Reb Arthur's Latest Thoughts

Elders Call: Defend Our Voting Rights

[Dear friends of The Shalom Center, For about nine years I have been a member of the National Council of Elders. It is a consulting council of veteran activists who helped shape the great social-change movements of the mid-20th Century. Among its founders was my beloved friend Vincent Harding, of blessed memory.  

[In the midst of the political convulsions of this past six months, we decided to issue several statements that draw upon our experience. One of them is about the current election campaign and various threats to the crucial right to vote. I was one of those most deeply involved in drafting this statement on Dangers to the Right to Vote.

[The Shalom Center is already involved in what we are calling “Share Sukkot: Green and Grow the Vote.” The Harvest Festival of Sukkot comes in every other year just a few weeks before a US national election. We have already prepared and are preparing more resources to make Sukkot in those years a time to express the eco /social justice and peacemaking values of Sukkot as a framework for greening and growing the vote. More information on Share Sukkot will follow. Today I am sharing the NCOE statement – AW, editor]

NATIONAL COUNCIL OF ELDERS

Immediate Release June 25, 2020

We call upon all Americans to exercise this fundamental and essential right to vote. We call upon all Americans to demand the right to vote by mail. We call on all Americans to make clear we will not allow any attempt to steal the election by any means.

Contact
Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Philadelphia PA; Frances Reid, Oakland, CA;
Mandy Carter, Durham, NC
E-mail: elders4belovedcommunity@gmail.com

The National Council of Elders (NCOE) Call: Prepare to Defend Our Voting Rights in 2020 Election

We, members of the National Council of Elders, were deeply involved in the great movements of the 1960s and ‘70s to advance American democracy, winning many important victories for freedom. One of the greatest of these victories was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which was passed after the non-violent actions of Mississippi Freedom Summer and the Selma to Montgomery March, which were met with violent repression, killings and brutal beatings.

The right and responsibility to vote in a free and fair election is an essential aspect of democracy. Yet that right has been weakened by two crucial and badly decided 5-4 verdicts of the Supreme Court:

The 2010 Citizens United decision to abolish decades of election law preventing great wealth from buying US elections on the grounds, among others, that corporations were “Persons” entitled to “free speech.” [I would add, No corporation is “made in the Image of God.” Human beings are, and their right to shape the society they live in and the government that governs them is partly rooted in that sacred character. --  AW]

The 2013 decision to cut the heart out of the Voting Rights Act, the requirement for preclearance to pass new voting laws for jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg brilliantly said, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet."

As we prepare for the national election of 2020, the Supreme Court has again attacked the right to cast a vote by refusing to allow an expansion of voting by mail in Wisconsin in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic. Nonetheless, the citizens of Wisconsin defended their right to vote by showing up at polling locations in huge numbers, despite the danger of sickness or death, similar to the courageous men and women of the South in 1964 and 1965.

We call upon all Americans to exercise this fundamental and essential right to vote. We call upon all Americans to demand the right to vote by mail. We call on all Americans to make clear we will not allow any attempt to steal the election by any means.

The president has threatened to use military force against the American people to halt the practice of free speech and free assembly. We are concerned about the danger that the current holders of power in the federal government may use anti-Constitutional force before or after the election on November 3 to maintain their power.

We call upon the American people to be alert to such danger and to meet it:

With a vast and vigorous turnout of voters, casting no doubt that pro-democracy forces have won the Presidency and both houses of Congress

With maintaining vigilance if the current president is voted out of power, until he is well gone in January

With preparation by resilient grass-roots groups to be ready to apply broad and deep civil resistance, should a usurpation of our democracy be thrust upon us.

Come hell or high fever, we must vote – and we shall!

National Council of Elders Members: Ms. Rachele Agoyo, Ms. Dorothy Aldridge, Rev. Dorsey Blake, Mr. Louis Brandon, Ms. Candie Carawan, Ms. Mandy Carter, Dr. Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Rev. John Fife, Ms. Aljosie Aldrich Harding, Dr. Gloria Aneb House, Dr.Shea Howell, Dr. Dolores Huerta, Mr. Phil Hutchings, Ms. Joyce Hobson Johnson, Rev. Nelson Johnson, Mr. Frank Joyce, Rev. James Lawson, Rev. Phil Lawson, Dr. Catherine Meeks, Mr. Gus Newport, Ms. Suzanne Pharr, Ms. Lyn Pyle, Dr. Bernice Johnson Reagon, Ms. Frances Reid, Ms. Kathy Sanchez, Mr. Charles Sherrod, Ms. Shirley Sherrod, Dr. G. Zoharah Simmons, Friar Louis Vitale, OFM, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Mr. Hollis Watkins, Mr. Junius Williams, Mr. Bob Wing, Rev. Janet Wolf.

Deceased Founding Members: Dr. Grace Lee Boggs, Dr. Dorothy Cotton, Dr. Vincent Harding, Father Paul Mayer, Mr. Ron Scott.

Facebook contact: National Council of Elders@ncoe20century

 

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Jewishly Honoring Juneteenth

On June 19, 1865, the US Army announced the emancipation of enslaved people to the public in Texas – the last of the Confederate states to be liberated from slavery  

 That day each year became known as Jubilee Day and later as Juneteenth, and became a day of celebration, education, community, and political vision first for the Blacks of Texas and then for Blacks throughout the United States. It has been recognized as a special day of celebration by 47 of the 50 states and by some major corporations. It has slowly become recognized and observed by some whites -- especially this year, in the great wave of multiracial Uprising against American racism. (For a history of the day, see “Juneteenth” in Wikipedia.)

Beginning seral years ago and increasing this year, several waays have energed of  Jewishly underling the celebration of Juneteenth. I will review them here. They include sharing a Seder for Juneteeth; suggesting a Kavvanah (focus) for the Blacks killed by racism in reciting Mourners Kaddish on Juneteenth; and shaping a Kabbalat Shabbbat and Havdalah for the day. Each of these is noted below.

