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Yom Kippur at Standing Rock, Dakota -- and Sukkot Everywhere

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[This report from the Lakota Native encampment in Standing Rock, ND, is by Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, who is director of the Social Justice Organizing Program at the  Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and a member of the Board of The Shalom Center. Below his report is a song for Sukkot with words written by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, set to a slightly modified melody by Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield of blessed memory. The song can be seen in full and more readable size by clicking on the title of this article and then clicking on the caption "Sukkat Shalom song" just below the black bar called "Attachment." Rabbi Liebling's report follows:]

We are camped at the confluence of the Missouri and Cannonball Rivers, with high winds and sub-freezing night-time temperatures, preparing for Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the holiest day in the Jewish calendar.   Why did I, a rabbi and son of Holocaust survivors, travel to the Standing Rock encampment to support Native Nations in halting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipe Line (DAPL)?

This pipeline is slated to carry Bakken Crude Shale Oil, fracked in North Dakota, beneath 200 different waterways to a refinery in Chicago.  The original plans called for it to cross under the Missouri River close to Bismarck, ND.  The local (white Euro-American) leadership objected and the Army Corps of Engineers decided to reroute it through lands sacred to the Lakota Nation.  The Nations have claimed in several law suits that the Army Corp did not go through the legally required consultation process.  The courts initially ruled in favor of the Army Corps, but the Obama administration has intervened to call for a halt in construction twenty miles on either side of the sacred grounds until the consultation process is completed.

At 2:00 AM the day after Native Peoples' experts filed maps in court showing where the sacred grounds were, the Enbridge Energy company ordered its bulldozers to cross into the legally mandated no-go area. They dug a trench right through the sacred areas that the pipeline crossed.  They have not been penalized.

The Native Peoples are defining themselves as water protectors and not as protestors.  The Missouri River provides drinking water to 18 million people. No man-made thing lasts forever, pipelines routinely leak. It is not a question of if, but of when this pipeline will leak.  They are protecting the water; their call is “Water is Life.” I have come to understand that they are fighting for all of us. They are first and foremost protecting the Earth and are on the frontline against global warming, willing to risk their lives. It would be fully consistent with American history for some Native leaders to be murdered in these actions.

Everyday at the camp there is two-hour non-violent training session. On a day that I attended there were over 50 people, mostly new arrivals from the Comanche Nation in Oklahoma.  It was repeatedly stressed that this is non-violent, peaceful action and that is under the rubric of Ceremony. The primary mode of action is going to the construction sites and praying.  Women are asked to wear long skirts, as this is ceremony, and that for those who need one there is a sewing machine and fabric available to make one.

There are about 40 teepees and hundreds of tents at Standing Rock, housing about 1500 people. Over 300 Native Nations have sent representatives at different times in this unprecedented show of unity.  Each time a delegation arrives they are invited to the main circle to share a dance and a sacred song. The challenge now is how to winterize for the brutal North Dakota winter.

Several times during Yom Kippur we collectively confess a long list of misdeeds against other. It is always we have stolen, we have lied, we have spoken slander, and the list goes on, but never “I” alone.  It acknowledges that we all make mistakes and that each of us bears responsibility. We intone throughout the day the compassionate qualities of the Divine as we pray for forgiveness for our transgressions against other people. White America has stolen, lied and spoken slander about Native Nations for over 500 years.

This year Yom Kippur is October 12 the original Columbus Day.  Christopher Columbus sailed to the West under the Vatican’s Doctrine of Discovery, which gave him the power to “capture, vanquish, and subdue the Saracens, pagans, and other enemies of Christ," to "put them into perpetual slavery," and "to take all their possessions and property.” 

After Columbus’ voyage of 2493, Pope Alexander VI further defined the Doctrine of Discovery and granted control over all non-Christian lands newly or soon to be “discovered” to the Spanish monarchy, for the purpose of converting the residents there to Christianity -- and to encourage trade.

The Discovery Doctrine became official U. S. law in 1823 when Chief Justice John Marshall cited it in writing for a unanimous court in the case of  Johnson v. McIntosh.  It enshrined in law that the nations of the Native Peoples were subject to the ultimate authority of the nation of Christendom -- in this case the United States –--  that was first to claim possession of a given region of “Indian” lands.  As recently as 2005, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg cited this as precedent in a majority opinion.

The original sin of White America is racism, its first victims were the Native People and it has never stopped.  By any measure they are the poorest, least educated and least healthy of any group in our country. America must atone for the ongoing genocide of our First Inhabitants, genocide is legally defined as the intentional destruction of a people and that is what the policies and practices have been intended to do.

How to atone for the pain inflicted on others that we did not directly cause, but benefit from? In Judaism the deepest form of atonement is to change our actions, next best is by doing our best to make sure that when the situation arises again we will act differently; each are accompanied by reparations for the harm we have done.  We cannot change our lives to stop benefitting from the systemic and institutional oppression of Native People.  We can act to change the situation.


[A note by Rabbi Arthur Waskow:

As we respond to Rabbi Liebling's challenge, we move past Yom Kippur and live into one of the powerful teachings of Jewish tradition for the protection of all peoples and all life-forms: the practice of building the Sukkah -- a fragile hut wth a leafy, leaky roof. It is one of the most profound remnants of the ancient Israelites living as a land-based people, like the Lakota Nation in the continent the Native Peoples call "Turtle Island" -- and like other indigenous peoples around our shared Earth today. I offer the words of this song, set to a melody by  Rabbi Aryeh Hirschfield of blessed memory, as we greet the last few days of the Festival of Fragile Huts --  Sukkot.]



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Harvesting: Help Build the Sukkah of Shalom

The Harvest festival of Sukkot begins tonight and lasts for seven days. It is named after its most prominent symbol –-  more than a symbol, an active practice: the Sukkah, a fragile hut with a leafy, leaky roof. 

What is the active practice? Traditionally, Jews slept in the sukkah for a week. Now, fewer sleep but many eat there.

I am writing you today to ask for a harvest – a Harvest of contributions to help The Shalom Center do our fragile, vulnerable, crucial work in the world.

Not just because it happens to be Harvest time. Also because we ourselves, The Shalom Center, are fragile, vulnerable, embodying the wisdom of the Sukkah.

In our earlest efforts, focused 33 years ago on the danger of the nuclear arms race becomng nuclear holocaust, we called on the wisdom of the Sukkah. This poster called together one of our earliest spiritually-rooted public actions:

The Sukkah -- your Sukkah of Shalom, The Shalom Center --  is fragile, open to wind and rain. Yet it needs to be built. No one can shelter under a tree or in a cave and call it a Sukkah. And we need you to gather the leafy roof and help us drape the wood or canvas that make our fragile walls.

