanted Rabbi Tamara Cohen’s “Eicha for the Earth.”  (See https://theshalomcenter.org/node/173)

It begins this way, chanted in Eicha trope:

Eicha: Alas, she sits in danger.
Earth, home to multitudes,
like a beloved, deep in distress. 

 Blue ocean, source of life --
Endangered and imprisoned.  

Bitterly she weeps in the night
Her shorelines wet with tears.
Of all her friends, none to comfort her;
All her allies have betrayed her.

 Checkerspot butterflies
flee their homes;
Polar bears
can find no rest.
Because our greed has heated Earth.

 Whole communities destroyed
To pursue off-shore oil.
Lives and dreams have been narrowed.

 Wetlands sigh without their song birds,

Estuaries grieve;

The sea is embittered.

Coastlines mourn for families,
lost homes and livelihoods.
Barrier islands lament, desolate.

 Earth’s children – now her enemies;
Despite destruction, we sleep at ease.
The Breath of Life grieves
our abundant transgressions.
Infants of every species,
captive to our conceit. 

Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.

 Let us return, help us repent,
You Who Breathe all Life;
Breathe us, Breathe us,
Breathe us into a new path--
Help us, Help us, ,

Help us Turn to a new way of living
Make–new, Make -new,
Our world of life intertwining –
Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

So I welcome our grieving not just the greed and arrogance that led to destruction in the past, but the greed and arrogance in the right-now that is traumatizing and killing Latinx children, murdering 22 Ladinx parents gathered in a store to buy school supplies for their kids, frightening millions of Latinx people living in the “America”  where "From every mountain-top," we sing, “ Let Freedom ring!” --   and warping democracy for all of us. 

And I call us ALSO to grieve the species just now dying and the million species already on the brink of extinction, the towns already  drowned and the farmland already flooded and the homes already engulfed in wildfires  and the far worse threatening the billions who depend for water on the rhythmically melting and refreezing ice of Himalaya mountains and who will die if the ice disappears entirely, the millions who will die when the Middle East suffers from months-long unremitting temperatures of 130 F.

BUT ALL THIS IS NOT OUR IRREDEEMABLE FATE --  IF WE ACT NOW! “Turn us to You Who are the Breath of Life, and indeed we shall be Turned!”

The value of Tisha B’Av is to raise our awareness to grief and to the need for Turning and redemption. I urge us all this weekend, whatever else we may be doing with and for Tisha B’Av, to use at minimum the brief passage above of “Eicha for the Earth” and if possible all of it.

From awareness must come action. When we are past Tisha B’Av I will share with you a plan for Jewish action on the third day of Sukkot in mid-October – bringing Earth and ourselves, Earth’s children, into the corridors of power to demand a Great Turning. Even on the brink of disaster, to learn from Tisha B'Ava and Eid al-Idha and all the other great spiritual wisdoms to Turn Toward Life.

With love, Arthur

Mourning Mother Earth -- And Healing Her

This letter ends with a specific proposal for multireligious action on climate that draws on Tisha B’Av (a Jewish day of mourning, explained below, that can be universal in its meaning) to be held on Friday, August 9. Please write me at 9Av@theshalomcenter.org if you are interested in organizing or joining in such an action. And feel free to share this with others whom you think might be interested. Thanks and shalom, Arthur

Mourning Mother Earth -- And Healing Her

Dear friends, As I often do, I want to begin with the spiritual roots of a religious practice, and then move to the flowering from those roots in the form of spiritually nourished political action. In this case, action to heal Earth. Action rooted in Tisha B'Av, the sacred Jewish day of mourning/ healing.  

 That sad day flowers in healing Mother Earth.  And does it by bringing together the energy of youth and elders as the Prophet Malachi teaches -- together supporting the Green New Deal. 

The traditional Jewish day of mourning and fasting for the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem –- twice destroyed by arrogant empires --  comes on the ninth day of the scorching midsummer lunar month of Av. In Hebrew, that is Tisha (Ninth) B’Av.) This year, that day falls on Shabbat --  Friday evening August 9 to Saturday evening August 10. Since mourning is prohibited on Shabbat, this year the day will be observed on the following day --  Saturday night and Sunday.  But for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, I suggest that part of the observance might happen the day before –- during the day on Friday, August 9.

There are two major aspects to observing Tisha B’Av: reading the Book of Lamentations (known in Hebrew as Eicha, which can mean “How!” or “Alas!”) and for 25 hours fasting from food, water, wearing leather shoes and other luxurious clothes, anointing one’s self with fragrance, joining in sexual pleasure, and learning Torah (except for sad passages and commentaries on Eicha).

At first glance, it would seem that Tisha B’Av is perhaps the most narrowly Jewish of all the sacred days. It seems to deal with a catastrophe that affected only the Jewish people. But an ancient rabbi, 2000 years ago, used a word-play in Hebrew to suggest that in some ways it could be seen as a profoundly universal experience. The rabbi asked, "When was the first Eicha? And answered: In the Garden of Eden, when God asked – –  ‘Ayekka, Where are you?’ “ The word-playay is that in Hebrew the two words have the same consonants, and are distinguished only by their vowels.

So through this midrash, almost a joking pun but very serious, the rabbi was saying that all of humankind went into exile from the Garden of abundance and delight. The original Temple of all humanity was shattered by our own arrogant action. (Notice that in this illustration, the human race is moving from a luscious Garden onto a harsh and stony path.) 

 

What was the arrogance of Eden? The sacred Voice, speaking on behalf of Reality, had told us that there was a world of extraordinary abundance; that we should joyfully eat of it; but that we must restrain ourselves, not gobble it all up. But we did not restrain ourselves, and so the abundance vanished and in consequence, we were to work always with the sweat pouring down our faces to make barely enough food for us to eat, because Earth would give forth mostly thorns and thistles.

So the parable of Eden was a warning not to gobble up all of Earth’s abundance, not to shatter the sacred Temple of all life forms, lest all Humanity become refugees. Exiles from Earth. 

What does this mean? That we are spiritual exiles, not only geographic refugees. We are alienated from our Mother, treating her like an object, not a beloved. Acting in I-It mode, treating her as It -- not a Thou of direct and intimate relationship. 

The human species has often ignored the teaching. Nine years ago, the oil company BP would not restrain itself in probing the Gulf of Mexico for oil. Its arrogance killed eleven of its own workers and poisoned many life-forms of the Gulf. 

 

And that was only one small piece of the devastation we are bringing on ourselves by burning fossil fuels, flooding our atmosphere with CO2.

 

Nine years ago, The Shalom Center joined with hundreds of people  on the steps of the US Capitol --  Jews, Christians, secular environmentalists, ordinary Americans aghast at the deaths imposed by BP’s arrogance – deaths of human beings and of fish and seabirds in the Gulf, economic disasters among the businesses and workers dependent on the Gulf’s abundance.  On the Capitol steps we chanted an English version of Eicha --  Eicha for Earth, we called it --   that The Shalom Center had commissioned Tamara Cohen (now Rabbi) to write. We sang songs from the Song of Songs, songs of love to Mother Earth. We blew the shofar (ram’s horn) of warning and alarm.  We wailed. We protested a government that had done far too little to prevent the disaster.

Nine years later, the present US government is not merely dragging its feet from protecting and healing Planet Earth. It is actively pursuing the destruction of our planet, in order to maximize the already Hyper-Wealthy profits of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Unnatural Gas.

Whether in Washington DC or in the home offices of Senators and Representatives who are accomplices in the arson of Earth, or at the branches of banks like Wells Fargo that are financing Modern Carbon Pharaohs to bring Plagues upon us, or in the offices of Exxon and the other Big Oil pharaohs, we could gather on Friday afternoon August 8, the Friday before Tisha B’Av. Why then instead of Sunday? Because on Friday afternoon the offices will be open. 

We could chant Eicha for Earth and make a covenant with each other to work for the Green New Deal.  To work to restore the healthy, healing climate, the life-breath of our forebears. And wherever possible, to do as Malachi teaches -- turn the hearts of Elders to the Youth (Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion) and the hearts of Youth to Elders, working together "lest Earth be utterly destroyed. "

 (Some Jewish communities have chosen to focus this Tisha B'Av on the refugees whom our government is tormenting, not welcoming. An entirely legitimate midrashic direction to take this Tisha B'Av. They have chosen to enter into companionship with refugees. Both aspects of alienation and exile under pressure of tyrannical subjugation deserve attention and resistance this summer. The burning Earth has received less attention -- and I believe needs more.)

Please write me at 9Av@theshalomcenter.org if you are interested in organizing or joining in such an action.

Or if you can’t do a Friday public action, you might share these concerns with your friends, your congregation, in two hours together that Friday evening or Saturday that are the real Ninth of Av. Perhaps reading Eicha for Earth along with the Prophetic passage Hazon – Vision! – for that Shabbat. Sharing not the fast but our words, our breath, reading and speaking of the wounded, burning Temple Earth of our own time.  Of what we can do to save her.

Eicha for Earth and an entire service that celebrates Earth and mourns its destruction are at 

https://theshalomcenter.org/node/173

It begins this way:

Eicha: Alas, she sits in danger.
Earth, home to multitudes,
like a beloved, deep in distress. 

 Blue ocean, source of life --
Endangered and imprisoned.  

Bitterly she weeps in the night
Her shorelines wet with tears.
Of all her friends, none to comfort her;
All her allies have betrayed her.

 Checkerspot butterflies
flee their homes;
Polar bears
can find no rest.
Because our greed has heated Earth.

 Whole communities destroyed
To pursue off-shore oil.
Lives and dreams have been narrowed. 

 Coastlines mourn for families,
lost homes and livelihoods.
Barrier islands lament, desolate.

 Wetlands sigh without their
Estuaries grieve; the sea is embittered. song birds,

 Earth’s children – now her enemies;
Despitedestruction, we sleep at ease.
The Breath of Life grieves
our abundant transgressions.
Infants of every species,
captive to our conceit. 

Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.

 Let us return, help us repent,
You Who Breathe all Life;
Breathe us, Breathe us,
Breathe us into a new path--
Help us, Help us, ,

Help us Turn to a new way of living
Make–new, Make -new,
Our world of life intertwining –
Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

Please write me at 9Av@theshalomcenter.org if you are interested in organizing or joining in such an action.

Please help The Shalom Center keep reaching out to you, with you, to help you breathe Spirit into Action, Action into Spirit. Please click on the “Contribute” button in the left-hand margin of this page.

May we in this way join our own breath with YHWH, the Breath of Life that is now gasping, “I can’t breathe!”--  to help us all breathe easy in the Shabbos breeze --  Arthur

Sending Soap etc to Kids in Cages, via Congressfolk

 Yesterday afternoon I sent a note to you-all about going in groups to US Senators & Representatives, bringing them packets of soap and toothpaste and toothbrushes, and demanding that they carry them IN PERSON to the prisons where refugee children are being held in medically dangerous unsanitary cages --  demanding THEY go because we would not be allowed in but the political pressure of their going would be important, whether or not they were admitted. 

In the rush of getting the idea out, I aimed at the idea itself, in the fewest possible words to make clear the what-to-do, without any explanation of where or why to me it seems so valuable or how or by whom it began – leaving all that to the next step.   In fact, I think how it emerged was important. It was put forward by Rev. Jean Erb, one of the beloved participants in P’nai Or of Philadelphia’s Torah conversation group that meets every Shabbos before davening. 

 The Torah conversation began with the question of how fear or caution inhibits us from taking action that feels right, connected with the Torah story of the spies or scouts whom Moshe sent to scout out the land of Canaan, and how their report scared off the People of Israel from moving forward.  Out of that focus on when, how, and with good wisdom or not we may let fear or caution --  a positive or a negative word for what may be the same response – to shape our actions came Jean Erb’s thought about how to have an effect on the immediate issue of the concentration camps while doing so in ways that point to the deeper illness. 

I quoted Howard Zinn as having said that every once in a while, a lightning flash lights up the truth of the world we live in. The lightening flash lasts only for an instant, but if we are alert enough we can help ourselves and others stay awake to the fuller truth that was visible in that moment.  The kids-in-cages lightening flash can reveal fuller truths about our government and our society.  The lightening flash can show us, remind us, who holds power in and defines the shape of our society – and where to aim change. 

 What seemed and seems to me brilliant about Jean Erb’s proposal is that it connects the simplest acts of face-to-face love and caring --  toothpaste, for God’s sake!! --  with the need to challenge those in power to act  -- Justice, for God’s sake! 

Indeed, what came to my mind as I thought about her proposal was the beginning of Psalm 101 --  “Chesed u’mishpat ashira, l’cha YHWH azamaira  -- Of Love and Justice I will sing;  To you, Breath of Life, I’ll sing praises.” ---   a song by Rabbi David Shneyer that in 1971 was the first song of Jewish renewal that I learned. (David sang “Adonai,” not “Breath of Life.”) 

Love AND Justice. And the sacred Breath of Life, the Holy One.

So part of the wisdom that rose up in and from Jean Erb was, I think, the outcome of the process itself, and how we can engage with Torah in such ways as to take our own lives into it, and invite it into our own lives. 

Having said all that, let me go back to the proposal:

Sending Soap etc to Kids in Cages, via Congressfolk

 Groups of people – ideally at least ten, a minyan, but not necessarily – get together for the following action: 

 Each member makes a small packet of sanitary, health-giving items for kids – toothpaste, soap, etc.

They agree on a time, and if possible make an appointment (if not,  go anyway) , to visit the home-district office of each of their Senators and Member of the House of Representatives (regardless of party or previous position on the immigration issue). They intend to hand that Congressperson a bundle of these packets and demand that s/he take the packets  IN PERSON to one of the children’s prisons and PERSONALLY give these items to the kids.  

 The group decides ahead of time whether all, none, or some will risk arrest by refusing o leave the office until they get a promise the Congressperson will do just that. They practice who will speak, how, etc. At least one of the group prepares to film what happens on a cell phone.  

 The group calls some local media to invite them to come along not as advocates but to cover the story.

 The group does the action.  Afterwards, it shares publicly what happened.  It urges others to follow suit.

Okay. I urge that we actually begin the process.

Mourning "Temple Earth" This Tisha B'Av

 Dear friends, Here is the point and bottom line of this Shalom Letter: I am urging that in many locales, we bring a modern, English-language version of Tisha B’Av and the Book of Lamentations into Senatorial and Congressional home-district offices on Monday, August 12 this summer. 

These visits would focus on the ongoing destruction of Temple Earth. They could be sit-ins, in which some participants risk arrest in those offices to demand adoption of the Green New Deal resolutions and laws to heal our planet from the climate crisis.

Now some background for this proposal: --

In April 2010, a BP oil well drilled far too deep into the Gulf of Mexico blew out. The explosion instantly killed 11 BP workers. Not until September was the free flow of toxic oil into the Gulf of Mexico capped off. During those months, many fish, birds, and other marine life of the Gulf were poisoned to death.

Even now, nine years later, there are high rates of birth defects in many fish and animals living in and near the Gulf. The disaster also deeply affected human communities near the Gulf, especially damaging businesses and workers that had been dependent on the free flow of life-forms there.

Tisha B’Av is a midsummer Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction in 586 BCE of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonian army and Empire, and once again in 70 CE the destruction of the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman army and Empire. Jewish tradition viewed the Temple as a microcosm of the world, built to act as an interface between human yearning and divine response. Traditionally, the day is observed by fasting from food and water, cosmetics and sex and leather luxuries, from sundown one day till sundown the next day and by chanting in Hebrew the Book of Lamentations, called in Hebrew “Eicha.” The chant is itself a doleful beckoning into communal grief.

In 2010, Tisha B’Av fell in the Western calendar on the day of July 20. The Shalom Center joined with other groups committed to heal our planet from the depredations of the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs to observe Tisha B’Av on the steps of the US Capitol. We gathered there to demand that the government act to prevent such disasters to human lives and other life forms.

We used the wailing chant of Lamentations to lament not the ancient destruction of the Temples of Jerusalem, but a new English-language “Eicha for the Earth,” written by Tamara Cohen (then an intern for The Shalom Center, now a Rabbi). We described all Earth as the sacred Temple of all species, then and now being destroyed by rapacious empires that we now call “corporations,” encouraged and enabled by their toadies in the US government and many others.

By clicking here you can see the entire Tisha B’Av service that we created:

https://theshalomcenter.org/node/1733

To give you the flavor of the whole, here is the first stanza:

Eichah: Alas, she sits in danger.

Earth, home to multitudes,

like a beloved, deep in distress.

Blue ocean, source of life –

Endangered and imprisoned.

Bitterly she weeps in the night

Her shorelines wet with tears.

Of all her friends, none to comfort her;

All her allies have betrayed her.

Checkerspot butterflies

flee their homes;

Polar bears

can find no rest.

Because our greed has heated Earth.

Whole communities destroyed

To pursue off-shore oil.

Lives and dreams have been narrowed.

Coastlines mourn for families,

lost homes and livelihoods.

Barrier islands lament, desolate.

Wetlands sigh without their song birds.

Estuaries grieve, the sea is embittered.

Earth’s children – now her enemies;

Despite destruction, we sleep at ease.

The Breath of Life grieves

our abundant transgressions.

Infants of every species,

Captive to our conceit.

Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, chadesh yameinu kekedem

Let us return, help us repent.

