Bloodbath Greets Ramadan, Shavuot, Pentecost

Bloodbath at the Gaza Border as We Approach Three Revelations

Today is the first day of the sacred Muslim month of Ramadan, the month when the Prophet Mohammed,  peace be upon him, began receiving the revelation of the Quran.

This coming Sunday will be the first day of the Jewish festival of Shavuot, which began in ancient Israel with earthy celebration of the spring wheat harvest and has become the time to celebrate a spiritual harvest --  the revelation of the Torah at Mount Sinai.

And Sunday will also be the Christian festival of Pentecost, when followers of Jesus gathered to celebrate Shavuot and were imbued with the Holy Spirit, opening them to speak in many languages they had not known -- in some ways opening the path to a multinational Christianity.

And as those days of Revelation came close, I am ashamed to say that the government of the state of Israel, which claims to be a Jewish state, opened lethal gunfire on thousands of Palestinians at the Gaza border, killing 60 of them. Haaretz, the newspaper that is often called the New York Times of Israel, began its lead story this morning with this headline::

A Predictable Bloodbath in Gaza: Israel Did Not Lift a Finger to Prevent Lethal Clashes

While in Jerusalem the  Netanyahu government and the Designated Daughter of his brother-in-tyranny Trump were drinking champagne to celebrate the new US embassy there, in Gaza the Netanyahu government was getting drunk on blood.

And poisoning the bloodstream of Torah as if, God forbid,  its Teaching were filled with hatred and contempt.

Why are thousands of Palestinian willing to risk death? Because especially in Gaza,  death is preferable to despair. Despair over the blockade of Gazan goods from being sold abroad; the blockade preventing Gaza’s fishermen from catching the sardines that swarm just outside the line drawn in the Mediterranean where Israelis sink the fishing boats of Gazans; the blockade that prevents the import of goods; the blockade that results in a devastated electrical power system; the blockade that has resulted in an unemployment rate of 40%, the highest in the world.

The solution to Israel’s concern for a peaceful, unthreatening relationship with Gaza is not killing more and more people there, but ending the despair. By replacing the blockade with measures to prevent weaponry, and weaponry alone,  from entering Gaza. By responding to a recent offer from Hamas to conclude a “long-term truce.” By taking seriously the need for an independent Palestine living peacefully alongside Israel, and encouraging – rather than undermining  -- the emergence of a government of Palestinian national unity to conclude a peace treaty with Israel.

What can we do   -- we in America, especially Jews, Christians, and Muslims who care for the justice and peace values of Tanakh (the Hebrew Scriptures) , the Gospels, the Quran?  

Individually, I have just joined a group of rabbis who are initiating a Taanit Tzedek --  a Fast of Justice -- in regard to Gaza. One day a month, we will fast from sunrise to sunset and at noon Eastern time on that day, we will take part in an on-line Webinar with various experts on and from Gaza and discuss what is possible to do to bring justice there. The Taanit Tzedek will be open to everyone, not just to rabbis or to Jews. I will share the details with you as they are firmed up.

In collective action, yesterday I was in DC to take part in a rally held by the Poor Peoples Campaign at the US Capitol, focused on the “fusion politics” of a National Call for Moral Revival to kick off  40 days of action in state capitals and the Federal center. The fusion platform includes facing racism and militarism, both of which are behind the Trumpist collusion with the Netanyahu government.

The Poor Peoples Campaign also stands for religious values very different from those of the right-wing Christians who combine extreme support for the Netanyahu government with a profound contempt for Judaism. (They expect Israel’s subjugation of Palestine to lead to Armaggedon, the destruction of Judaism and all other “false religions,” and the Second Coming of Christ.) They are more important to Trumpist politics than even the Sheldon Adelson gambling-casino money that supports both Netanyahu and Trump.

As Bishop William Barber spoke yesterday for the Poor Peoples Campaign, news from Gaza was arriving. To his usual explanation of the Moral Renewal roots of fusion politics, he added that he was heart-broken to hear the news, and that we who call for nonviolence and oppose militarism here must support nonviolence and oppose militarism everywhere. 

