Reb Arthur's Latest Thoughts

Trump Mulls: Burn the Constitution, the Planet, or Both?

(This is satire from the well-known Satire News Agency, the Dissociated Press. Satire reports not the immediate facts but the deeper Truth that emerges from understanding the immediate facts.)

Trump Mulls: Burn the Constitution, the Planet, or Both?

Dissociated Press [Washington DC, February 15, 2019]  A member of the Trump family has described to our reporter a private meeting of the Trump Family just before Donald Trump decided today to proclaim a national emergency on the Southern US border so as to build the Wall.

The family member reports that Donald said,  

“I’m considering burning the Constitution by ignoring its provision that only Congress can appropriate money, and grabbing money from various agencies to start building that Wall.  I want your advice: Will we make more money for the Family if I do this “national emergency” thing, or if I just focus on burning the Earth?

 “I’ve already been doing my best to burn all Planet Earth. I’m  encouraging the burning of as much coal, oil, and unnatural gas as possible, ending limits on automobile CO2 emissions, allowing coal-burning power plants from spewing their poison into the air.

“The GREAT thing is, all that carbon-burning also multiplies weird cancers and terrible asthma epidemics in the Black and Brown neighborhoods, who don’t belong in our country anyway and harbor thousands of would-be terrorists. We protect America by keeping them busy with their kids in hospitals.

“Of course there is no national emergency on the border.  The real emergency is that I might lose the 2020 election if I don’t get that Wall built.

“I notice just today, my Trump Organization announced that so many elitist and globalists are angry at me they won’t stay in my Hotels any more. The new hotels we planned will have to wait.

 “So those 'globalists' like Soros and Steyer (you know who I mean, but I can’t say the whole truth about them out loud – yet!) are going to explode if I burn the Constitution too. But my loyal followers will love me even more, so it’s my best chance to win in 2020.

"The Dems will go to court, of course. But so what if they win? Once I’ve burned one part of the Constitution, what’s to stop me for burning more? As my hero Andy Jackson when the Supreme Court tried to stop him from forcing those Pocohontas Cherokees to move their asses out of Georgia, ‘John Mashall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!’

“And besides, it’s such a thrill to see McConnell so scared!  He’s so scared I’ll support somebody to beat him in the primary,  I bet if I got the actual original copy of the Constitution out of the Archives and told him to light the match to burn it on the White House lawn, he’d swallow hard and do it.

“But if it will hurt the Hotels, should I do it?   Win the Presidensity, lose a few hotels  -- is it worth it to our bottom line?”  

 

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Supporting the "Green New Deal"

Dear friends, “Sunrise” is the mostly young-people movement that first put the Green New Deal on the map. I am sharing with you an invitation to an “emergency mass phone call” at 8 pm EST  THIS evening (WEDNESDAY Feb 13) to plan an effort to win as many votes as possible in the Senate for a resolution by Senator Markey of Massachusetts in support of the concept. (See below for why this vote is coming and why to press for support.) 

My own view is that the Green New Deal offers by far the best chance of success in our struggle to prevent climate chaos, because it joins the struggle for social justice with the struggle for eco-sanity. 

This is rooted in our best religious and spiritual traditions – for instance, the biblical Shmita/Sabbatical Year both releases the Earth from overwork and releases debtors from their debts.

 -– AND it flowers with the most effective possible political energy, for it responds to all the pent-up desires in American life for well-paid working-class jobs that will be needed to create the green renewable-energy society. And it addresses the need for a just transition from Carbon to renewable energy by affirming the need for new jobs for those now locked into Carbon industries and for special aid to depressed and isolated communities, rural and urban. 

 So I hope you will join in the call tonight. For the link to register, see here & below.


https://zoom.us/webinar/register/1115500645166/WN_-uff9AwNRJqMiX9opzFQ2g?link_id=0&can_id=de6277e02b2b184c1a1c39f5bf6caf62&source=email-“Sunrisbreaking-senate-vote-on-green-new-deal&email_referrer=email_494332___subject_636448&email_subject=breaking-senate-vote-


 Shalom, Arthur

 

FROM "SUNRISE":

Yesterday, Mitch McConnell announced he’s bringing the Green New Deal resolution to a vote in the Senate. Tonight we'll hold an emergency call to chart out our response. 

 

Rabbi Arthur, 

Yesterday, Mitch McConnell announced he’s bringing the Green New Deal resolution to a vote in the Senate. He’s wagering that he can use this to destroy the momentum for the Green New Deal before we are able to build support in the Senate. 

We intend to make him regret it. Tonight, we’re launching our plans to fight back. Join our Emergency Mass Call tonight at 8pm EST. 

McConnell made this call because he works for the fossil fuel billionaires, not our generation, and they are scared. They see the movement we’re building: the thousands of people visiting offices this week, the bipartisan support for the Green New Deal in the polls, and the wall-to-wall media coverage about a real solution to climate change. 