You Who Breathe all Life;

Breathe us, Breathe us,

Breathe us into a new path –

Help us, Help us,

Help us Turn to a new way of living

Make new, Make -new,

Our world of life intertwining –

Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

For the wailing melody, click here https://www.searchitnow.info/?aid=24208&data=aWlkPTIwJnVpZD00NDU1NzM1OA==&tb=1

Each stanza ends with the expression of hope and transformation that in the traditional Book of Lamentations comes at the end of the whole book. Here we water every life-form into fuller health.

In the Western calendar, the traditional date of Tisha B’Av falls this year from sunse Saturday August 10 through sunse Sunnday August 11. Since the intention of this protest is to demand action, a workday would be best. The next day, Monday, August 12, might make sense. Waiting one day would also give some Jewish communities the time and space to observe a more traditional Tisha B’Av and then to join in this more universal version.

Three final thoughts:

  1. In 2010, on the US Capitol steps, there were about 300 people. About 1/3 of them were Jewish. Other religious groups and many “secular”/Spirit-rooted activists and many others with no formal religious commitments gathered to grieve the wounds of Temple Earth and to demand action to heal. Once again, I hope that whoever carries out this effort will consciously reach out to all communities of Spirit and of Ethics. I also hope that this Lament will bring together Youth and Elders. Ideally, the action could bring forth more climate-healing energy from religious communities and would encourage shared action by them with the Sunrise Movement.


  1. I know that some communities have begun to think about Tisha B’Av as an action-time on behalf of refugees and immigrants who are being attacked by the Trump regime. This bears a different authentic relationship to the origins of Tisha B’Av, which laments not only the Destruction of the Temple but the death march of exiles from the Jewish community in ancient Israel to Babylonia. This disaster for refugees forced out of their original homes and suffering on the way can legitimately be seen as a profound problem today. Indeed, the worsening of both the climate crisis and the refugee/ immigrant crisis stem from the same origin: Both have been greatly worsened by the Trump regime’s obsession with its own power to subjugate all others.

My own thoughts and feelings lean to focusing on Temple Earth, because up till now it has had less vigorous involvement from the religious communities than has the immigrant/ refugee crisis. But local communities and various organizations could certainly choose to address both. Indeed, it might not be hard to create some stanzas for “Eicha for Temple Earth” that focus on the refugee/ immigrant/ “exile” crisis.  The link is especially powerful because one of the drivers for fleeing refugees, especially in Guatemala, is what global scorching is doing to local communities.

3. Tisha B’Av is not the only holy day that can authentically be focused on the healing of our wounded Earth. Indeed, in Jewish tradition all the holy days grew from the seasons of Earth – and it would seem just and joyful for them to repay the debt by helping us heal the wounds of their earthy origins.  More on this in further letters.

 I welcome your comments on this proposal. Please write me directly at awaskow@theshalomcenter.org

Shalom, salaam paz, peace  --  Arthur

Toward a future Judaism: A Retreat This July

Include on the list of inspiring retreats for Jewish Earth-lovers (mystical and activist) this summer's Ruach Ha'Aretz retreat July 8-14 at Stony Point Interfaith Retreat Center in Stony Point, NY.That’s 37 miles from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, 130 miles from Philadelphia, 137 miles from Boston, and 50 miles from Newark Airport.

 

  Stony Point has a residential multireligious community of Christians, Jews, and Muslims and organic gardens that supply fruits and vegetables to the dining room and neighboring communities.  The Ruach Ha'Aretz retreat, sponsored by Yerusha, is kosher vegetarian/vegan and is focused on healing Mother Earth.  Meditation, chanting, transformative prayer, and great teachers make this a week not to miss.  For more information, go to yerusha.org/ruach.haaretz.

My dear friends Shefa Gold, Diane Elliott, Shaya Isenberg, Bahira Sugarman,ill  Lynn Iser, and Jeff Roth will be among the teachers, and my beloved Phyllis will be the resident spiritual director.  Join us!

 I will be weaving a four-session participatory and conversational course that will look toward a Judaism of the future.

In shaping new versions of Judaism and other religious communities for our own and future generations, we are already turning some of what were biblical blessings or commands, like the subordination of women, into sins; and turning old sins, like male-male sex, into blessings like same-sex marriage.

At the same time, one major blessing of the Hebrew Bible was its wisdom as the spiritual experience of an indigenous people of shepherds and farmers close to the Earth.  That aspect was minimized in 2,000 years of Rabbinic Judaism. But it has become newly crucial in our generation as we face a profound crisis in humanity’s relationship with Earth.

The course will address these two crucial issues -– sexuality/ gender issues and Earth/human-earthling relationships -- and will pay special attention to biblical passages that themselves point toward a future version of Torah quite different from the over-all tenor of the Bible. (For example, the Song of Songs is a vision of a future of gender relationships utterly different from the biblical norm.)

Four sessions:

SESSION 1: Gender relationships: Reading & open conversation on Biblical texts.

SESSION 2:  Gender relationship: Reading & open conversation on theory, practice, poetry of feminist and LGBTQIA Judaism.

SESSION 3: Relationships between Earth & human earthlings: Reading & open conversation on Biblical texts.

SESSION 4: Sexuality/ gender relationships AND relationships between Earth & human earthlings. Reading & open conversation on Song of Songs.

The Ruach HaAretz retreat is itself aiming to create a week-long village, living as what Dr. Martin Luther King called the Beloved Community. Like a village, we will address such aspects of our lives as food and dance, aging and childrearing, meditation and prayer, trees and sexuality. Among the teachers and weavers will be Rabbi Shefa Gold on new forms of prayer, Rabbi Jeff Roth on Jewish meditation, and Rabbi Phyllis Berman as Spiritual Director in Residence. And as with any healthy village, there will be joyful learning for the children.

 

       Here:  yerusha.org/ruach-haaretz

In these very days, we are counting our way from the Passover of the past to the Sinai of the future. We look forward to your joining us, our joining you, in this journey.

Shalom, Arthur

What We Owe Our 16-Year-Olds: 2 Phone Calls

Dear friends,

First, before you read the rest of my letter to you, please click here and watch a 2-minute video of middle-school and high-school kids talking with Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California.

https://twitter.com/sunrisemvmt/status/1099075460649107458?link_id=3&can_id=ec320de8eee4a92ec3d9eb18c7b84a60&source=email-middle-school-kids-vs-feinstein-3&email_referrer=email_500122&email_subject=middle-school-kids-vs-feinstein

Then please come back here.

Sen. Feinstein is not a bad person. But she is used to step-by-step slow improvement of America. There was no deadline for civil rights, no deadline for women’s rights. One step at a time made things better. But the planet doesn’t work that way. Already the ice is melting faster and the oceans are warming faster than the scientists expected. There IS a deadline.

So the kids are right and Senator Feinstein is wrong.

The Green New Deal proposal sets a TRULY REALISTIC goal because it demands shifting from a carbon economy to a renewable economy by 2030. That will be BARELY in time to prevent utter climate chaos. And the Green  New Deal moves RIGHT AWAY to create and fund the jobs that will make the Green Shift possible.

Here too there is a deadline, because already we are seeing Americans who are feeling forgotten, frightened by a flat future and shortened life-spans, releasing old impulses to racist rage as a way of feeling better. That will grow worse if we do not meet the need.  The crisis in democracy and the crisis in planetary survival join. Feinstein’s “responsible” resolution is irresponsible because it will not save our planet, our democracy, or our lives.  The lives of those kids.

Because of her life-long habit of step-by-step, Sen. Feinstein fell for a trick, a trap, set by Sen. McConnell, the Senate (Republican) majority leader. Senator Markey of Massachusetts and Congresswoman AOC of New York have introduced a resolution to set the will of the Senate and the House to embody the Green New Deal. (I will explain in a moment why I think it is far better in both ethical-moral terms and in sheer practical politics than any other approach to securing either domestic US social justice or planetary survival.)

Congresswoman AOC's resolution can pass the House. But Senator Markey's resolution will not pass the Senate – and neither will Sen. Feinstein’s watered-down substitute, because the Republican majority in the Senate will oppose both of them.

But if neither the Green New Deal resolution nor Watery Feinstein can pass the Senate,  why bother? Because we need to build a movement in the country behind the goal that will actually save us, not the one that won’t. By 2021 we need a President and both houses of Congress ready to pass the Green New Deal. And we can have them – IF we build the movement.

Sen. McConnell set the trap that Sen. Feinstein fell into. McConnell could hear and taste the rising tide of a great Green Wave of public support for the Green New Deal resolution. (So could practically every declared Democratic candidate for President, who have all endorsed the Green New Deal.)  So McConnell brought up the Green New Deal resolution for a vote before the movement all across American could crystallize strong support in the Senate. He hoped that the Democrats in the Senate would split.  And Feinstein fell for it.

Now it’s up to us. Unless you live in the District of Columbia or outside the US, you have two Senators. This week is a crucial time to call them. I urge you to do so. I think we owe it to our kids, our grandkids.

Call 1202-224-3121 and ask for your Senator’s office.(Just tell the operator what State or what zip code you are in; she will know who your Senators are.) Then ask your Senator’s office to speak to her/ his climate policy expert. They may shift you to voice mail. OK. Give your name, your phone number, what town you live in, and say that it is VERY important to you –at every level – for the sake of all the 16-year-olds in your own family and in the world --  that your Senator supports the Markey Resolution for a Green New Deal.

When you are finished, call back to 1202-224-3121 and ask for your other Senator. Do it all over again  

If you do live in DC and don’t have a Senator, or if you have the time to make three calls, please call in and ask for Senator Schumer of New York, the Minority (Democratic) Leader. Urge him to line up all the Democratic Senators behind the Markey resolution for the Green New Deal.  

One more action, right after your phone calls:

Many many young people organized by the Sunrise Movement are converging on Capitol Hill today, meeting Senators and Congressmembers to support the Green New Deal. Please support them by clicking here to sign a petition:

https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/tell-congress-support-sen-markey-rep-ocasio-cortezs-resolution-for-a-green-new-deal

Finally, why do I think the Green New Deal is crucial? Because it connects into one unified goal meeting (a) the needs of the Earth and all human communities to stop the runaway climate crisis by ending the burning of fossil fuels, and (b) the needs of large sectionsof American society for decent jobs at good pay. The Green New Deal insists we can create the Green Community only by putting millions to work on green infrastructure, and it insists we can meet the pent-up desperate hunger for jobs and justice only by creating the Green Community. Each empowers the other.

If you think coal miners or oil-refinery workers or people who are building huge pipelines to carry fracked unnatural gas will willingly lose their jobs just because their work is wrecking the planet and creating epidemics of cancer and asthma, think again. They need jobs NOW, just as the Earth needs wind and solar power NOW. The Green New Deal meets both needs, NOW.

When Pharaoh brought slavery upon workers, eco-disaster plagues on the food crops of his country, and death on the first-born, the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, said “NOW! --  There is no time to let the dough rise when you bake your bread! NOW -- bake matzah, bake unleavened bread, and go NOW.” Dr. Martin Luther King said it more than 50 years ago:  “The fierce urgency of NOW!” Even truer now that it was then.

Please act. And when you have, please click to “Reply” and just drop us a line --  “Done!” if you don’t have time to say more.

Thanks, and blessings of passionate empowerment for healing! --  Arthur

My "Torah Talk" for Presidents Day Protest -- NOT DIctators Day

On Presidents Day I spoke to a crowd gathered at the City Hall of Philadelphia to protest the “Fake Emergency” proclaimed by Donald Trump to enable him to bypass Congress’ refusal to appropriate money to build a Wall and further militarize our Southern border. The protest was live-streamed, and the recording is at --

https://www.facebook.com/jemjason.corraggio/videos/2388797751344077/?notif_id=1550509702151643&notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic

 My own speech begins exactly one hour into the recording -- !:00:00 --  and lasts till 1:12:00.

 Since various other sounds partially intrude, I have included, below, the text I used. I skipped a few parts of my text and ad-libbed occasionally beyond it. I hope you will take the time to see and listen live.

 With blessings to you and to us all of the strength and perseverance to stand tall for democracy, for justice and compassion, against all their enemies  --  Arthur

 [Photo by Rabbi Mordechai Liebling]

Why am I here today? [I ad-libbed some remarks about the Passover Seder as both a commemoration of ancient struggles against a tyrant, Pharaoh, and at its best an activist teaching and reaching toward future transformation: for example, what it means for The Shalom Center to be sponsoring a pre-Passover Seder in which Rev. William Barber of the Poor Peoples Campaign will be one of the leaders. I moved  from that holy time of challenging tyrants into ---]

And I am here today because this too is a holy day – a holy day in the American calendar. Today is Presidents Day. Not Dictators Day. Not King George III’s Day. This holy day is known as Presidents Day in honor originally of Presidents Washington and Lincoln, and more recently to honor all the honorable Presidents of the United States. And when necessary, as it is today, to challenge a dishonorable President.

What does it mean to be a US President, not a king or a dictator? It means to live in and under the Constitution of the United States.  It means you swear an Oath to “preserve, protect, and defend  the Constitution of the United States.” Not even to defend the physical safety of the United States, but its moral and spiritual and political Truth -- the CONSTITUTION OF THE UNITED STATES. Imperfect, evolving – toward democracy, not away from it.

And that includes --

  “Article. I. Section. 8. ... No money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law  --  by Congress.”

No President can take our tax money to use any way he feels like, for something that Congress refuses. This teaching – We the People have no Dictator, no King – goes deep not just into our Constitution but into the moral fabric that preceded it by about 2500 years.  Even when people chose kings, the Bible taught that even a king, especially a king, must have his powers limited.

Deuteronomy 17:14-19 

“If you say, “I will set over me a king like all the nations round about us,  you may set, yes, set over you a king – one that YHWH [Yahhh – the Breathing Spirit pf the World ] your God chooses.... 

Only: He is not to multiply cavalry [the jet bombers and H-bombs of that day] for himself, or make the people return to the Tight and Narrow Place [of slavery] in order to multiply his cavalry, since YHWH [Yahhh – the Breath of Life]  has said to you, ‘You will never return that way again!’

“And he is not to multiply sexual partners for himself, lest his heart be turned aside. And silver and gold he must not multiply for himself.  

“But it shall be when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself with his own hand, a copy of this Teaching in a scroll.  [He shall write it sitting] face to face with priests of the tribe of Levi. It is to remain beside him, and he is to read out of it every day of his life, so that he may learn to have awe for YHWH [Yahhh, the Breath of Life]  his God and to be fully caring for all the words of this Teaching and these laws, to observe them, so that his heart not be lifted up above his people.”

I do not want to make the Bible into American law. God forbid!! Truly, God forbid! I do want to learn from that last line --- the moral and spiritual line about the danger that kings will lift their hearts above their community, not turn their hearts toward their community.  That warning is at the heart of all the political rules that aim toward democracy.  For us as well. 

 The only emergency Mr. Trump has proclaimed is his own desperate raw emotional and political need to subjugate everyone who will not bow down to him. He kidnaps children from their families, he brings wildfires and hurricanes and famines on all living beings. He is doing exactly what the Bible forbids: “that his heart not be lifted up above his people.”

[Photo by Bastiaan Slabbers for WHYY]

In our country, We the People – the whole People  --  are the “priests of the tribe of Levi.” We ALL breathe the Breath of Life. We –- along with all the life-forms of our planet, the life-forms that this President is radically endangering. We demand that this President obey our Constitution.

And more!  Mr. Trump, we demand that you stop lifting up your heart in contempt and arrogance and cruelty above and against your people, all peoples, and all life; and turn your heart instead toward justice and compassion.

 Or ==  Mr. Trump, if you will not, cannot, turn your  heart to justice and compassion, if you cannot turn your heart to being worthy of this Presidents Day, leave. Leave the Presidency you are trying to make into a personal dictatorship.

You are not our King.  We have no King!  [Crowd joins in: “We have no King!  We have no King!  We have no King!’] And if Congress will not stop you, We the People must. We here, everywhere in America today, meeting at Noon in every time zone from Philadelphia to Hawaii, must stop you.  

Will stop you.

For we have no king!


 

Howard Schultz and The Challenge of "Class Suicide"

[Arlene Goldbard is the President pf The Shalom Center. She writes a blog of her own, to which you can subscribe or post comments at her Website: arlenegoldbard.com. Till recently she was the Chief Policy Wonk of the US Department of Arts and Culture (not a government agency). She is the author of The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future and The Wave.  Much of her work unfolds the spiritual roots of  political action; this essay is a superb example. --  AW, editor]

   

By Arlene Goldbard

When Starbucks founder Howard Schultz announced a few days ago that he was exploring a 2020 run for President as a "centrist independent," progressive social media exploded with reasons to reconsider. Op-eds proliferated, people began leafleting Starbucks and protesting at Schultz's speaking engagements. A chief objection is the reality that Jill Stein, running as the Green Party candidate in 2016, took enough votes from the Democrat to propel the Present Occupant into the White House. Pick a party, many say, and run as hard as you want for the nomination. But don't sabotage this critical opportunity to defeat the incumbent by pulling votes from the Democratic nominee. Michelle Goldberg did a good job of summing it all up in the New York Times. 

Schultz's trial balloon is likely to sink under its burden of self-regard, the billionaire's blithe belief that wealth qualifies him for office. If not, the history and math showing how a Schultz candidacy is likely to re-elect the incumbent are hard to refute. I imagine Schultz will back down, but I also recognize that the surrealism of contemporary American politics can outstrip my imagination. 

So what interests me most is not handicapping Schultz's chances or joining the legions exhorting him not to run, but getting to the root of his absurd ambitions, which is to say the root of our plutocracy and its kudzu-like grip on the body politic.

