Reb Arthur's Latest Thoughts

Ring the bells that still can ring!

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

From us.

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

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

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

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

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A Tale of Two Pharaohs, Ancient & Right Now

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The most effective climate-crisis organization see that not just climate policy but major aspects of ur culture and society will need to change.Some of them seek to embody the changes in themselves. 350.org , for example, from the beginning saw a world-wide transnational movement as the only way to make transnational change.  You can see its transnational program here: https://350.org/

Two new movements, just aborning, invite us. One, stirred by the election victory of many new Members of the House of Representatives, challenged Speaker-in-waiting Pelosi with a mass sit-in at her office. It called for a Green New Deal aand for the creation of a new House Select Committee to -–

“Develop a detailed national, industrial, economic mobilization Plan for a Green New Deal for the transition of the United States economy to become carbon neutral and to significantly draw down and capture greenhouse gases from the atmosphere and oceans and to promote economic and environmental justice and equality.” That call to draw CO2 out of the air and oceans so as to restore a healthy climate is a new development, not heard before outside the esoteric ranks of some climate scientists.

 For the full text of the proposal, see https://www.scribd.com/document/394390447/Select-Committee-for-a-Green-New-Deal-Draft-Text

This effort will need strong public support for it to be adopted by the House and to have strong proponents of climate action appointed to it by Ms. Pelosi.

Meanwhile, arising in Britain in mass demonstrations, street blockages, etc., is a new network that sees itself as outside the system, committed to nonviolent civil resistance, called Extinction Rebellion.  It has already begun demonstrations in Washington, DC. For more information:

https://xrebellion.org/   and https://rebellion.earth/


Connecting with these groups are clusters within the religious and spiritual world that explicitly draw on that same Interbreath of Life/ Wind of Change/ Spirit of the World that animates the story of the ancient Pharaoh. The Shalom Center is committed to this path and to doing all we can to reenergize the yawning, sleepy giant of multireligious Amerca to address the greatest crisis in human history.

American religious communities have in the past taken and could in the future take a major role in bringing about social transformation for greater justice.

Some American religious communities have during the last several years become far more active in organizing against various aspects of white nationalism (hostility to immigrants and refugees; to minority races,  ethnic groups and religions;  to women and to GLBTQ communities).

But they have paid far less attention to the most dangerous of all governmental and corporate policies – those that attack Earth’s web of life through intensifying the climate crisis and the growing mass extinction of many species.

In some communities there have grown up assumptions and behaviors that isolate “social justice” and “ecological healing” from each other. We see that in reality in our generation social injustice and ecological destruction are intertwined.

At the “top,” the Hyperwealth of Corporate Carbon Pharaohs, itself amassed by providing needed energy in ways that poison someneighborhoods and endanger the Earth. The enormous profits from this enterprise are then invested in buying politicians, the media, and even some scientists to deny or obscure the danger. All this provides one of the clearest cases of social injustice.

At the “bottom,” eco-disasters strike first and worst against the poor and disempowered, whether by carbon-caused asthma in urban neighborhoods where coal power plants and oil refineries are emplaced, or by massive floods and droughts that bring famines on the poor, starvation on the hungry. So we see, and will integrate in our training, that in reality in our generation the goal must be “eco-social justice.”

Some in the climate-science community have begun to develop usable and researchable proposals for drawing down CO2 from the atmosphere and oceans, because even achieving a zero-emissions regimen will leave a huge CO2 deposit that will continue and worsen the destabilization of world climate. We believe faith-rooted climate organizers will need to examine these approaches from the vantage point of an ethical concern and to understand and encourage support for some of them. The Shalom Center has been in touch with these scientists and is working toward a way of integrating ethical and technological approaches.

We stand at what could be a turning point, if we act. Intense public attention has been awakened by the California wildfires and by the dire warnings of both the US National Climate Assessment and the UN-sponsored report by the world’s scientists, in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. And that newly awakened public now has a new focus and arena for national action -- a new swarm of climate-concerned Members of the US House of Representatives.  

“If we act”?  The Shalom Center will act. With your help, we will bring more of the Jewish and multireligious communities into this utterly sacred work.

Blessings to us all of Clarity, Courage, and Commitment!  --  Arthur

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Two Pharaohs

Thank you for this powerful, prophetic cry out to Pharaoh. I would only add that another grave threat to the planet is that of nuclear weaponry.

