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Action Guide for #Sukkot4ClimateHealing : Part 2, Ritual Resources

[At https://theshalomcenter.org/content/inviting-you-join-sukkot4climatehealing is the basic unfolding of our spiritually rooted strategy for engaging a wide variety of religious and spiritual communities in healing Earth and Humankind from climate disaster. This report follows the Guide to Sukkot Action, Part 1,  accessible at https://theshalomcenter.org/action-guide-sukkot4climatehealing-part-1. That report lays out the step-by-step process of organizing a Sukkot action to heal Earth.

[This Guide to an activist celebration of #Sukkot4Climate Healing was written by Faryn Borella. She is a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and the Ira Silverman Memorial Intern at The Shalom Center. The Guide is intendedd to support groups of Jews and memberss of other religious, spirituaal, and ethical groups who joiin in celebrating Sukkot, the Jewish Harvest Festival tht traditionally welcomes participation by all communities that seek to honor, protect, and justly share Earth's abundance. In our generation, this includes insisisting on public policies to heal Earth and Humanity from the climate crisis. AW, editor]

Ritual Resources:

For a classic book on the history, spiritual meaning, and practices of the flow of the Jewish festivals, see Arthur Waskow’s  Seasons of Our Joy. The third edition, published by the Jewish Publication Society, is available from the publisher at  https://jps.org/books/seasons-of-our-joy/

 

 

General Sukkot Ritual Practices:

 

Below is a list of rituals traditionally practiced on Sukkot.Any one of these rituals could be used as part of your action. Here, they are summarized. Below, find amended versions of the rituals that tailor them toward the goal of Climate Healing.

  • Building and dwelling in the Sukkah
  • Ushpizin: A ritual to welcome our “sacred guests” into the sukkah with us. We perform a short ceremony to welcome the ushpizin (Aramaic for “guests”). The full text of the ritual invites them to join us, including prayers that our fulfillment of the mitzvah of sukkah will be worthy of Divine favor. Then, on the first day we say, “I invite to my meal the exalted guests, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David. May it please you, Abraham, my exalted guest, that all the other exalted guests dwell with me and with you – Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, and David.”

In many communities, women ushpizot have been added. One approach to naming them is based upon the seven women prophets named in the Talmud: Sarah, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Abigail, Huldah, and Esther. Other lists connect with the deep understandings of the spiritual aspects of various biblical women, especially the Four Foremothers, Miriam, Hannah, and Esther..

And in some communities, heroic men and women of later eras and other-than-Jewish communities are welcomed as sacred guests: for example, Martin Luther King and Fannie Lou Hamer; John Muir and Rachel Carson.

  • On each day, a different one or two of the seven or fourteen is singled out, in order. [Check Ritualwell or Open Siddur for roster of uspizot] For more information, see here
  • Hallel: chanting Psalms 113-118, songs of joy and thanksgiving. The full text can be found here:

https://www.myjewishlearning.com/article/ushpizin-welcoming-guests/.

  • Benching Lulav and Etrog: Waving the lulav and etrog, in the seven directions ---  six outward – Left, Right, Front, Back, Up, Down – each time bringing the lulav inward to touch your heart --  the seventh direction,accompanied by blessings.
    • Take up the lulav and etrog.
    • Say: May my thoughts be holy, in token of the abundance of blessing that is mine from heaven and earth. With these fourspecies, I reach out to the Interbreathing Spirit of all Life, whose Presence is with us in all directions and all ways.
    • Wave the species in the seven directions and recite the blessing (below listed first in the masculine, then in the feminine.
    • בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יָהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְוֹתָיו וְצִוָּנוּ עַל נְטִילַת לוּלָב   
    • Barukh Atah Yah, Eloheynu ruakh haolam, asher kidshanu b'mitzvot v'tzivanu al netilat lulav.
    • בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ יָהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְשַׁתְנוּ בְּמַצּוֹתֶיהָ וְצִוַתְנוּ עַל נְטִילַת לוּלָב
    • Brukhah At Yah Eloheynu ruakh haolam asher kid'shatnu b'mitzvot v'tzivatnu al n'tilat lulav.   
    • Blessed are you, Yah, Breath of Life, who makes us holy us with Your commandments [or “connections”] and has enjoined upon us the mitzvah of the lulav.   
    •   בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יָהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָנוּ וְקִיְּמָנוּ וְהִגִּיעָנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה
    • Barukh Atah Yah, Eloheynu ruakh haolam, sheheheyanu v'kiy'manu v'higiyanu lazman hazeh.       
    • בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ יָהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם שֶׁהֶחֱיָתְנוּ וְקִיְּמָתְנוּ וְהִגִּיעָתְנוּ לַזְּמָן הַזֶּה   
    • Brukhah At Yah Eloheynu ruah haolam sheheheyatnu v'kiy'matnu v'higiatnu lazman hazeh.   
    • Blessed are you, Yah, Breath of Life, who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this moment.
  • Torah: On the first day of Sukkot, the Torah portion Emor (Leviticus 23:33-44) is read, which includes the instructions to dwell in booths. The Haftarah, the special selection from the prophetic books that accompanies Torah readings on Shabbat and holidays, is from Zechariah 14:7-9, 16-21. The Torah is read on every day of the festival, including the Shabbat that falls during Sukkot. On this Shabbat, the Book of Kohelet (Ecclesiastes) is read.
  • Hoshanot: prayers recited each day of Sukkot, asking the divine for salvation. For more information, see here
  • Hoshanah Rabbah: The seventh and final day of the intermediary days of Sukkot, prior to Shemini Atzeret, on which it is said the judgement of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur draws to a close and the world is judged for how much rain it will receive. Seven Hoshanot are recited as we circle the bimah seven times. For more information, see here.
  • Simchat Beit Hasho’evah: An ancient ritual of water-pouring, recently revived, in which the act of water pouring is used to induce the rains from the heavens. For more information, see here and here.

 

Alternative Sukkot Prayers/Practices for Climate Healing:

 

More information on Climate Catastrophe and Just Response:

The Highest “Crime & Misdemeanor”: Burning Earth.

 To Seek the Remedy: #Sukkot4ClimateHealing 

Surely of all the possible “high crimes and misdemeanors” for which we should Impeach a President, the highest crime is deliberately acting to choke and burn our Mother Earth, our “common home” and only source of nourishment for Humankind and all life-forms.

As impeachment of Mr.  Trump proceeds, we should make sure that the Bill of Impeachment includes this charge. To name this crime is crucial to guiding the future actions of every leader of the United States and indeed of every nation, every corporation. 