I can't think of anything that expresses it better than this quote from Paulo Freire's masterpiece, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It explains the confidence of those like Schultz who believe their personal wealth and wisdom make them uniquely qualified to save the world. It explains why despite so much evidence to the contrary, they are certain they know better.

“...the fact that certain members of the oppressor class join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation, thus moving from one pole of the contradiction to the other... Theirs is a fundamental role, and has been throughout the history of this struggle. 

It happens, however, that as they cease to be exploiters or indifferent spectators or simply the heirs of exploitation and move to the side of the exploited, they almost always bring with them the marks of their origin: their prejudices and their deformations, which include a lack of confidence in the people's ability to think, to want, and to know. 

Accordingly, these adherents to the people's cause constantly run the risk of falling into a type of generosity as malefic as that of the oppressors. The generosity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be maintained in order to justify that generosity. Our converts, on the other hand, truly desire to transform the unjust order; but because of their background they believe that they must be the executors of the transformation. They talk about the people, but they do not trust them; and trusting the people is the indispensable precondition for revolutionary change. A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.”

I have no great love for our current electoral system. It would take all of 30 seconds to come up with something better than our money-ridden, top-down two-party structure, its flaws compounded by the deformations of the Electoral College and bad Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United. But Schultz and others who imagine now is the time to experiment with sidestepping the Democratic Party are hugely mistaken. Perhaps wealth insulates them so fully from the consequences of such experiments that empathy falls by the wayside. Four more years of the madmen in the White House may not do irreparable damage to Schultz's bottom line; it's impossible to believe he's given full weight to the damage others are likely to sustain. Either that or he turns out to be the worst type of ideologue, the true believer who accepts the suffering of others as allowable collateral damage in pursuit of a grand idea—in this case, himself as President.

Freire recognizes the importance of the privileged putting themselves on the side of liberation. There are many examples. I wrote in 2015 about the way great spiritual and political leaders may come from wealth and privilege—Moses, Siddhartha Gautama, Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, and many more. But no matter how gifted, such individuals cannot advance freedom and justice unless they commit "class suicide," dying to the privileged class of their birth—for instance, by taking a step with no return—and thus sacrificing privilege and power in favor of full identification with the oppressed.

Right now, today, how could someone like Howard Schultz—or Michael Bloomberg, who just said that Medicare for All would "bankrupt us for a very long time"—commit class suicide? We are taught that Moses' moment came when he was moved to kill a brutal overseer abusing a slave and Siddhartha's eyes were opened when he finally left his father's palace and saw human suffering. So yes, these billionaire politicians could simply open their eyes—if seeing led to action. A good first step would be to come out in favor of the wealth tax ideas put forward by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren, nicely explained in this column by Jamelle Bouie.

The Republican right frames a top tax rate of 70 percent for the wealthiest as highway robbery, but that was actually the rate from the mid-1940s through the 1970s. So rather than advocating unprecedented radical redistribution, present-day economic reformers are simply calling for a return to policies that kept the wealth gap far smaller than today's egregious reality, where the U.S. gap is worse than almost any other nation in the developed world.

Freire was right.The spoilers like Schultz who claim to be for the public good but sacrifice nothing to see it enacted, those whose self-importance swamps their often formidable intelligence, are rooted in economic privilege. Ralph Nader's net worth was close to $4 million in 2000 when he ran against Al Gore; Jill Stein's and her husband's net worth totaled almost exactly the same when she ran in 2016.

The possession of wealth does not cancel empathy or disqualify one from leadership any more than poverty always amplifies empathy or promotes leadership. It's not material conditions that make good leaders, but qualities: the compassion, humility, sense of reality, and commitment to love and justice which every human being has the capacity to cultivate. Tech zillionaireTom Steyer has no dearth of self-confidence, but I was glad to see him separate himself from the likes of Schultz, putting paid to rumors of his presidential candidacy by announcing he was investing the millions he would have spent campaigning on the Present Occupant's impeachment instead.

The part of that quote from Freire I love the most says that "The generosity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be maintained in order to justify that generosity." It's not hard to break down. The Present Occupant's many campaign promises to restore manufacturing jobs and otherwise relieve the suffering of working people were 21st-century reenactments of John D. Rockefeller passing out shiny new dimes to everyone he met. The meta-statement each gesture made is this: I'm rich and you're not. I have the power and you don't.

In the Mishnah Torah, Maimonides defines. eight levels of charity The Hebrew word for charity is tzedakah, which also means justice or righteousness. The highest  level is to help someone via a loan, job, or partnership to avoid remaining dependent on others (expressed for instance in the Green New Deal proposal growing in grassroots popularity); the lowest is to give grudgingly (as whenWilbur Ross and other such Republican spokespersons condemned government employees unpaid due to the government shutdown for applying for public assistance or protested against having to pay taxes).  

The true highest level of tzedakah is class suicide, people with economic and social power turning their backs on the system that upholds their privilege and working for a new order grounded in equity and caring, reducing their own entitlement and specialness as countless others are uplifted.

There's a rabbinic story I learned many years ago, in which a rabbi visits the town’s richest man to ask for alms for the poor, and is repeatedly refused. Finally, before he turns to leave, the rabbi asks the man to look through the window of his house and say what he sees. The man sees other people, of course, going about their business in the town. Then the rabbi directs the man to gaze into a nearby mirror and report what he sees. “Myself,” the man says. “That’s how it goes,” the rabbi tells him. “The human soul is clear, like glass, allowing us to see truly; but when we cover it with silver, all we can see is ourselves.”  

Shalom, Arlene

Colors of Resistance at the Women’s March

By Cherie Brown

[The Shalom Report during the next days will have several reports from and about Jewish women who took part in the Women’s March in Washington last Shabbat -- some Jewish Women of Color and some white Jewish women. Our first such report is from Cherie Brown, the executive director of the National Coalition-Building Institute, which for years has led workshops on racism, anti-Semitism, and the entanglements of both with each other. She is a member of the board of The Shalom Center. She wrote this memo the day after the Women’s March. Beneath her memo is a link to a video of the Shabbat service she describes, and a brief comment of mine. -- --  AW, editor]

Here is a picture from Jewish Women of Color on the stage at the march.  The two Black African-Heritage Jewish women speaking at the mike are April Baskin and Yavilah  McCoy.  Here is also something brief I wrote about yesterday.

 

I just returned from attending the National Women's March in DC.  It was a powerful, moving gathering, with a strong commitment to unity.  And Jewish Women of Color  were at the front of the march and led a delegation of several hundred of us--Jewish women of Color and Allies. 

First-- a few things about the weeks leading up to the March.  I and many of us put in dozens of hours listening and working with a lot of upset people.  The issues of anti-Semitism were very real and needed to be addressed--and a lot of Jews were hurting. Some Jews  felt that the March leadership wasn't dealing sufficiently with anti-Semitism.  Others, particularly Jewish Women of Color, felt that to not stay in the Women's March was also colluding with racism and sexism.

I worked a lot with  several Jewish leaders who were struggling about whether to stay with the March in light of the issues of anti Semitism.  I continued to hold out  to everyone I talked to that we Jews need to gain the muscle to stay in Coalition ( especially when we agree with most of the unity principles) and learn how to stay AND take on the anti Semitism. 

Hard and painful and honest conversations were had between a number of Jewish women and the March leadership about anti-Semitism.

I believe we are further ahead for having had  to handle this controversy.  The first National Women's March two years ago did not mention anti- Semitism.  In today's march-- the issue of anti Semitism was included as a part of the unity principles.  Two years ago-- no visible Jews spoke from the podium.  Today-- there were three Jewish women added to the steering committee of the National March who also spike in the stage.  ( Rabbi Abby Stein, Yavilah McCoy, April Baskin).

This past week I was asked to lead a webinar for the National Council of Jewish Women on Dealing with anti-Semitism with Coalition Partners.  Over 200 Jewish women from across the U.S. signed up to be on the webinar.  It's clear that there is a growing hunger to understand about anti-Semitism and not have it get in the way of progressive Coalition work-- particularly on women's issues.

The March:   Today-- the day began for me with an early morning Shabbat service before the March-- led by Jewish Women of Color.  Hundreds of us showed up to participate and be in solidarity.  Then we marched behind a strong powerful contingent of Jewish Women of Color.

Many of us were moved to tears as two Black African heritage Jewish women ( April Baskin and Yavilah McCoy) alongside other Jewish Women of Color stood on the stage and addressed the whole March. They spoke strongly of unity and fighting together against sexism.  They spoke out against anti-Semitism and insisted that the work against anti-Semitism was a part of the work against sexism.   They were holding a Torah Scroll;  several were wearing Talleisim [prayer shawls] and they wished the Women's March “Shabbat Shalom!”

There is still a lot of work to be done.  The anti-Semitism is by no means gone.  The classic historic pattern of having anti-Semitism be thrown out as a bone to divide progress forces was so apparent in these past few weeks. The press has not always played a good role.  It has spent much of its time focused on the controversy and how the March was so divided--and very little on the important agenda goals of the March to end sexism.

I am learning a lot about how we can stand up fiercely against anti-Semitism while at the same time, not let the anti-Semitism keep Jews and other progressives divided or walking away from the work of eliminating sexism.

^^^^^^^^^

Rafael Shimunov filmed parts of the Jewish Women of Color Shabbat service at the Women’s March in Washington:

 https://www.facebook.com/yavilah.mccoy/videos/10156840960543971/

Rafael’s  video   is very moving, as of course were the Prophetic actions and the words he filmed --    especially Yavilah McCoy’s quotations from “the Prophet” (MLK). 

 I was especially touched by the film’s catching the traditional gesture in which Jews touch the fringes of their talleisim to the Torah Scroll when it is carried into the congregation, and then kiss the fringes.

I was taught by my friend and teacher Rabbi Max Ticktin, tz’z’l, that those who take on the joyful burden of carrying the Torah are themselves, each one of them,  a Torah  -- and he therefore touched the fringes to the carriers as well.

So I found myself wanting to touch the fringes of my tallis not only to the Sefer Torah the women were carrying but to the women themselves, to the band of Jewish Women of Color who created this powerful moment.

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace --  Arthur

Solar Co-ops: Healing Home, Neighborhood, & Planet

Repairing the World with Solar

By Anya Schoolman*

[This is the second in our series on how congregations can take steps to heal the Earth from the climate crisis.

[Anya Schoolman is now the executive director of Solar United Neighbors, a network that began in Washington DC and has now spread across the country as an inspiration and guide to the creation of many local neighborhood or congregation-based solar co-ops. This is her story of how SUN began and grew.

[Inspired by SUN’s work, The Shalom Center in 2013 sparked the creation of a solar-co-op in our neighborhood in Philadelphia – the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op (NAPSACK for short).   For information on and from SUN, click to  https://www.solarunitedneighbors.org/  -- AW, editor]

I live in Washington, DC. Solar United Neighbors began in 2007 when my son Walter was searching for a Tikkun Olam project for his bar mitzvah. Shortly thereafter, he and his friend Diego saw the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth”  They decided they wanted to install solar panels on their homes. When I looked into going solar, though, I discovered it was complicated and expensive.

But Walter and Diego would not be talked out of it. I wondered if some sort of bulk purchase might make solar affordable. Diego and Walter knocked on doors throughout their neighborhood. In just two weeks, they signed up 50 neighbors who also wanted to go solar.

That group, the Mt. Pleasant Solar Cooperative, helped 45 neighbors go solar. Participants worked together for their rights as energy producers. They persuaded the D.C. Council to pass legislation that created a local market for solar. They also shared their success with friends and neighbors. Soon after, other neighbors from across the region started organizing solar co-ops and fighting for better solar policies together.

Solar United Neighbors grew out of this movement. The organization has expanded across the country, doing on-the-ground projects and helping communities everywhere take control of their energy. Today, through the implementation of a group purchase—known as a solar co-op --  Solar United Neighbors has helped more than 3,500 homes go solar.

A solar co-op is a group of homeowners in a defined geographic area who use their combined purchasing power to ensure they receive the most competitive solar installation. Solar installers face significant costs finding, qualifying, and educating solar customers.

By forming a group of interested buyers, co-op members ensure the most competitive pricing because the co-op has already done some of the work of finding customers for the installer. Furthermore, solar co-ops allow neighbors to work together to eliminate barriers to roof top solar, like cumbersome permitting requirements, shortsighted HOA rules, or unfair compensation from utilities.

The basics of a solar co-op are simple. Get a group together and learn about solar. Run a competitive bidding process to choose one installer to work for your group. Each participant gets a site visit from the installer and makes an individual decision about whether solar is right for them.

By working in a group, people can support each other, get better prices, get better service, and address problems if they come up. Solar United Neighbors provides technical support to groups hoping to start a solar co-op. In states where they have staff, they can provide complete support for the process from beginning to end. Solar United Neighbors provides educational resources, public information sessions, and one-on-one support for all co-op participants.

Solar United Neighbors has also helped a number of congregations go solar. Many congregations will do a combination of going solar themselves and then organizing a group purchase for their congregation. Others use a solar co-op as a way to introduce the idea of solar to a congregation and help people get comfortable with the technology before the more complicated project of solarizing the congregational building itself.

Robyn Miller-Tarnoff first got interested in solar in high school when she attended a parade featuring solar-powered cars. This sparked her interest in the impact various sources of energy have on the environment.

Fast forward several years: Now a member of Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C., Robyn encouraged her synagogue to decide to install solar on its building. Temple Sinai worked with several other area congregations that were also interested in going solar. Temple Sinai had a 124 KW solar system installed on its roof in 2016. Here is how it looks:

But Robyn and others at the synagogue wanted to do more. Using the synagogue’s installation of a new rabbi as a “teachable moment,” they launched a solar co-op to spread solar not just to congregation members, but to friends and family as well. They worked with Solar United Neighbors, as well as with Congregation Beth El in Bethesda and St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill to recruit and educate co-op members.

In total, Robyn estimates more than 225 people were educated about solar by the co-op through information sessions and peer-to-peer contact.

“It felt like a reunion,” Robyn said of the info session, noting how many of her friends and neighbors attended.

More than 50 homes went solar with the group, including Robyn’s.

She had a 12 kW system installed on her roof and estimates that it will offset just about all of her electricity needs.

“We could invest in a mutual fund where you don’t know where your money is going,” she said. “If you’re buying solar, it’s the ultimate local investment.”

Robyn opted for dark-blue panels so that they stand out on her roof. She wants the panels to be a conversation starter.

The conversation has already started within Robyn’s own family. She said she inspired a cousin who lives in California to look into starting a similar solar co-op group in her neighborhood.

Organizing a solar bulk purchase is one of the easiest things a congregation can do for the environment. Going solar isn’t complicated. Going as a group makes it possible to share the work, fight against barriers in the market, and join together for more impact. It is an important step in helping repair the world.

[To add just one more note: We urge that solar co-ops see themselves not only as energy-saving and money-saving groups, not only as planet-healing work; not only, in neighborhoods with high levels of coal dust or oil refineries, as ways to heal from asthma and cancer epidemics; not only as political groups to press for governmental action to heal the planet;  but ALSO as communal groups that gather perhaps once a month to sing, share home cookery, tell stories of their lives. The co-op should be a place of joy as well as justice.--  AW, ed.]

Ring the bells that still can ring!

This line from the Prophet Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”  goes on ==

Ring the bells that still can ring . . .
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in!

We still can ring the Liberty Bell, but a great crack in the bell prevents our ears from hearing it. It rings in our minds and hearts and souls. The Shalom Center pours light through its crack – the light of the Torah that is quoted on the Bell – the Torah of Leviticus 25, the Shmita/ Sabbatical Year and Jubilee, the light of liberty for all humanity and all the Earth, the liberty of time to rest.  Time for humans to rest from crushing debt. Time to let the Earth rest from burning the carbon that burns the Earth.

 

We devote ourselves to shining new light into and through the cracks in our wounded religious life, our wounded country, our wounded Earth.

And we need your help to do it. With the official “tax year” coming to an end, we need to ask for your tax-deductible contributions for us to go forward in that healing.

Money is frozen energy. It comes from the unfrozen work that you and we do every day. We set it aside, freeze it, ready to thaw and pour into action. To change society, we must unfreeze the energy again. You can unfreeze that money by contributing some to The Shalom Center. Without it, we can’t do that work for change.

I have always made a point of explaining what work we will do with the contributions that you-all send us. I did that in detail a week ago, but I noticed that then the Shalom Report got long and the point got lost. So I want to be brief and pointed:

We put our bodies and our minds on the line. From a spiritual perspective, we inspire new ways of thinking about the great issues of our time. Those new ways of thinking distressed and angered some people, and energized many more.

 We don’t stop there. We initiate new actions that fuse “the spiritual” and “the activist” into one, or One. When we put our bodies on the line, we risked arrest and often actually got arrested. Even in the moment of arrest, we reminded the police that far worse crimes than a nonviolent sit-in are being committed by people who work in the White House, and we asked the police to keep that in mind when they act as citizens doing their civic duty. As the Prophet Leonard also sang:

. . . I can't run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But, they've summoned up
A thundercloud
And they're going to hear from Me.

From us.

There are two closely related Hebrew words: Tzedek means “justice.” It names the work we do to change an unjust law, to create a just community. Tzedakah means “the money we give to help others work for a just society.” Notice that “tzedakah” adds a breathing sound. It is a softer, gentler word than “tzedek.”

The Shalom Center strives to do tzedek. To do that, we need your tzedakah.

Please click on the maroon “Contribute” bar on the left-hand margin of this page.