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Hanukkah Candles or California Fires?

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

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

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

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

 

Between the Fires:

A Kavvanah (Focus) for Kindling Candles of Commitment

We are the generation that stands  between the fires:

Behind us the flame and smoke 

that rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima;

From the burning forests of the Amazon,

From the hottest years of human history

That bring upon us Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.

 Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.

Before us the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,

The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.

 

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

But the light in which we see each other fully.

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

We light these candle-fires to see more clearly 

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

We kindle these fires to see more clearly

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

Blessed is the One within the many.

Blessed are the many who make One.

 

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Giving Thanks, Arlo Guthrie, & My 1st Yarmulke

A Ritual of Joyful, Thankful  Resistance

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

Why?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 


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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 So he came back to the witness room, crushed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Living Fringes on the Edges of America -- Again

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

*** *** ***

 1. Why are Fringes Sacred?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 --    Rabbi Arthur Waskow

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2. Wearing a Kippah

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

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

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

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

 --   (((Alan Wagman)))

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

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

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

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

--   Rabbi Phyllis Berman

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4. Letter to President Trump from Pittsburgh Jewish Leaders

President Trump:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This means all of us.

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

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

Signed,

Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh Steering Committee

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

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

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New Webinar: “Sacred Seasons of the Sacred Earth”

 ANIBEW A

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

WHO, WHAT, WHEN

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

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

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

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

 

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

WHERE & HOW

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

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

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

WHY

Why are we doing this?

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

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

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

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

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

Join us for this series. Register now!

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

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace --  Arthur & Alanna

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NO Bully on the Supreme Court!

In yesterday’s hearings at the Senate Judiciary Committee, Judge Kavanaugh reacted at the political level exactly as Dr. Blasey Ford describes his behavior at the physical level.

He wants a seat on the Supreme Court; at the possibility of being denied it he responded with fury and verbal violence. Just so, when he wanted sex and was refused it, he responded with physical violence. He is a bully, and everything we know about his judicial behavior and what we now know from three distinct women about his physical behavior jibe. They fit together.

The American people do not deserve a bully on the Supreme Court. Please call your own Senators and Senators Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, and Lisa Murkowski to urge them to vote No on confirming Kavanaugh, because he has shown himself to be not unqualified but DISqualified to sit as a judge, let alone on the Supreme Court.

This decision will affect the next 30 years of American history. It is not only women he will bully, though it was notable that he expressed his bullying even more toward the women Senators than toward the critical male Senators. Those of us who are men have a sacred responsibility toward our own honor, to the decency of our male children and grandchildren, and to all Americans to teach that being male does not mean being a bully and a rapist.

Torah teaches that we celebrate Sukkot because the first sukkot were places of protection for refugees – the vulnerable runaway slaves of the Exodus.   (Lev 23: 43).  This Sukkot, it is a Jewish obligation to help build American  society as a sukkah, a place of shalom for all the vulnerable. A place to shelter all of us from bullies.

To do that we must act now by calling, visiting, imploring, sitting-in --   insisting that our Senators vote against empowering a bully;  help Grow the Vote  by working to register new voters (especially from millennials and others who have a history of low voter turn-out in “off-year” elections) and follow through by voting ourselves and helping others vote in November.

Ufros alenu sukkat shlomecha-  Spread over all of us the Sukkah of Shalom! 

 

__  Arthur

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A Prayer for This Morning as Our Country Faces Sexual Assault by Men in Power

A Prayer for This Morning

(Written by Rabbi Tamara Cohen)

Dear God Who opened Hagar’s eyes to the desert wellspring that saved her life, 

Dear God Who was with Hannah as she cried out her heart to the priest Eli, deafened by his position and authority and judgment, 

Be with Christine Blasey Ford today as she opens her lips to share her painful truths in a seat of patriarchal power.

May those who seek her harm be stilled!

May those who quake with their own memories find support and comfort.

May those who go to parties tonight and any night seeking joy, acceptance, release, adventure, never be pinned down, ridiculed, forced to yield the basic freedom to their bodies’ autonomy, to their souls’ intactness, to their future’s possibilities. 

