Personal Reflections

Ordering "Dancing in God's Earthquake" by Rabbi Arthur

Rabbi Arthur Waskow's newest book, Dancing in God's Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion is his sketch of an achievable future that will heal American society from its bitterness and Earth from its deeo wounds. Gloria Steinem, Ruth Messinger, Rev. William Barber; Rabbis Art Green, Jonah Pesner, and Jill Hammer; Bill McKibben, Marge Piercy, and Jim Wallis have all read and praised it. Join them!

Changes at The Shalom Center

Dear friends,

 The Shalom Center is experiencing an important change in what has been our mostly internal process, and I want to take note of the valuable work that has characterized the nine-year tenure of Vivienne Hawkins, our Program Coordinator.  She is leaving to begin a new career as a life-coach with a strong spiritual orientation.

 She has been a mainstay of The Shalom Center during these nine years, a strong guarantor of the clarity and good sense of our finances and a yeoman worker under sometimes difficult circumstances in making possible our major events, like the Fiftieth-Anniversary Freedom Seder in April 2019.  I greatly admire how she has carried out both those crucial responsibilities.  May the spiritual work she is undertaking well meet her needs and the needs of our sorely wounded, distracted, and distorted world!

 We have made arrangements to undertake the Program Coordinator work with a team of hands-on outreach workers, the Justice Gardeners, who are closely connected to the Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, and with a financial service called the Network for Strong Communities that specializes in service to non-profits.

 Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste!  --  Arthur

We Need Your Help, This New Transformative Year

Here we are – a new Jewish year opening up for us. We can make it a year of great transformation in American society and in the planetary community of all life. The Shalom Center seeks your help in awakening the Spirit for that transformation.

OR -- It can be the year when the West Coast wildfires worsen, many more Covid sufferers die, so do young Blacks at the hands of police sworn to serve and protect them as well as all the rest of us.

Transformation will not be easy. The forces of Domination, Subjugation, even Cruelty, are at their worst when they see their power dissolving. Martin Luther King understood that the “deadly triplets” of racism, militarism, and materialism were threatening the entire future of America and Earth. We have added sexism, the oppression of women and of the GLBTQIA communities. Fifty years later, these four have clenched their fists together. 

And we who are trying to see the world (not just biology) through ecological eyes, through eyes that respect the great array of all life forms and honor all cultures of Spirit and inclusive democracy – we are also coming together.

For the Jewish People, this year can be – must be – extraordinary. There is an accounting of a seven-year cycle that has been kept for about 2500 years. In that accounting, one year from now, there begins what the Bible calls “Shabbat Shabbaton” --  a year of Sabbath to the exponential power of Sabbath. It is also called “shmita,” release.  Release of Earth from being overworked, release of human beings from being oppressed. 

For centuries, this tradition has been barely mentioned. But now!! – we must awaken it in action. So this coming year is the year we must work toward making those changes real.

At The Shalom Center, we are celebrating the cycle of the festivals as the sacred framework for our work. The festivals are the offspring of a love affair between the Jewish People and Earth. Now Mother Earth is badly wounded, and many human beings suffer from poverty, racism, war and war-like policing. Earth and Humanity need the healing help of their children the festivals.

  • This year, “Share Sukkot: Green and Grow the Vote.”
  • Make Hanukkah the festival of conserving energy by creating solar energy co-ops.
  • On Tu B’Shvat, RebirthDay of the Trees, we can act to reforest Earth.
  • On Pesach, we can face the Carbon Pharaohs of our day who bring plagues upon the people and the planet.
  • On Tisha B’Av, we can mourn the destruction of Temple Earth.

And so on. Indeed, we want to explore how to train Spirit-rooted activists of several traditions, not only Judaism, how to draw on their own symbols, festivals, and practices to heal Earth.

To undergird that broader effort, I wrote Dancing in God's Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion. It envisions how Judaism, Christianity, and other religious and spiritual traditions and communities could draw on and go beyond their existing teachings to create more life-giving and more truthful religious life in the future.