Thanks! And blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace --  Arthur

A Tale of Two Pharaohs, Ancient & Right Now

When an ancient story and a modern reality follow the same plot line about unchecked, unaccountable power, you  know you are in the presence of an archetypal insight into the patterns of society. When the ancient story ends in the self-destruction of that tyrannical power by its own over-reach, you know you are in the presence of a profound ethical question: How will we ourselves end the modern story?

Ancient Pharaoh, ca. 2500 BCE  [Translation slightly modified from Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses (Schocken Books)]

"Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh. They said to him: “Thus says YHWH [pronounced without vowels by just breathing, hence the “Breath of Life, the Hurricane of Change], ‘Send free My people, that they might serve Me. But if you refuse to send My people free, here! – Tomorrow I will bring the locust-horde within your territory. They will cover the face of the ground; they will consume all the trees that spring up for you from the field; they will fill the houses of all Egypt.”

"Pharaoh’s officials said to him: “How long shall this one be a snare to us? Send the people free, that they may serve YHWH [the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change]. Do you not yet know that Egypt is ruined?”

"But YHWH made Pharaoh’s heart strong-willed, and he did not send the Children of Israel free.

 

Modern Pharaoh, 2018 CE: [New York Times, Nov. 23, 2018]

WASHINGTON — A major scientific report issued by 13 federal agencies on Friday presents the starkest warnings to date of the consequences of climate change for the United States, predicting that if significant steps are not taken to rein in global warming, the damage will knock as much as 10 percent off the size of the American economy by century’s end.

... [UK Guardian, Nov. 26, 2018]:
“Trump on own administration's climate report: 'I don't believe it. I’ve seen it, I’ve read some of it, and it’s fine,’ he said outside the White House on Monday. “I don’t believe it.”

 The same story, merely separated by 4,500 years of human history.

The Torah reports that after each of the first several plagues, Pharaoh hardened his own heart in defiance of the deep natural process, the consequences of disaster brought on by his own stubbornness and cruelty.

Then after each of the later plagues, Torah says that YHWH, the deep process of the InterBreath of Life, made Pharaoh’s  heart stubborn. This is the process of addiction: First someone makes the choice of heroin or fentanyl, and after several such “choices” Reality takes over: Addiction reigns.In both the cases we are examining, the ruler’s addiction to his own power takes over and he ignores the ruin he is bringing on his own people. In both stories, his own officials, his “Administration,” warn him in despair. In both stories, he cannot waver: He is addicted. Power becomes tyranny, tyranny becomes cruelty.

 In the Torah story, the Resistance rises in courage, in clarity, and in  commitment. The Godwrestlers remember to wrestle History by hastily baking unleavened matzah-bread to mark the fierce urgency of Now  -- for there was no time to wait for the bread to rise. They rim their doorways in blood so that when they walk through them they are leaving a womb, birthing themseves anew. When they act, Nature itself responds, for all life is interconnected. The Bible's metaphor for the interconnection is "YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh." (This Name can only be "pronounced" without vowels by simply breathing.)   So the Breath of Life Itself, the Hurricane of Change,  sweeps over the waters of the Red Sea. Pharaoh’s power is drowned in his own over-reach, and the People  move forward to create a new kind of community.

 In the story of Today, the question is still open. Will we let the Spirit move us to dissolve Trump’s unaccountable and destructive pharaonic power, to save our country and our planet from ruination, and to create a new kind of national and planetary community? ?

Some suggested answers to that crucial question are in the continuation of this Shalom Report, You can access the rest of this Report, comment on it, and share it with your friends by clicking on "Keep Reading" and then to "Comments" below.

The Shalom Center is committed to keep working to free our society and to heal the deep wounds of our country and our planet. We need your help. As the "civil" year ends, please help us make the next year far more civil and more compassionate by making a (tax-deductible) investnent in the physical and spiritual future of your grandchildren. All our grandchildren.   Please click on the maroon “Contribute” button on the left-hand margin of this page.

Thanks! ~ Through the grace of your gift, may the blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace come to you. Remember: Keep reading! --  Arthur

Hanukkah Candles or California Fires?

Have the California wildfires and other events in the past month melted public apathy? Have we reached the threshold of public awareness necessary to force changes in climate and energy policy? Changes big enough to save our common home, our Planet Earth and all humanity, from global scorching, climate chaos?

And for the Jewish community, are there spiritual and political depths to Hanukkah that we can use to challenge the burning of our planet?

Hanukkah begins next Sunday evening, December 2, as we enter the 25th day of the wintry lunar moonth of Kislev, when moonlight is shrinking and sunlight is shortening.  As darkness grows, we light candles and we remember the Menorah in the ancient Temple, patterned on a tree -- with branches and twigs and flower-buds of sacred fire, lit with olive oil.

Let us light the candles on these eight nights with an intention, a focus:

 

Between the Fires:

A Kavvanah (Focus) for Kindling Candles of Commitment

We are the generation that stands  between the fires:

Behind us the flame and smoke 

that rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima;

From the burning forests of the Amazon,

From the hottest years of human history

That bring upon us Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.

 Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.

Before us the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,

The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.

 

It is our task to make from fire not an all-consuming blaze

But the light in which we see each other fully.

All of us different, All of us bearing One Spark.

We light these candle-fires to see more clearly 

That the Earth and all who live as part of it are not for burning.

We kindle these fires to see more clearly

The rainbow in the many-colored faces of all Life.

Blessed is the One within the many.

Blessed are the many who make One.

 

And after we look at the other question – has the moment come when at last the American public is ready to demand change? --  we will come back to Hanukkah.

In the last month, four events have opened the channels to a reinvigorated movement to end our climate crisis and prevent climate chaos.

1)  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change  -- the world’s climate scientists --  agreed on a report that warned us we have a dozen years to reverse greenhouse gas emissions fully enough to prevent widespread climate disaster. Their fever thermometer sets a danger point at our planet’s reaching the crucial threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels. That level will precipitate extreme drought, wildfires, floods and famines for hundreds of millions of people.

2)  The California wildfires in the fiercely urgent present, not a vaguely possible future, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses and killed hundreds of people –- the result of climate-driven extreme drought turning forests into kindling wood.


3)  Opponents of the Trump policies won control of the US House of Representatives and its real though limited ability to hobble Trump. Most of them had focused their public campaigns on other aspects of Trumpist  subjugations – especially Congressional attacks on health care – but they understand the breadth of arrogance and cruelty that infused other specific policies as well. Those included the Trumpist policy of encouraging the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs who make   Hyperwealth billions in profit by stoking the fiery fever of the Earth.

 Serious interest is growing in at least two proposals:  One is a Carbon Tax and Dividend,  in which the US would tax carbon emissions and the money raised would go either to support a transition to renewable energy, or be provided in a dividend to every resident of the US. The other is a “Green New Deal,” which focuses on creating millions of well-paying jobs to provide a national network of renewable energy, comfortable and convenient mass transit, etc. The Green New Deal has not yet been shaped into policy proposals. The two approaches could be linked.

4)  And then --  despite anti-Earth lies and actions by high-up Triumpist officials – civil servants scattered in many agencies throughout the US government, empowered by a law requiring a quadrennial report on the estimated effects of global scorching, published a clear statement: If we do not change course in energy policy, millions of Americans will in the next few decades suffer from diseases and many from deaths caused by global scorching; millions of jobs will be lost as fires and floods decimate the economy.

Will these four events make a difference? For me, one index to a powerful change of mood was that 200 young people sat-in on Speaker-in-waiting Pelosi’s office to demand action for a Green New Deal from the next House of Representatives.

It is time for the Jewish people to awaken ourselves to our own ancient wisdom, rooted in the spiritual experience of farmers and shepherds and orchard-keepers with a single slender sliver of land. Now we need to gather the flowers and fruit that grow from that wisdom to join with others in a struggle to heal the whole round Earth and re-energize a far more human civilization.

We have been caught in a commitment that is worth great praise, a commitment to “social” justice that has drawn our attention away from our ancient ecological wisdom. These two are no longer separable: The burning of our Earth makes worse two aspects of social injustice: At the top, the arsonists gather in enormous unjust wealth. At the bottom, the poor suffer from that burning first and worst. It is eco-social justice we must pursue.

We can draw on four distinct but linked aspects of Hanukkah to inspire us:

  1. In a time of darkness and fear, Hanukkah beckons us to light up active hope and new commitment. The seasons of the Earth shape the Seasons of Our Joy and Justice.
  2. Though Antiochus the Idolator reigns in the White House, we know that bands of nonviolent Maccabees of many diverse communities can empower ourselves to dissolve his arrogance and his idolatry.
  3. The legend of the Menorah that burned for eight days’ light on the oil that should have kept alight for just one day reminds us that with devotion, we too can conserve energy and fulfill our vision of a more enlightened world.
  4. In the Haftarah we read on Shabbat Hanukah, the Prophet Zechariah proclaims the meaning of the Great Menorah – “Not by might and not by power but by My Breath/Wind / Spirit,” says the Infinite Breath of Life. (Zech 4: 1-7).  And Zechariah proclaims the ecstatic vision that in the rebuilt Temple there will be one olive tree on the left and one on the right of the Great Menorah. Each of the trees will pour its golden treasure of olive oil directly into the gold Menorah, without the need of human intervention. (Zech 4, continuing till verse 12.) This is the ultimate vision of the deep and direct connection of adam and adamah, Earth and human earthling – the deepest meaning of Hanukkah.

Here we see, as the Hebrew says, the Hanukkah menorah made by the Creator of the World:

 

Tomorrow I will share with you some suggestions about how to use the Eight Days of Hanukkah to learn, connect, and act in this moment. We can imagine a new song: “The Eight Nights of Hanukkah, my True Love said to me: Please heal My Earth!”

Blessings of light in a month of dark, hope-filled action in a time of doubt.— Arthur

Giving Thanks, Arlo Guthrie, & My 1st Yarmulke

A Ritual of Joyful, Thankful  Resistance

Dear chevra, Just five minutes before noon today, I took part in a wonderful ritual. One of the members of a men’s group that began 30 years ago – - Jeffrey Dekro, founder of the Isaiah Fund – called me and the other men's group members to remind us to turn on our radios. He has been doing this, year after year on Thanksgiving Day, for almost all those thirty years.

Why?

 Every year at noon on Thanksgiving, WXPN Radio in Philadelphia (and many other radio stations around the country) play Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant,” about a Thanksgiving dinner in Stockbridge Mass. in 1967; about obtuse cops; and about nonviolent resistance to a brutal war.

 And every year, this seemingly non-Jewish set of rituals stirs in me the memory of a moment long ago when my first puzzled, uncertain explorations of the “Jewish thing” inside me took on new power for me. The moment when I came to understand the power of a yarmulke.

By now it is a tradition for me to retell the Yarmulke story every Thanksgiving. It carries deeper meaning this year, as we build a new Resistance, than it has for decades.

In 1970, I was asked by the Chicago Eight to testify in their defense. They were leaders of the movement to oppose the Vietnam War, and they had been charged by the Nixon Administration and Attorney-General John Mitchell (who turned out to be a criminal himself – see under “Watergate”) with conspiracy to organize riot and destruction during the Chicago Democratic National Convention in 1968. 

 I had been an alternate delegate from the District of Columbia to the Convention – elected originally as part of an anti-war, anti-racist slate to support Robert Kennedy. After he was murdered, we decided to nominate and support as our “favorite son” the chairperson of our delegation – Rev. Channing Phillips (may the memory of this just and decent leader be a blessing), a Black minister in the Martin Luther King mold.

 Our delegation made him the first Black person ever nominated for President at a major-party convention. The following spring, on the first anniversary of Dr. King’s murder, on the third night of Passover in 1969, his church hosted the first-ever Freedom Seder. (Its 50th anniversary comes this spring. Save April 7. Stay tuned!)

 AND – besides being an elected delegate, I had also spoken the first two nights of the Convention to the anti-war demonstrators at Grant Park, at their invitation, while the crowd was being menaced by Chicago police and the National Guard. This is what the demonstration looked like, clustered nonviolently in the park: 

 

Across the street were the police and the National Guard, poised to attack. Scary to watch them.  

 

 On "Bloody Wednesday," the third night of the Convention, the police – not the demonstrators – finally did explode in vicious violence.

 

 

 


Although the main official investigation of Chicago described it as a “police riot,” the Nixon Administration decided to indict the anti-war leaders. So during the Conspiracy Trial in 1970, Tom Hayden, David Dellinger, Abby Hoffman, and the other defendants figured I would be reasonably respectable (as a former delegate) and therefore relatively convincing to the jury and the national public, in testifying that the anti-war folks were not trying to organize violence but instead were the victims of police violence.

 As the trial went forward, it became clear that the judge – Julius Hoffman, a Jew – was utterly subservient to the prosecution and wildly hostile to the defense. (Some of us thought he had become possessed by the dybbuk of Torquemada, head of the Inquisition. --- How else could a Jew behave that way? We tried to exorcise his dybbuk. It didn’t work.)

 Judge Hoffman browbeat witnesses, ultimately literally gagging and binding Bobby Seale, the only Black defendant, for challenging his rulings – etc. Dozens of his rulings against the Eight were later cited by the Court of Appeals as major legal errors, requiring reversal of all the convictions the prosecution had achieved in his court

 So when I arrived at the Federal court-house in Chicago, I was very nervous. About the judge, much more than the prosecution or my own testimony

 The witness who was scheduled to testify right before me was Arlo Guthrie. 

 In Grant Park, among the antiwar demonstrators pictured above, Arlo had sung “Alice’s Restaurant,” a joy-filled, funny song about resistance to the Vietnam War and to the draft, and about the perverted priorities of "justice" in America. In 1968 the song was only a few years old, but millions knew it. 

 

 Why did the defense want to call Arlo as a witness? To show the jury that there was no incitement to violence in it.

 So William Kunstler, z’l, the lawyer for the defense, asked Guthrie to sing “Alice’s Restaurant” so that the jury could get a direct sense of the event

 But Judge Hoffman stopped him: “You can’t sing in my courtroom!”

 “But,” said Kunstler, “it’s evidence of the intent of the organizers and the crowd!”

 For minutes they snarled at each other. Finally, Judge Hoffman: “He can SAY what he told them, but NO SINGING.”

 And then – Guthrie couldn’t do it. The song, which lasts 18 minutes, he knew by utter heart, having sung it probably more than a thousand times – but to say it without singing, he couldn’t. His memory was keyed to the melody. And maybe Judge Hoffman’s rage helped dis-assemble him

 So he came back to the witness room, crushed.

And I’m up next. I start trembling, trying to figure out how I can avoid falling apart

I decide that if I wear a yarmulke, that will strengthen me to connect with a power Higher/ Other than the United States and Judge Hoffman. (Up to that moment, I had never worn a yarmulke in a non-officially “religious” situation. I had written the Freedom Seder in 1969, but in 1970 I was still wrestling with the question of what this weird and powerful “Jewish thing” meant in my life.)

So I tell Kunstler I want to wear a yarmulke, and he says – “No problem.” Somewhere I find a simple black unobtrusive skull-cap, and when I go to be sworn in, I put it on.

For the oath (which I did as an affirmation, as indicated by much of Jewish tradition), no problem.

Then Kunstler asks me the first question for the defense, and the Judge interrupts. “Take off your hat, sir,” he says.

Kunstler erupts. – “This man is an Orthodox Jew, and you want – etc etc etc.” I am moaning to myself, “Please, Bill, one thing I know I’m not is an Orthodox Jew.” But how can I undermine the defense attorney? So I keep my mouth shut.

Judge Hoffman also erupts: “That hat shows disrespect for the United States and this Honorable Court!” he shouts.

“Yeah,” I think to myself, “that’s sort-of true. Disrespect for him, absolutely. For the United States, not disrespect exactly, but much more respect for Something Else. That’s the point!”

 They keep yelling, and I start watching the prosecutor – and I realize that he is watching the jury. There is one Jewish juror. What is this juror thinking?

Finally, the prosecutor addresses the judge: “Your Honor, the United States certainly understands and agrees with your concern, but we also feel that in the interests of justice, it might be best simply for the trial to go forward.

 And the judge took orders!! He shut up, and the rest of my testimony was quiet and orderly

It took me another year or so to start wearing some sort of hat all the time –- a Tevye cap or a beret or an amazing tall Tibetan hat with earflaps and wool trimming, or a multicolored Jamaican cap with a zippered pocket (probably originally for dope; I used it to play Yankee Doodle with my grandchildren: "Stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni!"). Or a rainbowy yarmulke, like this:

 

And whatever its shape or color, the hat continues to mean to me that there is a Higher, Deeper Truth in the world than any judge, any boss, any Attorney-General, any President, or any Pharaoh.

 It’s my – our – “Alice’s Restaurant.” Or maybe “Alice’s Restaurant” is Arlo’s yarmulke. And not only Arlo’s, but the yarmulke for all of us.

Let us face the truth – This Thamksgiving, we haveIn  the White House itself a rhetoric and policy rooted in white nationalism. It has poured a fire of hate across America. Latinx, Blacks, women, Muslims, Jews, GLBTQ people, refugees, news reporters, even the Earth itself, have felt the fires.  In California, the fires have been physical, and murderous. Elsewhere, the fires have been words that beckoned murder – as in the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. 

 That combination -- racist hate in major speeches, incitements to street violence -- has a well-known pedigree. When a society has lost its way, when its accustomed imperial army is failing and yet is eating up the country's own substance like a cancer, when a rising proportion of its people feel left out economically and culturally, and when demogogues define "the foreigners," "the wetbacks," "the slant-eyes," "the kikes," "the niggers," "the ragheads," “the nasty, uppity women,” “the fake-news press,” the “lying scientists,” as the enemy -- we are in the presence of a neo-fascist movement.