You can do that by clicking on the maroon Contribute banner on the left margin of this page, and following through with the (tax-deductible) gifts that will keep the leafy roof above our heads.

It is clear the sukkah is fragile, vulnerable. What makes the sukkah crucial? One of the traditional Jewish evening prayers says, “You Who are the Breath of Life, spread over us the Sukkah of Your Shalom.”  Why a fragile, vulnerable sukkah of shalom? Would shalom not be safer in a fortress, a palace, a temple, even a sturdy house?

No, our ancient wisdom says. –-- Not despite fragility but because of it, the sukkah safeguards shalom.  A full shalom will come only when all human beings learn that we are all vulnerable. That we can only be at peace with each other not when we build Pentagons and Kremlins of power but when we fully grok that all those fortresses beckon attack.

Has that moment come? Not yet, but Sukkot beckons us toward it. That is why it is crucial. Indeed, it is understood as the festival that looks toward Messianic time, the days of Peace and Justice.

The Shalom Center is like a sukkah. We are tiny, fragile. We have a staff of two and besides the two of us, two part-time consultants who deal with glitches in our computers, website, and Email software. And yet –- or therefore!– we carry out a crucial role.

  • We have for 33 years been pioneers, a prophetic voice, in the Jewish, multireligious, and American worlds. When no one in the Jewish world was facing the danger of the nuclear arms race, we came into being to do so.
  • When few in the Jewish or other religious communities were willing to reinterpret our traditions to call for full equality for gay men and women, including the right to civil and religious same-sex marriage, we did.
  • When not a single Jewish organization would condemn the impending invasion of Iraq as ethically monstrous and practically disastrous, we did.
  • When after 9/11 there was a wave of Islamophobia, we organized the Tent of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah, to bring Jews, Christians, and Muslims together not only for shared prayer and dialogue, but shared action.
  • When no one in the Jewish world yet dared to stand against Prime Minister Netanyahoo and AIPAC to support the diplomacy that has prevented Iranian nuclear weaponry without the self-destructive disaster of a war, we organized rabbis to support diplomacy, made our outlook known to  Members of Congress, and paved the way for other, larger Jewish organizations to do the same.

And we are still the only Jewish organization that has made the climate crisis that threatens all human civilization into the highest priority for our work. Our own work has become a crucial wellspring of thought and action as other Jewish and multifaith groups begin to take up that concern.

Now we have begun the work of making the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s last year alive into “MLK + 50 — A Jubilee Year of Truth and Transformation.” Already others are following that lead.  More news to come!

 Because we are like a sukkah, we can act when larger fortresses cannot. And as we have done in the past, we can affect the larger, ponderous organizations by proving there is good sense in pioneering.

So we need your help to keep our sukkah,  your sukkah, able to keep  on being The Shalom Center, the Sukkah of Shalom.  Please click on the maroon Contribute/ Sustain banner on the left margin of this page, and follow through with the (tax-deductible) gifts that will keep the leafy roof above our heads.


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Franz Kafka, the Leopard, & Yom Kippur

There is a wonderful two-line short story by Franz Kafka, more or less like this:

“One day a leopard came stalking into the synagogue, roaring and lashing its tail.

“Three weeks later, it had become part of the liturgy.”

Our task, in every generation, every year, is to let the leopard out of the cage of liturgy.

Scary, and full of life.

For example: How do we treat the Yom Kippur prophetic reading in which Isaiah calls on the crowd not just to fast but to share their bread with the hungry, their homes with the homeless, their clothes with the naked, and then to go one huge and highly political step further and break off the handcuffs put on by wicked power?

On Yom Kippur morning, that Haftarah can be read in any of four ways.

One way is to treat it as part of “the liturgy.”  Someone chants it in a droning Hebrew or reads it in a listless English.

Or we could read it with passion, even with strong music and powerful graphics.  For my own impassioned translation and a YouTube art-and-music video of “Isaiah Lives!"  click here:


OR –--  On this coming Yom Kippur, we could let the leopard leap from the page, roaring. We could notice that Isaiah disrupted the official Yom Kippur liturgy, that he says people yelled at him and shook their fists when he broke into the pleasant Levite chanting.

Today someone could actually break through Isaiah’s words for the sake of Isaiah’s truth –- perhaps suddenly in the middle of the Haftarah shouting out a headline about a homeless old man found frozen to death on a wintry downtown street; then, a few verses later, another headline about 300 people lining up in hope of a job when the Postal Service announced three vacancies;

Or someone could read a brief paragraph (just after the verse about the handcuffs) describing how an Arizona sheriff  deliberately feeds rotted food  to immigrants he has imprisoned and forces them to work outside in 130-degree heat.  Or a paragraph about how the US government has explicitly refused to put on trial those who ordered the torture of prisoners.

OR – We could break through the cage of words altogether, and actually do what Isaiah tells us that God, the Breath of Life,  demands:

 How? First someone could read aloud these words:

"In North Dakota, the Standing Rock Sioux and hundreds of others -– the largest gathering in US history of Natives from all their many nations, plus many Americans of other communities --  have gathered to protect the sacred ancestral lands of the Sioux and the Missouri River from the proposed route of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

"Native people have gathered since last Spring to protect both the graves of their forebears from desecration and their water from poisoning, with the call that "Water is Life" -- Mayim Hayim.

"They are protecting our beloved Mother Earth for the sake of all of us, all life and future generations.

 "For the pipeline will mean still more emissions of CO2 and methane to burn our Mother Earth.

 "The encampments are peaceful, drug and alcohol free, where the elders and tribal leaders conduct daily ceremony and prayer.

 "Yet they face soldiers with rifles loaded and pointed at them as they peacefully pray.

 "They have pledged to camp all winter -- to insure that the pipeline does not get built through their tribal lands.  They need donations to purchase winter supplies, food, tipees, and other necessities."

AND THEN --  as God and Isaiah cry out to us, to feed the hungry and clothe those exposed to wintry chill, to help them face with brave nonviolence the weapons aimed at them by domineering power, come to prayer on Yom Kippur ready as the break-fast begins on Tuesday night to write a check made out to  "Standing Rock Sioux Tribe --- Pipeline Protest Donation Fund." Collect the checks and send them that very night to  Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Attention: Donations, PO Box D, Building #1, North Standing Rock Avenue,  Fort Yates, ND 58538


Another leopard we could free: On Rosh Hashanah we read two painful stories –-  one about Abraham’s expulsion of Ishmael his son and Ishmael’s mother Hagar from Abraham’s family, into a wilderness where they were on the point of death from thirst; and the other, about Abraham preparing to put his son Isaac to death at what he thought was God’s command. For both of Abraham’s sons, at the very last moment, God intervenes –-- and both their lives are saved.

