Featured

EMERGENCY 2: PREVENTING MASS DEPORTATIONS

Every Shabbat morning, I act as the "Weaver" for an hour’s conversation about a passage from the Torah reading of that Shabbat. This past Shabbat, as I read the weekly portion, looking for a passage we could focus on, I had ringing in my ears and in my heart the president's announcement that he had ordered a mass round-up of immigrants living in clusters in several major American cities, for mass deportation.

So I was happy to find that in the very Torah portion we were about to read, the Torah was already prepared with a challenge to this piece of subjugation:

 “Now when immigrants sojourn with you and wish to make a Passover-offering to YHWH  / Yahhh/the Holy InterBreath of Life, in this way shall they make it: according to the law of the Passover offering and according to its regulation. One law is there to be for you, for immigrant sojourners and for the natives of the land.” (Num 9: 14)

My understanding of this teaching is that if foreigners want to join with you in the Festival of Freedom, in celebrating the liberation of slaves from slavery to Pharaoh, welcome them! –for only by affirming one law for foreigners and natives can your land continue as a land of Freedom. 

Chant: ONE LAW / FOR IMMIGRANTS AND NATIVE-BORNS

And this passage reminded me to look up another passage from a Torah portion we will be reading in mid-September:

“If those who are oppressed {“serfs,” “servants,” slaves”} seek refuge with you from their masters, you are NOT to hand them over to their masters. Let them dwell beside you, among you, wherever within your borders seems good to them. Do not mistreat them!!” (Deut. 23:16-17)

Chant:  WELCOME REFUGEES/ DO NOT MISTREAT THEM

Do I invoke these ancient texts just because they are written in Torah?  No, I invoke them because they show that this question of the treatment we owe to immigrants and refugees has stirred the moral heart of our communities for at least 2500 years, and our moral forebears came down on the side of love, not fear.

The community in which this writing emerged saw itself as a whole nation of runaway slaves seeking freedom. So it was clear that other runaway slaves and all who celebrated freedom from Pharaoh’s slavery were to be welcomed, not excluded.  And notice that this applied to “economic refugees” fleeing a tyrannical boss as well as those fleeing a tyrannical government.

If we wish to see America as “sweet land of liberty” we must be open to these freedom-seeking immigrants and refugees, welcoming them to wherever THEY choose to live.

Not deported, not imprisoned in concentration camps, not tearing children, even babies,  from their mothers’ breasts, their fathers’ arms, to throw them into cages.

Oh yes, these ARE concentration camps. Not extermination camps, not yet. Those politicians who have denounced the use of that word as if it meant the same as “death camp” ignore the history that genocide happens in stages.

Those politicians claim that to use those words, “Concentration camp,”   demeans the Holocaust.

That is a lie. Using the words “concentration camp” HONORS the Holocaust, by learning from it. I am a Rabbi who knows it is the Teachings we learn from the Holocaust that are sacred, not the word itself. 

We are still early in the process of our rulers’ campaign to dehumanize foreigners who have brown skins and Spanish tongues.

It took five years for the Nazi state to move from a "concentration camp" at Dachau and a policy of humiliating Jews, forcing them out of jobs and schools, beating some of them, killing some of them  --  to a concerted mass attack on Kristallnacht. Even then, it took another four years to formally decide to mass murder millions in death camps.  

Is the mass round-up that Trump has threatened an analogue to Kristallnacht? Or one stage short?

Later this past Shabbat, Trump announced a two-week postponement of the mass deportations.  Did the Breath of Life whisper a line of Torah in his ear? (Very likely that the whisper came; not so likely that he heard it, or paid attention.) Did ICE tell him they couldn’t do it yet, needed more time; he would look foolish?

What matters is that we have more time to organize. Time for synagogues, churches, mosques, temples, to organize a presence in their Congressmembers' offices. And to close down the doors of frozen-hearted ICE in every city. Chanting these biblical verses or other teachings, each from its own tradition. And to offer sanctuary.

Because this dehumanization happens in stages, it can be stopped before it reaches genocide. Stopped IF we act. That is our job. Our religious commitment. Our moral obligation. Our spiritual fulfillment.

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

Facing the White House in Moral Witness: great photos!

Dear friends of Truth, Justice, and Peace, the three pillars that hold up the world  --  

My life-partner Rabbi Phyllis Berman and I came home from Washington on Wednesday night both exhausted & exhilarated. We had prepared to risk arrest and were sorrowful that the Secret Service acted in such a way as to prevent anyone from doing that. -- And we were also persuaded that their very action was a sign of how much the White House feared how powerful this Moral Witness was and would be.