 It will take concerted resistance and the sprouting of a new America of joyful solidarity to meet this challenge

 Resistance to what? Carbon Pharaohs. Billionaire election-buyers. Racist politicians. Hate-mongers in the White House, sending the Army to fire on bedraggled refugee families.

 And what is a New America? From the bottom up: 

 Neighborhood solar-energy coops. Public gatherings of Christians, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists -- Black, Hispanic, Native, Asian, Euro -- to pray, sing, meditate, and vigil together. Sanctuaries for refugees. Schools, colleges, and universities that celebrate Black songs, Black poetry, Black wisdom, Black visionaries. Release from prison of all nonviolent drug offenders, and active groups working for the full rehabilitation of "returned citizens." The Dreamers. Sanctuary cities. Cities and states that enforce a $15 minimum wage, with automatic cost-of-living increases. #MeToo as women take on an engrained rape culture that has its hero in the White House, and as hundreds of women run for public office for the first time – and win. “Fusion politics” and a national campaign for moral renewal by the Poor People’s Campaign. Boycotts of global corporations that escape US taxes by pretending to "move" overseas. Demands for Medicare for All. Massive civil disobedience in the very halls of Congress to demand public financing of election campaigns.

 So the Arlo Guthrie story speaks today in a stronger voice than it has for decades.

 So I invite you to celebrate Thanksgiving (or if you are too busy today, tomorrow -- on the “second day of the Festival”) by thanking the Spirit that calls us to resist those who wound our world and to celebrate those who work to heal it; by lifting your own spirit and encouraging your own commitment to freedom, peace, laughter, and nonviolence. 

For Arlo’s recording of “Alice’s Restaurant” for our own generation with an audience joining in, click to 

https://music.youtube.com/watch?v=B_tMzSxvoeA&list=RDAMVMB_tMzSxvoeA

 And if you take joy and sustenance in the work The Shalom Center does –- including this way of celebrating ritual as joyful social action and turning social action into joyful ritual –- then please make a (tax-deductible) donation by clicking on the maroon “Contribute” banner on the left-hand margin of thos page, or just below..

Thanks!  And blessings of a joyful Giving Thanks not only today, but as we keep moving, building a multifaceted movement to create a new and deeper, fuller, democratic America. ---   Arthur

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Living Fringes on the Edges of America -- Again

Four brief essays from Jews who after Pittsburgh will not “pass” as even more conventional Americans than we have been, but choose to live as visible fringes on the edges of America.  --  AW

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 1. Why are Fringes Sacred?

 The Pitttsburgh murderer attacked Jews because we were acting upon Torah's teachings, welcoming refugees fleeing from oppression. (See Deut 23:15-16).   So -- in the wake of Pittsburgh, shall we protect ourselves by abandoning our commitment to compassion? Shall we hide from others who we are, by hiding from ourselves who we are?

 That would mean hiding  from Moses and Miriam, from Amos and Jeremiah and Isaiah, from the unknown woman who first sang the Song of Songs, from Hillel and Akiba and Bruriah, from Rabbi David Einhorn of Baltimore who in the 1850s was forced by his own congregants to leave the city when he called for the abolition of slavery, from Clara Lemlich who rose unknown from a crowd of women workers to call for the great shirtwaist factory strike of 1909, from Rose Schneiderman who said only a working-class arising could prevent future Triangle Shirtwaist fires, from Martin Buber and Henrietta Szold, from Heschel and Vorspan and Kaplan, from Muriel Rukeyser and Alan Ginsberg and Leonard Cohen, from Judith Plaskow and Zalman Schachter-Shalomi. 

Hiding ourselves from the Burning Bush and the Breath of Life. 

Or we can choose to be who we are, choosing to join others on the fringes of American society – along with bold Black America, brown-skinned Americans 
and Mexicans, Native Americans,  refugees and immigrants, independent-minded women, transgender aand non-binary people along with all the GLBTQ communities.

And remembering that in our tradition, it is Fringes that make the garment holy.

Why do fringes make the garment holy? Because fringes are threads of connection between our inward selves and the world beyond –reminding us that we end not with a sharp edge, a fence or a wall, but with a fuzzy mixture of “my” cloth and God’s air. 

 All the communities that live on the fringes of “America” connect us with the “Other,” the Beyond. Cut us off, and America will die of strangulation.

 --    Rabbi Arthur Waskow

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2. Wearing a Kippah

 In early 2017, I was a panelist in a program about confronting white supremacy.  My fellow panelists were an African-American woman, a Latin@ transgender people, a Native American man, and an Asian woman. 

I believe I was the last one to speak.  When it 
came my turn, I said, "There is a difference between my fellow panelists and me.  Unlike them," I said, removing my kippah, "I can pass."

It is time to stop passing.  It is time to announce loudly and clearly what side we are on and that we are not afraid.  I propose all of us wear kippot in public, at all times.  I began wearing mine two weeks after the inauguration, for just that reason.  Let's do it, and let's encourage others to do so as well.

The day we do not stand up to those who want to make us fear is the day we lose.

 --   (((Alan Wagman)))

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3. A Rabbi's Public Letter to Senator Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania

 Mr. Toomey, Your words of sympathy for the Jewish dead at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh included in Sunday's Inquirer are "crocodile tears" as you and your colleagues in the US Senate have aided-and-abetted the incitement-to-hatred of Mr. Trump.

You have voted against the welcoming of refugees and immigrants, against affordable health care for all, against the preservation of a 
sustaining earth for future generations, against the human needs of the poor whether elderly or young or working or disabled, against women (and occasionally men) who have been harassed or abused or raped by those in "power", and for the dehumanizing of "the other" -- whether Jews or Muslims or people of color or women or GLBTQ.

 Your sympathy would be better expressed and better received if your service to the people of this state included care and empathy for all in need, rather than cold-blooded disregard for the pain you have caused through your support of a corrupt president and his minions.

--   Rabbi Phyllis Berman

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4. Letter to President Trump from Pittsburgh Jewish Leaders

President Trump:

Yesterday, a gunman slaughtered 11 Americans during Shabbat morning services. We mourn with the victims’ families and pray for the wounded. Here in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, we express gratitude for the first responders and for the outpouring of support from our neighbors near and far. We are committed to healing as a community while we recommit ourselves to repairing our nation.

For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement. You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.  

President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.

Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted.  You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.  

President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering all minorities.

The murderer’s last public statement invoked the compassionate work of the Jewish refugee service HIAS at the end of a week in which you spread lies and sowed fear about migrant families in Central America. He killed Jews in order to undermine the efforts of all those who find shared humanity with immigrants and refugees.

President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you cease your assault on immigrants and refugees.

The Torah teaches that every human being is made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.

This means all of us.

In our neighbors, Americans, and people worldwide who have reached out to give our community strength, there we find the image of God.  While we cannot speak for all Pittsburghers, or even all Jewish Pittsburghers, we know we speak for a diverse and unified group when we say:

President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.

Signed,

Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh Steering Committee

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Please help The Shalom Center continue to help  your work to affirm the sacred  fringes that heal our society’s deep wounds,  by clicking on the maroon “Contribute” button on the left-hand margin of this page.

With prayers and blessings for all Americans who choose to live as fringes that reach out to the Other, the Beyond ----  Arthur 

New Webinar: “Sacred Seasons of the Sacred Earth”

 ANIBEW A

“Sacred Seasons of the Sacred Earth” is a series of four webinars focusing on the festivals of Hanukkah, Tu B’Shvat, and two sessions on Passover. We invite you to join with us. Below you will find first the facts and then the “Whys” beneath the facts.   

WHO, WHAT, WHEN

Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Alanna Kleinman, a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern at The Shalom Center, will explore these festivals and questions:

Hanukkah Webinar on Tues., Nov 13, 2018, 7-9 pm Eastern time

  • Hanukkah is the festival of lighting lights in a time of darkness. One of the legends about it is that its holiness involved conserving energy – making one day’s olive oil light up eight days. The Menorah at the heart of Hanukkah was designed by the Torah to be modeled on a living tree, as it is portrayed in the  medieval graphic just above.
    How could we use the eight days of Hanukkah to light our inner spirits in a dark time, and to light our whole society to heal our wounded Earth by conserving energy? Hanukkah itself begins December 2.
  • Tu B’Shvat Webinar on Wed., Jan 9, 2019,  7-9pm Eastern time
    Tu B’Shvat, the ReBirthDay of the trees after a winter of hibernation, is also seen as the ReBirthDay of the Tree of Life – the sacred impulse within us and all the world to grow and be more fruitful.  How can we shape the evening and the day to benefit our own souls, the soul of our country, and the soul of our rejuvenated Earth? Tu B’Shvat begins the evening of Sunday, January 20, and ends the evening of Monday January 21. That Monday is also the Martin Luther King Birthday Holiday!  Is there a connection between the two?
  • Passover Webinar Wed., Apr 3 & 10, 2019,  7-9pm Eastern time

  • Passover comes at the peak of Spring. It celebrates the birthing of lambs, new barley, a new people, and Freedom (which itself is a birthing of new possibilities, new creativity). We recall a Pharaoh who brought death on children and plagues – eco-disasters – on the Earth.
    What does it mean to free ourselves today and heal the Earth? Passover begins Friday evening, April 19

 

Together we can make new meanings for these festivals. This webinar series will be interactive, drawing forth the insights of all who take part. In that way it will enrich the lives of each person and of the whole community of participants.

WHERE & HOW

We will meet by Zoom conference, making it possible by video for us to see each other face-to-face or by telephone. The Zoom information will appear when you register. We will record each session and send the video link a few days after the Webinar itself.

Each session will cost $18. If you register for all four now, the series will cost $62, a $10 discount.

Register here: https://tinyurl.com/ss4sereg

WHY

Why are we doing this?

Because a great deal has changed in America, on Planet Earth,  and in Jewish thought, practice, and creativity since Reb Arthur originally wrote and Bantam published his classic Seasons of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Festivals in 1981.

Indeed, in just the last few days the world’s scientists have intensified their warnings that we have at most a dozen years to prevent disruptions of human civilization far worse than the California wildfires and the Florida hurricanes that have torn at us.

How do we draw on our deepest wisdom to inspire far more commitment to act, to heal our Mother Earth from the wounds that she is suffering?

We need to strengthen both our interior spiritual gumption and menshlichkeit and our communal spiritual compassion. The Jewish festival spiral is itself rooted in the Earth, in its seasons of grief and joy and action, birth and covenant, fulfillment and seed-sowing. The festivals weave the inner and the outer into fringes of connection.

They are among the gifts that Judaism can bring into the efforts of all humanity to correct our own misdeeds toward Mother Earth. But the festivals can do this only if we draw from their reservoirs of wisdom into rivers of action.

Join us for this series. Register now!

Register here: https://tinyurl.com/ss4sereg

Making this New Year a Transformation Time

We’ve just begun the new year, the year when the world needs Transformation.

The Shalom Center has been encouraging the growth of a transformative sense of the Spirit. A spirit of community and comraderie, not of cruelty and subjugation. 

To keep doing this, we need your help.

We write and send out Shalom Reports to hearten your Spirit in harsh times, and to encourage your action against cruelty. We receive hundreds of letters  -- Thanking us.  Promising to undertake an action we have recommended. Inviting us to speak. Asking us for information about Jewish, Christian, and Muslim festivals, about where to find an ancient wisdom teaching.

We write, we research, we respond. All of this costs money. We need your help. Yes, your help. 

We take action ourselves. We visited prisons filled with children whose parents asked for asylum in the US from cruel violence at 
home, and were met instead with cruelty by our own government and by the official kidnapping of their children. We were arrested for nonviolently blocking an ICE office that was haunting schools and hospitals to arrest and deport refugees. We challenged fake biblical quotes by a government official, and showed how the Bible specifically forbids deporting refugees who are fleeing a cruel overlord. 

We organized a vigil that brought together hundreds of letters quoting the Bible to rebuke the corrupt Earth-destroying behavior of EPA Administrator Pruitt, and we helped force him to resign in disgrace. 

We spoke at a rally calling for a No vote on a Supreme Court nominee named by a corrupt President in the hope of protecting himself from 
investigation. We did not speak “politically”; we brought to bear the biblical teaching about how to protect the people from a cruel and wanton king who is deliberately choosing to endanger human civilization and the web of life on earth, to magnify the already enormous wealth of the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs. 

We write, we speak, we get arrested. All of this costs money. We need your help. Yes, truly: your help. 

And we provided a creative way of drawing on the powerful moment of Yom Kippur to carry into the public streets the Prophet Isaiah’s outcry for the poor, for prisoners, and for the powerless. This coming Friday, we will send you a new translation of Isaiah in time for you to use it in your congregation this Yom Kippur. 

Week after week for the past month, we provided creative materials to help you Share Sukkot: Grow the Vote. Facing a crucial election, we provided guides for you to hold “Sukkah parties” to register new voters and follow up to make sure they vote, along with photo-posters to bring heroes of voting rights into our sukkot as “ushpizin,” sacred guests.

All of this costs money. We need your help.

In  the year just past, a Brooklyn synagogue became the first in the country to move its money from a bank that invests in Big Oil to burn our planet, to a community bank that invests in neighborhood needs. Their announcement quotes The Shalom Center’s “Move Our Money/ Protect Our Planet” proposal. (The initials spell MOM_POP.)  We think the Jewish community is ready for that grass-roots effort, and we intend to turn that proposal into a campaign.  That will cost money. We need your help to make it happen.

Look at The Shalom Center's logo. Translating the graphic into words: Together, we have the whole world in our hands. The rocks and the rivers, the frogs and the forests. All our children and all their children.

Together.

So please contribute by clicking on the maroon “Contribute” button on the left-hand margin of this page. In this year of Transformation, you can help us help you heal our country, our planet, and your own neighborhood. That is what the Breath of Life is calling us all to do.

Welcome Voting-Rights Heroes as Sacred Guests into our Sukkot

Can we make Sukkot an activist framework for Growing the Vote -- just five weeks before the November election?

We are offering you three forms of help to do this. One is -- posters of “ushpizin” --  sacred guests who are welcomed into the sukkah – – who have been heroes of work to guarantee voting rights to all Americans. A second is information on how most effectively to register new voters. The third: essays on how to apply the values of Sukkot to the crucial issues in this November’s election.

To access these ways pf Sharing Sukkot please click to <https://theshalomcenter.org/ShareSukkotResources>.

 Here are two of the ushpizin posters:

 

 

 

I am adding a poster from 1984, the earliest days of The Shalom Center. President Reagan and the Andropov-Chernenko leadership of the Soviet Union were reheating the nuclear arms race in a frightening way.  The Shalom Center built a sukkah on Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, midway between the White House and the Soviet Embassy, and organized a rally there urging both superstates to move toward freezing and ending the nuclear arms race.

 

The physical sukkah as a fragile, vulnerable hut and the festival of Sukkot both affirm the importance of peace, rather than threats and acts of war. The traditional Jewish evening prayers ask God to “spread over all of us the sukkah of shalom.”  Why a sukkah rather than a fortress, a palace, even a house? Because shalom is more likely to be achieved when all the parties in a conflict recognize their vulnerability, rather than aggressively striving to dominate the other.  That is even more likely in a world of nuclear weapons.

And Jewish tradition teaches that the harvest festival of Sukkot celebrates an abundant harvest not only for the Jewish people but for all the "70 nations" of the world.

 So this aspect of the issues before us in the November election can be understood to affirm every effort to use diplomacy to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. From that perspective, the careful multinational diplomacy that achieved the end of Iran's nuclear-weapons program in exchange for the end of economic sanctions against Iran was a great triumph for peaceful sanity, and its cancellation was a tragedy.

 In other Shalom Reports on Share Sukkot --  Grow the Vote, we will take up other aspects of the meaning of Sukkot as the election approaches.

 Again, we welcome you to access these materials by clicking to

 <https://theshalomcenter.org/ShareSukkotResources>

 With blessings for shalom, salaam, sohl (“peace” in Farsi, the language of Iran) paz, peace.

Families Torn Apart: : A Lightning-Flash of Cruelty in Power

The Lightning Flash that Reveals our Hidden Cruelties and Lights our Way to Compassionate Action

 The American people have stood up! – against an encroaching tyranny that has been forced to take one tiny step not even back, but to one side. Indeed, it is even now moving ripped-away children without adequate ID. They may never be reunited with their famiies. Disgusting! The struggle for justice and compassion continues.

 Some immediate actions will still be needed. We will suggest these action proposals for the immediate next stage of struggle for a spiritually and ethically rooted immigration policy for the United States. AND --  we need to look more deeply into the ethics of “immigration” around the world as it morphs into great waves of refugees desperate for safety, on the one hand, and on the other hand into tidal waves of hypernationalist fear of losing a national culture and sense of identity.

 

The immediate and the deeper questions are connected. The deep moral collision over ripping children out of their families has been a lightning flash in the dark, lighting up the deeper issues beneath. But like a lightning flash, it may vanish before we can attune our eyes to see the deeper truths and questions.

 

We want to pursue those questions without losing sight of the most urgent needs exploding every day along the US, German, and many other borders. Reluctantly, we see the need to separate these immediate action needs from the deeper exploratory needs. For our action proposals, see <>. Below is a deeper  exploration of the dark behind the lightning flash. 

