Dear friends, readers, members --
What has The Shalom Center accomplished during the past year?
I will be listing some specifics, but before doing that, I want to note that this year was unique -- because I myself had both the extra burden and the unexpected love and learning that came from doing all this while recovering from the broken leg, broken ribs, and their aftermaths that I suffered in the auto crash of August 21, 2009.
I surely would not have chosen the pain and the pressure that I experienced, especially during the first half of this year – but deep learning and deep loving did come through it. My deepest thanks to you-all for your responsiveness.
I hope that even as I continue to grow past the Great Crash, you will continue to be responsive with your help -- through action, through ideas, and materially -- through your gifts.
By summing up our work of this past year, we want to be clear what your gifts make possible, and ask you – urgently -- to help make more possible, with a tax-deductible donation now.
You can make your donation by clicking on the "Donate" banner on the left-hand margin of the Website
We especially ask you to make a continuing monthly donation through your credit card -- $36 a month, $18 a month, $10 a month. And if you prefer a one-time gift, that's utterly welcome too.
Now here's the year's report:
1. One effort that began before last January, is blossoming now, and will reach full fruition this spring:
The Shalom Center has opened up the time and space for me to think, to share ideas with you, and to work with my beloved Rabbi Phyllis Berman to create the book Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus and Wilderness Across Millennia that Jewish Lights will publish in February.
The original Freedom Seder, which I wrote in 1969, was my "bar mitzvah" doorway into Jewish life, my first tentative Godwrestle with how to see the Exodus. Now I have been able to draw on forty-plus years of Torah learning and life-experience, plus 25 years of life and learning with and from Phyllis, plus almost ten years of serious engagement for the two of us with Jews, Christians, and Muslims together, plus 28 years of action and shared learning with you-all through The Shalom Center, to made possible this "grown-up" understanding of the Exodus. A lot more Questions than the Four Questions of the Seder, I can tell you!
Thank you – and to keep this process growing, please help The Shalom Center through your actions in the world and your donations to our work.
2. All through this year, we have sent out Shalom Reports about life, politics, and Torah. Hundreds of you have written to say how they have enriched your life. It takes money to keep them coming.
3.This past year, we did a deep reworking of our Website and entered the FaceBook and YouTube worlds. Color, videos, brief notes, more than 1300 FaceBook friends, a much clearer and more inviting structure of the several thousand essays on our Website. All of this took money (and still does).
4. When fear and hatred of Islam erupted across America and even among Jews who should know better than to demonize a religious minority, we spoke out for not only toleration but celebration of religious diversity. On CNN, on MSNBC, in the largest daily newspaper in Tokyo, on the streets of New York when we welcomed Park51 with a Jewish housewarming ceremony of bread, salt, honey, and a candle, in far-flung TV public service announcements, in interviews with US State Department radio, at the National Press Club in Washington, we spoke out.
5. When the US Senate betrayed its duty to protect America and the Holy Temple of our entire planet from the destructive force of global scorching and from the modern Pharaohs of Big Oil and Big Coal, we helped organize a multireligious, multicultural vigil and prayer service on Tisha B'Av at the Capitol –perhaps the first time ever that Christians, Muslims, atheists, Wiccans joined with Jews to mourn on Tisha B'Av.
6. When the AFL-CIO and the NAACP called tens of thousands to join at the Lincoln Memorial on behalf of "One Nation – Working Together," we helped organize the interfaith segment of the gathering and I spoke to that throng – drawing on Martin Luther King's great speech there, echoing his outcry, "We are not satisfied!"
7. At synagogues in Chicago and Pittsburgh; at churches in Baltimore, Brooklyn, and Philadelphia; on the streets at Independence Park and outside the Martin-Marietta military corporation;
at a seminar for synagogue administrators at the Jewish Theological Seminary; at the 92d Street Y on the world-wide day celebrating Adin Steinsaltz' completion of his translation of the Talmud;
at a workshop for Jewish educators held by the Teva Learning Center at Isabella Freedman retreat center; at Chestnut Hill College for the interfaith inauguration of its Center for Spirituality and Sustainability;
at a gathering of African-American imams in New York; for a symposium on "Macbeth" at the Wilma Theater in Philadelphia;
at a national conference on "Pricing Carbon" held at Wesleyan University in Connecticut; for a Rabbis for Human Rights national conference on "Human Rights Under Fire";
testifying at the invitation of the Philadelphia City Council on the danger of fracking the Marcelllus Oil Shale region --
at all these amazingly varied places, and many others, I spoke on the "Pharaohs and Caesars" of our generation, and especially on the danger that top-down centers of enormous corporate power are bringing new plagues upon the earth today.
8. Before hundreds of participants, The Shalom Center honored Tony Kushner as a Prophetic Voice in the Arts and arranged for him to teach master classes for young playwrights and actors in Philadelphia. .
9. In many public interviews, letters, petitions, and private conversations, The Shalom Center worked for an end to the US wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and for vigorous US action to end the state of war between Israel, the Arab states, and the nascent state of Palestine. We strongly opposed terrorist attacks by some Palestinian groups upon Israelis, as well as the Israeli government's blockade of civilian goods from entering or leaving Gaza, its continuing and worsening occupation of the West Bank, and its demolition of Palestinian homes and neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and in Bedouin regions of the Negev. We criticized the policies and action of the Israeli government while opposing actions that would have demonized Israeli society as a whole. If you especially want to help continue this kind of work, please click here.
10. We led dozens of prayer sessions and Torah-study sessions and sent out dozens of suggestions for new forms of prayer and Torah-study and new ways of using traditional prayer and Torah passages, to strengthen a Judaism that can help transform the world and to make deep connections with other religious traditions and communities that share our values.
11. We did all this while holding meetings of our Board and its committees to sharpen and improve our work, while reaching out to new communities, and while conversing by phone and face-to-face with hundreds of people who sought our advice and help this past year.
I hope that even as I continue to grow and heal past the Great Crash, you will continue to be responsive with your help. Thanks for all the blessed year that you have given us through thought and action, heart and spirit!
Blessings of shalom, salaam, shantih, peace!