New Webinar: “Sacred Seasons of the Sacred Earth”


“Sacred Seasons of the Sacred Earth” is a series of four webinars focusing on the festivals of Hanukkah, Tu B’Shvat, and two sessions on Passover. We invite you to join with us. Below you will find first the facts and then the “Whys” beneath the facts.   


Rabbi Arthur Waskow and Alanna Kleinman, a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern at The Shalom Center, will explore these festivals and questions:

Hanukkah Webinar on Tues., Nov 13, 2018, 7-9 pm Eastern time

  • Hanukkah is the festival of lighting lights in a time of darkness. One of the legends about it is that its holiness involved conserving energy – making one day’s olive oil light up eight days. The Menorah at the heart of Hanukkah was designed by the Torah to be modeled on a living tree, as it is portrayed in the  medieval graphic just above.
    How could we use the eight days of Hanukkah to light our inner spirits in a dark time, and to light our whole society to heal our wounded Earth by conserving energy? Hanukkah itself begins December 2.
  • Tu B’Shvat Webinar on Wed., Jan 9, 2019,  7-9pm Eastern time
    Tu B’Shvat, the ReBirthDay of the trees after a winter of hibernation, is also seen as the ReBirthDay of the Tree of Life – the sacred impulse within us and all the world to grow and be more fruitful.  How can we shape the evening and the day to benefit our own souls, the soul of our country, and the soul of our rejuvenated Earth? Tu B’Shvat begins the evening of Sunday, January 20, and ends the evening of Monday January 21. That Monday is also the Martin Luther King Birthday Holiday!  Is there a connection between the two?
  • Passover Webinar Wed., Apr 3 & 10, 2019,  7-9pm Eastern time

  • Passover comes at the peak of Spring. It celebrates the birthing of lambs, new barley, a new people, and Freedom (which itself is a birthing of new possibilities, new creativity). We recall a Pharaoh who brought death on children and plagues – eco-disasters – on the Earth.
    What does it mean to free ourselves today and heal the Earth? Passover begins Friday evening, April 19


Together we can make new meanings for these festivals. This webinar series will be interactive, drawing forth the insights of all who take part. In that way it will enrich the lives of each person and of the whole community of participants.


We will meet by Zoom conference, making it possible by video for us to see each other face-to-face or by telephone. The Zoom information will appear when you register. We will record each session and send the video link a few days after the Webinar itself.

Each session will cost $18. If you register for all four now, the series will cost $62, a $10 discount.

Register here:


Why are we doing this?

Because a great deal has changed in America, on Planet Earth,  and in Jewish thought, practice, and creativity since Reb Arthur originally wrote and Bantam published his classic Seasons of Our Joy: A Modern Guide to the Jewish Festivals in 1981.

Indeed, in just the last few days the world’s scientists have intensified their warnings that we have at most a dozen years to prevent disruptions of human civilization far worse than the California wildfires and the Florida hurricanes that have torn at us.

How do we draw on our deepest wisdom to inspire far more commitment to act, to heal our Mother Earth from the wounds that she is suffering?

We need to strengthen both our interior spiritual gumption and menshlichkeit and our communal spiritual compassion. The Jewish festival spiral is itself rooted in the Earth, in its seasons of grief and joy and action, birth and covenant, fulfillment and seed-sowing. The festivals weave the inner and the outer into fringes of connection.

They are among the gifts that Judaism can bring into the efforts of all humanity to correct our own misdeeds toward Mother Earth. But the festivals can do this only if we draw from their reservoirs of wisdom into rivers of action.

Join us for this series. Register now!

Register here:

Murder Inc., A Saudi-US Rhapsody in Blood:

Saudi Prince, US President, $$$, & Yemen

All the accumulating evidence indicates that Saudi Crown Prince and actual dictator Mohammed bin Salman almost certainly ordered the torture and murder of Jamal Khashoggi, a critical independent-minded Saudi journalist who had been writing for the Washington Post.

The immediate response of the US president and his “princely” son-in-law, Jared Kushner, was to try to explain away Prince MbS’s role and then as the evidence of murder piled up, to make clear: No matter what he did, Saudi money was too valuable to break relations or even embargo US weapons.

This is literally Murder Incorporated. Murder for Money. 

(Photo by Felix Josephat)

What was Saudi money buying? High-tech US weaponry. And what were these weapons for? A war against the people and especially the children of Yemen. A war that uses not only US-made weapons but the US armed forces themselves to seek targets for Saudi bombers to shatter food shipments into Yemen, to bomb a bus full of schoolchildren.

If the US-Saudi war against Yemen continues, 13 million Yemenites are in danger of starvation. A genocidal war.

This is a symphonic Rhapsody in Blood.   