 

^^^^^^    ^^^^^^

Our Hidden Cruelties  & New-Found Kindnesses --  Now Visible

[Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I were the initial drafters of this Shalom Report petition about the crisis of US government action to tear apart families at the border. Rabbi Berman was the founder (1979) and director through 2016 of the Riverside Language Program, an intensive English-language  school for newly arrived immigrants and refugees.

 

It has been modified in consultation with its initial signers: Sahar Ahlsalani, co-president of the Fellowship of Reconciliation; Cherie Brown of the National Coalition-Building Institute; Rabbi Elliot Dorff, rector of the American Jewish University; Rabbi Raachel Jurovics, president of Ohalah: Rabbinical Association for Jewish Renewal; Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, member of the Board of Truah;  Rabbi Ellen Lippmann of Kolot Chayeinu/ Voices of Our Lives, member of the Board of Truah; Ruth Messinger of  American Jewish World Service; Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation in St Louis; Rev. Nancy Taylor of Old South Church in Boston; Rev. Rick Ufford-Chace and Kiitty Ufford-Chhase of Stony Point Retreat Center; Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, executive director of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association; Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz of Uri L'Tzedek. --Rabbi Arthur Waskow, editor]


 In hundreds of vigils and millions of letters, phone calls, and emails, we have witnessed a deep level of moral outrage that has responded to the forcible splitting of families and traumatization of children by agencies of our Government.

Not only outrage but action as well has been bubbling over. Later in this essay we offer forms of action that would express compassion in the means we choose as well as the ends we seek. Only compassion can cure cruelty.

 A wide wave of religious folk stand in and with that outpouring. Specific sacred verses from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim, and other Scriptures speak to this moment.

One leading official of the United States Government has claimed that biblical calls to obey the law are paramount here.  We affirm that the Bible actually speaks the contrary.

Some officials are saying – even boasting -- that the policy was deliberately intended by its ruthlessness to deter families from coming to the United States, seeking asylum because of well-founded fears that their lives and the lives of their children are in immediate danger if they were to stay in Central American countries that have been overwhelmed by violence.

But the Bible sees the world through God’s commitment to justice and compassion: "You shall not hand over to their masters slaves [or, some translators say, “serfs”]  who have escaped from their masters to you. They may dwell with you in your midst, in the place which they choose within your gates, wherever it seems best to them. You shall not maltreat them.”   (Deuteronomy 23: 15-16)

Of course neither the biblical understanding of serfdom, indentured servitude, or slavery nor the experience of these refugees today, fleeing murder and rape and seeking asylum, is identical with the past of chattel slavery in the United States. Yet their experience bears elements of the same ruthless and violent subjugation. And this biblical verse is uncanny in its direct address of the crisis we face now, even more than other, broader teachings about love and justice for “foreigners.”

  And the “law” that Attorney-General Sessions cites to subjugate love and destroy our families is not law at all. It is a policy concocted by elements of the present US government that actually violates the law. It is intended to keep asylum-seekers from making their case as they are entitled to do both by US law and the binding law of the land, embedded in treaties the US has ratified. 

 It is about “laws” like these that the Bible speaks and Isaiah (10:2) cries out, “Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless.”

Out of exactly that Prophetic outlook, Jesus broke the law, nonviolently.  That’s why he was crucified. Does the fact that the Roman Empire crucified Jesus mean that it is legitimate for the United States Government to destroy the lives of children and parents? Or does it mean exactly the opposite?

There is a reason that one of the key moments in the story of Pharaoh is when he orders babies killed  (Exodus 1: 15-22 ). And in the Christian story, one of the key moments is when Herod orders children killed in the “Massacre of the Innocents.”  (Matthew 2: 16; imagined below). Those are the moments when a tyrant becomes monstrous.


Outrage at these actions comes from a very deep gut level. The “prime directive” for every species, including the human species, is to make sure the next generation thrives. The children! You can only rip children away from their families by dehumanizing the people you are facing. Down that path lies genocide.

The cruelty we are witnessing is being blatantly exposed as intrinsic to racism and militarism. All societies face the dangerous impulse to exalt only their own culture as fully human and treat others as sub-human. Indeed, for centuries, American policy has ripped the children of enslaved Africans, African-Americans, and Native Americans away from their families. 

 But the vision and hope of the Bible, the Quran, and other sacred wisdom is summed up in the Bible’s teaching,  “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18 and Matthew 22:39)  and  the Quran’s teaching (49:13):  “O humankind, We have created you from a single pair of male and female [as one family], and appointed you diverse cultures and communities, that you may get to profoundly understand one another [not to despise one another].” 

Centuries of struggle between carrying out this ultimate religious wisdom and descending into dehumanizing “the Other” have been like a case of blood poisoning that at first is hidden and then breaks through into the bright red streak of inflammation that signals extreme danger. We have seen those red streaks before, and we see them now. 

 Does all this mean the opening of US borders to an unknown unbounded number of refugees, without limits or planning? No. There are solutions rooted in compassion, not subjugation. Here, for example, might be one approach:

 

Torah Study, Eco-Science, & Activism

Ecological Devastation & the Poor Peoples Campaign

Several weeks ago, Truah: A Rabbinic Call for Human Rights decided to support the organizing efforts of the Poor Peoples Campaign by supplying Torah-study texts and questions for the six different focuses of the six different weeks of the 40-day PPC campaign. Truah asked several rabbis, including me, to provide these texts and studies.

The way this was to work: Each of us proposed some texts of Torah (in the broad sense: the Hebrew Scriptures and rabbinic commentaries) that dealt with the key Spirit--rooted areas of the PPC campaign: poverty; racism; militarism; ecological devastation and health; jobs, income, and housing; and “a fusion movement rising up in response to a false moral narrative.”

Along with the texts we chose,  we provided some questions to encourage and enrich exploration of these issues from a Torah perspective. We did not provide “correct answers”; the purpose was to encourage open exploration by a gathering of people.

The texts and questions for the six weeks were published at <www.truah.org/ppc>.  I encourage you-all to look at them and to draw on them for conversations in your own community (face-to-face or on-line.)   Below I will add my own section, which addresses  “Ecological Devastation”  -- the issue that the Poor Peoples Campaign is dealing with this week.

As you will find by exploring these biblical texts,  both ancient Torah and modern science predict climate chaos and ecological disaster, if we keep on overworking our Earth and denying her the rhythmic restfulness that the Breath of Life requires.  So I urge you to join in the Poor Peoples Campaign at your own state capitol this week, demanding action to prevent even worse disasters than the droughts, famines, floods, and wildfires that our modern Carbon Pharaohs are already imposing on us. Find your closest action by clicking here: <https://www.poorpeoplescampaign.org/events/>

 I asked the Truah staff whether there might be a way to  invite people to respond with their own thoughts to any and all of these explorations of Torah, and to circulate their responses. The answer came back that Truah was not in a position to do this.

 So I am inviting you-all to do this. I invite you to read the Truah gathering of wisdom -- either on your own or in community --  and to respond with your own thought by clicking to the ”Comment” section for this report, on The Shalom Center ‘s website. So please click <www.truah.org/ppc>  to read the rabbis’  thoughts that Truah collected, and then click here <> to share your thoughts with each other and the public.

 Here is my own contribution to Truah’s effort:

 The biblical passages about Creation (in  Genesis) draw our attention to who we are as human “earthlings” and our relationship to the Earth. And later texts (especially in Exodus 16 and Leviticus 25-26) explore how we can fulfill that relationship so that future generations can prevent ecological disasters and live sustainably.

(Torah translations are slightly modified from Everett Fox’s The Five Books of Moses (Schocken); the passage from II Chronicles, from the New Jewish Publication Society’s Tanakh. For this section of Truah’s exploration of Torah, I chose the texts and the accompanying questions.)

I. ADAMAH & ADAM

A. Genesis 2:5

No bush of the field was yet on earth, no plant of the field had yet  sprung up, for YHWH [Yahhhh, Breath of Life], God, had not made it rain upon the earth, and there was no human/ adam to till the soil/ adamah.

AW: Isn’t this backward to our understanding of evolution and to Genesis 1, in which vegetation emerged before Homo Sapiens ? Why would this Torah passage say it was necessary for the human (adam) to be present for shrubs of the earth (adamah) to grow?

The Torah continues (Gen. 1: verses 6-7): “but a surge would well up from the ground and water all the face of the soil; and YHWH, God, formed the human [adam], of dust from the soil [adamah]. YHWH [Yahhhh, Breath of Life] blew into his nostrils the breath of life and the human became a living being.

AW: From the adamah (earth) comes forth adam (the human earthling). First this newborn loses the –ah, the Hebrew letter hei  that is the sound of breathing. Then the Creator Breath of Life (YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh Elohim) “blew into the newborn’s nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living, breathing person.” What do these two passages mean about relationship between adam and adamah?

What do they mean about the relationship between God and Breath? About the YHWH Name?

About the relationship between an individual human birth and the emergence of the human species? 

TWO PARABLES: EDEN AND MANNA/SHABBAT

AW: Do these two parables have any connection with each other?

A. Eden

Genesis 2:15-17:  YHWH, God, took the human and set him in the garden of Eden [Delight}, to work it and to watch it. YHWH, God, commanded concerning the human, saying: From every (other) tree of the garden you may eat, yes, eat, but from the Tree of the Knowing of Good and Evil—you are not to eat from it, for on the day that you eat from it, you must die, yes, die.

 AW: Paraphrasing: “On this earth there is wonderful abundance. Eat of it in joy. But you must restrain yourselves just a little: Of this one tree, don’t eat.”  But the humans refuse to restrain themselves, and insist on leaving no part of the Garden uneaten.

 Genesis 3:17: To Adam [Human] God said: Because you have hearkened to the voice of your wife and have eaten from the tree about which I commanded you, saying: You are not to eat from it! Damned be the soil on your account, with painstaking-labor shall you eat from it, all the days of your life. Thorn and sting-shrub let it spring up for you, when you (seek to) eat the plants of the field! By the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread, until you return to the soil, for from it you were taken. For you are dust, and to dust shall you return.

AW : By trying to gobble up all the abundancee, we have ruined it. Only by toiling every day of our lives with the sweat pouring down our faces will we find enough to eat from an earth that gives forth mostly thorns and thistles.”

B. Manna & Shabbat

Exodus 16:13b-18 (and continuing through verse 35)

...And at daybreak there was a layer of dew around the camp; and when the layer of dew went up, here, upon the surface of the wilderness, something fine, scaly, fine as hoar-frost upon the land. When the Children of Israel saw it they said each-man to his brother: Mahn hu/what is it? For they did not know what it was. Moshe said to them: It is the bread that YHWH has given you for eating. This is the word that YHWH has commanded: Glean from it, each-man according to what he can eat, an omer per capita, according to the number of your persons, each-man, for those in his tent, you are to take. The Children of Israel did thus, they gleaned, the-one-more and the-one-less, 18 but when they measured by the omer, no surplus had the-one-more, and the-one-less had no shortage; each-man had gleaned according to what he could eat.

AW :The Torah provides us this near-Edenic parable on the same theme, a story that points toward the healing of the disaster at the end of Eden. This is the parable of manna and Shabbat (Exodus 16). For in this story, as in Eden, the Great Provider showers adam again with almost free abundance. The only work the Israelites need to do is to walk forth every morning and gather the manna—a strange “vegetation” that is like coriander seed but far more nourishing.

No sweat, no toil, no thorns or thistles. Self-restraint is built in: Anyone who tries to gather more than enough to eat for a day finds that the extra rots and stinks. On the sixth day, enough manna falls to feed the people for another day, and it does not rot. It will meet their needs for the seventh day. On the seventh day, Shabbat, no manna falls. Self-restraint is again built in. But the two versions of self-restraint are quite different.

What was the self-restraint required in Eden? What was the self-restraint required in the wilderness when the Manna appeared? How do they differ?

III. SPIRITUAL PRACTICE & THE LAND: SHMITA AND ITS FAILURE

A. Leviticus 25:1-4, 6, 10, 23.

YHWH spoke to Moshe at Mount Sinai, saying: Speak to the Children of Israel, and say to them: When you enter the land that I am giving you, the land is to cease, a Sabbath-ceasing to YHWH. For six years you are to sow your field, for six years you are to prune your vineyard, then you are to gather in its produce, but in the seventh year there shall be a Sabbath of Sabbath-ceasing for the land, a Sabbath to YHWH: your field you are not to sow, your vineyard you are not to prune...Now the Sabbath-yield of the land (is) for you, for eating, for you, for your servant and or your handmaid, for your hired-hand and for your resident-settler who sojourn with you...

You are to hallow the year, the fiftieth year, proclaiming

freedom throughout the land and to all its inhabitants; it shall be Homebringing [Yovel or Jubilee] for you, you are to return, each-man to his holding, each-man to his clan you are to return... But the land is not to be sold in-harness, for the land is mine; for you are sojourners and resident-settlers with me...

AW: Can we apply these teachings in our day? How?

1. Excerpts from Leviticus 26:14–46, especially verses 34–35 and 43

14 But if you do not hearken to me, by not observing all these commandments... you I will scatter among the nations; I will unsheath the sword against you, so that your land becomes a desolation and your cities become a wasteland. Then the land will find-acceptance regarding its Sabbaths, all the days of desolation—when you are in

the land of your enemies—then the land will enjoy-cessation, and find-acceptance regarding its Sabbaths. All the days of desolation it will enjoy-cessation, since it did not enjoy-cessation during its Sabbaths when you were settled on it.

B2. II Chronicles 36: 20. Those who survived the sword he exiled to Babylon, and they became his and his sons’ servants till the rise of the Persian kingdom,  in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, until the land paid back its sabbaths; as long as it lay desolate it kept sabbath, till seventy years were completed.

AW: Through drought and famine, pestilence and plague, through an exile that today we would call a flood of refugees, our Mother Earth will indeed “rest” by failing to be fruitful. (N.B. Verse 23 of this chapter is the end of the entire Hebrew Bible.)

Are these disasters punishments? Consequences? How do we understand them? How do they compare with what modern climate scientists are predicting if we keep spewing CO2 and methane into our atmosphere?

I invite you to respond with your own thoughts by clicking to the ”Comment” section for this report on The Shalom Center ‘s website, to share your thoughts with each other and the public.

Ruth: the Torah of Transgressive Transformation

Shavuot: When Torah Comes from Earth More than from Heaven

 As we take up the Book of Ruth for its traditional reading on Shavuot (this year, from Saturday evening, May 19, through Sunday evening, May 21) we may note that it bears special significance for the role of women in our own generation, and for changes in the meaning of Torah when change happens in society at large.

The story of Ruth brings together with almost invisible threads three seemingly transgressive women of the Bible. The Hebrew Bible conventionally assigns women to the role of motherhood, and it likes to tell the stories of how women who are denied the opportunity of motherhood seek it with great urgency.  But in three stories of such women, the urge to be conventional empowers deeply unconventional change.

When the stories are first told, they seem to have no connection with each other. But then the Book of Ruth links the three stories by threads that are almost invisible -- but not quite. The gossamer threads of connection strengthen each separate story into an epic of ironic transformation.

These three women all draw on the biblical legal rule (“levirate law”) that if a husband dies without having fathered any children, his widow is entitled to marry and have children with his brother. If the brother refuses, he is subject to public contempt.

In the first of the three tales, after the explosive destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot’s daughters (who have escaped along with Lot) are convinced that all the men in the world are dead, and in order to have children they get their father drunk and have sex with him. The child that is born to one of them is named Moab (which could be understood to mean "from daddy"). He becomes the head of a tribe and the ancestor of Ruth the Moabite.

We will come back to Ruth. Meanwhile, long afterward, one of Joseph's brothers, Judah, marries one of his sons to a foreign woman, Tamar.  His son dies, with no children. In accordance with the law, Judah marries her to his second son. But he too dies, leaving no children. Under the law, she is entitled to marry a third brother. But Judah fears she is jinxing his offspring, and prevents a third marriage.

But Tamar knows that she is entitled to have children by some member of this family. She pretends to be a prostitute, seduces Judah himself to sleep with her, and has two children. Judah is on the verge of burning her at the stake for adultery, when she explains what she has done and he affirms that she is more righteous than he is. So she, like Lot’s daughter, has invoked a peculiar – even outrageous -- version of the levirate law.

One of Tamar’s children becomes the ancestor of a prosperous Israelite landholder, Boaz. Yes, the same Boaz who connects with Ruth the Moabite.  Ruth’s Israelite husband has died, leaving her childless.  When she accompanies her mother-in-law Naomi to Naomi’s home in the Land of Israel, she gleans in the fields owned by Boaz. He goes out of his way to warn the young men working in his fields not to harass her. She ventures onto the threshing floor where Boaz is sleeping, and breaks the rules of conventional behavior by “uncovering his feet.”  (“Feet” in the Hebrew Bible is often used as a euphemism for the genitals.)

Boaz, powerfully attracted to her, discovers that he is a distant cousin of her dead husband. He appeals to a far-fetched version of the levirate law about a childless widow, and marries her. She has one child.

So these three women, all outsiders to the Jewish people, have stretched the law beyond its normal understanding, in order to bring their children into the world. Then the story of Ruth goes out of its way to announce that Ruth's own children will become the ancestors of King David – – and they do. Since Jewish tradition insists that the descendants of David will give rise to the Messiah (and Christian tradition specifically mentions Ruth as an ancestor of Jesus), in both traditions these three transgressive women are said to make possible the peaceful transformation of the world.

 In this complex interwoven tale, there is a subterranean assertion of what the Psalmist says in open song: "The stone that the builders rejected will become the cornerstone of the Holy Temple." The women who are "supposed" to be subordinate have subversively turned history around.