It is being published by Orbis Books in early October. If you want to have me and one of your local leaders weave a conversation with members of your congregation or book club, please drop me a note at Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org with “Book Conversation” in the subject line.

For all this, we seek your crucial help. In your own communities, can you help to focus the festivals this way? And can you support The Shalom Center in creating and sharing the new prayers, new actions, new ways of gathering that will help us free human beings from oppression and heal our Earth from the heat brought on by burning fossil fuels?

All this costs money. Money for teachers, money to send new prayers and practices across the continent, money to gather people in virtual meetings to learn and then to teach.

We ask you to click on the “Contribute” banner just below my signature to send the money that we will need, to make this happen. If it is possible for you, we ask you to send a minimum of $72, and if you can, reach up to $720. Why these numbers? Because the number “18” in Jewish mystical lore means “chai, life.” We seek to create new life in the mystical Four Worlds -- Spirit, Creative Intellect, Interpersonal Emotion and Ethics, and Physical Action. 18x4 = 72, and all its multiples: $144, $576, $720.

Is this just mystical, a mystery? When we transform the world, the mystery of Love becomes the practice of Justice and Eco-sanity. It becomes nourishing food, medical care, public health, decent affordable housing, solar energy, the end of racism in our police forces and the whole “criminal Justice” system.  The mystical and the practical become ONE. We ask you to join us in this transformation.

As always, I bless you with Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste!

And now I add, shanah tovah, shinui tov – a good year through transformation for the good!  --  Arthur

My small personal crisis and the Great American Social Crisis


Dear friends,

This past Wednesday afternoon, I found all my leg muscles very weak and my speech slurred. Seemed like it might be a stroke, so Phyllis with the help of wonderful friends hurried me into an ambulance to a hospital. The hospital found there was nothing at all wrong with my brain, but something was wacky with my liver. During the next 24 hours my liver calmed down. The medical hunch was that there had been a stone interrupting the internal processes of the liver, the stone passed,  the processes worked right, and I felt fine. On Friday afternoon they sent me home.

It was a powerful lesson: In the Hierarchical picture of the world, my Brain is in charge. The liver is deeply subordinate. But that is just not so. In an Ecological picture of the world, the liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, belly – – including even the million microscopic creatures living in my belly that are not even me – – as well as my brain work together to keep me alive and making sense. If I were to act as if my liver were unimportant, a mere appendage, disaster. Domination, subjugation can kill me.

There was another powerful lesson. The official ethic of the hospital was honesty and transparency with patients. But over and over during those 40 hours, particular medical professionals withheld vital information from me. Their refrain: "We didn't want to scare you." My refrain: "I'm a grown-up. I want to know the truth." It was only because I pushed and challenged that I found out what was going on.

"Easier" for them to control the information, even if that meant I didn't get fed dinner and didn't get medicine pills I needed. It was only because I pushed and challenged -- made them uneasy -- that I found out what was going on.

In the great American social crisis we are living through, the official ethic of America is democracy and honesty in government. But the White House has chosen Domination, Subjugation, and a flood of lies to support them as the mode by which to lead America. It has viewed with contempt and oppressive behavior the liver and the kidneys and the lungs of American society. It has done that literally in the face of a virus that is saying, “Pay attention to all the organs!” And so Americans are dying by unnecessary tens of thousands.

More metaphorically, the Black community which has always been treated like an unimportant liver in the American social system has wakened not only itself but many other organs of the system who understand the Ecological rather than the Hierarchical way of keeping America healthy. So there has perhaps for the first time, or perhaps for the first time since the Civil War, been a multiracial uprising against racism.

The White House, in its obsessive commitment to Dominate and Subjugate, is trying to deal with at uprising by making an American police state. That may create chaos, but it will not create health and prosperity.