For scenes of that bloody war, click on these videos compiled by MoveOn. Be warned: The violence is graphic:



What is this war about? A majority of Yemenites are Shia Muslims, most of them desperately poor. They were being oppressed by a government dominated by Sunnis. They rebelled against their tyrannical government, and forced it into exile.

But the Saudis are fanatically hostile to Shia Islam, they are furious at the regional importance of Shia Iran, and they entered into a three-cornered alliance against the Shia, aimed ultimately not only at Yemen but Iran.

This Triple Alliance brought together the hyper-dictatorial Saudi government, the would-be anti-democratic Trumpian US government, and the increasingly repressive Netanyahu Israeli government, not only bent on smashing the possibility of a self-governing and peaceful Palestine alongside Israel but more and more attacking Israeli Jewish critics and American Jewish opponents.

This Triple Anti-Iranian Alliance faced a problem. The Obama Administration, worried by the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran, had put together an extraordinary diplomatic process in which Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the US achieved a unique agreement for total nuclear disarmament for Iran, total surveillance of Iran’s internal society and geography to prevent nuclear rearmament, and an end to US and other international sanctions against Iran.

That diplomacy was a brilliant fulfillment of the profound Jewish spiritual wisdom of the prayer: “Spread over us the sukkah of shalom”  -–-  the fragile, vulnerable hut that welcomes peace. How can such fragility bring peace? Because when conflicting nations see how vulnerable they both are, they can choose to make peace. The US and four other powerful nations felt vulnerable to the possibility of Iranian nuclear weapons. Iran felt vulnerable to the reality of damaging sanctions. So the two sides built a sukkah of shalom..

The Trumpists decided to destroy that sukkah of shalom, even though all the US allies wanted to preserve it. The Trumpists are instead obsessed with their desire to destroy the present Iranian governmental system. 

The next act in this Symphony in Blood is intended by the Trump-MbS-Kushner Murder Inc to mount intense pressures against Iran so as to overturn its government. Pressures that can easily turn into war when Iran resists.

Such a war would be far more damaging to the US than its self-destructive war against Iraq. Iran is far bigger, far more united against foreign enemies, and far more able to mount a strategic challenge to the US than was Iraq.

Of course, now that Obama diplomacy has ended Iranian nuclear-weapons research, Iran would be vulnerable to nuclear attack. And the Trumpian impulse to dominate and destroy has turned into  ending a key nuclear arms-control treaty with Russia, planning a trillion-dollar “modernization” of the US H-Bomb arsenal that can already bring on “nuclear winter” and wipe out life on earth, and redefining H-Bombs into “conventional” weapons.

The torture, murder, and dismemberment of Jamal Khashoggi was simply the unleashing of cruelty by those who see their power not as an instrument for compassion and healing but as a weapon for domination. Torture and murder of a critic are necessary to back up a genocidal war and the obsessive need for total domination.

It is no accident that when the President lied about  George Soros, an independent-minded pro-democracy billionaire (and Jewish at that!) -- by tweeting or vomiting the lie that Soros had "paid" for a caravan of Central Americans fleeing violent gangs --  within days a bomb is found in the Soros family mailbox.

What should happen now? The US Congress should forbid arms sales to Saudi Arabia, should forbid the use of US armed forces to assist in any way the Saudi war against Yemen, should call for UN sanctions until the Saudis stop attacking Yemen, and should require the reestablishment of the agreement to prevent an Iranian nuclear arsenal.

And if not?

 Let us not pretend to be surprised when the flood of blood that comes from killers who fly a national flag and wear a nation’s uniform calls forth more killers who fly no flag and wear no uniform.

Murder Inc. will buy us Murder Unlimited.

Grow the Vote! -- In Numbers and in Wisdom

Grow the Vote!

Why vote? Why try to encourage other folks to vote? With permission from the comedian Nato Green, here are his answers.  Always good to engage in laughter about subjects that make us morose! Please take 20 seconds to watch and listen:

“Hi there,” said Nato, ---

“My label put up this video of one of my jokes about politics and voting from my new standup album.  Hopefully this will afford you twenty seconds of laughter in a sea of unrelenting horror. People seem to find it useful.”


As this graphic makes clear, the next generation is always peering over your shoulder or under your voting-booth curtain as you vote. Are you voting in their best interests – for a world of justice and compassion, for food, air, and water that are pure, for an Earth that is livable and joyful? Are you voting at all?

I would add (this is Arthur again, not Nato, and I am not pretending this is comedy) that the election on November 6 is the most important, the most consequential, in American history since the Civil War. This election will be a referendum between two profoundly different choices for the future of America and Planet Earth.  The choice is now much clearer than it was in 2016.

So I would urge all our organizations and individuals committed to faith or ethics to pause for just a moment from other praiseworthy campaigns, protests, and creative work to heal the world, and to focus for just the next 18 days on Growing the Vote.