We had come determined to persist in our prophetic speech even if that meant risking arrest. The White House decided to fence us in, to prevent any acts of nonviolent civil resistance because the White House did NOT want to arrest one hundred clergy and other leaders of their faith communities.  They were afraid of that profound engagement of the Prophetic community. Their response was a signal of the strength of our protest.

We gathered Wednesday morning at a church near the White House – a church with a strong history of prophetic religious involvement. There were about 400 of us. There was a brief speech by Rev. Dr. Barber about the origins and purpose of the ”Moral Wednesday” action, in which he gave full honor to Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50  as its origin and to The Shalom Center for organizing that and for our involvement in the planning of this Moral Witness Wednesday.

I introduced a litany in which Sahar Alsahlani, Rev. Jacqui Lewis, and Rabbi Alana Suskin led the whole assemblage to take the purpose into itself. [In this photo, Reverend Dr. Barber is on the left, I'm on the right, and the three women leaders in between.]

(Two other members of our Board and one former member were present – Rabbis Jeff Roth and Mordechai Liebling, and Jeffrey Dekro. Mordechai and I, who had been deeply involved in the Planning Committee and in the Prophetic Council that emerged in the process,  were both speakers later at Lafayette Park across from the White House.) 

 There was a very strong representation of Jews, almost all Rabbis, many many of whom  came up to me to thank The Shalom Center for putting energy and outreach into the action. So did at least 20 Christians and Muslims who were among the many more who receive our Shalom Report letters. Truah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights --- also had a strong presence. Mordechai Liebling, who is on their Board, had a strong influence in persuading Truah to endorse the action.

 There had been detailed negotiations for more than a week between organizers for “Repairers of the Breach,” the home organization for Dr. Barber, with the US Park Police, who are responsible for Lafayette Park. The Park Police explained in detail when and where insisting on speaking would bring arrests. All seemed arranged. But they warned that there was a chance that if someone under Secret Service protection (i.e. the President, his family, or a foreign dignitary staying at Blair House very close by) came out of the White House or Blair House, the Secret Service might keep us out of the Park, in theory for security reasons.

We undertook a 20-minute Procession from the church to Lafayette Park.

When we arrived, the Secret Service had indeed closed the Park. (We think but are not sure, that was because someone from the White House came out.  That may have been a deliberate effort by a family member to keep us away; we don’t know.) Meanwhile, Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is running for President and has made a point of his commitment to a prophetic religious outlook, showed up unbidden. The organizers took steps to ensure we would not look as if this Moral Witness were supporting a candidate.

After some waiting, the organizers started with the list of speakers on a bullhorn much weaker than the P.A. system already prepared on a platform/stage in the Park.  Rabbi Simcha Zevit -- who had at the Freedom Seder chanted in Hebrew the brief passage of Jeremiah (22: 1-5) that had inspired Dr. Barber to call for this action –- did so again at his request. This time she chanted both Hebrew and English in Haftarah melody.  Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Reform Jewish community’s Religious Action Center,  blew the shofar (ram's horn) and later spoke.  Reverend Traci Blackmon of the United Church of Christ spoke, especially about the attempts of this White House to subjugate women.

Then I gave the three-minute talk that I hope you saw in my Shalom Report letter on Tuesday.

(See  --  https://theshalomcenter.org/content/rabbi-arthurs-talk-white-house-jeremiahjusticejune12 )

I called us to respond with the fierce urgency of NOW to this Adninistration's enabling of the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs that are burning Earth and poisoninhg neighborhoods. 

How should we respond to their deadly all-consuming fire? With a different kind of fire:  the inner fire of the Burning Bush, the inner fire of life and love and liberation. The inner fire that did not consume the Bush in which it burned. The Burning Bush that lit up the way to the Sea of Reeds, to Sinai, to the Cross, to Mecca, to Selma and to Memphis. The inner fire to defeat all pharaohs and their sins of subjugation and to heal the plagues they bring on Humankind and Mother Earth. The inner fire of the Burning Bush that we must carry home within us.

Then the Secret Service opened the Park. Rabbi Avruhm Addison spontaneously led many in the crowd in a song from the Psalms about opening the gates to praise the Breath of Life –

Pitchu li sha'arei tzedek
Avo vam odeh Yah.
Zeh hasha'ar YHWH/ Yahhhh
tzadikim yavo'u vo.

 

Open to me the gates of justice;
I will enter into them, giving thanks to Yahhhh,, the Breath of Life.
This is the gate of the Interbreathing Spirit of the world;
Those committed to justice shall enter into it.