This vote raises the stakes higher than ever. We don’t expect to win this vote: fossil fuel money still runs Washington -- for now. But, it is a huge opportunity. It forces every member of the Senate to make a choice: will you vote for a plan to guarantee every American clean air and water, a stable climate, and a good job? Or will you stand with Mitch McConnell and the fossil fuel billionaires who are willing to put millions of lives in peril so they can pad their profits? 

Mitch McConnell thinks he can win this fight in 2019 -- but he’s actually just starting the process of losing it in 2020.

Once Senators on the record, we can hold them accountable, and begin the process of turning over our democracy to the people who are willing and able to fight for all of us - not just the billionaires. We’ll build a youth-led electoral army that will help our friends and punish the members of Congress working against us. 

It starts tonight, when we’ll meet to talk about our plan to push as many Senators to side with us before the vote, and our 3 year plan to take back power and pass a Green New Deal - no matter what happens in the coming weeks.

RSVP to join the call here.

Mitch McConnell and his allies have no plan to stop catastrophic climate change. They have nothing like this movement. All they have is fear, division, and distraction. Their time is over. It’s not going to be easy, but I believe that we can do this. 

Sunrise is a movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. If someone forwarded you this email, sign up here to get updates from Sunrise.

 

 

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Howard Schultz and The Challenge of "Class Suicide"

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

   

By Arlene Goldbard

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shalom, Arlene


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Howard Schultz running for president

Howard Schultz running for president The only problem or questions I have about the article is this. Number one if Trump as an outside wealthy person can run then why not Howard Schultz. Number two we are not supposed to have professional politicians. Regular citizens are supposed to be able to run for office. Yes you would need great personal wealth to do that but that is not Howard Schultz’s fault. It’s the fault of current politicians and policies. We should get rid of citizens United. We could limit campaign contributions to small amounts like $1000 per person per candidate per election. We could rule out all group donations. No businesses no organizations no institutions no unions. No collecting on behalf of a group of people. We could go to public funding. Before we blame Howard Schultz for wanting to run regardless of his personal position or reasons. Maybe we should completely revamp our voting system. The way we fund elections. Thanks for reading. Larry.

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Colors of Resistance at the Women’s March

By Cherie Brown

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

^^^^^^^^^

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace --  Arthur

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Anti Semitism and Justice forPalestinians

As you have, I have sent my life opposing anti Semitism at all level of society. However having visited Israel a number of times, I am aware that much anti-Semitism arises from the identification of Jewish identity with the State of Israel and its occupation policies of the Palestinian Territories and the Palestinian people. More attention needs to be given to this problem. Opposing Israel's dragonIan policies toward Palestinians is not equivalent with being jewish. We need to recognize this distinction and not ignore it in our opposition to anti-Semites.

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

Repairing the World with Solar

By Anya Schoolman*

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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"Some are guilty; ALL are responsible"

The 46th yohrzeit  -- death-anniversary – of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the most fruitful Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, in the Jewish calendar is 18 Tevet. It falls this year on the evening of December 25 through the day of December 26. 

The quotation that entitles this Shalom Report comes from Heschel, repeated over and over during his spiritually rooted activism of the 1960s  -- - often side by side with Dr. Martin Lutherr King, as here, when  they were protesting the US War against Vietnam -- .

That teaching -- "All are responsible" --  has its seed in a much earlier essay (1944) that asked who was responsible for the bloodbath of World War II. He named who was guilty -- and then said all of us were responsible. It is that essay that I suggest we explore to honor Heschel's yohrzeit.

His yohrzeit comes during the week when Jews begin the reading of the Book of Exodus, the Torah portion known in Hebrew as Sh’mot, where the struggle begins for freedom from slavery to Pharaoh.  That timing is especially appropriate because Rabbi Heschel spent much of the last ten years of his life struggling against the Pharaohs of racism and war. He joined his intellectual and spiritual commitment to the ancient Hebrew Prophets with his own prophetic physical activism on the streets -- demanding voting rights for Southern Blacks and opposing the US War against Vietnam.

And this year it is especially appropriate for us to honor him on his yohrzeit, because the present US government embodies Pharaoh -- espousing white nationalism, making racism official policy, and enabling a cruel war against the people of Yemen.  And because we are witnessing the birth and growth of a vigorous Resistance that Heschel would have joined.

Two years ago, facing the victory of a proto-fascist presidential candidate, I chose to offer for study the same essay, which he published in February 1944 on “The Meaning of this War” [World War II]). In it he examined the responsibility of liberal Westerners in Germany, Europe, and perhaps America, in not responding to the pain and despair of the suffering Germans who chose to support Nazism. (The essay appears on pp. 210-212 of a brilliant selection of Rabbi Heschel’s writings edited by his daughter, Susannah Heschel --  Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity [Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996]).

 "Let Fascism not serve as an alibi for our conscience,” he wrote. "Where were we when men learned to hate in the days of starvation?