What do I mean when I say, “Grow the Vote”? I mean two things:  Growing Numbers of voters, and Growing Understanding and Wisdom about the issues:

  1. Growing Numbers: Not only be absolutely sure to vote yourself, but also urge and help people to actually vote on November 6. Especially people who may tend not to vote in so-called “off-year” elections: College students. Millennials. Black folks. Latinx folks. Not only individuals but congregations, colleges, and all sorts of other groups are totally free to do GOTV work.

One way to Grow the Vote requires just a computer, a phone, and your time. You simply make phone calls to a computerized list of registered voters, reminding them to vote and asking them to urge their friends to vote.

Phyllis and I and other members of our congregations did this last night for two hours and will again on more evenings before the election. We reached dozens of households from a list of registered voters compiled by “POWER,” a network of Philadelphia-area churches, synagogues, and mosques committed to social justice. And we enjoyed the conversations!

In addition to the “Vote!” encouragement, we mentioned two issues: the need for more state-government money for impoverished local school systems in Pennsylvania, and the need to expand Medicaid for low-income workers and their families.

There may very well be similar Grow the Vote operations in your own community. The Philadelphia “POWER” organization is one member of a national network called “Faith in Action.” Check at for your own local affiliate. If your own congregation is not a member, you might urge them to join.

One Jewish activist organization, Bend the Arc, has developed an easy, helpful program to help people from all around the country to Grow the Vote in two specific Congressional election campaigns where polls show the campaigns are neck-and-neck. (If you consider doing this, take into account that Bend the Arc's action affiliate has an explicit partisan stance.) You can check this out here:


and a Bend the Arc staff member will support you. (You just need a computer and a phone).

2. Growing Understanding and Wisdom. Connecting the deep wisdom of the great religious traditions to the issues we face in this election. From my own perspective, these are Torah passages that point me in a direction about one or another of the issues we face: 

  • For behavior toward people fleeing oppressive violence and seeking asylum in the US, see Deut. 23:15-16, the most pointed passage in the entire Torah about refugees from oppression.  And read the whole Book of Ruth. It’s not long, and it’s fun to read.
  • For how to deal with the children of an “immigrant” people who follow a minority religion, see Exod. 1: 15-22; 2: 5-10.
  • For a teaching on the relationship between the Earth (adamah) and human earthlings (adam) , see Gen. 2: 4-7.
  • For how human communities should act to enhance and heal that relationship, see Lev. 25: 1-7 and 17-24. For the dangerous consequences that follow if we fail to carry out that practice, see Lev.  26: 3-6, 14-20, 34-35, and 43.
  • For the way a “king” or any other powerful official should act, see Deut.17: 14-20.

It’s perfectly legal for your congregation or other tax-exempt organization to do this, so long as the organization as a whole or its official leadership in their role as leaders don’t support or oppose any candidate or any political party.

Individual members can say what they like.  You can post your thoughts in congregational bulletins and listserves, write letters to the communal or metropolitan newspaper, send emails and post FaceBook pages and Instagrams and Tweets from, to, and in an organizational milieu.

Since you are probably hoping to persuade people, be polite. Use language like “It seems to me …” not “It’s obvious …” And keep repeating, “I welcome  dialogue on these questions; what do you think?” and “Whether you agree with me or not, please be sure to vote.”

I want to practice what I preach. So I invite you to share your responses to this Shalom Report letter.

Arrested! -- Berman, Waskow, Lulav, Etrog

Phyllis and I and about a dozen others whom we met on the scene took part in honoring the Sukkot festival Monday by bensching lulav at the Hart Senate Office Building as part of a demonstration against confirming Mr. Trump’s nomination of Mr. Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court. 

Bensching” [blessing] lulav means waving four species of plants -- a branch of palm, myrtle, and willow, plus the lemon-like etrog or citron -- in the seven directions of the world, to connect with the multi-species ecosystem that keeps humans and all life alive.

 “Seven directions”? Surely only six: East, West, North, South, Up, Down!  But the traditional pattern of waving is that we reach out in the different directions and then each time bring the Four Species close to our heart. As Rabbi Shefa Gold teaches, the seventh direction is inward.

Before we did the waving, I explained that Sukkot honors the fragile hut that was the first refuge of the runaway slaves of the Exodus. That hut becomes the symbol of protection for all those in our society who are vulnerable to attack – and that is the deepest root of the campaign to prevent Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court. His stance in the world is subjugation of refugees, the poor, minority religions and races, and the concentration of power in the hands of the wealthy and mighty, beginning with his attempting rape and humiliating women when he was 17 and continuing into his adult politics.

The demonstration then moved to Sen. Collins’ office and chanted outside her office for about 30 minutes (e.g., over and over, “We believe Dr. Ford, we believe Deborah Ramirez, we believe Anita Hill”)  before police arrested about 50 of us (Phyllis and me included).