Click here to hear Rabbi Shefa Gold chant:

http://www.rabbishefagold.com/cornerstone/

Evven ma’asu habonim ha’y’tah l’rosh pinah



The Stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. (Psalm 118:22)

Notice that each separate story breaks the rules, and their culmination becomes a vision of Messianic time  -- which also “breaks the rules,” for ultimate good.  As if to say, live a raindrop here, a drizzle there –- and suddenly the rain becomes a river.

How did the biblical text evolve into this effort to go beyond itself? The thread that tied the separate stories together was the Book of Ruth.  And many modern scholars understand Ruth as a polemic in a major political/ spiritual debate. A debate about the boundaries of the Jewish people, and a debate about the role of women in those boundaries.

When the Jews who had been taken into Babylonian Captivity were permitted by the new Persian Empire to return to the Land of Israel and were handed power over those Jews who had never left, the returnees faced a question: Many of the men they met “back home” had married women who were not Jewish. Could this stand? Could the culture stand it?

The leaders decreed that all “foreign” women must be divorced. The Book of Ruth seems to have been an attack on this draconic policy. Its heroine was an outsider, and she became the forebear of King David. Should “foreign” women really be forbidden?

An actual struggle in the body politic led to an amendment in the sacred text. And then the sacred text remained a thorn, at least a puzzle, in the body politic. We see an interplay between sacred text that grows itself beyond itself, and communal change that reshapes old forms into new paradigms. 

Perhaps that is the deepest reason for us to read the Book of Ruth when we welcome Revelation of the Torah: a teaching that new Torah may come from earthiness, more than from heaven. "For not afar in Heaven is the Torah-connection but very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, to love the Breath of Life!"  (Deut 30: 11-16)

A lesson for today.  For Shavuot, and every day.

Mr Pruitt: Turn, Turn, Turn!

[This is the letter to Mr. Scott Pruitt, head of what in the past could honestly be called the Environmantal Protection Agency, that I read at its front door on April 20, the Friday just before Earth Day. See the essay called "The days AFTER Earth Day" on our Home Page.--  AW]

Administrator Pruitt:

During the last few weeks, there have been a number of public criticisms of you that allege you have misused government resources and the taxpayers’ money for your own private purposes.

I know that you have denied any misbehavior of this kind. I hope that as all our religious traditions teach, you have looked profoundly inward to examine what you have and have not done. I hope that if you do in this process of soul-accounting find some important blemishes, you will take the steps of repentance – – what in Hebrew is called  “tshuvah,” which means turning one’s self more fully toward God and toward right behavior with our fellow human beings and all life

 It is still unclear to the American public whether your actions as Administrator have indeed been self-enriching, or legitimate uses of public money. What is much clearer in the public knowledge is that you have done a different kind of turning -- turning away from God and your sacred duty, not toward the mission and effectiveness of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Your misturning in this work is analogous to what critics have accused you of in regard to misusåe of public resources. Your actions have robbed our Mother Earth herself and the multitude of human communities she nourishes along with many other forms of life. You have taken many steps to multiply the wealth of Hyper-Wealthy carbon corporations that are burning the only Earth we have -- for profit!

In both Jewish and Christian traditions, we have recently celebrated Passover and the Last Supper, a Passover Seder, in which we name the plagues that Pharaoh brought upon his own land and his own people.

He did this out of arrogant pretensions that as himself an uncriticizable “god,” he could turn workers into slaves, and his hard-heartedness could turn drinking water into undrinkable blood, fertile fields into food for billions of locusts, a sunny sky into blasts of hailstone and lightning-bolts. 

You have tried to cancel regulations that protect our pure water and food from poisoning by rapacious corporations, our climate into disastrous wildfires, droughts, and floods. You have done your best – your worst -- to turn EPA into the Earth Poisoning Atrocity. 

I call upon you, in the Name of the God Who breathes all life, to turn yourself and your life once more toward that very God, away from imitating Pharaoh.  

 Blessings to you of truth, healing, and turning –

Rabbi Arthur Waskow

The Shalom Center

Eminent Lawyer Burns Self to Death to Protest Burning of Earth by Fossil Fuels

The NY Times and New York Daily News reported yesterday that David S. Buckel, a 60-year-old lawyer in good health who had a major hand in achieving the right for same-sex couples to marry, burned himself to death in Prospect Park, Brooklyn, to protest the burning of the Earth by fossil fuels. He sent several newspapers a suicide note:

 “I am David Buckel and I just killed myself by fire as a protest suicide. I apologize to you for the mess.

“Pollution ravages our planet, oozing inhabitability via air, soil, water and weather. Most humans on the planet now breathe air made unhealthy by fossil fuels, and many die early deaths as a result — my early death by fossil fuel reflects what we are doing to ourselves.”

 “Honorable purpose in life invites honorable purpose in death.

“Here is a hope that giving a life might bring some attention to the need for expanded actions, and help others give a voice to our home, and Earth is heard.”

The Daily News reported that Adam Aronson, a legal colleague of Buckel’s, said,“He put his heart and soul into everything he did in life. He obviously decided to put his heart and soul in the way he died…. There are other ways to fight for what you believe in. I wish this hadn't been the way that he had chosen to do it.”

David Buckel, Presente!

 

May his memory serve as he hoped, to stir others into fuller action. May his burning passion to heal our burning Earth indeed “help others give a voice to our home,” so that the outcry of our Earth is heard.

What “other ways” could there be to fight for what David Buckel and many of us seek to make real? --  an Earth restored to health; our children and grandchildren able to live amidst a climate as life-giving as the climate in which our parents and grandparents lived.

Some possibilities, in descending order of risk:

(1)  On February 18 of this year, the New York Times Magazine carried a thoughtful, fascinating article entitled “ ‘I’m Just More Afraid of Climate Change Than I Am of Prison’: How a group of five activists called the Valve Turners decided to fight global warming by doing whatever it takes.”

The article interviewed the “Valve Turners” who actually turned the shut-off valves for five oil pipelines that cross the Canadian-US boundary, including “the 2,700-mile-long Keystone Pipeline, which carries crude oil from the tar sands of Alberta to refineries on the Texas coast. Together, the pipelines carry nearly 70 percent of the crude oil imported to the United States from Canada.”   

The article described who they were, what they did, why, and what the consequences were for them --  different in the different states where they acted. All of them risked prison sentences, and some received them. Not all.

(2) Perhaps “next lower” on the risk scale: Last Tuesday, I took part in a rousing and powerful gathering in Washington DC of several hundred organizers from a broad coalition of national sponsors (including The Shalom Center) to renew, recreate, and expand the Poor Peoples Campaign that Dr. Martin Luther King was planning when he was murdered 50 years ago.  

One of the major goals of the new Poor Peoples Campaign is a wave of life-affirming nonviolent civil disobedience in state capitals all across the country and then in Washington. One of the crucial issues of the campaign will be ecological devastation. The civil disobedience envisioned is far less risky than what the Valve Turners did, but still involves putting bodies on the line.  Even less risky, some may choose to be present in support without risking arrest.

The new Poor Peoples Campaign sees itself as “A National Call for Moral Revival” on the growing edge of a deeply moral, ethical, and

At Gaza-Israel Border: Can We Cross the Sea toward Peace?

Friday April 6 is this year the seventh day of Passover. In Jewish tradition that day commemorates the crossing of the Red Sea by the band of runaway Israelite slaves, escaping and resisting Pharaoh,  for the sake of their own freedom. That was when Pharaoh’s army and his power dissolved into the Sea, blown away by YHWH/ Yahhhh, the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, become a Hurricane of Transformation.

That Friday is also scheduled to be the day of another large gathering of Palestinians at the border between Gaza and Israel. We do not know what the day will bring: perhaps more bloodshed, perhaps on both sides of the border respect and adherence to a nonviolent discipline in response to the horror of the deaths last Friday.

We do know this: Many Jews, and many others, in America and Israel,  stand in tears before God and Torah and other sacred wisdom, deeply saddened by the unnecessary deaths of at least sixteen Palestinians and injuries to close to 800 others among the thousands of Palestinians protesting last week as part of a “March of Return” along the Israel/Gaza border.

 Many who were horrified by the deaths are grateful that there were no deaths or serious injuries to Israeli soldiers or civilians. And precisely this fact casts great doubt on the legitimacy of using live ammunition to shoot into the assemblage, when it seems clear there was no direct danger to Israeli lives. Only such a strong and immediate danger could have justified the lethal violence ordered ahead of time by the present Israeli government.

These people strongly support the right to non-violent protest, whether here in North America or in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, as a fundamental right of civilians. We support the vast majority of the Gazan protesters who chose a deliberately nonviolent form of protest, and condemn the fact that some resorted to throwing stones, burning tires, and Molotov cocktails at soldiers, and a few tried to breach the border fence.

The root cause of the protest and of the frightened response by the present Israeli government is the continuing blockade of Gaza by the Israeli government. That blockade is an illegitimate use of collective punishment for the people of Gaza for having voted for or accepted the election by majority vote for Hamas to govern the region.

The blockade is a continuing aspect of the over-all military occupation and forcibly imposed settlements by the Israeli government of Palestinian communities beyond the Green Line – the only places where a peaceful independent Palestine could come into being alongside Israel.

The denial to the Palestinian people of self-determination in those areas is a denial of human rights. That includes the blockade of civilian goods from entering or leaving Gaza so as to impoverish its people as a part of that illegitimate denial.

In regard to what may have been the illegitimate use of lethal force against an almost entirely nonviolent demonstration, we call for these actions:

First, the creation of an international investigating commission  that includes Israelis and Palestinians, to examine the decision-making in the present Israeli government and in some Palestinian groups that ordered or encouraged the use of violence in the situation on the cusp of Passover last Friday..

Second, we urge individual Israeli soldiers to assess whether orders to use lethal violence in this or similar situations may require their refusal to obey such orders if they are illegal.  And we urge all Palestinians in Gaza and beyond to use their power and influence to deny support to any Palestinian groups that urge or allow the use of violence in this or similar situations.

 The Israeli group called “B’Tzelem,”  ”In the Image” – that is, “In God’s Image are all human beings created” – has already taken ads in major Israeli newspapers to call on Israeli soldiers to refuse manifestly illegal orders to fire when their lives are not endangered.

See <https://972mag.com/btselem-to-israeli-soldiers-refuse-orders-to-shoot-gaza-protesters/134398/>

We recall the teaching of Tanakh (the Hebrew Bible) that when King Saul ordered his own royal bodyguard to kill Israelite priests who had fed the guerrilla underground led by David, the bodyguards refused – even though the guerilla band was a clear and present threat to Saul’s legitimate government.  (I Sam. 22:6-17).

The message is clear: Human life is so precious that even in military situations, one must take every precaution to avoid killing, even of an enemy or of one perceived as endangering the government. All the more must lethal force be rejected when no such danger exists.

In alignment with the ancient Tabbis and our deepest Jewish values, we call on Israel to find ways to respond to the demonstrations planned for tomorrow and the next few weeks in ways that will not escalate the situation or lead to injury or death; to  cooperate with an international investigation of the decisions that led to live fire being used on demonstrators; and to refrain from revising the rules of engagement to permit the expanded use of live fire.

To many it may seem that only in the long term can a peace agreement end the on-again, off-again violence on the Gaza border, which endangers residents of Gaza, along with Israelis living near the border, and the soldiers sent to protect this border.

But this delay is itself lethal.   We urge the present government of Israel and the Israeli people, and the present leaders and the whole community of Palestinians as a whole, to begin now immediate negotiations for a just peace between Israel and a new Palestine.

And we urge that American Jews,  Christians, Muslims, and others of ethical commitment, press the US government to press both peoples and their leaders to move forward now on the road to peace.  

And we urge leaders of all peoples to begin at once to play an active role in ending the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The closure of the borders with Israel and Egypt severely limits the import of needed goods as well as the exports necessary to allow for economic growth. The people of Gaza have limited access to electricity, clean water, and medical support.

The Hamas government, no doubt, shares significant blame for the situation in Gaza, as a result of their repression, corruption, and continued violent rejection of the existence of Israel. So does Egypt, which has largely closed its border with Gaza. So does the present government of the United States, which has just drastically cut its long-standing financial allotment to meeting the urgent needs of the people of Gaza.

But the government of Israel, which continues to control Gaza’s borders, air space, and population registry even after the official disengagement, maintains major responsibility for the humanitarian crisis there. We encourage Israelis to deploy all their creativity of the start-up nation to end this crisis, refrain from escalating violence at the border, and work toward a two-state peace that will keep both Israelis and Palestinians safe and free.

As the traditional Passover Telling says, “In every generation,  every human being is obligated to look upon herself, himself,  as if we go forth from slavery to freedom,  not our ancestors only.

God forbid – God forbade!  -- that on this Passover the present government of Israel should choose to act like Pharaoh.

May the Seventh Day be instead the day that both peoples take the first courageous steps into the Sea, not red with blood, into the freedom for them both that only peace can bring.

The Prophet Martin: A New Haftarah

 A new genre of Haftarot has been stirring, initiated and taught by Hazzan (Cantor) Jack Kessler of Ohalah and the ALEPH Ordination Program of Rabbis, Cantors, and other Jewish spiritual leaders in the movement for Jewish renewal.

Traditionally, the Haftarot are passages from the ancent Hebrew Prophets, chanted in a traditional melody (nusach). What is new is the  creation of chantable haftarot, using the traditional nusach, made up of English-language passages spoken or written by some prophetic figures who are not Jewish.

The newest creative effort in this direction is by Cantor Abbe Lyons of Ithaca, NY,   As the 50th yohrzeit of Dr. King (April 4, 2018), was approaching, she decided to  shape a new Haftarah  from passages of his prophetic “Beyond Vietnam” speech,  given at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4,  1967 –- exactly one year before he was killed.

 As we consider how to use this new haftarah, we might recall the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. On March 25, 1968, he introduced Dr. King to speak to the Rabbinical Assembly. Rabbi Heschel said, 

“Where in America do we hear a voice like the voice of the prophets of Israel? Martin Luther King is a sign that God has not forsaken the United States of America. …The whole future of America will depend upon the impact and influence of Dr. King.” 

Ten days later, Dr. King was killed — giving a deeply ironic cast to the last sentence in Rabbi Heschel’s introduction. 

Fifty years later, we could turn that history in a new direction. Fulfilling Heschel's words by using the traditional Jewish forms to fully recognize King as a Prophet could contribute to America's doing tshuvah for the long history of racism, violence, and other forms of subjugation.

We invite you to choose the Shabbat just after April 4 to introduce this new haftarah into your sacred service, in addition to the haftarah for the eighth day of Pesach. . 

I worked with Cantor Lyons to choose passages from the "Beyond Vietnam" speech.  She  has set its English words to the traditional Haftarah melodies. This new Haftarah takes seven minutes to chant. You can access Cantor Lyons' chant at --

<https://drive.google.com/open?id=1JinKtCcTJXsQve4jocGD6dmZUseugge9>

and her Text for the Haftarah, with the musical trope marks,  at --

<https://drive.google.com/open?id=1-B1l5o7-uAt0pxddde-q506xL_Q8nXYD>

What has made this a new genre, not just a single experiment, is that  Cantor Kessler has done this with other prophetic passages. One is the Declaration of Independence, to be chanted on the Fourth of July or a nearby Shabbat. It has been coupled with the reading of the Torah portion  sometimes called Perek HaMelekh, defining the limits on the power of an Israelite king. That passage may indeed be seen as the oldest political and spiriitual forebear of the Declaration.  It appears in D'varim (Deut) 17:14-21.

Hazzan Kessler has also created a haftarah from an amalgam of passages from a number of  Dr. King's speeches, for chanting on Martin Luther King Birthday Shabbat.

See it at <https://theshalomcenter.org/sites/default/files/mlk_haftara-trop.pdf>

A "kissing cousin" to this form has been developed by Kohenet Shoshana Bricklin of Congregation Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia. She has created several haftarot that intertwine passages from several different  prophetic voices, also in English and also set to haftarah nusach.

This effort to intermingle the powerful forms of Jewish tradition with the wisdom of prophetic voices beyond the Jewish community was what  the original Freedom Seder of 1969  did, and what the new "MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder," woven by The Shalom Center and already being used in various communities around the country, aims to do. I welcome your comments on the implications of this new approach .

Blessings for a sweet, kosher, and liberating Pesach!--  Arthur

627 votes, 17 minutes, 1,000,000+ kids

These numbers – 627, 17, 1,000,000+– ring out how people who have been inspired to organize themselves can begin to change the world. And they represent two currents of change under way in the USA, one electoral and one in the streets. Both currents are crucial, if we are to save ourselves, our democracy, and the Earth that mothers us.

 I want to share with you my thoughts about these numbers. First, what happened this week and how “inside-the-system” and “outside-the-system” efforts for change connect with each other.  Second, the “deep history” of top-down subjugation and uprising new community.

 I. This past week saw two remarkable and quite different expressions of Resistance. On Tuesday, a candidate for Congress who is a progressive on economic issues and a centrist on social issues defeated a pro-Trumpery right-winger by 627 votes.   The Trumpist ploy failed -- the ploy of enriching the UltraWealthy and the Corporate Pharaohs, impoverishing the middle class, and subjugating the poor by inciting racist, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant, anti-free-press, anti-woman energies in the country in order to win support from struggling workers, farmers, and rural businessfolk.

This week, in one more Congressional District, that ploy failed.  Even pouring unheard-of millions into the pro-Hyperwealth campaign –- money to prime the pump so that hugely more money would come out the other end of the policy pump – even that failed.