It is fitting that Impeachment comes to the fore as we are about to gather on Rosh Hashanah. The festival is a Time of Transformation, turning ourselves again from our misdeeds toward the Holy Interbreathing Spirit of all life. The festival is called “Hayom harat olam, The World’s BirthDay or ReConception Day.” The Shofar calls out, "Sleepers, Awake!"

Exactly two weeks later, we will celebrate Sukkot – of all the Jewish festivals, the one most open to Earth, traditionally the one that seeks a prosperous harvest for all the “seventy nations” of the world. 

Yet this year we know that all Earth and all peoples are facing a great crisis. Earth is crying out, “I can’t breathe!” The build-up of surplus CO2 is choking, scorching, and burning the home we humans share with all the other species in the great web of life.  Forests are burning, trees are dying, some crops are failing in unheard-of droughts, unprecedented storms and floods are drowning other crops, fish are vanishing as the oceans turn acid. 

Can we take Sukkot into public space to call for public policies that will heal our Earth, our asthma-haunted neighborhoods, our forgotten and disempowered workers, our farms and cities consumed by flood or fire?

 To heal Earth we will need to weave together scientific knowledge, spiritual wisdom, and political effectiveness. Among the spiritual resources we have are the festivals that were born from Mother Earth and her rhythmic “seasons of our joy.” Today we need Earth’s children --  the festivals -- to serve as sacred instruments for loving, saving, and healing their Mother Earth.

 The Shalom Center seeks to shape the celebration of #Sukkot4ClimateHealing and other festivals like Hanukkah, Tu B’Shvat, Pesach, and Tisha B’Av this year and in the future into a series of activist Earth-healing sacred practices. Our sacred goals: ending the climate crisis; healing Earth and Humanity from the ravages of global scorching; reversing the social injustice and oppression that Corporate Carbon Pharaohs and their governmental enablers impose on all of us,  especially on the most vulnerable among us; restoring for our grandchildren the life-giving climate that our grandparents joyfully lived in; and at the root of all these, learning to love  Earth rather than subduing it, subjugating it. 

 IMAGINE:

All across America, Jewish congregations or existing interfaith organizations invite others to join in multireligious Sukkot vigils at a local home-district office of a Senator or Congressmember.

The vigils gather on Wednesday, Thursday, and/or Friday, October 16, 17,  and 18 -- the third, fourth, and fifth  days of Sukkot --  each a weekday, when these offices will be open. 

 We stand in vigil outside or even inside the office, carrying signs like “Burning Earth: The Highest Crime and Misdemeanor.” 

We wave the Four Species (branches of myrtle, willow, and palm, plus the lemony etrog – or perhaps branches and fruit more familiar in North American ecosystems) in the seven directions of the universe.

 

We chant prayers old and new, songs, psalms, in Hebrew, English, Spanish, other languages, all in celebration of a healthy, healing Earth. By waving fruit and branches we affirm that no one of these offices, no Senator or Congressmember, no human being, could exist without these trees to breathe them into life. 

 We demand that one of the Bills of Impeachment name the acts of Mr. Trump to worsen threats to the web of life on Earth, including human life. His acts to worsen the emissions of CO2 and methane from autos, coal plants, fracking. To multiply oil wells and pipelines in our already troubled oceans and in our precious national parks. To weaken the protection of endangered species.

At the deepest level,  the choice we face is to subjugate Earth and human earthlings, or to love each other. At its deepest level, impeachment is necessary to turn our most powerful officials away from a campaign of abusing their power in order to subjugate immigrants and refugees and especially their children, Blacks, Muslims, Jews, women, the free press, the Congress, the Constitution – even Mother Earth herself, who nourishes us all. 

Impeachment is intended to turn those officials away from subjugation to democracy. And at the deepest spiritual root of democracy is love for human beings and life-forms of every sort and background, all of us pieces of the Grand Jigsaw Puzzle – pieces that we must fit together into a Beloved Community, a Sacred Unity.

If we wish to urge a program beside ensuring that Burning Earth is listed among the Highest of High Crimes, we can support the Green New Deal. Why that?  Because it has so far gathered the broadest support for a modern analogue to the Biblical teaching of the eco/social-justice practice of the Shmita/ Sabbatical Year in which Earth rested, human beings freely shared its bounty, and debts were annulled (Lev. 25 & Deut. 15).

Then Sunday October 20, the seventh and last day of Sukkot, known as “Hoshana Rabbah,” the culmination of its prayers and practices, would be the perfect day to gather in sukkot to celebrate and plan for outreach to broaden the community willing to take the next spiritually rooted action to heal Earth. Perhaps the next foray could be on the Friday after Thanksgiving and again during Hanukkah/ Christmastime in late December.   

No one person, organization, or community can do this alone. So The Shalom Center welcomes the sharing of such resources as songs, Hoshana prayers in English and Hebrew, designs for placards, and posters for the sukkah itself, all focused on carrying out the goals of the #Sukkot4ClimateHealingcampaign. To share them, please click to and respond to a brief survey  -- it will take only three minutes – at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XJCXS7R .

With blessings that this year ahead be one of sweet Transformation in our own individual lives, in the life of our nation and all nations, and in our sacred relationship with Earth and the Interbreathing Holy Spirit of all life – Arthur

Spread over All of Us the Earth-Healing Power of Sukkot

Last week I sent you a recipe for #Sukkot4ClimateHealing.

Like all recipes, it was intended to invite forth your own imagination – some cinnamon here, sprinkle of lime essence there.

The basic idea is that we turn the Harvest Festival of Sukkot into a melodious instrument for healing our wounded Mother Earth from which Sukkot as a festival was born in the first place.

We suggested holding vigils at Senatorial Congressional home-district offices and/ or  branches or cash machines of Wells-Fargo  Bank, waving  in the seven directions of the world the traditional Four Species --  branches of myrtle, willow, and palm, and the lemon-like fruit of the etrog or citron. (Four species that grow in North American eco-systems might also be appropriate.)   

Watching the unrestrained joy of this child now, waving the Four Species, keep in mind that 30 years from now, whether this child lives in joy or misery depends of whether we act NOW to heal the climate.

These vigils might demand support for the Green New Deal and an end to loans and Federal subsidies to Corporate Carbon Pharaohs that are burning our planet and choking our kids with asthma.