At the same time that the Poor Peoples Campaign were rallying and risking arrest at the Capitol, a mostly youthful Jewish group called “If Not Now” was demonstrating near the White House against the killings at the Gaza border and the unilateral anti-Palestinian shift of the US Embassy to Jerusalem. (Its name comes from the teaching of the great Jewish sage Hillel: “If I am not for myself, who will be? If I am for myself only, what I am I? If not now, when?”) For me, the emergence of Jewish youth who draw on Jewish symbols, songs, and festivals and carry their profoundly Jewish values into the streets against idolatry of the Netanyahu government is a deeply hopeful sign for the future of evolving, growing Torah.

J Street, a Jewish organization committed to ending the Occupation and making real a peace settlement between Israel and Palestine, both lobbies strongly on Capitol Hill against the Trumpist anti-Palestinian policy, and supports Congressional candidates with a strong commitment to peace and justice for both Israel and Palestine.

May the time come soon, speedily and in our days, when the Revelations of Torah and the Prophets, of the Gospels, and of the Quran, become embodied in the lands that gave birth to them  -- and in the hearts and actions of the Americans who revere them.

Share Sukkot: Grow the Vote. Prepare Now!

The Shalom Center is initiating a program called --

Share Sukkot: Grow the Vote

The Jewish Harvest Festival of Sukkot this year begins the evening of Sunday, September 23, and ends the evening of Sunday, September 30. It comes five weeks before the crucial Congressional elections in November. We are prepared to provide you with materials that apply the values of Sukkot to the issues that face us today.

We are suggesting that congregations, families, friends, and local organizations hold Share Sukkot parties to address the issues of planetary and neighborhood life and death that will arise in the election campaigns and that Sukkot speaks to.

Tax-exempt organizations like The Shalom Center, synagogues, and churches, etc., are not legally permitted as a body to support or oppose a political party or a candidate for office.

But at a “Share Sukkot” gathering, any organization can espouse the religious, spiritual, and ethical values that may distinguish candidates or parties from each other.  Families with a sukkah, of course, could say what they like at Sukkah Parties that they host. So can members of a synagogue, church, etc, so long as it is clear they are not speaking for the organization.  And helping people to get out the vote is absolutely legal for all organizations to do.

What does it mean to learn and share the sacred values that underlie Sukkot?

First of all, there is an ancient tradition that Sukkot celebrates the harvest of abundance and justice not for Jews alone but for all “the 70 nations of the world.” There is an ancient tradition to invite into the Sukkah guests – called ushpizin – from all these communities. 

This fall, we could invite as ushpizin into the Sukkah and into Share Sukkot – Grow the Vote some great activists and spiritual leaders who have struggled for the right to vote:

  • Michael  Schwerner, James Chaney, and Andy Goodman – two Jews and a Black who were murdered during “Mississippi Summer” in 1964 for working to make sure Blacks could register to vote.
  • The sharecropper and eloquent organizer Fannie Lou Hamer, who led the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party that in the summer of 1964 brought national attention to the denial of the vote to Blacks in the Deep South.
  • Dr. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched side by side in the Selma March of 1965, which helped inspire the massive public demand to pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
  • And the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, which worked to shape the legal structure of the Voting Rights Act, had as key leaders A. Philip Randolph, founder and long-time leader of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, a Black union, who from that base became a crucial civil-rights organizer; Roy Wilkins, long-time leader of the NAACP; and  Arnold Aronson, program director of the National Jewish Community Relations Advisory Council (NJCRAC). 

All these – and others -- could be invited as ushpizin into Share Sukkot – Grow the Vote.

 What other values arise in the Sukkot festival?

The sukkah itself -- a fragile hut with a leafy, leaky roof ---is the house of the poor just as matzah is the bread of the poor, Only by sharing them can we turn them into the home and bread of freedom .

And the sukkah is open to our Mother Earth, reminding us to heal her from the wounds of modern Carbon Pharaohs.

These  “homes of the homeless,” according to tradition, were the first homes of the Exodus band of runaway slaves who created a community of freedom. So they remind us to learn and share the sacred practice of empowering disempowered and marginal people.

In our lives, that includes making sure that the poor, the disabled, the young, and the old get to vote. So Share Sukkot – Grow the Vote should include drawing on state and local laws for early voting, helping voters make sure they have ID ready where it is required, providing drivers for those who are infirm, etc.