Their story does not end with bare survival. Later in the Torah (Gen 25: 7-11), on a Shabbat when many fewer people will be in synagogue to hear, we are told that after twenty years apart, Isaac and Ishmael came together to bury their dangerous father, and then Isaac went to live at Ishmael’s wellspring.

This Yom Kippur, what about lifting up and reading this passage of tshuvah and slichah, “turning” and “reconciliation”? For Yom Kippu is precisely the festival that is supposed to bring us to tshuvah and slichah.

After reading the brief passage from the Torah Scroll, what about then having members of the community pair off, one in each pair to become “Isaac” and one to become “Ishmael”?  They could have the conversation the two brothers might have had at Abraham’s graveside.

Perhaps they would find themselves discussing how we in our own families might achieve reconciliation before our relatives die. Or perhaps they would talk about their modern descendants. Could Jews and Arabs achieve reconciliation if we mourned those dead among both our peoples who have died at each others’ dangerous hands?

Still another leopard: Traditionally we read Eleh Ezkereh, “These we remember,” often called the Martyrology, about ten great Rabbis tortured to death by the Roman Empire.

What about adding martyrs of our own generations who were killed (often along with non-Jews) for upholding values that are profoundly Jewish? –-  like Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, murdered by the KKK in Mississippi; like Ronni Karpen Moffit who along with Orlando Letelier was murdered on the streets of Washington DC by the fascist junta that overthrew an elected Government of Chile; like David “Gypsy” Chain, killed because he was trying to prevent the logging of magnificent ancient redwoods for the sake of corporate profit?

For the stories of ten such modern “martyrs,” please click to


Every year we read by rote the prayerbook’s printed list of sins or misdeeds that we promise to leave behind.

Suppose that before Kol Nidre we wrote on four little cards of different colors our own sins: on a pink card, our sins against our family; on a green card, our sins against the Earth; and so on. All unsigned. For each  Al Chet, each recitation of our sins, we would shuffle and hand out the collection of the cards of one of these colors, and then each person would call out the sin of an unknown someone else.

As the prayerbook says, “We have sinned by …” The community would see what its own failings had been this very year, without shaming any particular person. A true invitation to do tshuvah, to turn our lives around

At the end of the long day, all these cards could be collected and burned, kindling a fire to light up our path into the future, turning ourselves toward life.

Finally: At the very end of Yom Kippur, we blow and hear one last long blast upon the Shofar.

We blow our breath into the small end of this Ram’s Horn, and out of the other, larger end emerges a blast of uncanny, eerie, untuned sound –--  or a music we train ourselves to shape.

“Awake!” Awake to the radiant beauty of our Earth! Awake to the scorching that hangs over us! Awake to the hurts we have suffered, the hurts we have caused, the hurts we have seen and turned away! Awake to the loving warmth we have slept through, oblivious!

This is a metaphor for every human being. Hearing the Shofar, each one of us could turn our hearts to hearing our own self as a Shofar.

The Breath of Life, the Interbreathing of the world, blows into us. A "still, small, voice" –-- blown into our small openings of nose, of mouth, of throat.

And then comes forth from the larger opening that is our life-time a far larger sound to shape the world. Words, actions – our whole lives  --- that may be untuned, discordant  --  or a music of loving care.  The music of a loving future, calling from our children to ourselves.

To hear our own selves become a Shofar -- our own selves call out “Awake!” --  would free the Leopard from the cage of liturgy.

Indeed, all these acts would fling open the cage of “liturgy,” let the Leopard out to roar and lash Her tail, let ourselves be shaken by His passion and compassion.

If we do this when we gather, we may find when the gates are closing at the end of the long long thirsty day that we have indeed experienced the transformation Yom Kippur was intended to make happen. 



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Rosh Hashanah: New Year & Transformation-time

The Shofar: Awake! Sob! Breathe! Transform!

Rosh Hashanah – the New Year and (in another translation) the Beginning of Transformation -- begins tonight.  It comes with the glimmer of a reborn moon, the sacred seventh New Moon from the rebirth time of spring.

One of the profound practices of Rosh Hashanah is the sounding of the Shofar, the Ram’s Horn.

We blow our breath into the small end of the Shofar, and out of the other, larger end emerges a blast of uncanny, eerie, untuned sound –--  or a music we train ourselves to shape.

This is a metaphor for every human being. The Breath of Life, the Interbreathing of the world, blows into us –--  and out come breath, words, actions, lives  that may be untuned , discordant  --  or a music of  loving care.  The music of a loving future, calling from our children to ourselves.

The different notes we learn to sound out on the Shofar have different meanings.

One calls out, “Alarm!”  --  “Awake!”

Another evokes sobs of grief as we realize how far we have wandered off the path of a loving life, the hurt we have caused others and ourselves.

Still another is a series of deep breaths as we begin to heal ourselves by healing those around us.

And still another is the joyful news of Transformation. We are taught that at Sinai,  the sound of a Shofar flooded the world  as the Breath of Life breathed words and music of Transformative Teaching.  -- And we are taught that the Shofar will sound again when we enter the Messianic days of peace and justice.

 It is a Jewish custom to wish that the Year ahead, the Transformation ahead, be “good and sweet.”

I am writing to send all of us –-- all of us, whether we celebrate these particular holy days or not --– this blessing:

That the year ahead will be sweet & good for a reason:

Because the glimmers of Transformation we are seeing within us and around us grow into a glow. And that even some of the darkness we see on the path teaches us how to keep moving

And above all, the blessing that we ourselves, each of us,  take a hand in growing that light within us and around us.

Although the holy days on which we are about to embark have been enriched by layer on layer of Jewish wisdom and practice, the underlying point is universal:

Face our mistakes, our misdeeds, the ways in which we have aimed the arrows of our actions toward lives of justice, peace, and healing but have missed the mark --- and turn ourselves in a new direction that, deep within us, is the “old” direction --- love.

That goes for us as individuals and also as members of a society.  When a whole society turns in an unloving direction, we call it a systemic failure – systemic racism, systemic militarism, systemic materialism, to face the “deadly triplets” that Dr. Martin Luther King named in a speech at Riverside Church in New York City on April 4, 1967, exactly one year before his death.  (This new year we are beginning includes the April that will be the 50th anniversary of that speech; April 4, 2018, will be the 50th anniversary of his death.)

When we recite our misdeeds on these holy days, we deliberately say “We.”  “We have slandered, we have cheated, we have stolen, we have murdered.” I myself have not done all these things, but as a member of society, I have been complicit in them all.

This year, as the new year begins, we are hearing the Shofar-note of “Awake!” more deeply than for generations. We can hear the grinding, clashing sounds of a chasm in American society,  one that has been widening and sharpening for years but has been made far more visible and audible by an extraordinary election campaign.

And it is not only Americans who face that chasm, but all human communities and all the life-forms on our planet.  