That obsession with Subjugation is the politics of Pharaoh. It ended up drowning Pharaoh himself in the Sea of Reeds, but it took tens of thousands of Egyptians with him. First in ecological upheavals we call the Plagues, finally in the death of the firstborns.

What can we do? Nonviolent action both inside and outside the system are necessary. The House of Representatives should be refusing to appropriate any money at all for the Department of Homeland Security without a physical withdrawal of all its police forces from American cities, and with legislative provisions to prevent what has happened in Portland and now in Seattle. Senators committed to democracy with a small “d” should be filibustering every so-called “must-pass” bill until no American city is under Pharaoh’s occupation. The ACLU should be going to court everywhere to restore and renew the right to vote freely and to demonstrate freely.

And I do not think that this kind of action will happen, or will matter without nonviolent direct action by the people. I emphasize nonviolent. Even where a particular building is itself a repository of Subjugative violence, it will make more sense in this situation to avoid attacking that building. We should be enforcing a nonviolent discipline in order to gather against Pharaoh’s violence.  Closing the roads around such a building, closing the highways, creating a campaign for “denial of service” to computers in Department of Homeland Security and the White House – – all those will be necessary to protect us in our myriad vital organs of society from Pharaoh and from the Plagues that Pharaoh has brought upon us.

I want to come back to my own personal crisis of life and death. In October I will be 87 years old, and as one of those who is most vulnerable to terrible torment or death by the Coronavirus, I have been extraordinarily careful to protect myself and my immediate family.

In early October, what I think may be the most important work I’ve done since the Freedom Seder in 1969 will be published. It’s a book entitled Dancing in God's Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion. It’s an effort to reimagine Judaism, Christianity, and other religious communities as committed to an Ecological rather than Hierarchical vision of the world. I very much hope to be here, able to speak and to write and to teach what that book is saying.

Yet if between now and January 20, 2021, it is necessary to bring all my organs, all my body, into the struggle to prevent a police state under Pharaoh, then I will.

With blessings for each and all of us – – each human being and all life forms, free and unique organs to give life to the Loving and Beloved Community, the ONE –
 Arthur

Transformative Rebirth of The Shalom Center

The Shalom Center was born to play defense. Now it is time to play Transformation.

We were founded in 1983, specifically to speak a Jewish voice against the Reagan-Kosygin renewal of the nuclear arms race. Through the’ 90s until now, we have struggled against the poisonous disregard of various US governments and corporations for healing the wounded Earth. And since early 2017 we have been strengthening struggle against the would-be fascist government of Donald Trump.

All this time it has become clearer and clearer that we are struggling against one of the oldest and deepest tendencies of American culture and society – – the tendency to Dominate, Subjugate, encoded in racism against the Indigenous Peoples and the Black community. We have been struggling to support and redefine the other great impulse – – toward inclusive democracy, love for each other, and love for Earth.

Now we are seeing a great wave of that love – – especially in the form of a multiracial Uprising against racism. And we are also seeing the real danger of a violent attempt to negate democracy altogether, coming from a frustrated would-be fascist President.

When you are standing at the edge of a precipice, at the edge of the Red Sea, with an army of Subjugation right behind you, that is not the time for small and “incremental” steps that will simply drop you into the precipice, into drowning in the sea of the unknown. It is the time for the great leap across the precipice toward justice, toward compassion, toward the Beloved Community. So we are making the turn to Transformation.

Meanwhile, we are facing the need for rebirth in more mundane, more internal ways as well. Our remarkable nine-year-veteran Program Coordinator, Viv Hawkins, has decided to pursue a new life-career as a life coach. So we are looking for someone to fulfill that Program Coordinator role.

And even more intimately, my old computer has worn out its career. I have begun to work with a new one -- both a painful and a joyful experience.