For the full recipe of #Sukkot4ClimateHealing, please see--

https://theshalomcenter.org/content/inviting-you-join-sukkot4climatehealing

Please help us with your own ideas and suggestions about carrying out this #Sukkot4ClimateHealing  campaign. We invite you to sign up for whatever sacred sources, old or new, you could create or share that would spiritually and politically enhance the sacred movement #Sukkot4ClimateHealing
to save all Earth and all Humanity from disaster: plans for a vigil, prayers, Hoshanot, sermons or
midrash, songs.

Please click here and respond to a brief survey  -- it should take only three minutes – at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XJCXS7R Thanks!

Within two weeks we will share with you and our wide readership an action plan for communities to use and modify, and links to resources that we harvest.  Meanwhile, we are sending a song that you could use either in the midst of a communal prayer service or in an activist vigil at a Wells Fargo branch or a Congressional/ Senatorial office.

With blessings that our commitment take root “Like a Tree that’s planted by the water” --- Arthur

Inviting You to Join in #Sukkot4ClimateHealing

Inviting You to Join in #Sukkot4ClimateHealing

Sukkot, the week-long Jewish harvest festival that begins the evening of October 13, is of course in its essence a festival of interconnection among Earth and human earthlings. (I use this odd word for human beings to echo in English the way that Hebrew teaches in language the truth of the intertwined relationship – with the words adamah (Earth) and adam (human).

The Shalom Center intends to make the celebration of #Sukkot4ClimateHealing this year and in the future one of a series of Earth-connecting sacred practices. Through them, Jews and those of other spiritual, religious, and ethical communities can join to pursue these sacred goals: ending the climate crisis, healing Earth and Humanity from the ravages of global scorching, and restoring for our grandchildren the life-giving climate that our grandparents joyfully lived in.

How do we plan to do this?

The celebration of Sukkot by our community can be transformed in several ways:

1) Jewish tradition teaches that through Sukkot we seek the just sharing of Earth’s abundance not only for the Jewish people but also for the “70 nations of the world” – that is, all the communities of humankind. We propose to make this vision real by sharing with other spiritual, religious, and ethical communities the prayers and actions that can work to heal what Pope Francis called our common home, all Earth.

2) We can direct the traditional symbols, prayers, songs, and practices of Sukkot to make explicit our determination to actively work for eco/ social justice and healing.

  • Traditionally, for this week we build a “sukkah” –a fragile, temporary home, a hut with a leafy, leaky roof --  open to sun, wind, rain. We eat there, pray there, some might live there.
  • We invoke the blessings of the sacred Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, Ruach Ha”Olam, as we wave the fruit or branches of Four Species of trees in the seven directions of Earth, bringing us close to the touch and sight and feel and smell of our different trees and breezes.
  • We chant Hosha-Na (Please Save!) prayers that ask the One Interbreathing Spirit of all life to save all Earth and Humankind from locusts, drought, insects, and other plagues. 
  • We can chant a  Rosh Hashana prayer that  even ends, “Please save this planet, suspended in space!” – written long before anyone had taken the iconic sacred photo of Earth suspended in space.

3) Some of us can also choose to take Sukkot prayers and practices beyond the walls of synagogues, churches, mosques, temples  -- beyond even the  fragile spaces of our sukkah-huts --  into public and commercial spaces to demand our governments and businesses change their policies so as to heal our Mother Earth, not poison and burn her.

What might this look like? Please understand that the imaging of possible action that follows will, we assume, be modified by local communities as befits their own circumstances.

The Film of a Future: #Sukkot4ClimateHealing

 All across America, hundreds of local clusters of people gather in synagogues or other houses of prayer and Spirit, perhaps in a communal sukkah. They are of varied religious, spiritual, and ethical traditions and communities who have been invited to join in an activist celebration rooted in Jewish tradition. They walk together to a local "home district" office of a US Senator or Congressperson

These processions carry the traditional Sukkot life-symbols of palm, willow, and myrtle branches and the lemony etrog /citron (or some version of these Four Species that are rooted in the varied ecologies of North America).  Perhaps they also carry a very simple version of a sukkah --  a thatched-roof hut carried on four posts.  

 They gather on Wednesday, Thursday, and/or Friday, October 16, 17,  and 18 -- the third, fourth, and fifth  days of Sukkot. (The first two days are for many Jews especially holy days in which they would not travel other than by foot, would not spend money, etc.) And it is important to gather not on Saturday or Sunday or on the near-by American holy-day of Columbus Day/ Indigenous Peoples Day,  but on a weekday when Congressional offices are open.

At the bank or office, some picket outside, some enter --  carrying signs like "Endorse the Green New Deal," "Burning Earth is the Highest Impeachable Crime," “Stop Funding Deadly Fossil Fuels, Start Funding Energy from Sun & Wind,”  "Burning Carbon => Asthma Epidemics & Environmental Racism"

They keep waving the Four Species in the seven directions of the universe. They keep chanting songs, prayers, psalms, in Hebrew, English, Spanish, and perhaps other languages, all in celebration of a healthy, healing Earth. 

They demand that the leading officials in the places where they are chanting appear and sign a pledge to support the Green New Deal as an act to heal Earth and bring both life and justice to endangered and marginalized human communities. (Why the Green New Deal?  Because we believe it is the closest analgue for a modern society to the Biblical teaching of the eco/social-justice practice of the Shmita/ Sabbatical Year in which Earth rested, human beings shared its bounty, and debts were annulled.)

 These Earth-Affirmers join with others – peoples of the Indigenous Nations, Christians, Muslims, Unitarians, and many others -- in the Name of the ONE Who is the Interbreathing Spirit of all life, Whose universal Breathing is the “nameless name” that supports and suffuses all the many diverse Names of God in many cultures and communities, Whose Interbreathing of CO2 and Oxygen preserves all life and is now gravely wounded by the production of more CO2 than all Earth’s vegetation  can transmute to Oxygen. 

Then on Sunday October 20, the seventh and last day of Sukkot, known as “Hoshana Rabbah,” the culmination of its prayers and practices, would be the perfect day to gather in sukkot to celebrate. That might also be a time to plan for outreach to broaden the community willing to take the next spiritually rooted action to heal Earth. Perhaps the next foray could be on the Friday after Thanksgiving and again during Hanukkah/ Christmastime in late December.   

Before Sukkot and afterward, in congregations and interfaith gatherings all across America among sermons and as part of prayer services and public teach-ins, there are discussions of the dangers facing Earth and what we need to do to return Earth to the healthy climate that our grandparents enjoyed and that we intend to leave to our grandchildren. 