Beginning in 2018, some Jews Of Color have shaped a Seder for the day, drawing on the structure of the Passover Seder and using foods, songs, poetry, symbols, and other elements of Juneteenth celebrations. In 2018, a vigorously progressive Jewish group in New York City, Jews For Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), observed a Juneteenth Seder and then published its Haggadah at  

https://www.jfrej.org/news/2018/06/jfrejs-juneteenth-seder

As the author of the original Freedom Seder in 1969, the first Haggadah ever to welcome the Black struggle for freedom into the heart of the Passover Seder, I have been especially moved by this introduction of the form of the Seder into a Black holyday of freedom.   And I have been warmed and excited by the notion that Blacks who are not Jewish and whites who are or who are not Jewish might find it a welcome way of affirming and working for the end of American racism. At the same time, I encourage caution in its use – not easily “appropriating” the symbols and practices of Black America.

So I decided to share one sliver of the Juneteenth Haggadah that felt to me especially relevant to the struggle to end racism, and especially both Jewish and universal in its drawing on Torah and on the post-history of the Holocaust to urge a serious discussion of “reparations”  for slavery.  Here it is:

THE SECOND CUP: Behold this cup of wine. Assata taught us: It is our duty to win. We drink to her, to our commitment to winning, and to our ancestors who invested in our winning and building power: Fannie Lou Hamer, Bayard Rustin, A. Philip Randolph, Ella Baker, Pedro Albizu Campos.

 Raise glass. Say one of these blessings: P’ri hagafen, ito nishteh, “l’chayim!” The fruit of the vine, with it let us drink “to life!”

 Bruchah at Yah, Shekhina, eloheinu malkat ha’olam bora p’ri hagafen. Blessed are you, Shekhinah, Queen of the universe, creator of the frui of the vine.

Baruch atah Yahhh (Adomai)  Eloheinu ruach (melekh) ha’olam borei p’ri hagafen. Blessed are You God, Interbreathing Spirit (Sovereign) of the universe, creator of the fruit of the vine.בְּרוכָּה אַתְּ יָהּ שְׁכִנָה אֱלֹתֵינוּ מַלְכַּת הָעוֹלָם בוֹּראַ פְּריִ הַגָּֽפֶן.בָּרוךְּ אַתָּה יְיָ אֱלֹהֵֽינוּ רוּחַ )מֶלֶךְ( הָעוֹלָם בוֹּרֵא פְּריִ הַגָּֽפֶן.

Love & Support: We must love and support each other, and for that love and support to have any meaning, it must be material as well as spiritual.

 “The Torah says: And if thy brother, a Hebrew man, or a Hebrew woman, be sold unto thee, and serve thee six years; then in the seventh year thou shalt let him go free from thee. And when thou sendest him out free from thee, thou shalt not let him go away empty: thou shalt furnish him liberally out of thy flock ... And thou shalt remember that thou wast a bondman in the land of Egypt...”

 Black liberation is something that has been compromised again and again, through actions monstrous and tiny — the incompre-hensible violations we promise to never forget, and the endless diminutions we all decide to ignore.

 White supremacy is centered in Christianity, but Jews with white skin privilege have been enacting it and actively benefiting from it for centuries. In the recent history of the United States, white Jews benefited from the G.I. Bill; moved to, and profited from, racially segregated housing; accepted and enabled massive disparities in education; and received loans, financial aid, salaries, and benefits denied to Black people.

 White folx: even if you personally find the idea of white supremacy repulsive, even if you are afraid of antisemitic neo-Nazis and white nationalists — you still benefit from the culture of white supremacy we all live in.

And so tonight we are asking you to think about what it means to commit to reparation — to take a small but challenging step toward accountability and disinvestment from white privilege — a step that also leads toward a bolder, more moral, more vibrant future for Jews and for all people.

Rabbi Sharon Brous writes: “Most American Jews came to this country years after the abolition of slavery, but we have thrived under a national economic system that was built on stolen land and stolen labor, a foundational wrong that has yet to be rectified. As survivors of generational trauma and beneficiaries of reparations [from Germany, to Israel] granted after the Holocaust, Jews have a special obligation to help advance this conversation.”

In addition, Eric Greene, a member of the board of the Jewish Multiracial Network, has suggested preceding a recitation of the Mourners Kaddish with this kavvanah (‘focus’):


Friends:

This Friday night Shabbat coincides with Juneteenth, the commemoration of the official ending of mass enslavement of African Americans.  In observance of this important day, and in remembrance of the countless African Americans who have been victimized and killed by ongoing racism, we are lifting up the suggestion of Black Jewish journalist Robin Washington and we are asking our friends and allies in the Jewish community—Jews of Color and White Jews, Sephardic and Mizrachi and Ashkenazi, religious and secular, in private or on Zoom—to recite a Kaddish for Black Lives during this Shabbat

We are providing the text of Jewish Multiracial Network’s “Black Lives Kaddish” below. Depending on your practice, you may choose to recite it along with the traditional Kaddish or, after candlelighting, join us in reciting Psalm 31 (traditionally recited as a plea for protection from those who would do us harm) on this special Juneteenth Shabbat.  We ask that you share this ask with your networks, friends and contacts throughout the Jewish Community so we may all come together to give appropriate honor to those we have lost.  May their memories be a blessing.                                                   

                    KADDISH KAVANNAH FOR BLACK LIVES

 Creator of life, source of compassion. Your breath remains the source of our spirit, even as too many of us cry out that we cannot breathe. Lovingly created in your image, the color of our bodies has imperiled our lives. 

 Black lives are commodified yet devalued, imitated but feared, exhibited but not seen.  

 Black lives have been pursued by hatred, abandoned by indifference and betrayed by complacency.  

