Rabbi Arthur Waskow
YOU-ALL are the constituency of The Shalom Center. Like ALEPH, we cut across denominations and for that matter across the rhetorical barriers between Jews who are secular, religious, and spiritual.
For that reason, I have been feeling responsible to give you a kind of "stakeholders report" on where our work has been and where it is going. This week, despite a deluge of other work, I have been able to catch my breath long enough to do that.
Two major projects are going forward. (These two are starred below.)
one that brings together younger tikkun-olam activists from all across the country, and
one that brings together people of different religious, spiritual, and secular communities to work on the issue of overwork and disemployment in American society.
In November '98 and November '99, The Shalom Center held gatherings of the "Next Generation of Tikkun Olam Activists," each time for a 4-day retreat at Elat Chayyim.
Thirty people between 25 and 35 years old who have been doing excellent social-action work around the country learned from each other and from four well-experienced "vatikim." They created an ongoing network, and spoke movingly and deeply about how important the gathering had been for them.
These two gatherings were funded by the Alan B. Slifka Foundation, the Rita Poretsky Foundation, and the Dorot Foundation. The first was coordinated by Abby Weinberg, the second by Erika Kotske -- both of them with great creativity, attentiveness, and vigor.
We have now received grants from the Righteous Persons Foundation, Cummings Foundation, and Haas Fund of San Francisco to pull together at least two more such gatherings -- one of these, to be people even younger, from 20 to 25 years old.
We also carried out the first stages of an inter-religious project on work, overwork, and disemployment in American society.
Jews, Christians, Buddhists, and Muslims are working together on this, along with labor-movement and environmental activists.
Out of all this came a statement called FREE TIME FOR A FREE PEOPLE. Among its signers are Rev. Tony Campolo, Dr. Cornel West, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Father George Higgins, Harvey Cox, Sr. Joan Chitister, Dr. Susannah Heschel, Rabbi Michael Lerner, Dr. Juliet Schor, Dr. Marcus Raskin, and Dr. Gar Alperovitz, and such key organizers and institutional activists as Kim Bobo (National Interfaith Committee for Workers Justice), Rev. David Dyson (People of Faith Network), Fred Azcarate (Exec of Jobs with Justice), Meg Riley (Unitarian Universalist Association), Paul Gorman (National Religious Partnership for the Environment), Mark Pelavin (Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism), S r. Christine Vladimiroff ( Order of St. Benedict), Sensei Pat Enkyo O’Hara (Zen Peacemaker Order), Imam Feisal Abdul-Rauf ( American Sufi Muslim Association), Rabbi Mordechai Liebling (Jewish Reconstructionist Federation), and key editors of Sojourners, The Other Side, and Witness (all important progressive Christian magazines).
If you drop a note to SHALOMCTR2@aol.com, asking for this statement, we will explain how to get it.
Doug Heifetz, an RRC rabbinical student and former grass-roots labor organizer, has been doing excellent work on the FREE TIME project.
This project was begun with a seed grant from the Alan Slifka Foundation. It will need sizeable grants to go forward. We are approaching a number of foundations.
The Shalom Center also supported my work in editing and bringing to publication TREES, EARTH, & TORAH, the Tu B'Shvat anthology recently published by Jewish Publication Society;
And it supported my work in editing TORAH OF THE EARTH, an anthology of 4,000 years of Eco-Judaism from the Torah to the musical midrash "Guarding the Garden," that is being published as a two-volume set in May 2000 by Jewish Lights. Its final text has just gone off to the publisher this past week. The work of proof-reading, promotion, etc etc will remain.
Besides all this, The Shalom Center provided two well-attended and strongly applauded week-long workshops at the 1999 Kallah: one on "Torah for a Grown-Up Human Race" led by Phyllis Berman & me (here I was actually wearing the ALEPH Pathfinder yarmulke) and one led by Naomi Steinberg of the Redwood Rabbis and Rabbi David Seidenberg (on the Shalom Center's "ticket") on integrating tikkun ha'lev and tikkun olam.
We have also set up a large and well-appointed Website at www.theshalomcenter.org with a great deal of material on tikkun olam and Jewish renewal. Lev Kosegyi has done excellent work here.
We continued sponsoring the Email discussion group "Jews Renewing Justice" ( JRJ-Net@shamash.org) (Join by writing Rabjeff@echonyc.com) Rabbi Jeff Marker is its Moderator.
The Shalom Center supported the beginnings of my work on a book on the Jewish life-cycle as a spiritual path that has developed over the last 4,000 years (and is still developing) -- a book something like Seasons of Our Joy. This book will be published, im rzteh hashem, by Farrar Straus Giroux.
We undertook the most thorough exploration in the Jewish community of ways to think Jewishly about and prepare communally to prevent, and if necessary to respond, to the possible risks of the Y2K computer glitch. This work was supported by a grant from the Nathan Cummings Foundation. It was carried on in close association with Elat Chayyim.
The Shalom Center supported my work with "Breaking the Silence," a network of US Jews committed to peace between Israel and the Palestinians, including my work in writing the "Seder of the Children of Abraham, Hagar, and Sarah," published last Pesach in Tikkun magazine. For this work we had grant support from The Shefa Fund.
We organized a second year of observance of the Yohrzeit of Abraham Joshua Heschel. For this work we had grant support from The Shefa Fund.
For excellent work while we were in Accord NY this past year we also owe thanks to part-time staffers Laurie Schwartz and Rachel Gurevitz .
Aside from specific project grants, we owe special thanks for general support to the Rita Poretsky Foundation and the Fabrangen Tzedakah Collective, as well as to hundreds of ALEPH members whose gifts help support The Shalom Center as well as other ALEPH programs.
Warm regards and shalom to you all,