Resources #Sukkot4ClimateHealing campaign Will Need and The Shalom Center will Gather and Share

Model sermons to prepare people for this Sukkot campaign, for delivery on Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and the Jumaa,  Shabbat,  and Sabbath services just before and after. 

Model sermons and services for Sukkot and celebration of Earth and Harvest in other traditions.

Texts and translations and melodies for prayers, old and new, for Earth and human earthlings under these stressful conditions.

Information on the most important institutions that are now preventing climate healing, and the most effective ways for faith communities to change their behavior or redirect their energy.

The Shalom Center and I welcome your comments on this proposal for a campaign and your offers to provide and share resources like those described above. Within two weeks we will share with you and our wide readership an action plan for communities to use and modify, and links to resources that we harvest.

Please help us with your own ideas and suggestions about carrying out this #Sukkot4ClimateHealing campaign. Please click to and respond to a brief survey  -- it should take only three minutes – at https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/XJCXS7R Thanks!

Our Grandchildren Call Us: Join the Climate Strike!

Our Grandchildren Call Us: Join the Climate Strike!

On Friday, September 20, there will be a world-wide Strike for Climate Action. To see where and when in your own town there will be a gathering in support of the strike, you can click to  https://globalclimatestrike.net/    and plug in your town or zip code.

If you join in the Climate Strike, feel free to use the graphic and the slogan just above.

The Climate Strike began with young people in Europe, then with the Sunrise Movement in the US, then with groups like 350.org, Friends of the Earth, and groups rooted in faith and in the Spirit -– carrying out the call of the last of the ancient Hebrew Prophets (Malachi 3 ) that the hearts of the parents and children must turn to each other to prevent the utter destruction of Earth.

What is the goal of the strike? Most broadly, to have the Climate Crisis formally recognized as a national crisis by every government. Beyond that, various groups will have varied intentions. For me, the goal is enactment of some version of the Green New Deal. That approach comes closest to the biblical commitment to connect social justice with eco-sanity. You can read the Congressional GND resolution sponsored by Senator Ed Markey and Congresswoman AOC,  at

 https://news.brightest.io/green-new-deal

I’ve been asked for advice about how Jews and other religious folk can join in these events while making publicly clear the spiritual, religious, and /or ethical covenant/ commitment that for many of us is at the heart of our passionate insistence on healing Earth from the climate crisis.

My suggestions: First, most obvious, especially for Jews, the Shofar (the ram’s horn, an earthy sacred instrument for calling out sorrow, alarm, and transformation). During Elul, the Jewish month before Rosh Hashanah, the tradition teaches us to blow the Shofar every day except on Shabbat, to reawaken us to the need for transforming our lives. September 20 this year will be the 20th of Elul, and Jewish groups taking part in the Strike could make a point of publicly blowing the Shofar to remind us of our obligation to love Mother Earth and heal her.

Jews, Christians, Muslims, and other communities could also carry posters or banners that use the graphic at the top of this letter, or this one -- slightly more grown-up-- with the text above or this text beneath:

 

 

 The text could read:  “JEWS [or Xxxx] JOIN NOAH TO SAVE ALL LIFE ON EARTH ”

or whatever your own heart or group desires.

 The weekend that begins on September 20 will have at least two notable Jewish experiences that bear on the Climate Crisis.  One is the reading of a passage of Torah that begins (Deut. 26: 1-3) by celebrating the first fruits of abundance that come from Earth’s bounty, God’s bounty, the bounty that in scientific fact as well as spiritual insight comes to us through the Interbreathing of all life --  whether you name the Interbreathing “YHWH,”  or the interbreathing of CO2 and Oxygen that makes life possible upon this planet. .

 Later in the portion (Deut 28: 20-24), the Torah recites the consequences of not following the teachings of YHWH, the Breath of Life, the Interbreathing Spirit of the world, about the ways of loving and respecting Earth.

 Those consequences  --“scorching heat,”  drought” – sound very much like the consequences that climate scientists have been warning about for the future and have  now become real  in the present.

 Notice I said “consequences,” not “punishments.” The nature of the Interbreathing that all life shares is that each act has consequences. A very different theology from one that understands God as King, Lord, Judge Who rewards and punishes. 

 In my view, we humans will not be able to heal Earth and ourselves so long as we insist on a hierarchical worldview. We will come out of this crisis fully alive only if we grow to affirm an ecological worldview in which all the differences and uniquenesses of life and society are crucial because, like the unique pieces in a jigsaw puzzle, they fit together into a magnificent Whole, a ONE. 

For this reason, I think –- but it is certainly not necessary to do this in order to join in supporting the Climate Strike --  that it is time for us to drop the “King, Lord, Judge” metaphor for God, to stop substituting the words “Adonai, Lord, “ for YHWH and instead to “pronounce” it truthfully, without vowels -- – just by breathing ”YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh.”  Or to translate it truthfully as “Breath of Life.”

The second special aspect of the weekend September 20-22 is that on that Saturday night, traditionally, Jews gather for Slichot – beginning the process of “Forgiveness” that is a crucial part of the oncoming High Holy Days.

One “ceremony” or “spiritual exercise” that has in some communities become a mark of Slichot: The community gathers around a large bowl of clear water, Each person receives a piece of paper and a pen with water-soluble ink. After some songs and prayers, each person writes a misdeed they have done on the paper and slowly, as the community watches, one by one its members plunge the paper into the water and watch the words dissolve. 

Without knowing what each person’s misdeeds are, the community deeply understands that each person has taken the first steps of recognizing their own misdeeds, and the community as a whole can take the first steps of forgiveness.

Not till the recognition of misdeed has taken root can each person do tshuvah, “turning” – action to repair the damage already done and to stop mis-doing the misdeed.

What does this have to do with the Climate Strike? The Strike should be not only a demand that large institutions change but also a “strike” of one’s own – taking steps to stop what we ourselves are doing that brings on Earth-wide disaster, just as in a labor strike the workers stop contributing their own labor to their own oppression.

Those who take part in Slichot can encourage each other to think this way.

This will not happen all at once. People who say that almost all of us are "oiloholics" -- addicts of Carbon Burning – are right. Kicking the habit is not easy,, because it takes social change as well as individual change. .  But nicotine addicts joined with others in challenging the Tobacco Drug Lords – and won legal and policy changes that have reduced the level of addiction.  The Climate Strike offers the same opportunity, even to oiloholics, to challenge the Carbon Drug Lords and force them to change.  Slichot can help at the individual level, as the Strike does at the whole-society level.