 Black lives have been lost to the violence of the vigilante, the cruelty of the marketplace and the silence of the comfortable. 

 We understand that Black lives are sacred, inherently valuable, and irreplaceable. 

We know that to oppress the body of the human, is to break the heart of the divine.

We yearn for the day when the bent will stand straight.

We pray that the hearts of our country will soften to the pain endured for centuries. 

We will do the work to bind up the wounds, to heal the shattered hearts, to break the yoke of oppression.

 As the beauty of the heavens is revealed to us each day, may each day reveal to us the beauty of our common humanity. Amen.

I suggest that we add these readings to our Shabbat observance, either or both on Erev Shabbat (Friday evening, June 19) or Shabbat morning, fitting in with our attention to the nationwide gathering of the Poor People’s Campaign at 10 am and 6 pm Saturday  and 6 pm Sunday at June2020.org

Bechol Lashon is sponsoring an early Juneteenth Kabbalat Shabbat with Rabbis Sandra Lawson and Isaama Goldstein-Stoll  at --
 
 
And the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs (JCUA) of Chicago and the Kol Or Caucus for Jews of Color are excited to invite you to the 3rd Annual Juneteenth Havdalah on June 20 at 7:00 pm, where we’ll come together as a community to commemorate the emancipation of Africans and African-Americans from slavery.  Please RSVP by clicking here.

Blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste!-- Arthur

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Lerner's "Revolutionary Love"

Michael Lerner wrote his newest book, Revolutionary Love (University of California Press), in 2019. There was already in the world and in his mind’s eye the brutality of the Trump Administration. There was only a hint of the possibility of a world pandemic resulting from the rampant disregard by human institutions – mostly the Hyperwealthy – for the habitat of other species. And though he notes with hope the existence of Black Lives Matter, a massive national Black-led multiracial Uprising against racism was not on the country’s, or Lerner’s, agenda.

What his book is mostly about is an imagined series of social changes that would make America, and the planet, a society focused on loving connectiveness -- not competition and subjugation – and the loving means of getting  there.

 Among his proposed loving alternatives is:

  •  “Gradually disband police forces and replace them with neighborhood  security committees,  trained in de-escalation  and empathic intervention.  (These committees will be backed up in emergency situations by local community forces (neighbors trained to meet violence effectively).” (page191)

 Who knew (I think not Lerner) that this would be on the front pages everywhere while his book was still new?

 The book is peppered with such ideas. The question is how to make them do-able. Not every one of them is going to have behind it the force of an Uprising deep enough to make tens of thousands of people forget their fears of Death by Coronavirus and erupt onto the streets.

 I do want to note one other proposal out of dozens, partly because It is a special concern of mine and because Lerner gives it five pages (pp. 233-238), not just one small paragraph. That is his examination of whether it would be possible to organize in our own society, so different from ancient Israel, the Sabbatical Year commanded in Leviticus 25. 

For Torah, this is the crucial way of preventing both social disaster as economic inequality worsens and eco-disaster as Earth is treated with contempt. The Torah considers this program so central that it is said to come from Sinai, just like “Don’t make idols” and “Don’t murder.” – And so, in Lev. 26, is the recitation of specific disasters that will come if Earth is not allowed to rest every seventh year.  Lerner thinks we could do this Great Sabbath in modern America. Wonder how? Read the book!

 Lerner deals with almost every bristling “Impossible!” and “Unrealistic!” by challenging the “liberal” and “progressive” Lefts that express considerable contempt for “Love” as a transformative possibility. The Lefts’ reaction translates into contempt for religion, the one aspect of American society that still holds some love for Love.  And into contempt for the “deplorables” who depend on religion as their last gasp of breath – and of Love at least in their local communities.

 Lerner recalls the sense of frustrated and frayed connections between people, and the experience of many working-class Americans that their once-upon-a-time liberal allies see them as damaged and disreputable because they seem to be translating psychological and social fears into attacks on “the others.“

 He hopes to bring together the old Left-outs --  Blacks, Indigenous Peoples, Muslims, Spanish-speakers, women,  GLBTQIA communities, Jews – with the new Left-outs --  the “forgotten whites.” He looks to heal their split in part by their economic resentment against the ultra-rich 1/10 of 1%, but more by his appeal to their separate but shareable Love.

 His book ends with what I would call despair masked as hope. As a last resort, Lerner imagines dividing the USA in two, using the new technology that could unite clusters across territory to separate the “Progressive States of America” from the “Conservative States of America.” His comments remind me of the despairing advice on the edge of the last Civil War: “Let the erring sisters [the Southern states] depart in peace.“

But most of all he is hopeful. He hopes that the steps he proposes of actually embodying “revolutionary love” and an ultimate “Love and Justice Party” will enable the creation of a transformed United States.

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Two Reports: Right—wing fascists doing arson in Minneapolis

First: An eyewitness report from trusted synagogue member in Mpls; Second: a journalist's report

On Friday EVERY BUSINESS on Lake Street and adjoining commercial districts, was boarded up.

Many spray painted murals on the plywood - let folks know they were a local or minority owned business. Essential businesses.

Last night was by far the worst night. Protests during the day were peaceful. There was an 8:00pm curfew. Everything changed when the sun went down. There are roving and highly organized bands of anti-government neo-nazi white men cruising the city, breaking off plywood, looting stores, and then setting fire to the buildings.

On the Northside, which is predominately African American, the situation was much the same. Local civic groups were trying to protect local businesses and homes. there were many fires.

The violence and destruction is NOT being driven by local people. The cars on the streets have either removed their license plates, or have out of state plates.

Here is a post from a neighbor, "Everybody! We need to get our heads around what’s happening, Mpls and St Paul are being attacked by fascist “accelerationist” white crazies. Trying to divide & destroy us.