So may we all, this Beginning–time, turn the Shofar-call of Alarm into the response of Transformation.

May all of us  -- Board, staff, members, friends of  The Shalom Center –-  bless each other: May the coming year be filled with goodness and the sweet taste of loving Transformations.

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Reb Arthur's 2d Bar Mitzvah?! What's that?

For Reb Arthur's 2d Bar Mitzvah
The Gates Are Close to Closing!

Below: Read Praise of Reb Arthur

By Bill McKibben, Ruth Messinger, & Other Notables

The Shalom Center Board invites you to celebrate Reb Arthur’s 2nd Bar Mitzvah on October 29, shortly after his 83rd birthday.

The gates are (almost) closing, the limited space is close to full (no kidding!), and the registration cost is going up on October 2nd.

So -- now's the day and now's the hour! --  REGISTER HERE to be with us in Philadelphia at The Shalom Center's extraordinary fund-raiser in honor of Reb Arthur's 2nd Bar Mitzvah on Saturday afternoon, October 29th. .......... SORRY, NO WALK INS WITHOUT PRIOR REGISTRATION!

Reb Arthur's work benefits us all:  seeking justice, pursuing peace,  healing our wounded Mother Earth, and sounding the Shofar of new life for our spiritual and religious traditions and communities.

So if you can't be with us physically, but you want to support Reb Arthur in continuing to do that work through The Shalom Center, make a contribution by clicking this link .

Remember: You can also use either the "Registration" form or the "Contribution" form to sign up for sending a 200-word-maximum letter for the Tribute Book about your encounter with Reb Arthur, or about your own Bat/ Bar Mitzvah. After you've signed up for that, all Tributes must be sent to by September 30.

Join us in song, in story-telling,  and in celebration!

As we announced this joyful celebration, we started receiving Mazeltovs from various leaders of movements for peace, justice, and healing of our wounded world. Below you will see notes from several of them --  Bill McKibben, Ruth Messinger, Rabbis Michael Lerner, Elliot Dorff, and Jay Michaelson, among others. You'll also see two wonderful photos of Arthur -- then (at 13) and now.

But first, details for you, on how to take part either in Philadelphia or by long-distance connection:

The event will be a fundraiser for The Shalom Center, supporting its work and inspiring Arthur to keep going — as we always hope, biz hundert und tzvantzig, gezunt und shtark — till 120 in good health and strong spirit!

You can take part by attending the Bar Mitzvah and the celebratory supper party to follow; OR by contributing in Reb Arthur’s honor even if you cannot attend; AND (either physically present or not) by underwriting a page in the Bar Mitzvah Bukher's Booklet featuring your story about Reb Arthur or your own Bat/Bar Mitzvah.

Join us –- and Rabbis Shawn Zevit, Deborah Waxman, Marcia Prager, Gerry Serotta, Shefa Gold, Cantor Jack Kessler, and other notables, friends, and family --  at this twice-in-a-lifetime celebration on October 29.

You need not attend to honor Reb Arthur and contribute to The Shalom Center.  To make a contribution, click here  and complete the form.

To reserve your seat for supper and support the Bar Mitzvah event and The Shalom Center, click REGISTER NOW  and sign up for Reb Arthur’s 2nd Bar Mitzvah Celebration during this early-bird period before the contribution level riss on October 2 or the space  fills up. Sorry – no walk-ins!

Here are the responses from just a few of our most renowned social0activist herooes:

From Bill McKibben:

Time and again, at some important moment in the key environmental fights, I've looked up from a podium to see Art Waskow in the front row, or tuned into a key webinar to hear him making a cogent point. The point is, he's always there. There's no one who's showed up more often, added his voice more unselfishly, made his time on this earth count. So, mazel tov! 

-- Bill McKibben,

From Ruth Messinger:

What an honor it is to celebrate the second bar mitzvah of the amazing Arthur Waskow.  No one is more deserving of this honor.  With the energy of a passel of 13 year olds, Arthur continues—on behalf of all of us—to speak truth to power,  to focus our energies on building peace, creating a world with reduced strife and the possibility of building community across lines of difference,  and to insist that we work together to save our planet from the environmental degradation that is destroying homes, livelihoods and lives of some of the world’s most marginalized people.

I know Arthur would want us to use this occasion—as we did not, most likely, fully use our own coming of age experiences—to dedicate and rededicate ourselves to the work he has mapped out as essential to the future of Jews and the future of the world.

-- Ruth W. Messinger, President,  American Jewish World Service

From Rabbi Michael Lerner:

Arthur Waskow has long been one of the most inspiring Jewish thinkers I know. What a joy to have discovered a Jewish spiritual progressive in the early 1970s when he and I were allies in the movement against the war in Vietnam.

Though we were living 3000 miles apart, we continued to share ideas as we moved through an array of social change movements and found ourselves in the Jewish Renewal movement. Not just in it  -- also pushing it to address not only inner liberation but also fundamental structural transformation both in the U.S. and in Israel!

Arthur became my spiritual brother --  and like many brothers, we wrestle with each other, and learn from each other in ways that are beautiful and soul nourishing for me. I was blessed to have Arthur and Phyllis join me as co-leaders of High Holiday services at Beyt Tikkun, and to have him speak at numerous national conferences of the Tikkun and NSP community--he was always deep and wise. 

Arthur has shared his powerful wisdom with Tikkun readers, demonstrating the spiritual depth that our Jewish Renewal movement has to offer. And at 83 Arthur is just as creative as he was at 40, so I'm looking forward to many years of camaraderie as we attempt to shape and build a Transformative Judaism together.

What do we mean by "Transformative Judaism"?  We insist that our greatest task as a Jewish people and as a human race is to save the life-support system of the planet before the rapacious dynamics of the capitalist system and the rest of us as collaborators in consuming the planet's scarce resources bring on the greatest catastrophe of human history -- geocide.

It is an honor to partner in this way with such a mensch, whom I've deeply loved for the past 44 years!!!

-- Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor,  Tikkun

From Rabbi Elliot Dorff

 I first met Arthur through his book, Godwrestling, whose very title, as well as its content, bespeaks my own approach to Judaism. We are b'nei yisrael,  "the children of Israel," and Jacob does not become Israel until he wrestles with God.

     So to be a true "Israelite," one must wrestle with God and with the entire Jewish tradition during one's whole life to make Judaism truly "with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your might."  

     My second encounter with Arthur's convictions came when I joined his website.  Time and time again, he would nudge me to do what I knew I should do anyway -- whether it was on issues of social justice or on the environment.  In heart and mind, I am really committed to those issues, but Arthur's postings kept me focused on those commitments.  I am sure that he has done that for all of us, and we are all the better for it.

     My continuing encounter with Arthur's convictions is through his writing -- superb books that push the boundaries on theology, environmentalism, and social justice.  I do not agree with him on everything -- how could two Jews ever do that?! -- but I love being pushed by his keen mind and warm heart to expand my own thinking about issues.