Our outlook on the Climate Strike is like our approach to all aspects of the Great Turning tht Earth and Humanity need today: The “spiritual” and the “political” cannot be severed from each other. A new politics of planetary survival must be rooted in an “old” spirituality of love – made new.

The Shalom Center and I welcome your comments on these thoughts, and your reports and suggestions on what you think Jews and other religious communities can do in relation to the Climate Strike on September 20. Please write us! (Climate@theshalomcenter.org) If you are willing, we’ll circulate your ideas to our broad readership and membership.

3 Steps TODAY toward Healing Mother Earth

Between now and October 20, we have a major opportunity to greatly grow the gathering public wave for healing Earth and Humankind from the destructive climate crisis.

I am writing to urge us all to act in the spirit of the Shabbat HaGadol haftarah in which YHWH, the Breath of Life, calls on Elijah to turn the hearts of parents and children to each other lest Earth be utterly destroyed.

  1.  On September 20, the Swedish 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, the Sunrise Movement, Extinction Rebellion, 350.org, and others – including The Shalom Center and other Jewish and multireligious groups  -- have together called for a World-Wide Climate Strike to insist that governments at every level take action to heal our Mother Earth and ourselves from the deadly fires, floods, droughts, superstorms, spread of deadly diseases, famines, and rising seas that we are already suffering  -- with worse to come. The Shalom Center and the Jewish Earth Alliance are among sponsors of a webinar on Jewish participation in this World-wide Climate Strike. Join the Webinar at 4 pm Eastern Time TODAY (Monday) by linking to  

https://zoom.us/j/902022662 or Dial by your location +1 646 558 8656 US (New York)   +1 720 707 2699 US   Meeting ID: 902 022 662 


  1.   From Sunday evening October 13 and onward for seven days,  the Jewish community will celebrate Sukkot, the earthiest of all our holy days. That festival already has a tradition of celebrating a healthy and abundant Earth for all the “70 nations,” not just the Jewish people; so a multireligious network could authentically lift Sukkot into Earyh-poteddting activism. OFor Sukkot we could borrow a Roh Hashanah prayer that celebrates "Toleh eretz al blima-- -- The One Who suspends Earth in space [literally, in that which is without whatness]." –- The prayer was written long before anyone could take the iconic photo of Planet Earth, suspended in space.

The Shalom Center has already begun exploring how to draw on the symbols, the practices, and the wisdom of  Sukkot to carry into public along with those of the “70 nations”  for the sake of the web of life of Earth "theirself," not only for the sake of Humankind. Rabbi Art Green, rector of the rabbinical school at Boston Hebrew College, has enthusiastically joined in exploring this, and the (Boston) Jewish Climate Action Network (JCAN) has joined in. Please click "Reply" and write us at The Shalom Center if you want to join in this effort to make Sukkot, a festival born from Earth, into a holy instrument to heal the Earth that birthed her.

 

  1.  We are joining in a call from the young people of the Sunrise Movement to join in a campaign to ensure a major debate by Presidential candidates on the climate crisis. The Democratic National Committee will decide whether to hold such a debate on the most profound issue facing the USA, the human race, and the planet. Such a debate will act as a National Teach-in on climate and how to address the dangers we face.


Below you will see a link from the Sunrise team helping us to take a few minutes right away to help this campaign by calling just two of our own state and local reps on the Democratic National Committee to urge them to vote for the DNC to hold a special Presidential Debate on this issue. To reach your two DNC members, please click on this link and plug in your zip code.  I’ve done this, and it literally takes only 2 minutes each.


  1. Call your two DNC members

    https://act.credoaction.com/call/climate_debate_calls_sunrise/?link_id=1&can_id=de6277e02b2b184c1a1c39f5bf6caf62&source=email-the-final-stretch-10&email_referrer=email_596452___subject_776981&email_subject=good-news-and-bad-news

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace! --  Arthur

The Debates: Leap across a Precipice to the Other Side, or take an "incremental" step into the Abyss?

The most profound question that has surfaced in the Democratic Party’s presidential-primary debates is between calls for a transformation of American society and economy in the direction of far more compassion and justice for human communities and Earth itself – or a series of small steps in the same direction.

I think the world --  both Earth and human earthlings – is crying out for Big Change. Swift Change.  As we say in the traditional prayer for Healing, refuah shleymah, refuat hanefesh v’refuat haguf,  bimheyra v’yamenu! -- a complete healing of soul and body, swiftly in our own days!

We are facing a double crisis: 

Within a dozen years, the scientists tell us and the evidence mounts up with every morning newspaper, we must stop emitting CO2 and methane into The Sacred Interbreathing of all Life that is the actual “God” surrounding and infusing all God’s varied names –- or see the life-web of our planet wither and die.

And perhaps in an even narrower time frame, we are hearing the cries of human pain at a dead-end of jobs and income and dignity and even life-span that are moving millions in the USA and many other countries toward support for unenlightened despots. Threatening that democracy will wither and soon die.

These two outcries, these two impending disasters, are really one. For the root of both disasters is subjugation by the Powerful of those they disempower: The Hyper-wealthy and Hyper-powerful treating Earth and her human beings as objects, as “Its” rather than “Thous,” to use Buber’s insightful language. As tools rather than Persons.

“Globalization” does not have to be subjugation, but it has been so far. It has engineered the massive loss of jobs and future income, of local cultures and foods and musics and story-tellings and prayers -- and with them the loss of a sense of meaningful life. Those who first mutter and whine and then cry aloud that they are the “forgotten Americans” are right. And some of them are then more easily manipulated into taking on sujugation of others as the remedy for the subjugation that they themselves are suffering. 

That chain of clamping chains on those less powerful benefits those at the top. It is the classic strategy of Pharaoh: a Hyper-Power that necessarily curdles into racism, religious bigotry, hatred of foreigners, contempt toward women, caging and killing children, poisoning and plaguing Earth.

Indeed, the strongest way of persuading those in despair to keep oppressing those “below” them is precisely the conviction that there can’t and won’t be basic healing change – only band-aids.  The “incrementalists” will create exactly what they claim to fear –- more support for Pharaoh’s neo-fascism.  

What is The Alternative? We have gained the deep ecological knowledge in biology that could actually respond to each unique and individual species as a sacred part of an interwoven Whole. We could apply the same way of thinking to our ethics, our politics, our economics, our culture, our religion.