 We heard the rest of the speeches, which ended with Mordechai Liebling speaking on this Administration’s violations of the Constitution. We were ready to cross Pennsylvania Avenue and risk arrest at the edge of the White House. But at that point, we discovered that the Secret Service had entirely superseded the Park Police, were not even pretending to physically protect some person from the "First Family" of Subjugators. Instead they were providing political protection.

They had sealed off Pennsylvania Ave, emplaced barriers on the edge of the Park and deployed officers on the Avenue.  They made it impossible to risk arrest.

(I remembered that Mr. Trump at the same time he had dumped leaders of the Department of Homeland Security and the Border Patrol for not being cruel enough, had replaced a career chief of the Secret Service with a personally chosen favorite. "Caesar's Praetorian Guard?" I wondered at the time.)

So the organizers decided to pin our petitions to the barriers and end the protest. 

 Before we left, however, I decided to speak to the police officers of the Secret Service, as I have on a number of occasions just before getting arrested.

 

 I said,

 “We recognize that you are acting under orders that are intended to deny us the full use of our First Amendment rights to speak the prophetic truths of Jeremiah. But we say to you: Remember that you are not only police officers, you are both human beings and Americans. Many who work in that building, that White House, are doing criminal acts that destroy lives.

 “As human beings, remember that they are burning Earth, where our children and grandchildren need to live. As Americans, remember they tore children from their mothers’ arms and put them in cages; and they have broken the Constitution in plain sight.  Remember you are more than police officers, you are human, you are Americans. Over the next days and weeks, remember who you truly are and figure out some ways to oppose these crimes committed inside the White House!  Remember!”

Rev. Jacqui Lewis, standing next to me in the photo above, picked up the theme, “Remember your souls!” and for several minutes the whole crowd of faith leaders picked it up:Remember your souls!” Remember your souls!” Remember your souls!”

As I said to start with, when the White House decided to weaken our protest by preventing nonviolent civil disobedience, that was a signal of the strength of our protest. The White House did NOT want to arrest one hundred clergy and other leaders of their faith communities.  They were afraid of that profound engagement of the Prophetic community.

And we should stay aware that the Secret Service is now doing the political bidding of the President, not only his physcal protection. Another measure of the passion for subjugation that now defines and dominates this White House. The Sin of Subjugation is the opposite of Democracy. It is the opposite of Love.

Now we must carry the inner fire of the Burning Bush back home.

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

Rabbi Arthur's Talk at the White House for #JeremiahJusticeJune12

The Fires that Destroy -- or the Burning Bush:

The Inner Fire of Love and Liberation

[At about 11:30 am or Noon EDT on Wednesday June 12,  hundreds of faith leaders from many diverse communities will gather at the White House to challenge an Administration that has violated two Covenants: the Constitution and the moral Covenant at the heart of every religious, spiritual, and ethical tradition and community. We are gathering at what Jeremiah (22:1-5) called the royal palace, called together by Reverend Doctor William Barber when he spoke at the #FreedomSeder50 organized by The Shalom Center on April 7. Many of us intend to risk arrest if necessary to freely speak our prophetic message as the First Amendment provides. Below is what I intend to say. (I may need to drop a couple of paragraphs to fit the tight time allotted to each speaker) --  Reb Arthur, editor]

Invocation for #JeremiahJusticeJune 12,  at the White House

We are the generation
That stands between the fires.



Behind us as Americans
Are the flames of burning crosses lit by hate  


to choke our people in the smoke of terror;
Still worse – the burning bodies hung from trees,
Strange burning fruit.

Behind us the fire that consumed the Triangle Shirtwaist factory,
Killing 145 immigrant women workers because its owners locked the exit doors;

Not yet behind us the glare of gunfire exploding in our children.
 
Behind us as human beings
The fire and smoke
That rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima,
From the burning forests of the Amazon,
      torched for the sake of fast hamburger.
 
Not yet behind us the hottest years of human history
     that bring upon us
Melted ice fields. Flooded cities.
 Scorching droughts. Murderous wildfires.
 
Before us we among all life-forms
face the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.

Where are we now, right now? ?

We face inside the White House the fires of the sin of subjugation –- threats to destroy millions of people in “fire and fury,” the deliberate encouragement of burning still more coal and oil and unnatural gas to scorch and burn our Mother Earth for the sake of hyper-wealthy Corporate Carbon Pharaohs  --  all for the sake of the sin of subjugation, misbegotten from greed and arrogance, cruelty and hate:

Subjugation of racial, religious, ethnic, sexual, and gender minorities; of women denied the freedom of their own consciences; of children ripped from their parents’ arms; subjugation of the suffocating middle class, of workers, of family farmers, of the poor, and of people who fall sick; of immigrants and refugees; of the free press; subjugation of the Congress and of the Constitution; subjugation even of Earth, our common home.