    It was no surprise, then, when I asked him to write the chapter on Judaism and the environment in a book I was co-editing, The Oxford Handbook on Jewish Ethics and Morality, and, characteristically, he did that in a very creative way, using midrash rather than halakhah to articulate a Jewish viewpoint.  

   Thank you, thank you, thank you, Arthur, for prodding us all to be better than we would otherwise be.

    Elliot Dorff

From Rabbi Jay Michaelson, columnist for the Forward:


       Arthur and I were two of a dozen or so faith leaders lucky enough to ride on a float designed to look like Noah’s Ark, created by Auburn Theological Seminary for the People’s Climate March in New York City.  We both dressed the part, in our rainbow taleisim and kippot, and we were both eager to show with our bodies that climate justice is a religious, not only ecological, environmental, and political, issue.

       As we looked out over the throngs of marchers stretching to the city horizon, it occurred to me that this was a moment of prophetic fruition for someone who had spoken out on these issues long before it was fashionable to do so.

       The real fruition, of course, will not come for many years, until such time as our global carbon output levels off instead of rises asymptotically.  But in the interim, here, I thought, was the coming into being of one of Reb Arthur’s many visions: a mass, intersectional movement of caring for the earth.

       I snapped a photo, and captioned it “a legend and his legacy” on social media.  Arthur contacted me shortly thereafter and protested: “What legacy?!  I ain’t dead yet!”  I laughed – how quintessentially Arthur!

        But I stand by the caption.  If we’re lucky, we can see our legacies come to life even as we continue to create them.  Mazal Tov, Bar Mitzvah Boy, from the thousands who now walk in your footsteps, even as you continue to make new ones!



Meanwhile, here's Arthur at his first Bar Mitzvah, with his younger brother Howard, of blessed memory.

And here's Arthur now, with his beloved bashert Reb Phyllis, as his second Coming-of-Age appoaches. A lot hairier, funnier, and even more vigorous than he was at 13.

The first time, he says, he learned to chant by rote, but nothing more  -- a terrible waste of creative possibility and a turn-off for him from exploring Judaism. This time he intends to speak a true Dvar Torah -- a new way of thinking about what the Torah is teaching.

Among our reasons to honor Arthur is his constant and creative weaving wisdom and activism together. A perfect illustration:                                                                                                                                                                                 This summer, The Shalom Center and Reb Arthur have been involved in a number of conferences, celebrations, teachings, and activist challenges to the Carbon Pharaohs.

He spoke, taught, marched, and/or guided prayer at the Pendle Hill Quaker retreat center near Philadelphia, the Chautauqua Institution near Buffalo, the Community of Living Traditions at the Stony Point retreat center in upstate New York, the Kallah sponsored by ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal in Colorado, and in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

And that comes on top of speaking trips where he was invited to Southern California, South Carolina, and the Pacific Northwest in the last few months, as a prophetic voice on the spiritual and moral imperative to heal the Earth from global scorching. PLUS an arrest at the US Capitol alongside the heads of the NAACP, Sierra Club, Greenpeace, & AFL-CIO in a protest demanding Hyperwealth Out & Voting Rights Restored in our elections.

All for "Eco-social justice," as he says!


And now, back to October 29:  To celebrate Reb Arthur’s 2d Bar Mitzvah by joining directly in the service and supper,  reserving your seat for supper and supporting the Bar Mitzvah event and The Shalom Center, click REGISTER NOW

and sign up for Reb Arthur’s 2nd Bar Mitzvah. Space is limited –--  first come, first served, first celebrated! Sorry, no walk-ins.

If you won’t be able to come to Philadelphia and want to honor Reb Arthur and support his vigorous voice through a contribution to The Shalom Center,  click here  and complete the form.

Either way, we welcome your reserving space in the Bar Mitzvah Bukher’s Booklet to tell a story about your own encounter with Reb Arthur or to tell a story about your own Bat/ Bar Mitzvah. 

Blessings for a joyful sharing of this twice-in-a-lifetime celebration!

Arlene Goldbard, President and Chair of the Board

The Shalom Center

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Our Summer of Eco-Social Justice

This coming summer, I will at a number of venues be teaching, speaking, marching, and/or leading prayerful activist ritual in the modes of "My legs were praying" (Rabbi Heschel after the Selma March) and "Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive" (Rabbi Heschel in a lyrical, mystical essay on prayer). Here are the details:

June 16-19,  Pendle Hill, Quaker retreat center near Philadelphia.


 3-day multifaith conference to enhance our ability to meet with spiritual depth the challenge of climate disruption. Three skill areas:

  • constructive community-resilience building;
  • formulating and carrying out strategic nonviolent direct action campaigns; and
  • lobbying and moral advocacy in the public sphere.

Reb Arthur and Rabbi Phyllis Berman will join others in leading prayer services, and Reb Arthur will lead a workshop on fusing festival celebration with direct action.


July 4-8, Chautauqua Inst , upstate NY near Erie PA & Buffalo NY. Week Two: Money and Power through a Spiritual and Ethical Lens



Religious communities and individuals of conscience take seriously their stewardship over money and relationships to the material world and power, and are especially cautious about the corrosive and corrupting effects of wealth on virtue and the tendency to greed and absence of caring for the good of all. In this week we will take a closer look at money and power from ethical and spiritual perspectives.

Reb Arthur, Lecture Title: “Whose Image IS on the Coin? Money, Power, and God”


July 11-17.  ALEPH Kallah, Ft Collins, CO.


Reb Arthur & Rabbis Michael Lerner & Jill Hammer speak on aan evening panel, “Toward a World-Transforming Judaism.“ Together with Reb Phyllis, Reb Arthur leads class AM101 on “Transforming Ritual to Meet New Needs -- Our Own.”


July & August: Community of Living Traditions, Stony Point Retreat Center, 2 hours north of NYC.


 The Stony Point Center Summer Institute (2 sessions during summer) is seeking Jewish, Christian, and Muslim young adults, ages 19-29, who are grounded in their religious tradition, serious about spirituality and the state of the planet, and excited by social activism in a multireligious context.

Reb Arthur & Reb Phyllis will teach, July 19-23.


July 24, March for a Clean Energy Policy, eve of Dem National Convention, Philadelphia. 1 pm City Hall. Multireligious action ritual will lead the March. The Shalom Center is taking part in planning & embodying the action ritual.

July 25, Revival service led by Revs. Williiam Barber & James Forbes, Friends Center, 1501 Cherry St., Philadelphia. The Shalom Center is helping plan the event.