The Shalom Center stands ready to share with you the teachings that can make Share Sukkot – Grow the Vote  into a powerful energizer of  eco-social justice.  If you write us at Sukkot@theshalomceneter.org, to describe your own plan for Share Sukkot –- Grow the Vote, we will respond.


The Days AFTER Earth Day

Celebrating Mother Earth was wonderful. Now it’s time to plan the actions we can take to challenge the Carbon Pharaohs that are bringing plagues upon her and disasters on the human communities she nurtures.  

Said Rabbi Akiba, facing threats from the Roman Empire, “Which is stronger [as a path of Resistance] –- study or action? He answered, “Study – IF it leads to action.” 

I am sharing with you today both action and study: one report of action last week to confront and rebuke a modern Pharaoh, a modern Roman Emperor, whose own actions are ravaging he Earth and endangering humanity;  and an invitation to learn this summer with me and a climate scientist the next steps we need to take to heal our planet.

  1. Mr Pruitt: Turn, Turn, Turn!

Last week, I took part in a vigil and letter-sending to confront Scott Pruitt, head of what used to be the Environmental Protection Agency.  Rabbi Rain Zohav of the Washington metro area brought together from all across America hundreds of religiously-rooted letters to Mr. Pruitt  -- who makes a special point of his commitment to his Christian faith --   reminding him of his obligation to God and God’s creation.  

I read aloud a letter from me to include in the package of letters we delivered. I pointed out that Mr. Pruitt had turned away from his sacred obligations by turning EPA – which had been the Environmental Protection Agency – into the “Earth Poisoning Atrocity.”  I urged him to repent – to do what Jewish tradition calls tshuvah, a conscious and active turning away from destroying Earth to face the Creative Breathing Spirit of all life.  My letter to Mr. Pruitt is posted on our Website at <https://theshalomcenter.org/mr-pruitt-turn-turn-turn>.

We were able to make a videotape of parts of the vigil.  Click here to watch it: <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WH0ydDMtXmA&feature=youtu.be>

The letters to Mr. Pruitt go by very quickly; if you want to read them, as each appears press the "pause" button on the video. 

2. New study to make new action possible: "Torah, Science and Hard Choices. ” 

It is time to put Akiba;s teaching into practice, if we are to heal the Earth, This summer I will be co-teaching a class on “Healing Our Wounded Climate: Torah, Science and Hard Choices. ” My co-teacher will be Rob Socolow, Professor Emeritus of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University,   Co-Director of the Carbon Mitigation Initiative,  and senior scholar of the Princeton Environmental Institute.

Our class will be held from July 2-8, at the ALEPH Jewish-renewal Kallah (gathering) on the campus of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst, Mass. 

You can register here:


This is what the class will address:  Increasing numbers of scientists are warning that even achieving zero CO2 emissions will leave a trillion tons of excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. That can wreak havoc on, and possibly even destroy, human civilization.

Climate science and renewable-energy engineering have already taught us what we need to do to in order to make sure our planet can barely survive. But what should we do to renew and restore a healthy, life-giving planet? An Earth, a planet, as life-giving for our childrren and grandchildren as it was for parents and grandparents? 

For that we need more study, and new action.  Various proposals are being put forward to get this excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. So as Rabbi Akiba taught, action is necessary – IF it is guided by study and understanding.  

What should be the relationships among religion, science and public policy in addressing this crisis? What are these proposals, what are their risks and possibilities? What does Torah teach about the roots of the climate crisis: how we should behave toward the Earth, how to balance the risks of action and of inaction, how to judge among the various proposed solutions and how to engage (through study, liturgy, daily practice and advocacy) the Jewish and multi-religious communities in making these decisions?

You might say, as this photo embodies, how do we connect trees and Torah?

I look forward to meeting face-to-face with you to deepen our conversation about action to heal our wounded Mother Earth. 

Early-bird registration is open NOW at


Comment on these action-proposals or share this article at the Shalom Center website.

Next week I will share with you our plans for working with the Poor Peoples Campaign to prevent ecological devastation, and our plans to “Share Sukkot: Grow the Vote!”