See very brief CNN video in the hallway outside Collins’ office. You can see Phyllis and me come walking across the scene as we look for a place to sit down. Our taleisim are light-colored enough to look as if we are wearing white clothing.


Another 100 or more demonstrators moved when ordered by police, continuing to chant but not risking arrest.  Other sit-downs at other Senatorial  spaces happened later in the day. Demonstrators were spirited, committed, about 85% women. 

 The Capitol Police were focused, calm, professional, kind to some in difficulties (including me; I need a cane to walk and without it have some balance difficulty).  Just before the arrest, I spoke directly to officers, reminding them that though we understood they needed to enforce the law as they understood it, it was a far worse crime to attempt to rape a 15-year-old girl and to order breast-feeding babies yanked away from their mothers at the border. 

We were bused to a holding building about 15 minutes away, held for about three hours for processing, submitted IDs and $50 collateral which we forfeited in lieu of standing trial.  

 As we move toward the climactic testimony by Kavanaugh and Dr. Blasey Ford on Thursday, what standards am I following in urging his rejection? Kavanaugh is not on trial for a felony, where conviction properly requires an assessment of guilt “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Rather, he is being examined about whether he merits appointment to one of the most powerful positions in the world, in which treatment of many vulnerable people and our vulnerable Earth are at stake.

 For that job, the level of judgment should be more like “Has he exhibited the highest ethical concerns for justice and compassion, including care for the reputations and bodies of women?”  Besides the accusations from Dr. Blasey Ford and Deborah Ramirez, we already know he sleazily pissed on the reputation of a teen-age girl named “Renate” in his prep-school yearbook page, and boasted of being a big drinker and often drunk.  His classmates remember him as often “stumbling drunk,” and as aggressive when he was drunk.

And as a grown-up judge, he tried to prevent a 17-year-old applicant for asylum in the US who was fleeing family sexual abuse from having an abortion when she discovered at the US border that she was pregnant, probably from incestuous rape. His attitude toward that 17-year-old – trying to take control of her body, raping her in a different way -- echoed his attitude toward Christine Ford when she was 15.

 His bent toward subjugation of the weak does not apply only to women. As a Department of Justice lawyer during the War Against Iraq and since, he never objected to the Bush Administration’s policy of using torture. He has shown strong biases in favor of corporate profits for the Carbon Pharaohs, over healing the Earth and human communities from climate-crisis droughts, wildfires, and floods.

Is that the guy we want deciding our futures? Our daughters’ futures? The fate of Roe v. Wade? The fate of the Earth?

The Senate’s decision may rest in the hands of two undecided women Senators. Please call 202-224-3121 and ask for Senators Collins of Maine and Murkowski of Alaska. Talk with their staff or leave recorded messages.

 Whatever the outcome of this confirmation fight, the November election will make decisions that affect the fate and future of American democracy. Even though we are already in Sukkot, it is still possible to act on The Shalom Center ‘s campaign to “ Share Sukkot  --  Grow the Vote.We have gathered three sets of resources for this work:  (a) Posters of ushpizin, sacred guests we invite into the sukkah as heroes of the struggle to broaden the right to vote;  (b) Brief essays that look at the values of Sukkot to inform people’s decisions as they choose whom to vote for; and (c) Handbooks for registering voters and making sure they can get to the polls. 

To draw on these resources, please click to

May you and all of us be blessed with the three pillars that the ancient Rabbis taught were necessary to uphold the world:  Truth, Justice, and Shalom

The Day after Yom Kippur: Facing Mr. Kavanaugh

This coming Thursday, September 20, is scheduled to be the final day of hearings by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Mr. Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to a life-time seat on the Supreme Court.

Thursday  is also the day after Yom Kippur.

There is a traditional Jewish practice that on the evening after the break-fast meal at the end of Yom Kippur, the community drives the first nail in building its sukkah. This practice embodies our commitment that –

  • after prayers for compassion from the Breath of Life to us and from ourselves to others,
  • after prayers that we turn ourselves to affirm our deepest inner truth through action,
  • after hearing the outcry of the Prophet Isaiah on behalf of the poor and the prisoners,
  • we actually take action to begin the building of the sukkah.

To build the house that trembles in the wind, the house where refugees were welcome 3000 years ago as we fled slavery in Egypt, the house that is open to the earthiness of wind and sun and rain, the house that welcomes and celebrates the seventy nations of the world.

I think that on Thursday, a strong opposition to Mr. Kavanaugh’s confirmation would help build the sukkah of an America that is suffering the suffocation of compassion and justice by its government  -- a suffocation that would become worse if Mr. Kavanaugh takes a seat in the Supreme Court.   

So I urge that it is at all possible for you, please come at 9 a.m. on Thursday to the Hart Senate Office Building  at Constitution Ave NE & 2nd St NE, Washington, DC 20002. There will be powerful options for both people who want and people who don’t want to risk arrest in  an act of nonviolent civil disobedience --while in either mode they oppose confirmation of Mr. Kavanaugh..