The worst threat to American democracy since the Civil War.

The worst threat to human survival since our earliest human forebears ventured forth out of our African birthplace. 

What must we do? We must light again in our own hearts the fire of love and liberation that burned in the Burning Bush. The fire that did not destroy the Bush it burned in, the Fire that never was extinguished, can never be extinguished. The fire of the Burning Bush that lit the way to Sinai, to the Cross, to Mecca. The fire in the heart of every community and all Creation.  The fire that still lights the way to the Covenant for justice, compassion, healing and the empowerment of all.

It is our task to make from that fire
Not an all-consuming blaze
But the light in which we see more clearly
The Rainbow in the many-colored faces of all life.

We must relight the inner fire of the Burning Bush that lit the way to Rabbi Heschel, “Where some are guilty [of terrible acts], all of us are responsible [to stop them].”  The fire of love and liberation that called on Brother Malcolm to give his life in pursuit of his new and deeper understanding of the universal message of Islam.  The inner fire that called Dr. King to give his life for love of Blacks killed for daring to vote, of Vietnamese farmers burnt by napalm,  of American soldiers sent to die for the sake of subjugation, of garbage workers treated as if they themselves were garbage, of the first multiracial Poor Peoples Campaign  --  all and always, in pursuit of the Beloved Community.

It is the Burning Bush that burned and burned and was not consumed that brings us here today and that we light again  --

 So that we leave here with the Burning Bush aflame within us, to ACT for love and liberation.

Webinar: Climate, Torah, Activism

Healing Earth in 4 Worlds --

Prayer, Wisdom, Activism, Hands-on

 I will be leading and weaving a Webinar on four aspects of healing the deeply wounded climate that is already flooding, burning, droughting, and diseasing many patches of our planet, and threatens far worse to human civilization in every region. 

The Webinar will run on four Tuesday evenings – May 7, 14, 21, and 28, from 7 to 9 pm, Eastern Time. It will especially address how to draw on religious and spiritual traditions, practices, and symbols to awaken into vigorous action the “sleepy giant” of our religious communities. The sessions will be recorded; so they will be available for watching if you cannot make those dates.

Why am I doing this? There is the out-there reason and the in-here reason.

“Out there,” the human race is faced with the most momentous crisis in our history as a species –- the climate crisis, brought on us by the behavior we have allowed from a group of Corporate Carbon  Pharaohs and their governmental enablers. In the Hebrew Bible is encoded a treasury of the spiritual experience long ago of an indigenous people, whose shepherds and farmers lived close to the Earth and cared for it. 

“In here”: I have been working on healing our climate, our Earth, and ourendangred humanity for almost 20 years. Many people have led or taken part in activist sit-ins, marches, lobbies; a number of people have explored the spiritual religious wisdom about Earth. Very few have done both. I am one of the few people who has both explored the deep meanings of Torah as it addresses food kashrut and energy eco-kashrut, the earthiness of festivals, and the sacred Earth-protecting covenant between the generations; and has also been an activist for change in the streets, our pocketbooks, and the halls of Congress. 

Today we can draw on the ancient sacred treasury of Earthy wisdom and of course transform it to meet the needs of our own generation –--  the most urgent and creative midrash we have ever needed – in prayer, theology, activism, and hands-on change.


The Jewish mystics taught that the Creation of the world unfolded in four stages: God’s sheer Intention to create; Intellectual and Artistic creativity; emotional Interconnection; and actual Physicality.

This Webinar will in four sessions explore how these Four Worlds can provide a pattern for human beings to undertake fiercely urgent transformational work to heal our common home.  

1) Direct prayerful experience of the Earth (e.g. going outside to hear the Trees’ prayer as part of our own prayer service);

(2) Biblical theology of Earth (e.g. the meanings of Eden, manna, Pharaoh’s plagues, Shabbat, the Sabbatical Year);

3) Public ceremonies and other forms of activism that unite spirituality, eco-sanity, and social justice;

(4) Hands-on healing action (e.g. organizing solar co-ops. 

Please click  to https://theshalomcenter.org/civicrm/event/register?id=24&reset=1

in order to register for the Webinar --including for access to the recordings.