Please help The Shalom Center continue its work to heal the Earth's deep wounds by clicking on the maroon “Contribute” button on the left-hand margin of this page.

Blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace for Earth and all her myriad earthlings. 

Sacred Memories, Sacred Futures

[We are sharing with you today a poem by Rabbi Mike Rothbaum that powerfully addresses Yom HaShoah, the Memorial Day for the six million Jews murdered by the Nazis in the Holocaust. Rabbi Rothbaum is the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Elohim in Acton, Mass. His poem, as its title points out, treats Yom HaShoah not only as a memorial for them but also as a warning to the future – and not for Jews alone. See my further thoughts along these lines after Rabbi Rothbaum’s poem. --  ED]

A Poem on a Day that I Saw Another Man Learn He Was Being Deported --  A Day that is also Yom haShoah:

By Rabbi Mike Rothbaum

The word/in Hebrew 
for/Hebrew is Ivri

Border crossers/cross borders

Hebrews/Jews have been crossing
borders ever/since there have

From Abraham and/Sarah
He and her/up from Ur to
Haran to/Canaan to/Egypt
Back/to Canaan.

And ever/since
Ever since/Babylon
Cross/ing borders
The Rhine/The Seine/Sana/Seville/
Ellis Island/Long Island/
Long Beach/Miami Beach


And as it is/the time
as it has/been time
to cross/borders

Before we/cross
the/border from 
freedom/to Pharaoh

refuse/the fear
refuse to/obey
order out the/nightmares
the knocks in/the night
that wake the/babies
sew your/soul into
the lining of your/coat
smuggle the children/out
under a heavy/wool blanket
of passion and/principle
know your/limits
and the/borders you
won’t cross/for

If you’re a Hebrew/Jew
you already know/what this hour means.
Your ancestors saw/it and
they buried it in/your body
for a time/such as now.

They call/to/you.

Cross the/border
cross/the aisle
break/the bonds
a manic/run for it
don’t turn/around
or see who’s/behind you
the hour/is late
and the Master/of the
House/is pressing.

You carry in your/hand
an Executive/Order
Written by the/Eternal
and stamped by/your ancestors

The word/in Hebrew 
for/Hebrew is Ivri
Cross the/border
Show them the/order
Carry/it out

In Pharaoh’s mouth, “ivri” was contemptuous, like “rootless cosmopolites” on Stalin’s tongue  (about Jews) and like “wetbacks” in US vernacular, about Mexicans crossing the Rio Grande to enter the  United States.

Leaping back three millennia, notice that Pharaoh faced Egyptians who had lost their farms and homes as all power became centralized in Pharaoh's throne. (Gen 47:13-26) They were probably angrily muttering  about their dispossession. So Pharaoh distracted them by pointing at a "foreign" community. He warned them about a community of immigrants, “border-crossers,” who spoke a strange language and observed a strange religion. There were too many of them, he said. They might side with Egypt’s enemies and become an internal threat. Even terrorists.  Time for genocide. And it was two women -- midwives -- who were the first to birth Resistance. (Exodus I: 8-22)

Sound familiar?  Just the past?


Rabbi Rothbaum’s poem invites us to see the sacred day of a much more recent “history” as beckoning us to see the possible future.  And not just a Jewish future. Walking this path, sacred days become not times for rote recitation of memories, but beacons of deeper spiritual activism for social, cultural, and political transformation.

That is one of the crucial aspects of a living, growing, self-transforming religion and culture. If we do this, members of our communities who have been sleepwalking through our sacred memories or who have out of boredom simply walked away from churches, synagogues, mosques, and temples can become “woke”  to the energy within them. They – we! – can draw on that energy to save our lives and Mother Earth.

In these last weeks, The Shalom Center has joined in reawakening the energy of Dr. King’s wisdom by lifting up his 5Oth death-anniversary and connecting it to the vision of Passover, the agony of Good Friday, and the life-affirming joy of Easter.