You can register at but do not need to. If you are coming from a distance, registration may help the organizers try to provide travel subsidies.

Whether or not you can come to DC on Thursday, please start NOW, today, calling two Republican women senators whose votes could tip the balance. Call 202-224-3121 and ask for Senator Collins of Maine. Talk with her staff or leave a recorded message.  Then call again and ask for Sen. Murkowski of Alaska.

Why do I suggest taking these extraordinary steps?

All the evidence we have suggests that Mr Kavanaugh is a smooth and polite Donald Trump.  

For example:

He has refused to say outright that the Roe v. Wade decision that women have a Constitutional right to choose an abortion is settled law, and he has explicitly said the Supreme Court could reverse its decision.  

He was himself directly responsible for trying to prevent a 17-year-old girl who had applied for asylum as a refugee from having an abortion she desperately wanted and needed, and was reversed by a higher official only after delaying so long that the choice was much more complicated.

Just yesterday afternoon, California professor Christine Blasey Ford told the Washington  Post that Kavanaugh and a male friend of his corralled her in a bedroom during a gathering at a house in Maryland in the early 1980s. She says that both boys were "stumbling drunk" and that the friend watched as Kavanaugh pinned her to a bed and clumsily tried to pull off her clothes.

She said she tried to scream and Kavanaugh covered her mouth with his hand.

Ford says she escaped when Kavanaugh's friend jumped on top of them and they tumbled.

The now-53-year-old Kavanaugh denies the allegation.

Ford says she didn't reveal what happened until 2012 during couples therapy with her husband. The Post’s article included an interview with Ms. Ford’s husband and her lawyer, Debra Katz, and described a therapist’s notes from 2012 in which Ms. Ford told of the attack.

Meanwhile, evidence has emerged that strongly suggests Kavanaugh lied under oath during his confirmation hearings for his present judgeship. The issue is whether he knew of the theft of important correspondence of a Democratic Senator by a Republican Party operative. Kavanaugh denied knowing. Newly found emails suggest he did.

His views about the “previous conditions” provision of the Affordable Care Act and about strong regulations to control CO2 and methane emissions suggest he would probably throw them out.

The Trump Administration has refused to release records about his views on US use of torture when he worked for the Bush Administration during the Iraq War. There is no public evidence he objected, and it is very likely he supported the use of torture.

And his statements about Presidential power suggest he would oppose even subpoenaing the President who has appointed him, let alone indicting him, though he supported such actions against President Bill Clinton.  He refused to commit to recuse himself, even on grounds of personal conflict of interest, if such an issue arose before the Court.  

 All this suggests to me that he holds views directly opposite to those of the Prophet Isaiah whose prophetic words we continue to hear every Yom Kippur, 2500 years after he said them.

I urge us to stand with Isaiah.

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace --  Arthur

Making this New Year a Transformation Time

We’ve just begun the new year, the year when the world needs Transformation.

The Shalom Center has been encouraging the growth of a transformative sense of the Spirit. A spirit of community and comraderie, not of cruelty and subjugation. 

To keep doing this, we need your help.

We write and send out Shalom Reports to hearten your Spirit in harsh times, and to encourage your action against cruelty. We receive hundreds of letters  -- Thanking us.  Promising to undertake an action we have recommended. Inviting us to speak. Asking us for information about Jewish, Christian, and Muslim festivals, about where to find an ancient wisdom teaching.

We write, we research, we respond. All of this costs money. We need your help. Yes, your help. 

We take action ourselves. We visited prisons filled with children whose parents asked for asylum in the US from cruel violence at 
home, and were met instead with cruelty by our own government and by the official kidnapping of their children. We were arrested for nonviolently blocking an ICE office that was haunting schools and hospitals to arrest and deport refugees. We challenged fake biblical quotes by a government official, and showed how the Bible specifically forbids deporting refugees who are fleeing a cruel overlord. 

We organized a vigil that brought together hundreds of letters quoting the Bible to rebuke the corrupt Earth-destroying behavior of EPA Administrator Pruitt, and we helped force him to resign in disgrace. 

We spoke at a rally calling for a No vote on a Supreme Court nominee named by a corrupt President in the hope of protecting himself from 
investigation. We did not speak “politically”; we brought to bear the biblical teaching about how to protect the people from a cruel and wanton king who is deliberately choosing to endanger human civilization and the web of life on earth, to magnify the already enormous wealth of the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs. 

We write, we speak, we get arrested. All of this costs money. We need your help. Yes, truly: your help. 

And we provided a creative way of drawing on the powerful moment of Yom Kippur to carry into the public streets the Prophet Isaiah’s outcry for the poor, for prisoners, and for the powerless. This coming Friday, we will send you a new translation of Isaiah in time for you to use it in your congregation this Yom Kippur. 