Shalom, Arthur

#FreedomSeder50: Treasury of Films, Live-Streams, Articles, etc

The Shalom Center invites you to celebrate the Interfaith #FreedomSeder50 with us, during Passover or whatever time you set aside for reflection, commitment, and action.

  1. Browse or download the program booklet. 
  2. Gather some friends of any faith tradition. 
  3. Watch and share the videeo vignettes or the whole live-stream in your gatherings. 
  4. Consider contributing to the Shalom Center.
  5. Co-create freedom, justice, and healing of the Earth in your own way.
[ Above: Rev. Dr. William Barber and the wonderfully multiracial, multireligious, multigendered line-up of speakers and singers]

INTERFAITH FREEDOM SEDER + 50 VIDEO VIGNETTES with thanks to Bonfire Media Collective- Ben Felker-Quinn

To watch video clips, click on links below.

  1. Rabbi Waskow & Xavier Thomas: Elijah’s Covenant between the Generations, Sunrise Movement, & Green New Deal
  2. Rev. Liz Theoharis: I don't need to tell you we are living in a cruel & unjust society...
  3. Rev. Greg Holston: A child is a blessing... (On environmental racism causing deadly asthma in his own family)
  4. Rabbi Arthur Waskow: New Triple Alliance of White Nationalists:DC, Riyadh, Jerusalem
  5. Ana Maria Archila: 1 out of 5 women will experience rape...
  6. Rev. William Barber II: Only Prophets Can Stand Up Now...
  7. Rev. William Barber II: These are God’s Orders…
  8. Rabbi Arthur Waskow: What is this matzo?
  9. Rev. Rhetta Morgan: Singing "Go Down Moses"

LIVESTREAM FULL VIDEO OF INTERFAITH FREEDOM SEDER + 50 with thanks to Bonfire Media Collective - Maddie Taterka and Helyx Chase Scearce Horwitz

To watch full video, click triangle in the middle of the photo below.


PROGRAM BOOKLET PDF with thanks to Jim Gerhard, design & layout

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER ARTICLES with thanks to Ron Goldwyn, media coordinator

PHOTOS FROM APRIL 7, 2019 SHALOM CENTER FREEDOM SEDER + 50 with thanks to Ellie Seiff, photographer

[Below: Ana Maria Archila, Rev Rhetta Morgan, Rev.Greg Holston]


NOTES WITH TIME MARKERS FOR LIVESTREAM VIDEO with thanks to Arlene Goldbard, Shalom Center board president

CONTRIBUTE TO THE SHALOM CENTER 

Elijah at Your Seder & New "Go Down Moses"

Dear friends, I have already written you how transformed and transformative was the #FreedomSeder50 just over a week ago, including Reverend William Barber's prophetic outcry for a protest by hundreds of clergy at the White House on June 6. I also shared how the Bible’s story of ancient resistance by women echoes in the painful and hope-filled stories of the subjugation and resistance of women today, told by Ana Maria Archila.  

Today I want to bring you two more aspects of the #FreedomSeder50  that you can bring into your own Seder, or into Holy Thursday tonight, or into evening iftar break-fasts during Ramadan soon to come.

We began the Seder evening by lifting up one of the most basic aspects of the Seder: the dialogue between elders and the younger generation. (For an exploration of this aspect of the Seder, see my paragraph just after the "Read more" in red at the "end"of this essay.)This time the dialogue was for the sake of the survival of the human race and much of life on earth.

On the Shabbat just before Pesach begins, we hear this same intergenerational motif by reading the last passage of the last of the Prophets, Malachi 3:23-24: “Before the coming of the great and awesome day of YHWH, the Interbreathing Spirit of the world, I will send you Elijah the Prophet to turn the hearts of the parents to the children and the hearts of the children to the parents, lest I [God] come and smite the Earth with utter destruction.”

So we did what the words say. We made ourselves Elijah. We brought the hearts of elders and youngers to meet each other by facing the most dangerous of all the tyrannical oppressions of our modern Pharaohs: their obsession with burning the world for the sake of Hyper-Profits. In the dinner just before the Seder, we brought me as Elder and a young man, Xavier Thomas, together to respond to the danger that our planet, our only home, is on the verge of burning.

On Seder night, just before you open the door for Elijah, you can overhear what it must mean for us all to become Elijah, by clicking here and sharing these seven minutes with the table:

Rabbi Waskow & Xavier Thomas: Elijah’s Covenant between the Generations, the Sunrise Movement, and the Green New Deal: <https://vimeo.com/330534521/34dfc639ea>

Three hours later, we ended the Seder by singing an old song created by Black America to recall the ancient Jewish liberation, Go Down Moses. We took its stretch across the centuries and different cultures to another level, with two new verses for the present and the future. . We invite you to join with #FreedomSeder50 by clicking to hear Reverend Rhetta Morgan lead us:

Rev Rhetta Morgan: "Go Down Moses"  or <https://youtu.be/DMm-pdVCNdo>

When Israel was in Egypt’s land, Let My people go;
Oppressed so hard they could not stand, Let My people go;
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh: Let My people go!
 