Accelerationism: the idea inspiring white supremacist killers around the world -Vox"

Expect these same types to infiltrate all of the legitimate protests happening in other cities in America. We are fighting an enemy within.

These "accelerationists" burned down the 5th Police Precinct, our post office, every pharmacy. The Wallgreens and CVS within a few blocks of our house are still burning this morning. The grocery stores were all hit. Every bank has been hit. Every liquor store, every gas station. They have guns and accelerants.

When National Guard show up, they disappear into the neighborhoods and have been setting fires. It is a violent game of arsonist wack-a-mole. There is no longer any fire fighting service available - overwhelmed. So neighbors are using garden hoses to put out the fires and save homes. Pictures neighbors are sharing - these are young white men, heavily armed.

According to authorities there are over 10,000 of these "accelerationists" in the city. St. Paul arrested over 50 people last night. ALL OF THEM were from out of state. The authorities are checking phones of the people they have arrested, doing contact tracing of sorts on these people. These people are connected to right wing militia style groups with a civil/race war fantasy. They are opportunistically using the legitimate, peaceful George Floyd protests as a cover to actualize their neo-nazi fever dream.

Gov. Walz just said, "If you know where these people are sleeping today, let us know and we will execute warrants. “ Xxxxx and I were helping the owner of a commercial building up the street - a friend, and two of these guys came up to us. Wanted to know where the free food was being distributed. He gave them an address that was three blocks away. Had no idea what we were talking about - not from here.

[Xxxxx], the girls and I are fine and safe. Exhausted. Angry. We have not really slept in three days. Everyone in Minneapolis/St. Paul is the same.

So, what to do? Our neighborhood group is meeting at the park this afternoon. I think that they will organize our neighborhood watch to patrol, try to spot fires and get them out ASAP.

Major protests are planned for today. They want the other three police officers involved in George Floyd's murder arrested, they want the MN Attorney General, not the Hennepin County Attorney to manage the case. They want the MPD disbanded and reformed with many alternative public safety and law enforcement strategies used. But the legitimate protests will end at 8:00 pm.

The Gov. and the mayor are calling in thousands more National Guard Troops. We already had more National Guard troops in the city than ever before. They are doing a good job but were overwhelmed last night by sheer numbers. Gov. Walz is the highest ranking soldier to have ever served in Congress and led the National Guard - he clearly sees this for what it is and will fight it. This is now a military operation by the State of Minnesota against alt-right, white nationalists and anarchists that have come into Minneapolis to use the protests against police brutality as cover for their death fantasy.

They are trying to force authorities to use deadly force and "accelerate" the violence.

It is dark friends.

The other side - this morning the neighborhood is out in force helping with the clean up, re-securing businesses. Massive food distribution at community centers. People taking in neighbors whose homes were destroyed or whose neighborhood was so impacted that it is no longer habitable. Allie was ion contact with students, many of whom are refugees from war torn countries, that were hearing explosions and fire and sirens - they were calling her to make sure she was okay.

Today I will garden. My flowers are starting to really come into bloom. Vegetables coming in strong. New raised bed being built. Eat some good food. Feel grateful. Train our new puppy Ruth, who is just a pip. Take her to the lake and give her a swimming lesson. Then I'll take a nap. I think tonight will be a long one."

*** ***

Far-Right Extremists Are Hoping to Turn the George Floyd Protests Into a New Civil War

Armed extremists are showing up to protests and urging a "boogaloo" — code for civil war — online.

by Tess Owen

May 29 2020, 5:57pm

Far-right extremists are showing up, with guns, to the protests against police brutality that have exploded across the country.

Others are egging on the violence from behind their computers, urging followers to carry out acts of violence against black protesters with the goal of sparking a “race war.”

Their presence makes an uneasy addition to the escalating unrest, which was triggered by the death of George Floyd, a black man who was choked to death by a white Minneapolis police officer earlier this week.

But there’s a range of motivations that’s driving far-right interest toward the protests, which are being led by community members and Black Lives Matter, and bolstered by antifascists.

For example, the so-called Boogaloo Bois — a group of armed anti-government extremists made visible by their Hawaiian shirts — have reportedly shown up to some of the protests.

The “boogaloo” is code for impending civil war or violent confrontation with law enforcement, and that’s what they’re hoping to get out of the protests. Their main reason for being there is their antipathy toward law enforcement, and so they’re trying to position themselves as allies of Black Lives Matter protesters. They’ve made police brutality one of their central issues, which was explored at length in a Bellingcat article this week.

Their approach to police brutality links the victims of the deadly standoff with federal agents at Ruby Ridge in 1992, to the victims of modern police brutality, including Floyd. But unlike the vast majority of protesters, they refuse to acknowledge the fact that police brutality is an issue that disproportionately impacts people of color.

There have been scattered reports of Boogaloo Bois’ presence at the protests, which were compiled by a Bellingcat investigative journalist in a thread. He includes an audio clip (stripped of video per activists’ requests) of protesters saying they’d wrestled a handgun from a “white nationalist” agitator — whom he describes as a Boogaloo Boi who became overly rowdy.

Another photo, shared across private Boogaloo Facebook pages, showed one of their own unfurling their trademark flag during the Minneapolis protests.

And one protester posted a picture of himself wearing a gas mask to Instagram, under the hashtag #Boogaloo.

While some Boogaloo Bois say they’re just libertarians, others will, on occasion, veer into racism — and make no secret of their desire for violence. In addition to their physical presence at the protests, the #boogaloo hashtag on social media has been flooded with memes in the last couple days egging on violence, and talking about how they hope this is the beginning of a civil war.

While more established militia types sometimes share those perspectives, they often view themselves as intermediaries between law enforcement and civilians. For example, two armed white men were interviewed by the Minnesota Reformer, a local independent news organization, outside a tobacco store in Minneapolis this week. They said they were protecting businesses from looters, but were also there to defend civilians should they need to.