Week after week for the past month, we provided creative materials to help you Share Sukkot: Grow the Vote. Facing a crucial election, we provided guides for you to hold “Sukkah parties” to register new voters and follow up to make sure they vote, along with photo-posters to bring heroes of voting rights into our sukkot as “ushpizin,” sacred guests.

All of this costs money. We need your help.

In  the year just past, a Brooklyn synagogue became the first in the country to move its money from a bank that invests in Big Oil to burn our planet, to a community bank that invests in neighborhood needs. Their announcement quotes The Shalom Center’s “Move Our Money/ Protect Our Planet” proposal. (The initials spell MOM_POP.)  We think the Jewish community is ready for that grass-roots effort, and we intend to turn that proposal into a campaign.  That will cost money. We need your help to make it happen.

Look at The Shalom Center's logo. Translating the graphic into words: Together, we have the whole world in our hands. The rocks and the rivers, the frogs and the forests. All our children and all their children.


So please contribute by clicking on the maroon “Contribute” button on the left-hand margin of this page. In this year of Transformation, you can help us help you heal our country, our planet, and your own neighborhood. That is what the Breath of Life is calling us all to do.

Yom Kippur: Take Isaiah into the Streets for 18 Minutes!

On Yom Kippur, about 2500 years ago, the Prophet Isaiah broke the conventional pattern of prayer and fasting. What he said then has been lifted into sacred immortality as the Prophetic reading for Yom Kippur.

Today, a group of Jewish teachers,  rabbis, and leaders call us to emulate Isaiah in a new way: Let us walk for 18 minutes beyond our congregational walls. Let us carry Isaiah into our towns and neighborhoods and cities.

“From California to the New York Island” have come together rabbis and teachers to urge our congregations to undertake this effort: Among them are (all affiliations are for identification only):

Dr. Barbara Eve Breitman (Spiritual Direction at RRC & HUC);  Rabbi Sharon Brous (Ikar); Aryae Coopersmith (co-founder, House of Love and Prayer & Coastside Torah Circle); Rabbi Laura Geller (emerita, Temple Israel of Hollywood);  Arlene Goldbard (president,  The Shalom Center);  Abigail Grafton (Shomeret, Aquarian Minyan); Dr.  Susannah  Heschel (Dartmouth University);  Rabbi Burt Jacobson (emeritus, Kehillah); Rabbi Amichai Lau-Lavie (Storahtelling & Labshul); Rabbi Michael Lerner (Tikkun); Rabbi Mordechai Liebling (RRC); Rabbi Moshe Levin (emeritus, Ner Tamid, San Francisco); Ruth Messinger (founder, American  Jewish World Service) Rabbi Marcia Prager (P’nai Or Philadelphia & dean, ALEPH Ordination Program); Rabbi David Seidenberg (Neo-Hasid, Ecology and Kabbalah);  Rabbi Susan Talve (Central Reform Congr, St Louis); Rabbi Arthur Waskow (founder, The Shalom Center); Rabbi Sheila Weinberg (Inst for Jewish Spirituality); Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz (founder, Uri L'Tzedek: Orthodox Social Justice). 

On that walk, each congregation can choose the stance that feels fitting for itself. We encourage awareness that we are not abandoning prayer but carrying prayer and/or the Isaiah Haftarah into public space:

 For instance, perhaps we walk in prayerful silent vigil, wearing the tallitot whose fringes reach out as threads of connection with the world.

 Perhaps we prayerfully sing: “Olam chesed yibaneh! If we build a world with love, then God will build the world with love!”

Perhaps we carry signs quoting from Isaiah or from Rabbi Heschel: ”Some are guilty; All are responsible!” “My legs are praying!” And from Dr. King: “The fierce urgency of Now!”

Perhaps the congregation commissions some of its members to walk forth while others continue in the building, in both physical spaces continuing a Yom Kippur appeal to America’s conscience.

Perhaps (as one congregation in Santa Cruz has already decided), congregants join with those of other religious communities for a public gathering before the Yom Kippur prayer service begins. 

(One year ago, P'nai Or of Philadelphia did carry Isaiah into the streets. Here are a photo of that effort and a close-up of one of the signs they carried.)


 On Yom Kippur, we reawaken the ancient outcry of Isaiah: “What is the fast that God requires of us? Not only to remember by fasting what it feels like to go hungry, but beyond that to feed the hungry, house the homeless, break off the handcuffs and leg-irons fastened on prisoners by wicked power!” 

 Isaiah went beyond the conventional gatherings for prayer and fasting, to demand this commitment of compassion. 

This year we face a plague of governmental contempt for conscience and hatred for the poor; subjugation of refugees and women and prisoners, of minority racial groups and religions, and many other human beings; poisoning of our air and food and water, even of Mother Earth. To our celebration of the God of Truth, we hear the power-obsessed jeer: “Truth is not truth!”