As Israel stood by the water-side, Let My people go;
At God’s command it did divide, Let My people go.
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh: Let My people go!
 
When they had reached the other shore, Let My people go;
They sang the song of freedom o’er, Let My people go.
Go down, Moses, way down in Egypt’s land,
Tell old Pharaoh: Let My people go!
 
Oh, set all Earth from bondage free, Let all My peoples go;
And let all life be free to Be, Let air and water flow.
Rise up, Yes Rise up -- No longer down in every land  --
Tell ALL Pharaohs: Let My Creation grow!
 
As we live here in America, Set our people free!
In all our colors we Resist, from Sea to shining Sea!
Rise up, O People, Rise up all across our Land--
Tell new Pharaohs, your oppressions will not stand!

And as I did yesterday, once more I invite you to bring into your own Seder the moment when  400 of us were deeply moved by the prophetic fervor with which  Reverend William Barber called for a: gathering of 1,000 clergy of all faiths at the White House on June 6. He quoted -- and more than quoted, he channeled -- Jeremiah's call to challenge a corrupt and murderous king at his own royal palace.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g64-r2NUn8k&feature=youtu.be

At a Seder, you could connect it with the Haggadah passage that says, ““In every generation, all human beings must look upon ourselves as if we ourselves, not our forebears only, go forth from slavery to freedom.”

We offer these videos as a gift for your own Seder, or Holy Thursday tonight, or an evening Iftar break-fast early in Ramadan (which begins in the Western calendar on the evening of May 5).  Once you have watched these videos yourself, please send this letter to all your friends and post it to social media with the hashtag #FreedomSeder50.

And then please feel free to play these brief video moments for everyone around your table to see, to hear, to discuss.

We at The Shalom Center will work to make these prophetic seeds grow into reality.  Please join us in growing them by making a contribution to The Shalom Center, and by spreading this message.

Please  share this letter with your friends by clicking to https://theshalomcenter.org

and please click on the maroon “Contribute” button just below.

Blessings that we sow the seeds of fuller freedom now and grow them to flower in our future! --  Arthur

Your Seder: "What Is This Matzah?" "Who are these Troublesome Women?"

Dear friends, I have already written you how transformed and transformative was the #FreedomSeder50 just over a week ago. My letter yesterday lifted up for you Reverend William Barber's prophetic outcry for a protest by hundreds of clergy at the White House on  June 6.

Today I want to bring you some other aspects of the #FreedomSeder50  that you can bring into your own Seder, or into your own observance of the other holy festivals that Christians are observing now and Muslims will be observing very soon.

The traditional Seder does not  lift up the early resistance to Pharaoh that was initiated by women. First there were the midwives Shifra and Puah, who refused to obey Pharaoh's orders to kill newborn boys of the Hebrew-speaking community. Then there were Miriam and Pharaoh's own daughter, who joined in an "international feminist conspiracy" to save Moses' life from the same murderous decree.

Both the order itself and the women's resistance are echoed in our own lives today, as children are ripped fom their parents' arms and forced to live in cages, traumatized, and as  women march outside the official political system and as new office-holders within it speak unwelcome truths.

At the #FreedomSeder50  Ana Maria Archila, who confronted a US Senator with  Truth in a US Capitol elevator, spoke her own truth in a profoundly moving story of her life. it was quite different in tone from Reverend Barber's outcry -- and just as deep.  We suggest that at your  Seder, read the passage about Shifra and Puah from Exodus I: 15-21, and then introduce into your Seder this moment of a woman's truth today:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fFhbB-PVc-8&feature=youtu.be

And there is a moment in the Seder when we lift up the Matzah to explain how this bread of affliction, the bread of the desperately poor and powerless, became the bread of freedom. At that moment we invite you to bring into the Seder the brief video of my own lifting of the Matzah at the #FreedomSeder50 -- in which I connected the Matzah with a teaching of Dr. Martin Luther King. You can watch it now at --

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jLou4WpS0yA&feature=youtu.be

And as I did yesterday, I invite you once more to bring into your own Seder the moment when  400 of us were deeply moved by the prophetic fervor with which  Reverend William Barber called for a: gathering of 1,000 clergy of all faiths at the White House on June 6. He quoted -- and more than quoted, he channeled -- Jeremiah's call to challenge a corrupt and murderous king at his own royal palace.