"When raving madmen were sowing wrath in the hearts of the unemployed?"

Two years ago, I asked the question, what had we liberal Americans failed to see or do while the sense of defeat, demoralization, despair were turning into rage among millions of rural and small-town Americans who had been robbed of their jobs and their sense of personal worth, spiritual and cultural values -- and even their life expectancy?

Were we reexamining our selves, our own willingness to enhance our own comfort while ignoring their pain? Were we rallying to meet their needs, or looking down our noses at them as outdated members of a lost America? –

 Could we have insisted on including them not instead of but in addition to the full inclusion in America of Blacks, Latinx, women, immigrants, LGBTQ folk, Muslims, Jews? Insisting that no one should be left out of America? 

Heschel continued, "Good and evil, which were once as real as day and night, have become a blurred mist. In our everyday life we worshipped force, despised compassion, and obeyed no law but our unappeasable appetite. The vision of the sacred has all but died in the soul of man."

Why do I urge us once again, today, to study this out of all Heschel’s wisdom? Because now we must look to the future, not the past. We have seen our country begin to turn the corner away from fascism. Vigorous nonviolent actions like the Poor People's Campaign and the young climate activists Sunrise have inspired and connected with a newer generation of electoral candidates, many of them women previously outside political activism. They affirm the need not to go back to the one-eyed neo-liberalism of the past, but to open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to imagine and enact a new society.

[Sit-in at Speaker-elect Pelosi's office by Sunrise activists demanding a Green New Deal, joined by Congresswoman-elect Cortez]

There lies before us still another election. Can this new vision succeed? Can it affirm and respond to the angst felt by many of the “forgotten Americans” who turned their angst into hatred?

Can we like alchemists of heart and soul turn their leaden weight of fear and hatred into the gold of active hope and hopeful change?

Can we do this with a vision that speaks not only to them but also to millions of other “forgotten Americans” –- some among the Black, Latinx, and young communities –- who have given up on politics altogether – whether in the voting booth or marching on the streets  -- and in despair or overwhelm stay home?

I have suggested that we might cut through old barriers of race and class and gender by including in a Green New Deal a Neighborhood Solarization Administration, bringing grant money, job training, and well-paid jobs to co-ops in urban and rural neighborhoods alike, as the old New Deal brought the Rural Electrification Act to co-ops of farmers who had been left out of what was then the new technology.

And I have suggested that these same co-ops become centers of community, of cultural festivals that enrich not only the pockets but the souls of their members, and embody in their community a commitment to the Community of Earth that their solar energy is helping heal.

This is a hunch, a hypothesis. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

I suggest that to honor Heschel this week, we read this essay at https://theshalomcenter.org/node/63> and discuss these questions. And I suggest we take this moment to gather study groups to read together, essay by essay, Susannah Heschel’s collection of them in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity.

Meanwhile, if our lifting up for you this Heschel-Torah brings you into a new exploration within your self  -- then please right now, as the old year ends, make a tax-deductible gift to The Shalom Center.

It takes unfreezing the frozen energy of money to keep us thinking, researching, writing, --  even to keep getting arrested to test out these ideas -- and to keep mailing these thoughts to you. You can do this by making a contribution through the maroon "Contribute" button on the left-hand margin of this page.

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Solar Swadeshi

Having been interested in solar energy for more than 40 years, I understand the possibilities you see in solar coops. I have been thinking about solar within the context of Gandhian economics, nonviolent economics, as a representation of his concept of swadeshi, local production, and the daily discipline that is the "soul of satyagraha." I have written about the idea here http://solarray.blogspot.com/2005/05/solar-swadeshi-hand-made-electricity.html some 13 years ago and practice it myself by having one room off-grid in my rented apartment for longer than that as well as carrying a solar backpack that provides my bike light at night. The fact is that emergency electricity - light, communications, small battery charging - now costs about $10 retail (http://solarray.blogspot.com/2018/09/personal-power-set.html) and is available to just about anyone who recognizes the possibility. This emergency electricity capacity is also entry level electricity for the billion or so around the world who don't yet have access. Having talked about this concept for decades now, I find that there is absolutely no interest in the environmental community in this personal and practical application of solar as swadeshi. I have even imagined personal solar power as part of a boycott of grid electricity, a solar walkaway, but I doubt that anyone else does. Good to know that there are others out there who are thinking somewhat along the same lines. Solar IS Civil Defense, George Mokray 218 Franklin Street #3 Cambridge, MA 02139 617-661-2676 gmoke@world.std.com http://hubevents.blogspot.com - Energy (and Other) Events around Cambridge, MA http://hubeventsnotes.blogspot.com - notes on lectures and books http://solarray.blogspot.com - renewable energy and efficiency - zero net energy links list http://cityag.blogspot.com - city agriculture links list http://geometrylinks.blogspot.com - geometry links list http://www.dailykos.com/user/gmoke/history - articles, ideas, and screeds

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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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