 Already American consciences are reawakening. Let us add our voices.  

Let us do today what Isaiah did: Go beyond our comfortable discomfort as we fast for Yom Kippur.

This is a Time for Transformation. If you are ready to add your name to call forth the American conscience that is already reawakening, please click to Sign Up 

Blessings of Truth and Turning, individual Tshuvah that becomes Tikkun Olam!

What does Torah teach about Judge Kavanaugh?

 Are you surprised to hear that President Trump and Judge Kavanaugh, his nominee for a lifetime post on the Supreme Court, might appear in a text that is about 2500 years old?

Read Deuteronomy Chapter 17: 14-20 --  a section often called Perek HaMelekh, “Passage on the King.”

The passage is worried about the possibility that an Israelite king might turn himself into a tyrant, like Pharaoh.

So it  starts out by setting limits on the power and behavior of a king, and then it tries to create a way of enforcing these limits. .

The king must not act haughtily toward the people – that is, with contempt.

The king may not multiply gold and silver for himself.

The king may not multiply wives/ women for himself.

The king may not multiply horses. (Horse chariots were the jet bombers of the day, weapons for an aggressive imperial army like that of Egypt’s Pharaoh). 

What’s more, the king may not send the people back into Mitzrayyim (the Tight and Narrow Place, which in Hebrew is the name of Egypt) to buy horses for himself. (That is, he may not oppress the people by imposing taxes or forced service so he can pay for an oppressive army).  

And the king must every day of his life read --  under supervision by the levitical priests --  the Torah passages that restricted his powers and protected the poor. 

 Under priestly supervisionahhh, that is what the Torah hoped would keep him under control. For the Kohanim, the priests, members of the Tribe of Levi, were utterly independent of the king. They had religious power to come close to God, YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh -- the Interbreathing Spirit of the world. The Breath of Life.

They were not appointed by the king. They were not members of the king’s family. Not even of his tribe, since they were descendants of Levi, like Moses and Aaron and Miriam, and the kings were descendants of David, of the tribe of Benjamin.

 When the heirs of the Maccabees, the Hasmonean kings, broke this ancient Constitution by merging the priesthood and the kingship, they turned out to be terrible kings. Among other things, they sold out Israelite independence to a foreign power --  Rome.

Why does all this matter? So Torah seeks to limit the power of a king, as do the US Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution. Why does this matter to us today?

Because it embodies wisdom that speaks through centuries and millennia  --  not just about a single generation’s crises, fears, desires. It is a wisdom that our culture today often, though not always, seeks to learn from  -- precisely because it embodies what has lasted.

Surely that wisdom, like the US Declaration and Constitution, was flawed. The Bible, for example,  assumes and often seems to endorse the subjugation of women. (In how the furthest reaches of the Bible see the great arc of the human future, not so; but that is another exploration.)  So did the original US framing documents, as well as the subjugation of Blacks.

Yet some wisdom even deeper has kept moving the adherents of both sets of framing Teachings to keep trying to move beyond those subjugations to a fuller sense of human dignity. What we call the “spirituality” of the Bible is a distillation of a wise relationship of a small tribe to all that is greater than itself – to the great round Earth, to the other cultures (“strangers”), to its own future, its great-grandchildren, to the over-arching Mystery of how we came into physical, biological, and cultural existence in the first place.

So it behooves us in our perilous present moment to recall that the Bible was and is worried about the concentration of power in a single human’s hands.

All right. Let us look with eyes wide open at our present.

We have an elected king who speaks of his own people – Blacks, Latinos,  the free and independent-minded press, Muslims, women with contempt (“haughtiness above his kinfolk”).  

Who speaks and sometimes acts toward women as mere objects of his own pleasure (“multiplying wives”).

Who has used his own power before and since becoming “king” to cheat workers and contractors, to make secret deals,  to hide his finances from the public (“multiplying gold and silver for himself”).

Who threatens other nations with ”fire and fury” and who seeks a trillion dollars to “modernize” a nuclear arsenal that can already destroy all life on Earth several times over, and who is planning to erase the bright line between nuclear and other weapons by producing “small” nuclear weapons for battlefield use (“multiplying horses for his army”).

And who now seeks to appoint to the Supreme Court – our nearest effort at inventing the independent check of the Levitical priesthood --  a man whose previous record indicates willingness to support the “king’s” hostility to women’s rights, to workers’ rights, to efforts to heal the Earth.

Whose previous record suggests support for such egregious misuses of kingly powers as the use of torture. A man who is opposed to even the limited possibility of subpoenaing the “king” to testify under oath.

All this while the “king” himself is already under very serious clouds of possible violations of the Constitution and the laws. And when his appointee, if confirmed, would probably be a crucial weigh-in for how this sacred body of the Court would vote.