We welcome you to read and see what these reawakenings have done:

For an on-line Tikkun Magazine article by Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Feb 2017,  on preparation for MLK’s 50th yahrzeit:



For an online Sojourners magazine essay in March 2018 by Rabbi Arthur Waskow  on historic crises in 1968 and 2018 and their impact on Freedom Seders:

< https://sojo.net/articles/freedom-seders-old-and-new-crises-1968-and-2018>


For a Philadelphia Inquirer report on the relationship between the new MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder and the sixth annual “Freedom Seder Revisited” program of the National Museum of American Jewish History celebrated in Philadelphia:



 For a Washington Post review of the meaning of the original Freedom Seder and a report on the new MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder celebrated in the Washington DC area:


The Prophet Martin Luther King, Jr:: A ReAwakening

"We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values."

Today (April 4, 2018) is the 50th anniversary of the death -- the murder, to be honest -- of Dr. Martin Luther King. To honor, reawaken, and renew the wisdom he taught, two cantors have created Haftarot -- the prophetc passages chanted on every Shabbat in Jewish congregations -- that are woven from his prophetic teachings and chanted according to haftarah melodies.

One, woven of passages from his speech “Beyond Vietnam,” has been chanted by Cantor Abbe Lyons. Both her chanted recitation  and her annotated text, with trope marks, can be found here:


 The other, by Hazzan Jack Kessler, is woven of passages from several different speeches by Dr. King. Both trope-marked text and his chant of the Haftarah can be found here:


“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.“

(Dr. Martin  Luther King, "Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” April 4, 1967)


"A genuine revolution of values means in the final analysis that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to humankind as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.

“This call for a world-wide fellowship that lifts neighborly concern beyond one's tribe, race, class and nation is in reality a call for an all-embracing and unconditional love for all life.

“Love has now become an absolute necessity for the survival of humanity.

“We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.

“We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now.”

                                                                        (MLK, “Beyond Vietnam,  April 4, 1967)



“The issue is the refusal of Memphis to be fair and honest in its dealings with its public servants, who happen to be sanitation workers. One thousand, three hundred sanitation workers are on strike. Now we're going to march again, and force everybody to see that there are thirteen hundred of God's children here suffering, sometimes going hungry, going through dark and dreary nights wondering how this thing is going to come out. And we've got to say to the nation: We know how it's coming out. For when people get caught up with that which is right and they are willing to sacrifice for it, there is no stopping point short of victory.”

                                                                        (MLK in Memphis, April 3, 1968)


I have been to the mountaintop. … I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!”                   

(MLK in Memphis, April 3, 1968)

Passover should make us uncomfortable

Freedom Seders Old & New

Remember the Maxwell House haggadah?

How about Bartons’ Candies Haggadah?

Those were the haggadot of my childhood – and, if you are of a certain age, yours as well.

I don’t remember anything about those haggadot, other than some of the illustrations, and the matzah crumbs and the wine stains that gave silent testimony to the family seders of the past.

I certainly don’t remember the texts being particularly meaningful. They were not intended to be; you brought your own meaning to the seder.

No one thought about “meaning” in those days, anyway.

That is – until the creation of what might be called the first “meaningful,” “relevant” haggadah – the Freedom Seder, written almost fifty years ago by Arthur Waskow.

Arthur Waskow is a true American Jewish original – the alte zeyde (sorry, Arthur – the old grandpa!) of radical Jewish social activism.

It remains a powerful witness to turbulent times.

Think of it: the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 – which, that year, was only five days before Pesach.

Waskow’s Freedom Seder was originally published a year after Dr. King’s assasination (and the subsequent urban riots).

It came out in 1969, in Ramparts Magazine (of blessed memory; I would love to find some copies on Ebay) – to coincide with Dr. King’s first yahrzeit.

The Freedom Seder successfully connected the original story of the Exodus with the social issues that were gripping American during those dark days.

Many of which — racism, materialism, militarism, and sexism – continue unabated.

To thumb through the original Freedom Seder is to encounter the voices of Dr. King, Thoreau, Gandhi, Emanuel Ringelblum of the Warsaw Ghetto, Nat Turner, among others.

Today, some of the haggadah’s voices, such as Eldridge Cleaver and Allen Ginsberg, would be considered problematic.

Arthur could not have known that he was creating a whole new Jewish cottage industry.

In the wake of the Freedom Seder, there was a spate of new haggadot and new rituals: anti-Viet Nam war seders, Soviet Jewry seders, feminist seders, environmental seders, LGBT seders, etc.