“Cops are less likely to tread on people’s rights when there’s other armed people around them,” one of the men told the interviewer.

Local activists identified another group in Minneapolis as members of the III% militia, one of the largest militia networks in the U.S.

But perhaps the most troubling of all are the hardcore “accelerationists” who are encouraging their neo-Nazi followers to go to the protests and carry out acts of violence against black people — all with the goal of “exacerbating the ethnic tensions” and sparking a “race war.”

Accelerationists promote violence to speed up the collapse of society. An eco-fascist Telegram channel wrote to its nearly 2,500 subscribers on Thursday that “a riot would be the perfect place to commit a murder.” Accelerationists often seek to exploit moments of political or civil unrest, and the widespread protests that have unfolded across the country fit the bill. Similarly, 4chan is full of racists cheering the violence and saying that they hope it’s the beginning of a “race war.”

 

 

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Green & Grow the Vote: From #Shavuot2Sukkot

The Eleventh Plague, the Coronavirus, has taught us this: Elections this November will make a strong impact -- on the very health and bodily life of practically all Americans, both as individuals and as a whole society;  on the future of American democracy, or whether we become a plutocracy, ruled by those with Hyper-wealth, with a flavor of rancid racism poisoning the stew; and on whether we can renew the life-forms of our Mother Earth or we all suffer from the onslaught of CO2 and methane on our air and oceans, and succumb to fire, flood, and famine.

Every American has a life-or-death stake in this election; our goal should be that every American over 18 gets to vote. To vote with full knowledge of what is at stake.

So as Jews committed to justice and freedom, to abundance and generosity, to the Holy Breathing Spirit that interweaves all life --  we raise the banner of making these next months of Jewish and American time into a commitment:

Green and Grow the Vote

From #Shavuot2Sukkot

 Who is this “we”? The Religious Action Center ("the RAC") of Reform Judaism, The Shalom Center, and Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action are co-sponsoring a remarkable Zoom conversation on the eve of Shavuot, from 8 to 9:40 pm Eastern Time on May 28. We will look forward to Sukkot in early October, just a month before the election. Four months of thought, feeling, action that could make a great difference in November. 

To register for that conversation and receive the Zoom link, click here:  https://tinyurl.com/Shavuot2Sukkot

We invite you to join the conversation; there will be an opportunity for break-out groups to share your own thoughts, as part of observance through song and words of Torah -- "From #Shavuot2Sukkot: Green and Grow  the Vote."

 Among the leaders in the conversation will be Rabbis David Saperstein, Michael Namath, Arthur Waskow, Mordechai Liebling, Jennie Rosenn, Margot Stein, Tamara Cohen, and Shoshana Friedman;  renowned teacher-of-organizers  Heather Booth; youth climate activist Isha Tobis Clarke; climate activist Phil Aroneanu of Dayenu;  Cantor Linda Hirschhorn;  Cherie Brown of the National Coalition-Building Institute, an expert in healing Jewish trauma; Arlene Goldbard, artist and President Emerita of The Shalom Center; and powerful young shofar-blower Zahava Kiernan. 

They will join in connecting ancient wisdom from Sinai to our own generation’s needs for active engagement in and beyond the US election process to heal our wounded Earth from the climate crisis and to heal our own society from its deep wounds.

You can watch and join the conversation live from 8 to 9:30 pm Eastern Time on May 28.  It will also be recorded, and we will send you the link by which you could watch it at your convenience. We encourage you to make it part of the traditional tikkun leyl Shavuot, the study of Torah at any time you choose on the night of Shavuot, to share with your friends and congregation.

We promise you joyful song and joyful Torah, a Shofar-blast you will never forget, just barely short of the shofar-blast at Sinai.

To register for that conversation and receive the Zoom link, click here: https://tinyurl.com/Shavuot2Sukkot

We look forward to meeting with you there.

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, shantih --  Arthur

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#PeoplesBailout: A Hinge Moment

 

Giving --  Wednesday?

[Dear friends, Yesterday was “Giving Tuesday,” and you may have been flooded by requests for funding by numerous praiseworthy organizations. We will add our glass of seltzer -- fizzy water --  to the flood, with a difference.

 [First difference: Why didn’t we write yesterday? Because we spent most of the day working urgently on an important change-committed action focused on Shavuot, the festival that celebrates the spring wheat harvest and harvesting Torah at Mount Sinai.

 [Second difference: In  the midst of the present crisis, we did not want to ask for your gift without simultaneously sending you a substantive article about political change rooted in the Spirit.  – Stirring that kind of political change is what we do, so sending you this message is the best reason to contribute to The Shalom Center, wrapped up with the appeal that you do contribute.

 [Please click to the maroon “Contribute”  button at the foot of this Shalom Report. That’s the process that keeps the substance coming. For the process, the appeal, that’s all. Now to the substance.

 [It comes from Arlene Goldbard, the President Emerita of The Shalom Center. As you’ll see, she wrote it for May Day, but the teaching reverberates still.  --  AW, ed.]

 

#PeoplesBailout: A Hinge Moment

 Today, May Day (traditionally a worker's celebration), could be a hinge moment in U.S. history, when a critical mass of voters and others said "Enough!" to the fat cats attempting to use the pandemic to profit further at public expense. 

 An excellent account of the principles that should guide a compassionate and effective body of investment in caring and recovery—endorsed by too many organizations to count—can be found at the #PeoplesBailout site. People are being asked to show support and solidarity on May Day by showing up virtually in a variety of ways. But the battle to win a #PeoplesBailout will take more than one day. 

 I have a couple of friends who've been using the phrase "hinge moment" to describe our opportunity in this time. I like the sound of it: the door to a more just and loving future can swing open or closed on its hinges. It seems to have been coined by the physicist Freeman Dyson, who suggested that 9/11 may have been one such moment. Will this be one? 