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A CALL TO COMMUNITIES OF FAITH AND SPIRIT: July 24 March for Clean Energy Revolution

Join in the Faith Contingent of the March in Philadelphia, on eve of the Democratic National 

[To add your signature to this Call, please write "Yes" and any other comment in the comment section below, with your name, what town you live in, your email, and a phone number.]

A Call to Communities of Faith and Spirit

We invite all people of faith and spirit to join with us to support, and, if possible, to join in the Faith Contingent of the March for a Clean Energy Revolution, as we gather in Philadelphia on July 24, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention.

We ask this in the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s outcry invoking “The fierce urgency of Now.”

For beneath and beyond all our diversity as members of different faith communities, we stand as one in our concern for individual health and dignity; for justice in society; for the sacred vibrancy and vitality of the endangered web of life on Earth, our common home.

For us, these concerns arise from the sense of the Sacredness of the universe that fills our lives with joy.

Yet all these concerns are violated by current policies that prioritize money and power over the well-being of the planet and all its inhabitants - especially, and urgently, through the burning of fossil fuels.

The shepherds, farmers, and fisherfolk among our ancestors learned the practical wisdom of worthy relationships among human communities and other lifeforms of the Earth - a proto-science infused with loving care. This loving wisdom was encoded in our sacred texts.

Today, science increasingly affirms the sense of interwoven Unity that suffuses what the ancients taught and teach us. Our science today warns us that continuing to extract and burn fossil fuels endangers both those who live where extreme extraction takes place, and life on the planet as a whole. Extremes in weather and outbursts of unfamiliar diseases already bear out these warnings.

Our ancient texts also warn us against the growth of decision-making pyramids of power that are top-down, unaccountable, tyrannical, and addicted to preserving their own power.

We see these dangers today in corporations that for the sake of their enormous profits have corrupted our politics and deliberately lied about the science their own experts reported to them.

And our sacred teachings call on us to feed the hungry and empower the powerless. Yet the effects of burning fossil fuels damage the poor first and worst. We need planning and restraint to redirect our resources from the wanton waste of the affluent to the urgent needs of the poor.

Our sacred wisdom teaches us that we can restrain our impulses to gobble up all life in ways that make this kind of sharing and of self-restraint a joy, and not a painful crushing of the self.

We call on the political leaders who shape our economy and our technology:





We call on our leaders to end all subsidies to fossil fuel and to focus our funds and our attention on helping neighborhoods turn to community-based renewable energy, creating the jobs that can make this happen, and joyfully celebrating our myriad cultures.

It will take national decisions by public officials, business executives, and religious & cultural leaders to renew health, neighborliness, and vitality at the grass roots and pavement tops of our society.

Join with us to elevate these issues in our national discussion and build a national movement for a world based on love, justice, and sustainability.

Join with us in supporting a strong faith presence in the March for a Clean Energy Revolution, this July 24th, in Philadelphia — and if for you it’s possible, join in the March itself.

Join with us as we use the occasion of the Democratic National Convention to urge all political parties: --

In this moment facing the fierce urgency of Now, turn away from destruction and despair, turn to planting and nurturing the Beloved Community!


 PLEASE SIGN IN for the FAITH CONTINGENT: Please go to the comment section below and write "Yes" and any other comment , with your name, what town you live in, your email, and a phone number.  Then please click here -- <> and scroll down to sign. 

The Shalom Center has been deeply involved in planning for the Faith Contingent. Please sustain us to do this work by clicking on the "Contribute/Sustain" banner in the left-hand margin and then follow through by contributing. Write "Clean Energy" in the "Honor Of" box.

Thanks! -- and blessings of shalom, salaam, peace, Earth!  --  Arthur


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Healing America: BEYOND Economics

There are three profound illnesses afflicting American society and perverting our politics today.

One is embedded in economic oppression:  the collapse  of the white “middle class.”

One is the economic and quasi-military subjugation of the Black community through disemployment, police brutality, and mass incarceration. Both these oppressions stem from the greed of those who rule America – the fewer than “1%.” 

The third illness, however,  stems in part from the inaction or hostility of many progressives. Many of us have insisted that “American culture” open itself to the “strangers” who actually have been around for a long time but have been not so visible or not so rambunctious:  Hispanic,  Muslim,  Black, feminist, and GLBTQ  communities. It was laudable to insist these “outsiders” must also become insiders, affirming their own cultures and reshaping the broad America. 

But in doing this, many progressives ignored or marginalized those cultures  that had for decades or centuries seen themselves as the real America. Many working-class white Christians – especially evangelical Protestants but also mainstream Protestants and Catholics --have seen themselves losing out not only economically but in their own sense of themselves.  During the last forty years or so , even their death rates have risen, for the first time in US history.

They see themselves as abandoned and forlorn.

When the economic pressures on the white working class are reinforced by this sense of cultural marginalization, the result can be –-  to some extent already has been –-  a burst of rage against  “the stranger” that borders on fascism. 

This energy explodes at “the bottom” and is fired up by “the top.” It is inflamed by the arrogant and vulgar persona of Trump the Leader. It is drawn by his platform that combines economic support for “legitimate Americans” –- his rejection of the “free trade” deals that send jobs overseas, his support for Social Security and Medicare,  even maybe single-payer health insurance --  with contempt or fury at liberated women, Muslims, Mexican immigrants, LGBTQ people.  

And the fear and fury grows every time progressives dance their joy that precisely these “new un-Americans” will outnumber the old insiders.

What to do? It would betray the long stumble of America toward fuller democracy if we were to abandon our insistence on affirming and empowering the “new” cultures. But does that require marginalizing the old ones?

Imagine a Federal program that empowered both “new” and “old” Americans,  both economically and culturally.

 Imagine a program that paid for two kinds of projects to be undertaken by any group of 200 households living within one mile of each other in cities and five miles of each other in rural areas:

  • ·     Money to pay for solar collectors to be emplaced by a neighborhood energy coop . The initial grants would cover the initial costs. Once in place, the collectors would reduce prices for the purchase of electric power, making it much cheaper than coal-based energy. Federal grant money would also go to a small part-time staff for the neighborhood coop, both for dealing with technical issues of solar-collector upkeep and efficiency, and for staffing regular meetings of the coop.
  • ·     Money to pay for twice-a-year neighborhood festivals where the same neighborhood solar coops would bring together musicians, story-tellers, cooks, crafts-workers, and other exemplars of the neighborhood culture for a week of celebration.  In a New York neighborhood, this might mean bomba music and Puerto Rican food. In rural Tennessee, it might mean country music and a rifle range.  The money would actually go to local cooks, performers, story-tellers, etc. with some money reserved for the neighborhood coop to bring a regional or national hero of the local culture.

Such a program could end the marginalization of both the old and new Americas, without giving either of them power over the other. It could feed money to the grass roots and pavement tops of America,  in ways that would affirm and build on their myriad differences, encouraging neighborliness as well as a new economy based on sharing rather than domination.