Most intimately of all, I am in the midst of working on two books. One of them is Dancing in God’s Earthquake: The Coming Transformation of Religion. That one is already written, working its birthing process in the womb of its publisher, Orbis Books. It will be born in early October, just in time for Sukkot, the Harvest Festival. It is intended to harvest all the experience, “spiritual” and “political,” of my life – – and like a good harvest, to feed the future.

The other book, How to Liberate Your Passover Seder, is a collection of essays that my beloved Rabbi and life-partner, Phyllis Berman, and I are editing together. That one has about 40 essays, written by people who have actually enlivened and liberated their Seders, public and familial-friendly. The essays have been written, and that book is ready to find a publisher.

The most urgent of all these internal rebirths is our search for a new Program Coordinator. We are looking for someone who has the skills in a wide range of social media and the ability to grow the seeds of new ideas into sprouting, vital plants.  Details are at

https://theshalomcenter.org/content/seeking-program-coordinator-shalom-center-position-description

Please check it out if you seem to fit, or pass this message to your friends who seem to.

Shalom,  salaam, paz, peace, namaste! --  Arthur

Seeking Program Coordinator for The Shalom Center: Position Description

Seeking Program Coordinator for The Shalom Center: Position Description

The Shalom Center sees itself as a prophetic voice for a spiritually rich world-view committed to active work for justice, peace, and the healing of Earth-Human relationships.  We work in the Jewish, multireligious, and American worlds.

We see ourselves as a tugboat helping much larger organizations to change direction; as a seed-sower of new ideas to be carried out by others; and as an idea factory that seeks to get the ideas implemented.

We seek a full-time Program Coordinator who can improve or introduce a set of procedures to the work of The Shalom Center and use these tools and procedures to help its Executive Director --  Rabbi Arthur Waskow -- use his time for the unique work he does. 

There is a need to help Rabbi Waskow, people in his networks with whom he works, and the Board of The Shalom Center do strategic organizational planning to maximize impact and assure that daily work and special projects are done on an agreed schedule and help to advance the issues we engage and the position of the organization.

We are seeking a Program Coordinator who has demonstrated knowledge, skills, and experience in the following areas:

  • Jewish and other spiritually rooted values, rituals, and practice.
  • Policies to transform social relationships in regard to subjugation of Earth, racism, sex and gender discrimination, and economic inequality -- all to bring about an inclusive democracy, and a Beloved Community that embraces Earth and human earthlings, based in an Ecological worldview rather than one of Hierarchy and Subjugation.
  • The use of “soul-force” through the vote and vigils, sit-ins and stand-ups, empowerment of the powerless, in achieving social change.  
  • Strong experience in how to use social media platforms. Specifically, we now use but need to augment a Website, FaceBook,  email blasts including a blog, and Twitter.  We barely use Instagram, Reddit, YouTube, podcasts ,and other forms of social media management.
  • Ability to manage an email list of more than 10,000 names and on-line fundraising campaigns, requiring efficient database organization and management. There is a constant flow of emails that need responses or acknowledgment, scheduling, calls and reconciling of contributions, changes of credit cards, changes of address and the general administration of the organization.
  • The ability to work with Rabbi Waskow to help him get the work he wants to accomplish done, while making sure that work is being done on a predictable schedule.
  • The ability to participate and coordinate strategic planning efforts.
  • The ability to monitor and supervise a part time bookkeeper and intern.
  • The ability to assist in fundraising efforts.

The Shalom Center has a limited budget and limitless goals. We will pay a salary of $40,000 with annual cost-of-living increases,  necessary withholding, accrued vacation and sick leave, paid time off for civil and Jewish holydays, and a contribution towards health insurance.

Although a Philadelphia residence for the Program Coordinator would probably be more convenient, we do not believe it is essential,

We are asking for candidates to make a two-year minimum commitment to the position. We also want someone who can start in the position by August 15th at the latest to support a smooth transition with the current staff person who will leave in October.

Please send a letter of interest, a CV and supporting materials you believe will show your unique qualifications to: Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org with “Program Coordinator” in the subject line.

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