 Yesterday I watched a live video featuring Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pramila Jaypal, and Mark Pocan on the need for a just recovery and an end to the excesses of self-dealing and prevarication that have marked the bailout so far. Warren spoke of the Essential Workers Bill of Rights she introduced along with Rep. Ro Khanna. The entire conversation was a refreshing moment of true humanity amidst a spectacle of greed and manipulation. 

 I think—I hope—we've had enough

 In case you've been reading (or heaven forfend, believing) the self-aggrandizing and self-congratulatory statements of #IMPOTUS and his son-in-law, here are just a few true things about the unjust bailout thus far: 

 An unprecedented number of workers have applied for unemployment insurance, more than 30 million at this writing. This figure, the highest in history, masks a much higher number of those who haven't been able to get through a choked system to apply, aren't eligible because of the nature of their work, etc.

Two things are above all wrong with this picture. First, while it was indeed right to expand unemployment benefits in this time, it would have been far better to support everyone previously employed with "paycheck protection" (which could and should be a much bigger part of the next recovery package). It's much harder to be laid off, go on unemployment, then find another job in a depressed economy than it is to receive a paycheck subsidy via your employer and resume work when your workplace reopens. The differential ways this truth affects African Americans as a class is appalling, as this excellent article by Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor explains. 

 Second, the unemployment system is punitive, as are all other major U.S. social welfare programs. It assumes people are trying to defraud it, and makes the process of getting help difficult and often shameful. In terms of what can be deduced from how the system is actually run, it's clear the goal of preventing people from getting unemployment benefits is at least equal to the intention of supporting the unemployed. This leads to truly stupid things such as the governor of Kentucky publicly shaming an applicant because that person shares a name with a musical icon. And to vicious behavior such as the Republican governors claiming unemployment benefits will be denied to those who fear for their health in returning to the workplace. 

This week, Democrats in the House wrote to the Secretaries of the Treasury and Interior Department to request that $8 billion allocated to emergency relief for tribal governments be released, as not a single dollar has been provided in the five weeks since the CARES Act was authorized. These elected representatives—including Deb Haaland of New Mexico, co-chair of the Congressional Native American Caucus; Ruben Gallego of Arizona, chair of the House Natural Resources Subcommittee for Indigenous Peoples of the U.S.; Raul Grijalva of Arizona, chair of the House Natural Resources Committee; and Assistant House Speaker Ben Ray Lujan of New Mexico—wrote: 

As you are aware, the detrimental impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have had a disproportionate health care and economic impact on federally recognized tribes due a chronic lack of essential resources.

We respectfully request the Treasury Department immediately begin to disburse the $8 billion of Coronavirus Relief Funds to eligible federally recognized tribal governments ... in recognition of the negative impact that every day of delay has on Tribes.”

 So far, no response

 The disbursement of CARES Act funds has been a disgrace. Here's an article describing how 300 publicly traded companies (i.e., big enough to issue stock) have received bailouts at public expense while small businesses go begging. I've been collecting anecdotes from nonprofit organizations that have applied for loans under the Act. While some of them have received funds, most have been rejected with no reasons given. The well-grounded speculation is that since lenders profit from these loans, most are seeking to make a few large loans—minimizing effort and maximizing profit—rather than deal with smaller organizations. People have shared stories about banks making their own rules to deny loan applications, such as deciding they'll only be open to previous clients. 

 It's important to remember that #IMPOTUS et al are using this moment with great energy and ambition to roll back every form of protection for land, water, air, and life hard-won over previous decades. This pandemic and response are exposing the truth of power relations in this country. 

As I recently wrote, those who believe climate deniers are really in denial are helping to hide the truth. What if they've known what was coming and decided to lie, confuse, conceal their aims to expand and preserve their privilege as long as they can? 

Look at the last 50 years: U.S. wealth distribution went from fairly benign to the world's worst. That's the same 50 years since Earth Day started. 

Just as #IMPOTUS was warned about the pandemic and did nothing except profit at public expense, economic elites were warned about climate and did nothing except make it far easier to profit at public expense. They have stolen our commonwealth to build their own private islands, insulating the 1% from the coming storms. Our lives are the sacrifice they accept as their due. 

We need to stop calling them "deniers" or treating their denials as if they were sincere. No politesse. Call out what is being done for the benefit of those who find us dispensable, at our expense, in our names. 

More than anything else, naming these truths can make this a hinge moment. The coalitions lining up behind a #PeoplesBailout are truly impressive, suggesting that a critical mass of people who actually care about each other is gathering, one big enough to turn the tide. Let's see how big of a splash can be made for May Day   --and now, beyond May Day 

"Nobody Makes Money" by Fantastic Negrito. 

READ ABOUT The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future

Shalom, Arlene


Now, if you want to support the work that makes this substance possible, please honor the process. Please click on the maroon “Contribute”  button just below. That’s the process that keeps the substance coming. Thank you! --  Arthur

 

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Every Bush Afire with God!

“Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only those who see take off their shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries.”

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

(pronouns slightly modified)

This is the "Burning Bush" of azaleas just outside the windows of my house. I look at it each morning seeing it "crammed with Heaven," moved by what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel called “radical amazement.”  There's every reason to be that way amazed when plucking blackberries, if we open ourselves to it.

Another way of expressing it: The daily blessing over Creation, in Hebrew and a caring English translation -- more caring than convention-bound:

"YOtzer Ohr, u'vOrey ChOshech, Oseh shalOm,  u'vOrey et-ha'kOl."

"“Notice,” Rabbi Burt Jacobson taught me, “the vowel that defines the prayer: ‘O! O! O! O!’

"Oho!" said I. "If you were in a state of radical amazement, or to get yourself there, just O-pen your eyes, your mind, your heart to the world and chant the vowel, forget the words.” And sometimes I do. But, a little stubborn about the words, I also searched for English that would keep the “O!” ---

  "FOrming glOw, compOsing shadOw, Opening  shalOm, compOsing the whOle."