The approach that I have sketched is an invitation to explore, rather than a prescription to adopt. I welcome your responses – especially public ones in the Comments sectioon below, so that we can have a conversation with each other.



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Today's blog

Very well said. And, since earth's productivity is far less than infinite, it is almost certain that, at least in Assiah, as the lessers gain, well more than the upper 1% will be reduced materially...n'est-ce pas? Jeff Shapiro

Reb Arthur,

Reb Arthur, Thank you for this insight. Often struggles for justice are focused on defeating those who are part of the old structure of power, not realizing that this win-lose mindset inadvertently continues the same patterns of violence and inequality that we are trying to overcome. True healing means not vanquishing the other team, but realizing that we are all on the SAME team; figuring out how to come together so that both oppressor and oppressed can be redeemed together. I applaud you for these wise and compassionate ideas and proposals. With Pesach approaching, this makes me wonder: what would an Exodus story look like where the slaveholder Egyptians were not struck down by plagues and drowned in the sea, but ALSO liberated along with the Israelites from a world where slavery and oppression are possible?

Healing America Beyod Economics

I have been wondering why we, in the so-called "Developed Countries" insist that the way "forward" is to support, indeed to encourage, the continued replacement of people for purposes of production and distribution. The replacement is, of course, by machines. Yet, the number of people in the world who expect to work is increasing at a great rate, and those who already exist in the world, expect to live longer and with better health than their forbears. What to do with the people in the world, who daily are being added to and who daily become less "useful" to their societies? In the United States, millions are incarcerated, providing "work" for many others to look after them in the prison system..But now, after many decades, that "solution" appears to be unacceptable. Both prisoners and prison-guards are likely to become unemployed once the prison system is revised. So, what one has to ask is "Why are so-called developed societies hell-bent on continuing to replace humans with machines in their work-forces? What have these societies offered to men and women as an alternative way to provide for themselves and their families , and to create a purpose to their lives?" Unless we address these issues, groups such as ISIS will continue to disrupt our society in order to destroy it, just as the external groups destroyed the Roman Empire, so that much of that Empire's technology was lost for a thousand years. .


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The Meaning of Good Friday

Must Thousands be Tortured, Millions Die, in Every Generation --

Because Some of Us Lack Imagination?

Last night  -- the eve of Good Friday --  Phyllis and I went to see the Quintessence Theater in Philadelphia do George Bernard Shaw’s play Saint Joan. Until we were deep into the play, we did not realize how appropriate it was to be seeing it that evening.

 Toward the end of the play, one of the judges who has found Joan, the Maid of Orleans, guilty of heresy and sent her to be burnt actually sees the burning carried out. He is struck with horror at the torture of her death. Standing on the brink of madness, he mourns his own inability to imagine her death ahead of time, and tries to repent of his own complicity.

At that moment, Shaw, a socialist and by then an unchurched transreligious mystic, puts in the mouth of his character this question:

“Must then a Christ perish in torment in every age to save those that have no imagination?”


For me, Shaw’s question leaves intact the various and mostly sacred Christian understandings of the meanings of Good Friday, while beckoning other communities to  learn and share their own: Must Rabbi Akiba’s body be torn by iron rakes in every generation because some of us lack imagination? Must the Six Million be gassed to death in every generation because some of us lack not imagination of the horror, but compassion for the “Other” who is seen as not really human?

Must 29 Muslims be machine-gunned at prayer in the Tomb of Abraham because some of us are filled with fear, contempt, and hatred?  -– and must their deaths be renewed in every generation, as when  the Dawabsheh family in Palestine were burned alive in their own home?

Must 30 Jews in the midst of celebrating Passover be blown to shreds in every generation because some of us are filled with fear, contempt, and hatred? 

 Must Martin Luther King and Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman and James Cheney  be murdered in every generation because some of us become addicted to their own power and protect it with their cruelty?

Must Cardinal Romero be murdered as he chanted the Mass and Jean Donovan, Maura Clarke, and four other Catholic lay religious sisters be raped and murdered in every generation because their work for the poor threatened the Salvadoran government?  

Must Emmett Till be lynched and Eric Garner be choked to death in every generation because Black lives don’t matter?

Must thousands die in the most powerful tornado ever recorded because some of us would burn the Earth to make a super-profit – and because some of us lack the imagination to see our planet choking, hear it wailing, “I can’t breathe!”

For those of us who are observing Good Friday today, and for all of us who can remember any of these tortures and these deaths;

For all of us who seek to renew our own imagination –-- and awaken it in others —  

May we all remember to resist those Caesars and would-be Caesars of today who get pleasure from calling for the torture of anyone and who gain power from their arson, their burning, of the Earth as their political forebears burned Saint Joan.

For those of us who await with special hope this approaching Easter Sunday, may your day be filled with Joy—

And for you and for us all, may we act to make sure that all that is dead and all that is shattered in our world be redeemed to new life!


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Good Friday

Thank you Arthur for bring us all into the world of imagining that each of us can do more with open hearts and not hate and violence. I carry this message with deep gratitude and thank you for being one of our mighty leaders of PEACE and HOPE this Good Friday and every day. The world so needs leaders like you!


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“Jewish Values” on the Front Page:

THREE INCIDENTS In the past week, there have been three occasions when “Jewish values” have been at the heart of major US political acts and events. One of these is the invitation by the powerful Jewish organization AIPAC, which claims to lobby for good Israeli-US relations, to invite Donald Trump to speak  -- and a range of responses in the broader Jewish community to that invitation.. Another was Senator (and Presidential candidate ) Bernie Sanders saying that the memory of the Holocaust has been at the heart of his Jewishness as it has powerfully affected his outlook on public policy throughout his life and in his campaign for President. The third is that President Obama’s nominee for the Supreme Court, Judge Merrick Garland,  came to the edge of tears in saying that memories of the Holocaust as an important part of his life as a Jew had deeply affected his outlook on the law and justice. The long-ago rabbis who edited Prophetic passages to read  as the “Haftarahs” in the synagogue each Shabbat began their choices with outcries at troublesome behavior of the people and ended with joyful affirmation. I want to begin with what for me is the most problematic case and end with the ones that give me joy –- and with my own personal response to the entry of “Jewish values” into such public arenas. There have been two major responses from Jews who claim they oppose Trumpery to AIPAC’s decision to invite Mr. Trump to speak at its convention: One is — “NO!”  — on the ground that Trump is utterly contemptuous of all American Jewish values and of the Constitution. Thank God —literally — for the insistence by Rob Eshman, editor of the L.A. Jewish Journal; by the leadership of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights; and by the leadership of the Reconstructionist movement, that Jewish values MUST underlie and inform the work of all Jewish institutions, including AIPAC. The Reconstructionists urged AIPAC to rescind the invitation.   T’ruah’s statement ended, “Neither AIPAC nor any other Jewish organization or community should offer a platform to a candidate who spews the same racist and nationalistic language that we have too often seen lead to violent actions.”  The other response is, “Well, AIPAC’s role is to improve relations between the US & Israel.  So it needs to begin cozying up to a politician who is likely to be a leading candidate for President and might even sit in the White House.” But AIPAC, despite its origins and claims, is no longer devoted to improving relations between the US and Israel, nor to making nice to US Presidents merely because they are President. It has, rather, become devoted to unblinking support for whatever an ultra-right-wing government of Israel wishes, up to and including a rejection of  diplomacy with Iran -- a path that would have inexorably led first to the defeat of the Iranian reformist movements that in fact won the recent election there precisely because diplomacy worked, and then would have inexorably led to US involvement in  a war to prevent Iran from making  nuclear weapons  -- a war that would have been far worse for the US than the War Against Iraq. What’s more, AIPAC at the Israeli government’s bidding did its best to thwart President Obama’s diplomacy with Iran — hardly a way to improve Israeli relations with the White House. It had no problem nastily challenging a sitting President when it did not like his policy. Why then treat as a guest an aspirant to the Presidency who pours contempt on American Jewish values and on the Constitution? Some other Jews (including much of the official leadership of the Reform movement) have made clear they think Trump’s proposals and language are utterly contradictory to all Jewish values.  I applaud them for that assertion. But they exempt AIPAC from caring about Jewish values. The Reform statement promises that some Reform Jews at the AIPAC convention will make clear their disapproval of Trump, while “respecting completely” its decision to invite him. Its statement is here. I think that position is an important mistake.  If a leading US Christian or Muslim organization were to invite an extremely prominent speaker who had been calling for sanctions against all American Jews because  some Israeli Jews have been terrorists, would Jews have said they “completely respected” that choice? Is it only because Trump’s propensity to violence, contempt, and hatred is directed so far at Muslims, Mexicans, Blacks, and strong-willed women, not (yet?) at Jews, that makes it all right for a Jewish organization to suspend Jewish values? Of course AIPAC’s abandonment of Jewish values is certainly no surprise, since in its relations to Israel and to US policy toward Israel it has already abandoned Jewish values as they were, for example, eloquently expressed in the Israeli Declaration of Independence. And even in the more strictly US context, with no excuse that it is advancing Israel-US relations, it has  already, before this,  invited some notorious Islamophobes to speak -- another violation of Jewish values.  But to welcome a proto-fascist leading candidate for the Presidential nomination to speak is a last nail in the coffin of AIPAC's pretensions about protecting Israel.  And it should be the last nail in the coffin of American Jewish respect for AIPAC. What to do? I hope that many Jews will publicly call for AIPAC to rescind its invitation, and will boycott AIPAC if it won’t.  Short of that, I am glad to hear that hundreds of Jews (some rabbis among them) who feel that their work requires them to be at the AIPAC meeting, plan to walk out of the AIPAC meeting when Trump begins to speak. The plan seems to be to keep silent as they leave. I would suggest they sing one song, a prayer well-known to many Jews, with one phrase added (here in italics) as it is added in one of my own congregations: May the One Who makes harmony in the ultimate reaches of the universe, teach us to make peace within ourselves, among each other, and for all the People Israel,  for all the people of our cousin Ishmael, and for all humanity and other life-forms that dwell upon this planet: “Oseh shalom bimromamav, hu ya’aseh shalom alenu, v’al kol Yisrael, v’al kol Yishmael, v’al kol yoshvei tevel.” ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Now the other two cases. My attention was caught by the response of a well-known neocon syndicated newspaper columnist to Bernie Sanders’ assertion that he is proud to be Jewish and to draw on his memory of the murder of much of his father’s family during the Holocaust to empower his “democratic socialist” work in local Vermont politics, in the US Senate, and in his campaign for President. So I wrote a letter to the Philadelphia Inquirer, my home town paper and one where the column appeared: [Your columnist’s] comment on Senator Bernie Sanders’ reference to the Holocaust as the reference-point of his Jewishness utterly missed the point. Krauthammer writes that he expected Sanders to cite tikkun olam, “repair of the world,” as his Jewish touchstone. What Krauthammer missed is that for Bernie and for many many Jews, the memory of those murdered by the Nazis connects profoundly with the ever-renewed memory of being enslaved in ancient Egypt  — and of winning freedom from Pharaoh. The Prophetic search for justice, repairing the world,  merges with the resistance to Nazism. When in America today there reemerges the impulse to hate the “stranger,”  oppress Blacks or Hispanics, violate the religious freedom of Muslims, break labor unions  — then many Jews  both hear our own Prophets and sniff the stink of early Nazism — from 1922 to 1933.  As for [your columnist’s] fear that young Jews are abandoning Torah wisdom, the profound meaning of the Sabbath, and life-enhancing aspects of Jewish practice: Where these are shrouded in boring rote, he is right — and so are those who abandon them. Where instead they are filled with the energy to heal our planet from our modern Carbon Pharaohs, end the new forms of slavery in disemployment and mass incarceration, and affirm the Image of God in women, Muslims, and Mexicans — Jews young and old are giving life to a Judaism where ritual and practice are imbued with life. The Inquirer published the letter, minus one sentence and an unfortunate change of “disemployment” to “unemployment.” (I deliberately used “disemployment” rather than “unemployment” because the former gives the sense of a deliberate decision by those in power to abolish jobs, while the latter sounds like an accident  -- workers stubbed their toes on the way to their jobs.) And the third case – Judge Garland – also made clear that his Jewish religious life – Bar Mitzvah, marriage by a vigorously social-justice Reform rabbi to a Jewish woman – as well as his commitment to justice as a lawyer and a judge -- was also deeply affected by the Holocaust. For him, too, it is clear that his consciousness of the Holocaust did not turn him inward to protecting Jews alone, but made clear to him that healing the world –- the whole world  -- is a Jewish imperative. ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Finally, my own responses to this unexpected series of events: Why is my soul stirred by the vitality of Jewish values among some Jews? Why is my soul wounded by other Jews who turn away from Jewish values? Is it because I think it is “good for the Jews” to call prophetically for healing of the world? No – often it brings such Jews into disrepute or even danger, even inside the ethnically Jewish community. It is rather because I think it is good for the world that Jews, allied with others, work for a world that is healed from exploitation, tyranny, and hatred imposed on other human beings and on Mother Earth herself. Good for the world, for Jews to gather around the Passover Seder table to say, “In every generation, every human being must look upon himself, herself, as if we ourselves must go forth from slavery to freedom.” Good for the world, for Jews to cry out in recollection of the Holocaust, “Never again – for anyone!”


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