 This is important. To build any bulwark against floods of would-be anti-democratic, anti-Earth policy for the years ahead, at least one house of Congress needs to be in bold defense of The People, Yes.

I think those who dismiss Tuesday’s election as a merely symbolic victory are mistaken: Members of the House of Representatives who were slavering at the chance to damage and destroy Social Security and Medicare are far less likely to do it, as of today, than they were on Monday.  Why? Because the danger of being defeated is all too clear. (On other issues, like Wall Street & the Dreamers, they don’t feel endangered. Yet.) If the right-winger had won, even by a sliver, those right-wing Congressmembers would have been likely to say, “See? Floods of money can pull me through even if it’s just by a hair.”

 Electoral victories are necessary, but they are not enough. Energies that are rooted “outside” electoral politics are crucial to making change happen. Even in this electoral case, it took labor-union organizers spending thousands of hours knocking on thousands of doors in Pennsylvania to energize those 641 more voters than the Corporate Pharaohs with all their millions could turn out.

 That’s the power of 641. What is the power of 17?   All across America yesterday, high-school students left their classes for 17 minutes, in grief for the 17 students and teachers murdered in Parkland, Florida, and in angry determination to make a difference about guns. Many left school for much longer – t least 1,000,000 of them across the country. Maybe many more: Who can count a demonstration that takes off from thousands of school buildings?


 It has taken smart, creative, and gutsy high-school students to break through the fog of despair and apathy about gun violence. I am proud to report that all four of my high-school-age grandchildren took part in (indeed, helped organize) walk-outs where they are.  “Five generations of activists,” my father would have joyfully said, starting with his father the “shoshalist” Amalgamated Clothing Workers organizer.

The multifaceted Resistance didn’t start yesterday. Looking back a year, It took 3,000,000 women on the streets -- now there’s a number! – to awaken candidates for office, the #MeToo movement, and much more. It took tens of thousands of people streaming into airports to break the back of the Trumpist ban on Muslim immigrants and refugees.

 And we have seen great strides of Resistance to anti- immigrant and anti-Black racism. Not yet anywhere near enough.

 The Shalom Center has put most of our energy into protection of the Earth. In that arena it has been harder and slower to build an effective opposition to Trumpery. I will be writing separately about how to deal with that.

 II. I think we are in the midst of one of the great swings of history, when there is a great shift toward tighter control and subjugation from the top, and in response a great effort to create a new, richer, broader, fuller community at the grass roots. (Or maybe the power-grab for tight control is sparked by  growing, sprouting communal grass-roots energy. Or both.) That is a deeper reason for synergy, not hostility or competition, between “in-the-system” and “out-of-the-system” activism.

 Think about the “big past.” Squeezed between two ravenous Empires, Egypt and Babylonia, some of the Western Semitic tribes responded by creating the Godwrestling People, Shabbat, and Torah. A new kind of community.

Millennia later, subjugated by the Roman Empire, that same community found what we call “Biblical Judaism” collapsing. They responded by creating two new forms of spiritual community – Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.  Half a millennium later, rigid authoritarianism and oppression in Mecca led to a new prophecy and the spread of Islam.

And now, Techno-Imperial Modernity is destroying all the old forms of society, economies, cultures: Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, Nationalist, Communist, Liberal-Democratic.

More and more of the youth cannot abide these old forms. They do respond to moments of unofficial or marginal spiritual depth, like the Occupy movement and the Standing Rock encounter.  “Interfaith” and “transnational” and “intersectional” efforts would have been defined and punished as heresy by almost all the older religious, political, and national communities just 150 years ago. Now they are flourishing. No way to know in advance what form this energy will take.

Our Resistance in this hour is part of one of the great Upwellings in human history, like the emergence of the great religions. The only question is whether we can carry the day into a new kind of Beloved Community before Imperial Modernity can shatter all our civilizations and the Earth beyond renewal.

New "MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder"

Friends and comrades in the struggle for spiritually-rooted justice, peace, and healing of our wounded planet   -–

This year, April 4, 2018, the 50th anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, comes just a few days after Easter and is itself the fourth night of Passover.  We honor these festivals and draw on them to renew and re-invigorate  Dr. King's wisdom, linked to the struggles and wisdom of our own generation.

We are doing that with the “MLK + 50 Interfaith Freedom Seder.”

You can read and print out the PDF file of the "MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder" by clicking on the title of this article and then on the link that says "pdf," just below the bold "Attachment" line that appears. This brief note gives an overview of our intention.

The MLK + 50 Interfaith Freedom Seder

Woven by The Shalom Center

To Reawaken and Renew

The Prophetic Wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

During Holy Week and Passover in this 50th Year

The new Seder stands in a great tradition. On April 4, 1969, the first anniversary of Dr. King’s death, about 800 people – Jews and Christians, Black and white -– gathered in a Black church in Washington DC to celebrate the original Freedom Seder in his honor and for the sake of strengthening the work he had begun. The next year, a Freedom Seder held at Cornell Universty actually liberated Father Dan Berrigan for several hours of freedom from his underground resistance to arrest by the FBI.

The Freedom Seder was unique and unprecedented because it wove the ongoing and still unfinished story of the struggle for Black liberation in America together with the ancient story of Israelite liberation from slavery to Pharaoh. It was published, radio’d, and televised nationally.

Exactly one year before Dr. King was killed, on April 4, 1967, at Riverside Church in New York City, in his speech “Beyond Vietnam,” he warned that the “triplets” of racism, materialism, and militarism were endangering America. He called for a “radical revolution of values.”

The "MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder" is shaped by devoting three of the traditional Four Cups of the Seder to opposing and transcending one of those triplets, and devoting the fourth cup to opposing and transcending their "quadruplet" --  Sexism & the Subjugation of women.

And we devote the traditional Cup of Elijah as a Fifth Cup of commitment to activism toward creating the Beloved Community that Dr. King envisioned. 

You can read and print out the PDF file of the "MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder" by clicking on the title of this article and then on the link that says "pdf," just below the bold "Attachment" line that appears 

We look forward to hearing your plans to use the Seder. Please share them by writing <Seder@theshalomcenter.org>

Gloria Steinem: "When Americans Leave an Abusive Household"

The Moment of Greatest Danger;

The Moment of Greatest Freedom

By Gloria Steinem

[More than four years ago, in the fall of 2013, The Shalom Center celebrated the approaching 80th birthdays of Gloria Steinem and myself with a gathering titled "This is what 80 Looks Like: Activists as Elders, Elders as Activists." I certainly do not need to tell you who Gloria Steinem is. On that evening, Gloria said something that has echoed in my mind and heart ever since. It is the quote with which she begins this comment on where we stand today. --  AW, editor]

Dear Friends:
 
            “American society is living now at the moment when an abused wife walks out of the household. It is the moment of greatest possibility for freedom, and the moment of greatest danger that the abusive husband will try to kill her. Freedom depends on her having a community to protect and nurture her. Right now, many abused communities are walking out of their abusive households. Almost certainly, there will be attempts by those in power to choke these energies to death.   Together, we can nurture them and all of us to greater freedom, greater justice.”
 
        Those were words I said to you-all at The Shalom Center when we were last together in the fall of 2013. That they were written down at all, I owe to the generosity of Arthur Waskow. Since the 2017 Presidential election -- and all that has flowed from it -- they have turned out to be more of a truth and warning than I could have known or guessed at the time. 
 
        It has taken a voter turnout rate lower than that in India, an outdated Electoral College, and a name popularized in TV “reality” shows to empower the third of the country that is in backlash against social justice movements. Yet that third of voters did elect to the top of our hierarchy a President who represents powers that are indeed trying to “choke those energies to death.” 
 
      This is happening even though – and also because -- the issues of social justice movements are now supported by the majority of Americans in public opinion polls.        
     
       Yet two big things also happened the day after the election. First, we learned that Donald Trump was the second man in modern history to win the Presidency despite losing the popular vote   -- and the one who lost it with by far the largest margin.  Second, we probably didn’t learn that Rebecca Shook, a retired lawyer living in Hawaii, posted on Facebook her idea that women should march on Washington in response to the first thing.
 
        Now a year later, the energy released by that obscure woman –-- and by everyone who has ever stood up and said, “It’s not fair!” -- is beginning to rival the power that is choking us from the top.


      Not only was that Washington March with its sister marches all across America the biggest demonstration in the history of the nation –- not only national but global –-- it was a reminder of all the marches of past and present against racial and economic injustice. 
 
      It set off a wave of protests against anyone in elected office who wasn’t following or listening to the majority will. It also initiated candidacies by Americans who had never run for office before -- or perhaps even voted. We cannot minimize the danger we are in, from war talk with North Korea to judicial appointments we will be facing for years to come.
 
      But in my long life, I have never seen such a populist, spontaneous, long-lasting, and self-willed rebellion. Planes have been stopped on the tarmac to warn those aboard that exclusionary immigration policies might not let them back in. Candidacies have been launched by Americans who are supposed to be outsiders by race, sex, class, gender, and/or sexuality, yet they have beaten longtime representatives at the polls.  
        
     Donald Trump himself has helped galvanize the March and the rebellions that have been happening ever since. By his fact-free Tweets, narcissistic lashing out at the smallest criticism, seduction by any praise, even from his country’s enemies, and appointment of a fox to head every chicken coop in Washington, he has depressed his Gallup poll ratings to a level way below that of any previous President.

Also, because he rose to office as the unpunished Harasser-in-Chief, he has turned a Me, Too movement into a coast-to-coast It’s About Time! Movement. This has just turned the Golden Globes into the first ever mainstream television event that belonged to women as much as men; to an organizer of household workers as much as a movie star.
 
     Though we always knew that Trump would be richer if he had just invested what he inherited from his father, now we know he would be more popular if he just disappeared.
 
        So in recognition that we, too, need Twitter-length versions of why we are in this struggle together – why we need a deep democracy of human beings who are linked, not ranked -- let me just remind us that sexism, racism and class systems are all intertwined. That’s because controlling reproduction, and therefore female bodies, is the only way to maintain differences of race and class in the long run.

       Of course, racism often affects women differently. White women have been more likely to be sexually restricted in order to maintain racial “purity,” while black women have been more likely to be sexually exploited in order to produce cheap labor. For both women and men, class negates our equal status at birth inn all kinds of ways from inheritance to health and education. Altogether, there is no such thing as freedom for anyone as long as racism, sexism and economic class decide our fates. 
 
          The bad news is that we are in maximum danger. Like the woman escaping from a violent household, we are at the moment when our captor is most fearful and likely to strike. 
 
     The good news is that we are now Woke! Like that escaping woman, we see the maximum danger, and yet know we also could be free.
 
      We must work hard, organize every minute, and take care of each other. Yet I think there is no turning back. We are escaping old divisions. 
 
    We just might be on the way to new freedom.  

     --  Gloria

Prayer Service because the Earth Really Matters

And We Hear the Trees Pray

Dear friends,  As we reported to you earlier this week, our Survey of your views showed that you wanted  us to send regular suggestions of actions for you to take, toward healing American society and our wounded Earth. 

Meanwhile,  the collapse of Trump-UnCare has shown that vigorous, persistent public action can thwart the cruel and destructive plans of even would-be despotic officials.

On health care and immigration, religious communities have indeed been vigorous and persistent in resisting cruel governmental action. On the climate crisis, there has been some religious action – but not as much, even though the need is dire and the possibilities wonderful.

This letter offers one such action  -- an Earth-centered prayer service. Others will follow.

 During the week from July 9 to 16, the nationwide Jewish network called  Ruach HaAretz (“Spirit of the Earth”)   held a retreat at the Stony Point Retreat Center in upstate New York.  I took part both in planning that retreat and in teaching /”weaving”a course through the week, entitled “Prayer as if  the Earth Really Matters.” As I did, I kept in mind The Shalom Center’s recent multireligious consultation to develop liturgy that can inspire religious action to heal the Earth.

The class planned and then collectively led a prayer service in which all the retreatants took part. The guidebook/ prayerbook  for that course follows below. I suggest that Earth-aware religious and spiritual communities might use it as a template for planning services – perhaps monthly --  that will help inspire congregants to take spiritually rooted action to heal the climate and the Earth. Each prayer group could of course modify this blueprint to meet its own needs and desires.

We believe that the spiritual depth of prayer is crucial, but not sufficient, to make change happen.

So the class also began developing plans for a “public action liturgy” that would call for renewal, restoration, and healing of the Earth and its climate. We will pursue those plans by long-distance Zoom meetings.

The class also urged that we develop practices – like a congregational or neighborhood solar co-op – that would become  “religious imperatives.” 

The service was held in a grove of trees in the retreat center. It was focused on prayer for a Jewish gathering, but with a few changes could probably be used by many other religious and spiritual communities and interfaith groups.

We recommend that if at all possible, this service be celebrated  outdoors and among trees.  The service was planned for and actually took exactly one hour.  We are glad to provide it to gatherings of any religious or spiritual communities.  We invite those who draw on it to help us continue to disseminate it and develop other Earth-centered religious practices by sending  a supportive contribution to The Shalom Center. Click on the maroon "Contribute" banner on the left-hand margin of this page.or send a check to 6711 Lincoln Dr, Philadelphia PA 19119.

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Prayer Service As If -- and Because! –-

 The Earth Really Matters

Sunday Morning Service, Ruach HaAretz,

July 16, 2017

Held during the week-long retreat at

Stony Point Center

 

Arriving chant: Modah / Modeh  Ani l’fanecha, Ruach chai v’kayyam. ["Thankful am I, facing You  -- Everlasting Breath of Life ”]

Interpretive Modah /Modeh Ani

"Modah/Modeh Ani" in rhythm with other creatures and living beings. All of our bodies move differently, so please do the kind of motion that works for your body. Stretch up your arms toward the sky like a tree. Twist like a willow. Move your arms like a bird. Invite group to name moves; then the group follows.

Morning Blessings

Baruch ata Yahhh, Eloheinu Ruach ha’olam…

[Blessed are You,  Yahhh our God, Breath of Life -- ]

Who opens our eyes to the beauty in the world,

Who opens our eyes to what is truly happening today,

Who opens our eyes to envision the future.

Who reminds us that each step we take connects us with the Earth

Whose Divine image is seen in all life.

Excerpts from Psalm 148 [to the melody of “Michael Row the Boat Ashore”:

Praise God, sun and moon, Hallelu-Yah.

Praise Yah, you stars of light, Hallelu-Yah.

Praise God, you high heavens, Hallelu-Yah.


All that flows in all the world, Hallelu-Yah.

The Loooong Narrow Pharaoh and the Midwives Who Gave Birth to Freedom

The Short Colorful Passover Gift-Books for Kids & Their Grown-Ups
As Passover approaches, you may find especially delicious a colorful way to share the story with your children or grandchildren, your friends' kids, your Seder hosts and guests, and for that matter with grown-ups who are open to laughng at loooong narrow pharaohs of the past as well as the present.  

 



That’s what our words and the wonderful pictures by Avi Katz (a creative illustrator for the Jerusalem Report)  do with this new brief and colorful book --  The Loooong Narrow Pharaoh and the Midwives  Who Gave Birth to Freedom.  We share a new story of both resistance to a cruel ruler and the birthing of a new community.

(Or maybe it's not just an old story, since the Pharaoh tried to incite hatred of an immigrant community who talked a strange languag and had a different religion. Uncannily familiar, maybe? )

(Anyway, the story we tell sure is new --  Like, Did you ever hear it was really the midwives who inspired and led the Exodus itself? Was that a secret, long kept hidden by the men who wrote our Bibles?  Or was it --- shshsh!)

The long narrow Pharaoh ordered two midwives, Shifra and Puah -- to kill the boy-babies of that immigrant community, the Cross-Over People.  BUT ---



 

AND THEN --  (Sh-sh-sh, you remember that Women's March last January, all over America and all around the world?)

But we don't want to spoil the story by telling what happens next.  Get the book to find out!

You can order The Loooong Narrow Pharaoh and the Midwives  Who Gave Birth to Freedom  by clicking here:

<https://www.amazon.com/Looooong-Narrow-Pharaoh-Midwives-Freedom/dp/069275721X>  

At the bottom of the same Amazon page you’ll find another of our books,  The Rest of Creation,

The Shalom Center's Work

The Shalom Center draws on Jewish and other spiritual wisdom to work with varied communities to seek peace, pursue justice, renew community, and heal the earth. We provide such resources as –-

  • Free biweekly email "Shalom Reports" of news and ideas on how to make visionary hope into practical change. To subscribe, click here;
  • New forms for festival, life-cycle, Shabbat celebration, & moments of prayer; new interpretations of Torah; new approaches to eco-kosher daily practice;
  • Opportunities to write Members of Congress and letters-to-the-editor about urgent public issues;
  • Public action (vigils, rallies, conferences) in coalitions seeking peace, justice, healing of earth.
  • Gatherings of small groups of leaders and thinkers for "seedbed conversations" on emerging issues;
  • "Tent of Abraham, Hagar, & Sarah" multireligious retreats looking toward interfaith dialogue and shared action;
  • Training institutes for a new generation of eco-Jewish activists to address public policy;
  • Telephone seminars, books, CD's, DVD's. art for religious & spiritual growth Click here:
  • Speakers/ teachers for congregations, interfaith gatherings, campuses, etc.;
  • Celebratory gatherings to honor Prophetic Voices of our generation.

For more information write Office@theshalomcenter.org, explore this Website, and subscribe here to the Shalom Report