Arthur, undaunted and unfaded at 84 years old, has just come out with a new version of the Freedom Seder

It is a worthy successor to the original version –- if only because the issues, half a century later, are no less urgent.

Because the plagues are no less pervasive. Consider the plague of climate change and sea level rise – which this reading addresses.

Let us leap forward for a moment to our own generation:

The stones are crying out.

The icebergs are groaning as they melt.

The mountains of West Virginia are moaning as they are destroyed in order to produce more coal.

The Coral Reefs are wailing as they blanch and die.

As the planet scorches and the corn parches, the price of food climbs.

Those who were hungry, starve.

The children whose bellies swelled from hunger, whose voices wailed from famine, grow silent.

Dying. Dead.

And all these silent, silenced voices call on us to speak.

Not only to speak but to act…


They are the Caesars of our day, the Pharaohs of our day.

The Pontius Pilates and Abu-Jahls of our day—

The Empires of Oil, Tar, Coal, Unnatural Gas.

The Pharaohs of Pharma, Fracking, and Banking.

Granted: this might not be everyone’s taste. We sometimes flee from an overdose of relevance, which some people call “political.”

But (and this is key):

  • Do we really think that God liberating a nation from the grip of oppression — and creating a covenant with that nation — saying, in essence: “You work for Me, not for Pharaoh!” — can that be anything other than political?
  • And — if we fail to update the texts, words, and ideas that originally animated Pesach for our ancestors, we will have petrified the tradition.

That is simply not what our sacred texts are supposed to be. Neither are they what those texts have ever been.

We are not the frozen chosen.

Personally, I would risk pushing the envelope and bringing our festival of freedom into the present, and making it relevant. If people want to yell and scream and argue about those texts at the seder table — well, that’s what Jews do.

The alternative?

The seder goes forth without any meaning. Oh, maybe the four questions — to give the children something to do.

The seder becomes a mere Jewish spring time Thanksgiving meal – a nice dinner with family, but with no real content.

Because these are two passages that Waskow includes in the new haggadah – and they speak to me, deeply.

First, Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Prayer is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism, falsehoods. (Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1970)

And, Dr. King:

 We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a ‘thing-oriented’ society to a ‘person-oriented’ society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people,  are incapable of being conquered. (Dr. Martin Luther King, “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence,” April 4, 1967)

 Yasher koach, Arthur.

In the words of Rabbi Bob Dylan: “May you stay forever young.”

And may we continue to keep Pesach — forever young.

YOUR Copy of the New "MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder"

 Here is your copy of the new "MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder." Click on the title of this article. You will see a bold black bar and just below it, a small red link. Click on the red llnk to reach the Seder, download it, and print your own copy. It's in PDF and will fit on 12 sheets of paper, 24 pages back to back, with some gorgeous graphics.

This Seder was woven by The Shalom Center of three strands: the ancient Passover stories of the freedom struggle of Israelites against slavery under Pharaoh and the echoes of Passover in the Christian Holy Week; the wisdom of Dr. Martin Luther King, to reawaken and renew his teachings for the fiftieth anniversary of his death on April 4, 1968, in the midst of a year of intense crisis in the difficult history of Americcan democracy; and the struggles and wisdoms of our own generation, living in the midst of an even deeper crisis in whether American democracy can survive.

We welcome you, {contact.first_name}, and your friends to use this Seder in any of several ways: You miight gather friends and family to celebrate it before or during the coming spring festivals of liberation, perhaps on April 4 itself. You might leave spacious time for conversation about its teachings, songs ,and graphics. You might work with a gathering of Resisters, perhaps with a religious community or an interfaith group, to use it the same way. You might draw on some passages to insert into your own Seder. Feel Free! -- That's the point!

In any of these cases, please cite the copyright and authorship information that appears after the tite page. Please let The Shalom Center know in advance what plans you have to use it, and please make a (tax-deductible) contribution to The Shalom Center as suggested in the Seder itself. Afterward, please send us photos of your Seder, perhaps notes about how it went, recordings of a song you loved singing, etc.