May You be also with Deborah Ramirez and Julie Swetnick and all brave women who speak out and risk their safety for the sake of the safety of others.

And may those who seek to limit the freedom of women in the name of their own freedom or in the name of their faith, come to see that the way to protect the sanctity of life is right before them every day --- in the workplace, in their families, on the streets and in their schools, 

Because each chance to treat a human being as a human being is an opportunity to honor the sanctity of life.

     And let us say, Ameyn!

 (Written by Rabbi Tamara Cohen, September 27, 2018)

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Making this New Year a Transformation Time

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

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

To keep doing this, we need your help.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All of this costs money. We need your help.

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

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

Together.

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

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“Avraham -- IBRAHIM!” : Eid Mubarak & Shanah Tovah

During the next month, Muslims and Jews throughout the world will celebrate a transformative moment in the life of Abraham, whom both traditions see as their most ancient sage and teacher.

The story begins with God calling “Abraham,”  who answers, “Here I am!” He remains steadfast in deep faith even when God tests him by telling him to sacrifice his beloved son. But when the terrible moment is actually upon them, God's messenger calls “Abraham -- -- ABRAHAM!” Why twice? Because Abraham had committed himself so deeply to do what gave him great pain that he did not stop the knife from falling until God called again.

This was the moment of transformation that both traditions celebrate as the birthing of their vision.  And it teaches us that today, even in a dangerous moment in the history of America and of our Mother Earth, even when some of our leaders are bringing down the knife upon our children and grandchildren, we the People can still turn our ears and our hearts to hearing the Voice of justice and compassion. And transform our future.

Muslims will honor this story beginning the evening of August 21, with Eid al-Adha --  Festival of the Offering --  in which the key element is sharing food with the poor, in memory of Abraham’s offering of a ram as a substitute for his son. Jews will honor it beginning the evening of September 9 till the evening of September 11, with Rosh Hashanah, by reading in the Torah the stories of Abraham’s relationships with his two sons --  stories of danger and pain that end in survival and success.

The ancient tale -- as often happens in a family remembering some crucial moment in their history – takes on different versions in the two traditions, and in Christianity as well. Many Jews, Christians, and Muslims have focused on the differences as a source of enmity. I have had the joyful opportunity to work with an extraordinary Christian leader and an extraordinary Muslim leader to weave together the different versions --  not ignoring the differences, but seeing them as complementary teachings of different spiritual truths.

We turned that effort into a book published by Beacon Press,  The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

My comrades in that effort were Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister, a Roman Catholic feminist, working toward the transformation of her own tradition and community – and Murshid Saadi Shakur Chishti (Dr Neil Douglas-Klotz), a Sufi Muslim teacher of the Aramaic spirituality and culture that gave birth to Rabbinic Judaism and to Christianity. Around each of these teachers has grown up a world-wide community of spiritual searchers.

Each of us wrote ten essays on how and what we learn from the whole saga of Abraham’s family as it appears in the Torah (me), in the Christian Testament (Chittister), and in the Quran (Chisti). Then together we wove the story of Abraham’s and his family’s life.

When we had finished writing, we shared our work with Karen Armstrong, still another world-renowned teacher of the history and meaning of religion. She wrote a profound preface for the book.

During the past several years I have heard from synagogues, churches, and mosques that exploring the book has opened new understandings for their members. Since our generation remains caught in a history when many Jews, many Christians, and many Muslims see the other traditions as their enemies, it may be useful to take this season as a time to read and discuss it.

Though no Christian festival is as focused on Abraham as the Jewish and Muslim ones are, the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, October 4, may appeal to many Christians as a relevant time. Francis opposed the Crusades --  an act of heresy and treason in his day – and studied with Muslims to enrich his Christian prayer.

You can order copies of the book by clicking here:

http://www.beacon.org/The-Tent-of-Abraham-P657.aspx

As a member of The Shalom Center community, you can achieve a 10% discount from the cost of the book by inserting the word “tent” (with no quote marks) when in making the purchase you are invited to insert a promotional code.

Beacon wrote:

 "The Tent of Abraham is the first book to tell the entire story of Abraham and to reenergize it as a basis for peace. It explores in accessible language the mythic quality and the teachings of reconciliation that are embedded in the Torah, the Qur’an, and the [Christian] Bible."

   

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