So for all these reasons, I urge you, all members and readers of The Shalom Center, and all your friends, to call 1202-224-3121. To ask for your Senators and Congressmember.

What could they do? They could oppose with every nonviolent means the confirmation of Judge Kavanaugh. They could, for example, use legitimate parliamentary rules to hold all Congressional decision-making in suspense  until the Senate Judiciary Committee tables the nomination. They could demand roll-call votes on “ordinary” business instead of giving unanimous consent. The future of our Constitution and our freedom is at stake; this is no time for “ordinary” measures.  

Demanding this kind of action is not just “politics.” It upholds what the Bible itself taught was and is a crucial part of the spiritual health of a community committed to human dignity.

Call 1202-224-3121.

With blessings of joyful action in this coming new year, this Time of Transformation,  for the sake of human dignity – Arthur

Welcome Voting-Rights Heroes as Sacred Guests into our Sukkot

Can we make Sukkot an activist framework for Growing the Vote -- just five weeks before the November election?

We are offering you three forms of help to do this. One is -- posters of “ushpizin” --  sacred guests who are welcomed into the sukkah – – who have been heroes of work to guarantee voting rights to all Americans. A second is information on how most effectively to register new voters. The third: essays on how to apply the values of Sukkot to the crucial issues in this November’s election.

To access these ways pf Sharing Sukkot please click to <>.

 Here are two of the ushpizin posters:




I am adding a poster from 1984, the earliest days of The Shalom Center. President Reagan and the Andropov-Chernenko leadership of the Soviet Union were reheating the nuclear arms race in a frightening way.  The Shalom Center built a sukkah on Lafayette Park in Washington, DC, midway between the White House and the Soviet Embassy, and organized a rally there urging both superstates to move toward freezing and ending the nuclear arms race.


The physical sukkah as a fragile, vulnerable hut and the festival of Sukkot both affirm the importance of peace, rather than threats and acts of war. The traditional Jewish evening prayers ask God to “spread over all of us the sukkah of shalom.”  Why a sukkah rather than a fortress, a palace, even a house? Because shalom is more likely to be achieved when all the parties in a conflict recognize their vulnerability, rather than aggressively striving to dominate the other.  That is even more likely in a world of nuclear weapons.

And Jewish tradition teaches that the harvest festival of Sukkot celebrates an abundant harvest not only for the Jewish people but for all the "70 nations" of the world.

 So this aspect of the issues before us in the November election can be understood to affirm every effort to use diplomacy to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. From that perspective, the careful multinational diplomacy that achieved the end of Iran's nuclear-weapons program in exchange for the end of economic sanctions against Iran was a great triumph for peaceful sanity, and its cancellation was a tragedy.

 In other Shalom Reports on Share Sukkot --  Grow the Vote, we will take up other aspects of the meaning of Sukkot as the election approaches.

 Again, we welcome you to access these materials by clicking to


 With blessings for shalom, salaam, sohl (“peace” in Farsi, the language of Iran) paz, peace.

Inside Story Behind the Viral Video“Rabbi Arthur Arrested at 84”

We Offer a Handbook for Your Own ICE Action

Dear friends,

. Many of you were stirred by the story of our nonviolent civil disobedience action confronting ICE. Many have written to ask how you could make a difference in your own communities about the Trumpist attacks on refugees and immigrants, especially at the southern border and especially against families  -- sending little children to prison camps.

So I am writing to describe how our action emerged, how we organized it, and what the results were.

To help you even more to create your own actions, here at The Shalom Center we have set up a small collection of items from the ICE action at which we were arrested: our press release, a “Did you know?” list about the back history of social chaos in some Central American countries, the program we used of chants and songs. We offer it to you as a model, a handbook,  to use and modify if you find it helpful in your own situation. It is at  <

The story begins on June 20.  Someone I had known in the ‘60s in a different city called me to ask whether I would be interested in a possible direct action challenging ICE. I said I was. He said he had been talking with five or six other people who were veterans of the movement to end the US War against Vietnam, and they too were interested.

We worked out a date when somewhere between six and 10 of these people could gather, and we met. Most of the people were new to Phyllis and me, and we were clear about the need to ask how the people in the room whom we did know could vouch for the people we didn't know. They did.

When we were set, a couple of people reviewed some ideas about what we could do to keep alive the issue of brutal treatment of refugees and immigrants. After Trump had issued the Executive Order, some of us wondered whether the energy around the issue would now die out. Phyllis, with great energy, said that the children ripped away from their parents were already being deeply traumatized and that for her the most immediate demand is for the children at once to be reunited with their families. It was already clear that Trump’s executive order did not address that question at all, and she was burning with the need to end the devastation and traumatization of these families.

Most of the people in the room agreed. So then we focused on choosing a specific action


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