Click on this link:  PDF icon mlk50_interfaith_freedom_seder_pdf-_b_copy.pdf

Have a joyful and liberating Seder, have a joyful and liberating year ahead of active work to Resist the modern Pharaohs and birth the Beloved Community  --  Arthur

Freedom Seders, Old & New: Crisis 1968 & Crisis 2018

The Shalom Center has created a new MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder, to reawaken and renew the wisdom of Martin Luther Ling – who was murdered 50 years ago. This new Freedom Seder –- connects Dr. King's teaching both with the ancient story of resistance to Pharaoh and the continuing story of resistance to racism, materialism, militarism, and sexism in America right now.

We welcome you-all to make the new Freedom Seder a family or communal Seder of your own. We welcome you to

<mlk50_freedom_seder_pdf_2-26-18._copy.pdf> where you can read it, see its graphics, sing its songs. You can use the whole Telling or draw on passages.

And we will be delighted for you to send us photos of your Seder, a description of what you did, perhaps a brief tape-recording of your memories of how it felt. Send them to  <Seder@theshalomcenter.org>.  We will share them with our friends and members, noting your name and home town.

 Why did we create this new Freedom Seder? It is the legitimate heir of the original Freedom Seder that I wrote fifty years ago. (Here are its front and back covers:)

 In 1968, American democracy was in crisis – caused by its inability to go beyond “civil rights” to cure ourselves from the “original sin” of racism, and its inability to end the Vietnam War that was convulsing the country.

 One result of that crisis, and one cause of the worsening of the crisis, was the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King a week before Passover. The original Freedom Seder was actually celebrated on the first anniversary of his death, April 4, 1969.

  Now, 50 years later, the crisis of American democracy is even deeper than it was in 1968 -- perhaps the deepest since the Civil War. We are living through an anti-democratic power grab by the Hyper-Wealthy and modern Corporate Pharaohs. This power grab is being made politically possible by whipping up rank racism, hatred toward foreigners and “strange” religions, hostility toward women, and contempt toward the Earth.

This power grab by the modern Pharaohs is much like the power grab by the ancient Pharaoh – who incited fear and hatred toward foreigners and a “strange” religion, and through his egomania and cruelty brought plagues upon the Earth and famine and death on his own people.

 And we are also living through the sprouting of an amazingly broad and deep grass-roots Resistance movement.

 We face new pharaohs.  When the Jews living under Roman tyranny saw that they were facing new pharaohs, some of them in several different generations chose Passover-time to lift up their resistance.

Rabbi Jesus chose the days before Passover for a demonstration against the Imperial regime and its local puppet government. His supporters marched from the Mount of Olives into Jerusalem, waving palms and chanting psalms of transformation. A few days later, the inner leadership celebrated the Passover Seder in what Christians have named the Last Supper.


Several generations later, Rabbi Akiba led a Seder that according to oral tradition may have been a conversation about the rebellion against Rome led by Bar Kochba -- a Seder that lasted till morning and according to some,  ended with a warning that Roman troops were scouting out the neighborhood.


These Seders were themselves moments of freedom, where old and young could learn from and with each other, where they could talk freely about how to win and shape their freedom. They were moments of living in what Dr. King called the "Beloved Community" --  a "Promised Land" beyond all boundaries. And along with many other forms of struggle in concert with the Spirit, they helped give birth to new spiritual communities – embodied in Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity.

So now is again the time to celebrate anew the archetypal moment of resistance to Pharaoh: Passover --- and the Christian Holy Week that began as intimately intertwined with Passover.

 When tyranny threatens, the Passovers of the past remind us to draw on their wisdom and their passion. It is time for a new Freedom Seder. So The Shalom Center has woven the new “MLK+50 Interfaith Freedom Seder.” You can access the new Seder here.

On April 4 we will live through the 50th anniversary of the murder of Dr. King.  So the new Seder draws on Dr. King’s wisdom as it connects with

The Prophetic MLK & the Prophetic Festivals of Spring

The deepest roots of The Shalom Center’s work to revitalize the deep connection between the Spirit and social justice were my weaving in 1968 and ’69 a new kind of Passover Seder –- the Freedom Seder. My sense of the need to create the Freedom Seder grew from the deep crisis of American democracy in those years.

