As virulent White Nationalism spreads, we must affirm and act on our solidarity and shared sorrow with the dead of “Tree of Life” and its site-sharing synagogues in Pittsburgh, of the Al Noor Mosque and Lynwood Mosque in New Zealand, of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
In Philadelphia, a dozen rabbis and about 20 other Jews responded by joining the Jumaah (Friday afternoon) prayers at Masjidullah, a leading mosque. We were warmly welcomed by the Muslim community. On Saturday evening, at LOVE Park near City Hall, about 300 people took part in a gathering initiated by CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic-Relations). Representatives of the city and state governments spoke alongside clergy from several religious traditions. I was able to share the seeing and the meaning of my Tallit (prayer shawl).
As you see, woven physically as well as symbolically into it are sacred places of Judaism and Islam – the Western Wall and the Dome of the Rock – and if you look carefully between them, the Rock itself on which Abraham our Forebear bound Isaac and from which the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, leapt into his mystical journey to Heaven.
I arranged to have it woven for me in 1974 after I added “Ishmael” to my Hebrew name (“Avraham Yitzchak Yishmael,” = "Ibrahim Is'haq" Ismail"“ = "Abraham Isaac Ishmael”) adding the traditional forebear of the Arab peoples and the transmitter of the values of islam taught by his parents Abraham and Hagar -- thus uniting in my name, my self, all the families of the Abrahamic tradition within me.
On Saturday night, I explained that ever since, when there is violence within the broader family between its different cohorts, I feel myself torn apart. When we turn to love and healing with each other, I feel whole within. I suggested we all need to see ourselves, each of us and each of our communities and traditions, with each of the others living within us. With that awareness expanding our tradition, not watering it down.
Not Muslim “theys” died in New Zealand, not Christian “theys”in South Carolina, not Jewish “theys” in Pittsburgh, but ALL OF US in all three places.
White Nationalism has become the Pharaoh oppressing us all. Just like the ancient Pharaoh who said to his folk of "pure blood and soil," --
“There is a people, immigrants with a different religion and a different language from our pure-blood Egyptians. who may turn against us, become terrorists to join with our enemies. We must subjugate them, enslave them, even murder their children. We must deploy brutal “overseers” [=racist police], incite unofficial members of the public into hatred and murder, and ultimately mobilize my horse-chariot Army to repress them!”
And this ancient Pharaoh and our modern pharaohs brought plagues upon not only human communities but our shared Mother Earth herself. Plagues that were eco-disasters, killing human beings through undrinkable water, famine, and disease.
We must see the Modern Pharaohs' attacks on climate science and decent climate policy as part of the same White Nationalist mind-set: -- For the Hyper-Wealthy Corporate Carbon Pharaohs, everything. For those who drink water, breathe air, farm the land, eat the food, nothing.
Friday was a day of disaster. It was also a day of grass-roots transformation. Tens of thousands of schoolchildren went on strike around the world, demanding that our governments act NOW to keep their lives livable 30 or 40 years from now.
Pharaohs always breed Resistance. Which will be victorious? The answer is blowing in the Wind, the Breath of Life, the Interbreathing Spirit of us all, that Holy ONE Whose Name can only be "pronounced" by breathing. And by Action.
The ancient Pharaoh's arrogance, stubbornness, cruelty ended when the Pharaoh’s power dissolved into the Sea of Reeds.
Today We the People must become the Sea of Reeds. Each of us a reed that may for a moment bend but never break, after each momentary bending springing upright to catch the Pharaohs and dissolve their power.
We can turn our own memories of resistance to Pharaoh past, encoded in the Passover Seder, into an “insightment” of future transformation.
RThat is what the Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50 will be, as national leaders of the Resistance and local survivors-and-resisters of plagues come together. If you live in or near Philadelphia, you can register for a Dinner and/or the Seder at TINYURL.COM/FREEDOMSEDER50. The cost of both will rise on March 23, so register NOW. There will be no walk-ins.
If you live more than 70 miles from Philadelphia, you can pick up the live-streamed Seder by registering here:
You can invite friends to join with you, or organize a larger Seder. You can watch and listen to it all, or single out some parts and bring your own local leaders and organizers to speak.
Fifty years after the original Freedom Seder, in another time of deep crisis in American democracy and now in our planet’s history as well, I look forward to joining with you on April 7!
Shalom, salaam, paz, peace –- at a moment when each of those languages radiates both hurt and transformation. -- Arthur