Or try this, back to “Every common bush afire with God.” I was asked last week by a leader of the United Church of Christ to supply one of 24 prayers, one to be released each hour on May 7, the “National Day of Prayer,” into the radically amazing World Wide Web of Earth.  That Burning Bush appears in all its inward blazing, near the end of this prayer.

In my view, serious political engagement will be necessary to transform and heal ourselves and Earth. And in my view, we must deepen and lift high this radical amazement at the root and flower of our politics, or it will curdle rather than transform.

 

To the Interbreathing Spirit of All Life

As You Cough and Choke amid Our Fires

You Who are the Interbreathing Spirit of all life,
You Who are the “still small Voice”

Who whispers breath into all living --

We hear You coughing, choking,

As we flood all Earth with burning smoke of carbon.

We hear You coughing, choking,

As human throats breathe in a virus

That comes as a plague to all of us --

Worse for those who already live on margins --  

And as a warning to our pharaohs..

 

We recall the burning crosses lit by hate and greed;

We recall the flame and smoke

That rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima.

That still rise from the burning forests of the Amazon,

Torched for the sake of fast hamburger and fast wealth.

We count the hottest years of human history

That bring upon us

Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.

Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.


Before us we among all life-forms
Face the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.

Yet with Your help, O Breath of life,

We come to douse that outer all-consuming fire.

To light again in our own hearts

The inner fire that burned in the Burning Bush –

The fire that did not consume the Bush it burned in.

And to hear the inner Voice that breathed a whisper

Of love and liberation amidst the inner flame:

For Love and Breath are strong as death --

Love’s fire that breathes in the heart of all Creation

     To ease Your Breath throughout Your Earth.

 

We vow to make from inner fire
Not an all-consuming blaze

But the loving light in which we see more clearly
The Rainbow Covenant glowing

in the many-colored faces of all life.

 

Woven by Rabbi Arthur Waskow.

Creative Commons Copyright (c) 2020 by The Shalom Center

<theshalomcenter.org>. Freely use with inclusion of this notice.

 

I do not think we can move toward the world we intend without opening ourselves to radical amazement. Radical amazement that every common bush is afire with the inner blaze of love, not just the "royal" few. That our amazing world is not hierarchical but ecological, each being nested in the others.

 

I also think we cannot move at all without multidimensional political action. I will be exploring those paths in the next few letters to you, and I bless us all with the wisdom, the courage, and the love to act . --  Arthur

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Two May Days? -- or Deeply One?

When I was a child in public elementary school, every May 1 we would dance around a Maypole, twirling colorful ribbons attached to the pole. My school was merely one among thousands all across America that celebrated a survival of the pagan earthy ceremonies of ancient Britain before the Roman conquest and then Christianity. 

In those ancient days, the pole and dancing young girls welcomed Spring with a barely cloaked fertility ritual in which a tree was central. The Puritans of New England outlawed the Maypoles as licentious, though it seems no orgies took place. During my childhood, the American Civil Liberties Union did not protest this merger of religion and the state in our schools.

There is another May Day, more overtly political and much more controversial. Yet at its deepest roots it is connected with the early May Day. Most US businesses, governments, and even labor unions have treated its presence on American soil as a foreign invasion. But it was born right here. And it has taken on new energy in our own American generation.

 In 1884, at its national convention in Chicago, the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions proclaimed that "eight hours shall constitute a legal day's labor from and after May 1, 1886."

Workers all across the country struck and demonstrated for the 8-hour day. It took more than 50 years to become US law, and still gets eroded or ignored for farm workers, domestic workers, “contractors” like Uber drivers, etc.

https://www.facebook.com/events/879524972549591/?active_tab=about

Why do I think the two May Days may have the same roots? Because in Spring the blossoms rise up against winter, and the people rise up against pharaoh, boss, commissar.

Passover -- the festival of simplest matzah from new-growth barley, of newborn lambs,  and of a newborn people seeking freedom through Exodus. Freedom is always new, unknown –  – growing beyond the Tight and Narrow Place to be reborn. The festive festival to chant the Song of Songs, an erotic poem led by women who probably danced under a Tree, a Pole.

The Song Beyond All Songs, voted by the Sanhedrin to be included in the Hebrew Bible on the day when its members forced their tyrannical Chairman to resign.

Both May Days joined at the root.

It is no accident, then, that May 4, 2020, marks the 50th anniversary of the day when four nonviolent student protesters opposing the US War Against Vietnam were killed by troops of the Ohio National Guard on the Kent State University campus. Rabbi Lee Moore, a member of the Board of The Shalom Center, will be leading an online Shabbat morning prayer service in their memory, and to honor all of those traumatized by the events of Kent and Jackson State – a Black university in Mississippi where two students were killed several days later for similarly protesting the war.

She will lead the service at 10 am on Shabbat, May 2, in a traditional, yet accessible Jewish format will offer simple Hebrew prayers with English explanations and transliterations. The service will be musical, contemplative, and connective.

Rabbi Lee Moore was born and raised in Kent, attending nearly every May 4th Memorial in the 1970's, 80's and beyond. She returned to Kent after her ordination in 2010 to serve as the Rabbi at Kent State's Hillel for seven years. She is an inspiring prayer leader (even on Zoom) and currently serves as the Interim Spiritual Leader of Brattleboro Area Jewish Community in Vermont. People of all backgrounds are warmly invited to join her and the BAJC to honor Shabbat and this important history that has shaped all of us.

To join, use this Zoom Link: https://zoom.us/j/4300550548
Password: 585655

Or dial in to (312) 626-6799 or
Find your local number: https://zoom.us/u/aDGFQQLVR

What is a gorgeous Spring day without a song of hope and joy? Insurgent Spring and Insurgent Humanity are joined at the root in this song, woven to fit the melody and rhymes of the socialist Internationale, while celebrating a more loving revolution:

The Earth Internationale                                                        

To hear the melody of the Internationale as sung in the original English version click here.