For me, one crucial aspect of that crisis was the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King on April 4, 1968. An act of violence ending the life and disrupting the work of our foremost teacher of nonviolence.

And the whole year followed in that bloody vein.

Today we are facing an even deeper crisis -- a threat from our own government to the flesh and bones of American democracy.  It is time for a new Freedom Seder -- one that looks forward, not backward, by drawing on the most prophetic teachings of the Prophet Martin. You can access the new Seder at


AND --  The Shalom Center has worked to sow the seeds of Seders that speak not only to the past but to the future. Those seeds are sprouting once again. In several different cities already, with more perhaps to come, we are seeing them flower. We welcome you, our members and friends, to  join in the events we are reporting below and to make your own new Seders happen. Todaay -- these reports. Later -- I will share with you the underlying thought that has stirred our work. 

The first of a series of connections will come on March 25,  at 6 pm in New York City. The Center for Jewish History (15 West 16th Street) will hold a symposium, “The Freedom Seder: 49 Years Later, with Arthur Waskow.”  Details are at <https://programs.cjh.org>. Scroll down the page of Center programs to March 25.

I will speak.  Then there will be a panel of historians to discuss the meaning and future of the Freedom Seder. (I will be speaking much more about the future than the past.) The panel will include:

Anthea Butler, Professor of Religious and Africana Studies at University of Pennsylvania;  

Hasia Diner, Paul and Sylvia Steinberg Professor of American Jewish History at New York University and Director of the Goldstein-Goren Center;

Susannah Heschel, Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies at Dartmouth University;

Shaul Magid, NEH Senior Scholar at the Center for Jewish History and Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Chair in Jewish Studies at Indiana University.

At noon the next day, in Boston on March 26, a muitireligious / interfaith group inspired by the work of The Shalom Center will draw on the symbols of Holy Week and Passover to confront the Governor of Massachusetts. Their action is called "LET MY PEOPLE GO!  -- Exodus from Fossil Fuels: An Interfaith Witness for Climate Action."

It will begin at 12:00 noon at the State House

WANTED -- Suspects in Conspiracy to Aid & Abet Mass Murder of Children


WANTED --  Alive & Under Arrest,

Unofficial Suspects in Conspiracy

To Aid & Abet

Mass Murder of Children

(These suspects are defined by our understanding of religious and ethical morality, not yet by formal legal process. See below the Torah of selling weapons to people prone to violence and of conspiring to do so.)




Suspect: Donald Trump

Known recent locations:

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW,

Washington DC.


Mar a Lago Club

1100 S Ocean Blvd, Palm Beach, FL 33480


Suspect: Mitchell McConnell

Known recent locations:

 United States Senate

317 Russell Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510

Fax: 202-224-2499

601 W. Broadway, Room 630, Louisville, KY 40202

Phone: 502-582-6304



Suspect: Paul Ryan

Known recent locations:


United States House of Representatives

  H-232 The Capitol

Washington, DC 20515

Phone: (202) 225-0600

Fax: (202) 225-20125

1233 Longworth House Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20515

Phone: (202) 225-3031

Fax: (202) 225-3393

5031 7th Avenue
Kenosha, WI 53140

Phone:  (262) 654-1901

Fax:  (262) 654-2156

Anyone having information on the present whereabouts of these suspects should call the FBI.

Evidentiary elements:

A reported $9.6 million went from the National Rifle Association  during the presidential campaign of 2016 towards pro-Trump ads and promotional material, and another $12 million went on ads attacking Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

Other sources put that figure even higher, closer to $30 million.

Trump speaking to NRA: Donald Trump marked his 99th day as US president (April 27, 2017) by making a pledge to the National Rifle Association: “You came through for me and I am going to come through for you.”


Other suspects: US Senator for Florida Marco Rubio  has received $3,303,355 from the NRA as a politician.

US Senator for Iowa Joni Ernst, has received $3,124,273 from the NRA over the course of her career.

For details on other NRA contributions to politicians, see




 Maimonides (Mishneh Torah,  Laws of a Murderer 12:12, paraphrasing Babylonian Talmud Avodah Zarah 15b) declares: “It is forbidden to sell weapons of war to [those with an inclination to violence]. Nor is it permitted to sharpen their spears, or to sell


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