To have just a taste of that moment, click this link to watch and hear four minutes of Reverend Barber’s prophetic eloquence:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g64-r2NUn8k&feature=youtu.be

At a Seder, you could connect it with the Haggadah passage that says, ““In every generation, all human beings must look upon ourselves as if we ourselves, not our forebears only, go forth from slavery to freedom.”

We offer these videos as a gift for your own Seder, or Holy Thursday, or an evening Iftar break-fast early in Ramadan. Please feel free to play these brief video moments for everyone around your table to see, to hear, to discuss. Once you have watched these videos yourself, please send this letter to all your friends and post it to social media with the hashtag #FreedomSeder50.

We need your help to move forward with all that was catalyzed at the Seder, especially Reverend Barber's impassioned call for clergy to come to the White House on June 6. I have been invited by Reverend Barber to join the planning committee and the Council of Prophetic Voices for that action.

Our work is certainly cut out for us – it will take time and money --  to reach out to Jewish and other clergy, encourage support by all communities of Spirit, and engage the media so everyone is aware of this historic action. Please join us in making this Call a reality by making a contribution to The Shalom Center, and by spreading this message.

Please  share this letter with your friends by clicking to https://theshalomcenter.org/your-seder-what-matzah-who-are-these-troublesome-women

The Holy Spirit Transforms #FreedomSeder50

I’m amazed and delighted to share the remarkable results of #FreedomSeder50 just a week ago. They range from beginning to weave together a film of the Seder, to fulfilling the passionate call Reverend William Barber issued at the Seder for a march that is sure to go down in history: gathering 1,000 clergy of all faiths at the White House on June 6.

The energy at the Seder was extraordinary. It felt as if all 400 participants were reaching to be their best and highest selves, each lifting the All. It felt as if we were all being lifted by the Ruach HaKodesh, the Holy Spirit Who interbreathes all life. (The Hebrew word “ruach” means “breath,” “wind,” and “spirit.”)

To have just a taste of the experience, click this link to watch and hear four minutes of Reverend Barber’s prophetic eloquence:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g64-r2NUn8k&feature=youtu.be

Once you have watched the video yourself, please send this letter to all your friends and post to social media with the hashtag #FreedomSeder50. Make sure to tag me by name or @RabbiArthur. Also tweet and retweet, referencing @RabbiArthur. On Instagram, be sure to tag @the_Shalom_Center.

We offer these videos as a gift for your own thought in the spirit of “In every generation, all human beings must look upon ourselves as if we ourselves, not our forebears only, go forth from slavery to freedom.”

We need your help to move forward with all that was catalyzed at the Seder, especially Reverend Barber's impassioned call for clergy to come to the White House on June 6. I have been invited by Reverend Barber to join the planning committee and the Council of Prophetic Voices for that action. Our work is certainly cut out for us – it will take time and money -- for us to reach out to Jewish and  other clergy, encourage support by all communities of Spirit, and engage the media so everyone is aware of this historic action. Please join us in making this Call a reality by making a contribution to The Shalom Center, and by spreading this message. Please click on the maroon “Contribute” button just below.

Blessings of freedom within, freedom among, and freedom beyond – from this Passover into our future!  Arthur

"Faith in Action": 2d front-page PHL Inqy article Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50

  • 8 Apr 2019, front page, above the fold.
  • The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • By Jeremy Roebuck STAFF WRITER

Faith in Action

Revived call for change from an interfaith Freedom Seder.

It was the social tumult of the ’60s — its battles for civil rights, impassioned protests against the Vietnam War, and political upheavals — that compelled Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow to organize his first groundbreaking reimagining of the traditional feast marking the beginning of Passover, an event he dubbed “The Freedom Seder.”

TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer For the 50th anniversary of his Freedom Seder, Rabbi Arthur Waskow brought the renowned rite to a mosque. The rabbi, right, and host Imam Abdul-Halim Hassan, of the Masjidullah mosque, are seen before the seder.

A half-century later, Waskow said, the political moment calls for another revision.

“We’re in at least as deep a crisis now — probably deeper — than we were 50 years ago,” he said. “There needed to be another incarnation of the Freedom Seder.”

And so, on Sunday, Waskow — founder of Mount Airy’s Shalom Center and one of the leading voices of liberal Judaism — celebrated the 50th anniversary of that first Freedom Seder with a new iteration, updated to address the economic, political, and religious divisions plaguing our nation today.