Those who claim that only small increments of change can defeat Trumpist neo-fascism are profoundly mistaken. Trump is a symptom that then causes the disease to worsen. But it is the disease that needs to be addressed. To defeat Mr. Trump in an election but leave the basic disease untreated will leave the cancer growing as it was doing before 2016 – but still more desperate and angry.  

The “incrementalists,” for example, complain that the Green New Deal is too big, faces too many aspects of our deep disease. But that is precisely its value. Even at the crassest political level, we cannot make the great leap from the Carbon-burning  Economy to the Solar-Wind Economy without making sure that coal miners and oil-refinery workers can move into the new economy. And we can only make the transformation by mobilizing millions into worthwhile, well-paying jobs. The pieces mesh into a whole.

And in the other direction, we cannot address the environmental diseases that are worsening from lead in drinking water, coal dust in the air, poisons in the food, opioids to meet despair with unintended or deliberately suicidal overdoses, without making the leap into a democratic,  decentral, renewable, and communal  energy system and new kinds of health care  -- focused on public and environmental health as well as universal coverage. The opposite pf energy and health systems based on Super-Profits.

If you try to leap across a yawning chasm by taking one small step, you fall shrieking from the precipice into the death below. Learning how to leap across is not easy, but it is necessary. We know the springy dance-steps that can help us dance in God’s earthquake, across the precipice to the other side. We need to have the courage to dance them.

BLOCKING "ICE" HQ in Washington DC

On Tuesday (July 16), I took part in a large Jewishly sponsored action -- "NEVER AGAIN MEANS NOW!" blocking entrances to the ICE headquarters in Washington DC. Ten of us at one of the entrances were arrested; evidently once ICE had opened that entrance they decided not to arrest those of us at other entrances. We sat blocking them for a sweltering three hours, after a huge gathering (more than 1,000) at the Mall. 

I was invited by the organizers to speak at both places. One the Mall I lifted up specific Torah passages about how to treat refugees (Deut 23: 15-16) and immigrants (Num 11) and spoke about the Shoah as bearing holy lessons for our own generation.

The Washington Post (plus other papers around the country that picked up the WaPo story)  quoted me:


"'You can't use a dictionary or an encyclopedia to understand the word 'concentration camp'; what you need is a calendar, because concentration camps over time turn into death camps if you don't stop them,' said Rabbi Arthur Waskow, 85, who came from Philadelphia to stand outside the doors of ICE headquarters.
"Waskow, who became a rabbi after beginning public life as a civil rights activist more than 55 years ago, said he was ready to be arrested. He stood at the door as officers inside milled about. On his shirt, Waskow wore this message: 'Resisting tyrants since Pharaoh.'” 

I had added that  in organizing to affirm and embody that  “Never Again is Now,” we are not demeaning the memory of the Six Million but blessing their memory. For the most sacred wisdom we can take from the Holocaust is the understanding of how to halt any campaign of cruelty and subjugation against any community that could lead toward genocide. 

The Trumpist policy of cruelty toward both refugees and immigrants has already taken the first steps on that march into the darkest of disasters. “Never again” must indeed mean action now. 

 Every society faces that profound question: How do we treat "outsiders"? With love, or with fear, hatred, and violence? The American people and our government are not the first society in history to face the basic spiritual question of how to respond to people from outside the community. Long ago, the Hebrew Bible taught how to respond both to refugees and to settled immigrants. Torah pointed the way toward lchoosing love, for every society that inherits its wisdom -- though some have turned away from that wisdom. Torah teaches:

If people flee a tyrannical master, do not force them to return to their master. Welcome them to live within your borders wherever they choose. Do not maltreat them!”  (Deut. 23:16-17)

 “If a foreigner who lives in your country wishes to take part in Passover (the Festival of Freedom), welcome them to take part just as you do, for  there must be one law for the home-born and the foreigner.” (Num. 9:14)

 At the deepest roots of our morality are these 3000-year-old teachings of wisdom. Thank God – literally! -- that thousands today are acting to affirm them. 

 The reporter asked whether, at 85, I was tired of protesting. As the Post reports, I said:

“‘I'm not tired, but I am sad that it is still necessary to do this. I can't imagine how my grandparents, who came to this country thinking they could make a life of freedom here, how they would be feeling now,' he said, his voice shaking. 'It horrifies me to imagine.'"

At the ICE HQ, as we prepared to risk arrest, I retold the story of the first recorded acts of nonviolent civil disobedience:  the midwives Shifra & Puah who refused to obey Pharaoh’s orders to kill newborn babies, and then Miriam & Bat Pharaoh’s daughter, who saved Moses’ life. Probably the first act of resistance, I said, and for sure the second were “international feminist conspiracies”  -- just as Jews and Latinx were joining in these actions to protect refugees and immigrants.

And the Pharaoh's attack on children pointed toward a repeated tactic of tyrants who have planned genocide: Attack the children first. Since the human instinct to protect human children is so strong, if the tyrant gets away with that it proves these children are not really human -- and then their whole communiity can be dehumanized and murdered.

Beyond even that, for Pharaoh and for Trump, is a policy of bringing Plagues upon our Planet. The impulse to subjugate others, even Earth herself, becomes an addiction. Every act of resistance  -- protecting and freeing immigrants, and Blacks, and Muslims, and women, and the poor, and the suffocated middle class, and the free press, and Congress, and Earth -- becomes an act of protection for all the othes who are under attack.

 For a fuller report and more photos, see https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/10-protesters-arrested-inside-ice-headquarters-in-washington/2019/07/16/f030bb8e-a7d9-11e9-a3a6-ab670962db05_story.html?utm_term=.8c9c41f3e536

 Shalom, salaam, paz, peace -- the peace that is rooted in justce --  Arthur

July 4: Interdependence with All Life, Independence from All Tyranny

 

On July 4, 1963, I was sitting comfortably reading the Declaration of Independence. (I was just about to complete my Ph.D dissertation in US history, on “The 1919 Race Riots,” and loved reading the facsimile copy of the Declaration that the NY Times publishes every year as a full-page  insert.)  The phone rang. Two friends of mine had just been arrested in Baltimore at a major “sit-in” to end racial segregation in a Baltimore amusement park – Gwynn Oak. And oh, the sit-in would be repeated the following Sunday, July 7. Could I send money for bail

I was living in Washington DC, Baltimore was my home town, and in the ‘50s, I went to my high-school and college proms at Gwynn Oak. Till 1954, the public schools were segregated, and Johns Hopkins had exactly one Negro student in each of the four undergrad classes. I had written against racial segregation, but in those days I certainly lived inside it.