(New words by Rabbi Arthur Waskow)

Arise, ye prisoners of pollution;
Arise, ye poisoned of the Earth!
We dance to make a revolution—
A joyful world’s in birth!

No more the corporate smoke shall blind us,
We can hear the trees and oceans call --
Humankind amid Earth's breathing life-forms—
Together we are all!

As we face the crisis of all history,
Let us rise to heal our Place.
To save our deeply wounded planet
We must wake the human race!

[Creative Commons Copyright (c) by Rabbi Arthur Waskow 2018;

to be freely used with inclusion of this notice.]

Time to sing -- and to act. In this time  of Coronaplague, the Hyperwealthy are bailed out and the Plague is turned into a war against the American poor -- made to suffer even worse than usual:

 

Good yontif! And blessings for a May Day and months to come of joyful uprising --  Arthur

 

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Between the Fires: Invocation for Earth Week, Earth Year, All Years

Between the Fires:

An Invocation for Earth Week, Earth Year, All Years—

For Kindling Candles of Commitment

 

We are the generations

That stand between the fires.


Behind us

The burning crosses lit by hate

To choke our people in the smoke of terror;

Behind us the flame and smoke

That rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima.

 

Not yet behind us

The burning forests of the Amazon,

Torched for the sake of fast hamburger and fast wealth.

Not yet behind us, the glare of gun fire

exploding in our children.

Not yet behind us –

the hottest years of human history

That bring upon us

Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.

Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.

Before us we among all life-forms
face the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.

"Here! The day is coming,”

Said the Prophet Malachi,

“That will flame like a furnace,

Says YHWH / Yahhhh --

The Infinite InterBreath of Life --

when all the arrogant, all evil-doers,

root and branch,

will like straw be burnt to ashes

in the fires that they set.

Yet for all who revere

My Interbreathing Name, Yahhhh,

a sun of justice will arise

with healing in the beating of its wings,

its rays, its winds."

 

“Here! Before the coming

of the great and awesome day

of YHWH/ the Breath of Life,

I will send you the Prophet Elijah

to turn the hearts of parents to their children

and the hearts of children to their parents,

lest I come and smite the earth with utter desolation."

 

Here! we ourselves are coming

Before that great and terrible day

Of smiting Earth —

For we ourselves shall turn the hearts

Of parents to their children

And the hearts of children to their parents

So that this day of smiting

Does not fall upon us.

 

We ourselves are coming

To douse that outer all-consuming fire.

We must light again in our own hearts

the inner fire of love and liberation

that burned in the Burning Bush --

The fire that did not destroy the Bush it burned in,

For love is strong as death --

Love’s Fire must never be extinguished--

The fire in the heart of all Creation.

 

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

But the loving light in which we see more clearly
The Rainbow Covenant glowing

in the many-colored faces of all life. 

Woven by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, The Shalom Center

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3 Eco-Responsive Inserts for your Seder, if you wish

Between the Fires:
A Kavanah for Kindling Candles of Commitment

We are the generations

Who stand between the fires.

Behind us the fire and smoke
That rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima, 

Not yet behind us the burning forests of the Amazon,
torched for the sake of fast hamburger.

Not yet behind us the hottest years of human history
that bring upon us -- 
Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.
Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.
 
Before us we among all life-forms
face the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.

To douse that outer all-consuming fire

We must light again in our own hearts 

the inner fire of love and liberation 

that burned in the Burning Bush --

The fire that did not destroy the Bush it burned in, 

For love is strong as death --

Love’s Fire must never be extinguished:

The fire in the heart of all Creation.  

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

But the loving light in which we see more clearly
The Rainbow Covenant glowing

in the many-colored faces of all life.

       (By Rabbi Arthur Waskow)

 ### ### ###

Biblical Plagues

Contemporary Plague: Earthly Manifestation

Contemporary “Counter-Plague”: Liberatory Potential 

Water into Blood

Polluted, Undrinkable Waters and Mass Droughts, Super-Monsoons

Rainwater Catchments, Grey-Water Systems, Black-water systems. Reversing global scorching

Frogs

Invasive Species and “Forever Plastics”

Treat “Forever Plastics” as invasive species. Stop making them. Isolate them from oceans and other vulnerable milieu.

Lice

Opioid Epidemic

Trauma Healing on Individual, Collective, Intergenerational and Ancestral Levels

Wild beasts

Species Extinction

Major expansion of Species Preservation Act & Reforestation

Pestilence of livestock

Factory Farming Industry

Reducing Beef Consumption, Buying Local, Forbidding Antibiotic Suffusion of Livestock

Boils

Exacerbated Spread of Disease; Coronavirus Pandemic

Free Healthcare  for All

 

 

Thunderstorm of hail and fire

Superstorms and Wildfires

Local Disaster Preparedness Networks and dissolution of energy monopolies.

Locusts

Crop Failures.

Local, Organic Farms.


Darkness

Failure to see and empathize with other humans & other life-forms; Mass Blackouts, Reliance on mass fossil fuel monopolies

Creation of empathic communities

Congregation-based & neighborhood- based Solar Cooperatives; Renewable energy grids

 

 

 

 (By Faryn Borella, Ira Silverman Memorial Intern for The Shalom Center)

### ### ### 

[On opening the door for Elijah to enter:] Here!  I [YHWH,  Yahhhh, InterBreath of life, Wind of change], will send the prophet Elijah to you before the coming of the great and awesome day of Yahhhh, the InterBreath of Life. He shall turn the hearts of parents to children and the hearts of children to parents, so that, when I [YHWH, Yahhhh], come, I do not come as a Hurricane of destruction to strike the whole Earth with utter desolation. 

(Malachi 3: 23-24)

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