Joined by an interfaith, interracial program of speakers, Waskow led [Not accurate: Emcee of the Seder was in fact Rabbi Phyllis Ocean Berman. Rabbi Waskow was one of the lead speakers.]a crowd of more than 400 through his most recent adaptation of the Haggadah, the text recited during the observance. This time, even the venue — Masjidullah, a West Oak Lane mosque — was purposefully chosen as a call for people of all faiths to stand together against injustice and prejudice of any form.

Passover, the eight-day holiday that this year will begin at sundown on April 19, celebrates the story of the Jewish people’s liberation from slavery in Egypt.

And though the long, dark beard Waskow wore during the first Freedom Seder in 1969 may have long ago faded into a snowy white, the 85-year-old rabbi’s observance Sunday was no less barbed or “of the moment” in its message.

Speakers ranging from a Presbyterian minister to the founder of the first Arabic language public school in New York City decried the resurgence of white supremacist movements around the world and President Donald Trump’s family separation policy at the border.

They mourned for the victims of recent mass shootings at a Christian church in Charleston, S.C., at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, and at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand. They called for economic support to impoverished communities and recited traditional blessings in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish.

“What is the pathway to freedom when far too many leaders — political and religious — cower and capitulate in the face of power for partisan and extremist advantage rooted in racism, classism, Islamophobia, homophobia, fear, and downright demonic meanness?” asked the Rev. William J. Barber II, an internationally known civil rights activist, as he delivered the rite’s concluding prophetic charge.


Abdul-Halim Hassan, imam at Masjidullah, said he didn’t hesitate when approached to host Waskow’s anniversary seder. He has long considered the rabbi an inspiration though they come from different faiths.

“There’s this term we use at the masjid — ‘ the shoulders who upon we stand,’ ” he said. “I’ve been standing on [ Waskow’s] shoulders for years.”

Still, holding a celebration of a Jewish holiday in a house of Muslim worship posed certain logistical issues.

For instance: How to handle a staple of any seder table — the kosher wine — in the home of a faith that prohibits alcohol? The answer — said Rabbi Phyllis Ocean Berman, Waskow’s wife and co-organizer of the celebration — was a specially designed grape juice that was both kosher and halal. [Not quite accurate report of what Rabbi Berman said: Charoset, which normally is a delicious paste of nuts, apples, spices, and wine, was for this occasion made with grape juice instead: thus charoset that was halal as well as kosher.And the Fpur Cups of the Seder were also grape juice, not wine.]

Meanwhile, the ritual naming of seven plagues visited upon Egypt — here replaced by scourges afflicting modern society including racism, militarism, materialism, and sexism — was interrupted briefly to accommodate the Muslim call to sunset prayers.

But interfaith roots have been a part of the Freedom Seder since its first iteration, held at an African American church in Washington on the first anniversary of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination.

King’s murder provoked riots in cities across the country, including the nation’s capital, where President Lyndon Johnson called out the National Guard and imposed a curfew that put hundreds of people in jail.

Waskow, who was then working as a secular community activist, said the sight of military convoys rolling through his largely black neighborhood on the first night of Passover triggered something inside of him.

“My insides began saying, ‘This is Pharaoh’s army,’ ” he said. “I was going home to celebrate liberation and there’s Pharaoh’s armies on the streets. The seder became this volcano of energy I had to write. It was just an absolute necessity.”

The Haggadah he delivered the following year — published in 1969 in Ramparts magazine — became a phenomenon in liberal Judaism, launching a host of imitations penned around themes such as feminism, peace, and the environment.

But not everyone loved Waskow’s reimagination of the Passover observance. Some viewed it as an unwelcome distortion of tradition or an injection of divisive political debates into the celebration of a religious holiday.

Still, the need to challenge injustice is no less great today, said Waskow and his assorted speakers Sunday.

“It’s a different cast of characters but all of those ‘-isms’ still exist — all of those things that plague our society continue,” said Debbie Almontaser, board president of the Muslim Community Network. “It’s really a moral imperative for us all to band together.”

Hoping to enlist their audience in their fight, the seder’s organizers passed out postcards to each attendee, urging them to write down specific steps they intend to take to combat the modern world’s plagues.

The postcards will be mailed back to their authors in about a week — a reminder that commitment to their cause should extend beyond the holy days of their various faiths.

“Hopefully, people won’t just leave here thinking, ‘Well, that was great,’ ” Waskow said. “They’ll be reminded to make a real commitment.”

Pages

Subscribe to RSS - Featured