 

I gulped, and said “of course,” and sent the money.

 

And then I sat there shvitzing. Here I was reading the Declaration, and my friends were living it. My hear was beating ---  “Come on, Waskow! What’s the point?!!”

 

So I went to Baltimore on July 7, joined the sit-in with my friends who, unexpectedly, found a way actually Here’s my sense fwhat we face today and what wee need to the park,  and just as a mob of white segregationists found us and was about to kill my friends and me – got saved by the cops arresting us. 

And came away shaken into a new place in my life. Historian? OK. Commentator on contemporary public policy? OK. Activist? Ummmm, ummmm, OK.  YES, OK!!  Arrested some 25 times since then.

 

Now I see the Declaration as a living document, not locked away in history books or in archaic typography on a page of NYT.  Alive, changing, demanding new thought, new action. Transformed by Frederick Douglass, by the women of Seneca Falls, by Emma Goldman. Transformed by the world we live in, by the last three years of a would-be fascist US President. Unimaginable in 1963. All too real in 2019.

So I am willing to rewrite it and far more important, re-do it.

So here’s my sense of what we believe, what we face, where we need to reach, and what we need to do:  With the help of a God Who is not above us but pervades us, breathes us, and Whom we breathe ==  Arthur   

July 4, 2019:

Interdependence with All Life;

Independence from All Tyranny

 

 For many Americans, the 13-starred Flag of the American Revolution continues to symbolize resistance to tyranny. Below you will find a new “Declaration of Life Intertwined and Independence from Corporate and Governmental Tyranny.” We recommend it for conversation in gatherings this weekend -- gatherings of prayer, of friendship, of political concern -- in advance of the Fourth of July as well as on the Fourth itself and afterward. 

"O Beautiful for Patriots' Dream that sees Beyond the Years --  Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by Human Tears! --  America, America, God Amend Thine Every Flaw -- confirm thy Good in Sister/Brotherhood,  thy Liberty through Law!   America! America! God shed full grace on thee Till selfish gain no longer stain the Banner of the Free!"

A NEW DECLARATION: INTERDEPENDENCE OF ALL LIFE;

INDEPENDENCE FROM ALL TYRANNY

We hold these truths to grow from the life-experience of all Humanity:

That all men and women are created equal in dignity and worth, as necessary and distinctive strands of the great Web of life intertwined, and are through that interdependence endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights and responsibilities. That among these are –

  • The sharing of Beloved Community throughout our planet, growing through responsible relationships that embody, heal, and uphold that sacred web of life;
  • Peace among all peoples;
  • Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and a life-sustaining, health-sustaining share of Earth’s abundance;
  • Honorable jobs with living wages and income, based on livable hours of work;
  • A rhythm of work and rest that frees time for family, neighborhood, citizenly involvement, and the spirit;
  • Self-government in political, economic, and cultural life, including public support for grass-roots co-ops and  democratic elections to govern large corporations and legislatures not controlled by wealth.

We affirm that governments, corporations, and other institutions that have a major impact on the lives of the people are founded solely to secure these rights and uphold these responsibilities, deriving their just powers from the consent of those they govern and whose lives they shape.

We now face a political system contrary to these values, destructive of democracy, and dangerous to the liberty and prosperity of a free people:

The present President and Senate of the United States have both been chosen by minorities of our people, in elections dominated by huge inflows of money from hyperwealthy individuals and corporations; by exclusion of many voters of color, youth, and poverty; by the gerrymandering of  many election districts; and by the deliberate covert intrusion of a foreign power.

The result is a President who has poisoned the sacred interwoven Web of Life in which the human race and the American people live and have our being; has tried to shatter the interwoven moral web in which different American individuals and communities serve our common good -- E Pluribus Unum; and has violated crucial provisions of the Constitutional covenant on which our people have agreed -- especially provisions that limit presidential power so as to protect and advance democracy:

By violating the Constitutional provision that no money be taken from the Treasury unless it is appropriated by Congress;

By illegally and unconstitutionally preventing federal officials from obeying  subpoenas compelling testimony before Congress and its committees;

By unconstitutionally initiating and carrying on endless wars without a declaration of war by Congress and in violation of the United Nations Charter; 

By violating US and international law regarding the welcoming and humane treatment of refugees;

By seeking to destroy health care for millions of Americans;

By destroying and frightening millions of families by deporting hard-working and law-abiding immigrants; by tearing children, even babies, from the arms of their parents; by failing even to keep records that would make possible the reunification of these families -- practices abhorrent to our people and estimable to tyrants only;

By carrying on endless wars and risking new ones without a Declaration by Congress, against international and American law as embodied in the  binding treaty of the United Nations Charter, and to the deep detriment of American society;

By acting to destroy all efforts to prevent climate disaster, the scorching of our planet, and the death in extreme floods, droughts,  storms wildfires, and newly widespread diseases of millions of human beings -- all in order to secure Hyper-Wealth to the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs;

By reinforcing racism in police behavior, in mass incarceration, and in the unequal application of unjust laws;

By inciting hatred and acts of violence against the Black, Muslim, Indigenous, Jewish, and immigrant communities;

By ending protections for pure food, water, and air;

By pursuing the deregulation of banks and other financial institutions, privileging their power and restoring the conditions that led to the disastrous Great Recession of 2008-2009.

Beneath all these specific acts, and encouraging them all, is the power of large corporations -- especially those in banking, the military-industrial complex, health care, and fossil fuels – to dominate many branches and aspects of the American government and deeply damage both American democracy and the American future.

And beneath all these specific acts, and encouraging them all, is the present President's deliberate encouragement and incitement of racism, sexism, and hostility to those who live in poverty, as a diseased strand of American culture, economics, and politics, in such ways as to divide our society, incite violence against racial, religious, and sexual minorities, and thereby help the powerful and wealthy trample on the legitimate needs of the poor and the middle class.

We affirm that to redress these wrongs, it is incumbent upon the American people to undertake nonviolent action through elections, lobbying, free speech, free press, and free assembly in marches, strikes, boycotts, sit-ins, teach-ins, rallies, and vigils;

And therefore we demand:

I.  A Constitutional amendment defining as a right of all human beings the existence of a climate and web of life and viable species that is life-giving, and requiring Congress to pass laws to guarantee that right.

II.  A Constitutional amendment defining as rights analogous to those in the Bill of Rights the right of actual full employment with a living income for all on the basis of a 32-hour work week, the right of workers to organize unions,  and the right to  universal health care.

III.  A Constitutional amendment providing that the President of the United States is subject while in office as an individual to provisions of Federal criminal law regarding felonies and civil lawsuits.

IV. A Constitutional amendment requiring that all large corporations that do any business in the United States be periodically and publicly reviewed in seven-year intervals concerning renewal of their charters  to do business, by a jury of citizens chosen from the normal panel for civil lawsuits, to ensure and enforce that they are meeting the needs and balancing the interests of their stockholders, workers, customers, the  environment, and society as a whole.

V. A Constitutional amendment providing that all persons born in the United States or naturalized as citizens and all persons resident in the United States for seven years or more be registered to vote at birth, naturalization, or upon seven years of residence, and shall be qualified to vote in all elections where they reside upon reaching the age of 18. 

Vi. A Constitutional amendment to pay for all election campaigns solely by public contributions by the US or the states, and contributions from natural persons, i.e. actual human beings, under limits set by Congress; and providing that all election districts shall be defined without regard to race, religion, or political affiliation. 

VIi.  A Constitutional amendment providing that the Constitutional right to bear arms can be regulated by the governments of municipalities and states, in whatever ways seem wisest to them, so long as the manifest intent and effect of the regulation is to protect, not endanger, the health and safety of the public.

VIiI. A Constitutional amendment providing for the full equality and equal rights of women, men, and persons of all genders and sexual orientations, in political and economic life and health decisions, including the availability of birth control to all persons and the right of women to choose abortions during the first two trimesters of pregnancy, and later under conditions honoring health needs of the mother and fetus.

IX. A Constitutional amendment prohibiting the death penalty, the imposition of solitary confinement, and prison sentences of more than 20 years for any crime not involving physical violence.

X. Strong laws to prevent global climate disaster, to swiftly move the US and world economies from fossil-fuel dependence to renewable energy, and to restore and  renew a healthy, life-giving climate system for our children and grandchildren as it was for the generations of our parents and grandparents,  with a far greater attention to infusing eco-social justice for all into that relationship.

XI. An end to all US military action, overseas military bases, and the use of violence against any person by the military or any other US agency that have not been specifically authorized by Act of Congress, by the Security Council of the United Nations,  or by the issuance of a public arrest warrant by a Federal District Court after public pleadings.

XII. Restoration of full Congressional control over declaration or initiation of any war, as well as adherence to the United Nations Charter.  Reduction and redirection of US military spending to meet the needs of defense, not corporate subsidies; and the redirection of funds now wasted beyond those needs to meeting the urgent civilian needs of the American people and of poverty-stricken regions of the world.

XIII. Laws encouraging the creation of worker and consumer coops – businesses democratically controlled by their members on the principle of one member, one vote – especially at the grass-roots and neighborhood levels.

XIV. Abolition of all surveillance and collection of any data and metadata concerning any communication from or to any citizen or resident of the United States, without the issuance of a search warrant specifically naming and describing the person to be surveilled and the data to be collected — such warrants to be issued by a regular US District Court and made public no later than 90 days after issuance.

And to the achievement of these goals, with the help of the Holy Interbreathing Spirit of all life, and through our covenant with each other, we pledge our commitment, our nonviolent action, and our sacred honor.  

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. Here is my analysis of where we are in that process:

 

  1. I think it is a mistake to have a linguistic debate over what label to apply to these detention centers for immigrants by -- on the one hand -- denouncing the use of the word  “ concentration camp” as if it were the same as “death camp,”  or -- on the other hand -- supporting the use of the words and explaining they are NOT the same as “death camps.”   BOTH THESE APPROACHES AVOID FACING THE TRUTH that dehumanization and ultimately genocide come in stages. “Concentration camps” may come early or in the middle of the process. If no one interrupts the process, it moves forward into death camps. The Nazi state opened the first “concentration camp” at Dachau in 1933 as a prison mostly for leftists. Humiliation and dehumanization of Jews and other "Untermenschen" went forward in many scattered spheres until the massive public attacks supported by the state on Kristallnacht. Even then, it took the years from 1938 to 1942 for the Nazis to make a formal decision to murder all the Jews of Europe.

Dehumanization and genocide are a process, not a single event. Most Americans so much want to believe that “it can’t happen here” that many of their minds go blank in facing the early and middle stages of the process, and desperately want to attack any language that hints that this process is under way and will continue unless we, they, act,. .

3, The Trumpists have taken step after step on that path, from Trump’s Hitlerian rhetoric on the down elevator in Trump Tower when he announced he was running, to the deliberate attacks on children -- and beyond.. Since the deepest instinct of every species is to protect its offspring, the only way some human beings can be persuaded to take part in or permit the destruction of human children is precisely to do that destruction, thereby proving those particular children are not human. So even if this project is especially difficult to carry out against opposition, it is crucial to the whole process to carry it out anyway.

  1. The planned mass deportations can only be carried out by defining certain neighborhoods and communities inside the United States – – in 10 major cities – – as really outside the American border and making war on those neighborhoods.   I think this may be the “Kristallnacht” moment in the process, or maybe just one stage less.  If that is allowed to happen,  the process will keep going. The two-week delay that Trump announced was probably a response to warnings from ICE that they simply did not have the manpower to carry it out. Several months ago, when the leadership of DHS said the same thing to Trump, he fired them. If I were Trump (God forbid), I would think the obvious solution is to use the U.S. Army. Plenty of manpower there. Illegal, of course, but that did not prevent his using them on the border. Maybe using them in NYC, Chicago, etc etc is still a bridge too far.
  1. This march toward genocide of brown-skinned folks who speak Spanish is not the only target for Trumpist subjugation. The list is long. It includes starving Iran into submission, after throwing away a remarkable diplomatic achievement in the nuclear disarmament of Iran, instead setting up a situation geared for war. . It includes the abuse of women, both personal and political. It includes the efforts to murder many millions of human beings and many other species that are crucial to Homo Sapiens,  for the sake of Hyper-Profits for the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs, and perhaps for the sheer joy of subjugation. That one has so far been the most successful and the least opposed.
  1. I think it is time to take Sifrei Torah into the streets. And Communion. And salat –Muslim prayer services. And Buddhist bells and drums. Into the streets and into the offices of Congressmembers and ICE. And the fence around the White House.  Please keep in mind that the great surge in support of the Green New Deal came when 150 young people sat-in on Speaker Pelosi’s office.  I do not believe that it is any longer sufficient to visit the concentration camps. We and the public now know how evil they are.  The focal point should now be the seats of power and the places that carry out their orders for arrest and deportation raids.

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

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