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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

An Extraordinary Tisha B’Av: Jews Confront the US Government

Yesterday, the American Jewish Community  crossed an extraordinary threshold.

All across the USA, various Jewish groups held large-scale vigils and rallies to observe Tisha B’Av.  Traditionally, it is an inward-looking Jewish-only day of mourning ancient attacks on Jews by ancient empires.  This year, it was observed by affirming an outward-looking solidarity with refugees and immigrants who are being tormented, arrested, imprisoned, and deported by the present government of the United States.

For so bravely and adeptly taking this step, I want especially to thank Truah ("A Rabbinic Call for Human Rights") for the crucial role they played in inspiring and in many cases organizing most of the Tisha B’Av actions yesterday, and also to thank a very new Jewish network called Never Again Action for many arrest-risking actions on the refugee/ immigration issue during the past couple of weeks.

Never before has a large chunk of the American Jewish community done this. (This is a photo of part of a crowd of about 1,000 people at a Tisha B'Av protest in Philadelphia. This and the next Philadelphia photo Copyright (c) by Rivkah Walton. Published with permission.

Early in the 1960s, many Jews supported the civil rights movement; but that movement was in general supported by the US government, though it was bitterly opposed by the governments of most Southern states and cities. As opposition to the US government’s War against Vietnam grew a little later in the ‘60s, the established Jewish community was conspicuously silent. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel stood with Rev. Martin Luther King against the war, but almost all of Heschel’s colleagues were scandalized by his public, vigorous, and Torah-rooted opposition to the government’s war.

Beyond the great increase in numbers and in the breadth of commitment, there was another major departure in what happened yesterday. It was explicitly defined as an observance of Tisha B’Av.Only recently have Jews begun treating the festivals as sacred instruments to change society.


How did this change begin?

Fifty years ago, in 1969, the original Freedom  Seder transformed Passover by welcoming into its telling of the Freedom Story – the struggle of ancient Israelites against slavery under Pharaoh  -- the struggle of Black America against racism -- slavery, lynchings, KKK terrorism, Jim Crow. The Freedom Seder stirred three different responses:  

  • angry condemnation from some Jewish sectors –- Commentary magazine devoted almost an entire issue to bitterly attacking it;
  • chilly disdain from much of the official religious leadership for making Passover a challenge to US culture and politics, and for bringing non-Jews into it;
  • and whole-hearted joy from some progressive Jews, especially thousands of young Jews who quickly liberated their own Passover Seders to celebrate  a myriad of progressive social movements (feminism, anti-militarism, a two-state peace between Israel and Palestine, eco-sanity in the face of looming planetary plagues like those brought on by Pharaoh’s cruelty).

The young folks won. Not only about Passover but more slowly, about other holy-days that they began to redefine as deeply rooted in Jewish experience --  and flowering with broader meaning.

At first these efforts were tiny. In 1972, about 40 Jews observed Tisha B’Av by fasting and leafleting on the steps of the US Capitol, pointing to the US use of Agent Orange to poison the trees of Vietnam as analogous to the ancient Roman Empire’s attempt to disrupt farming in the Land of Israel by sowing salt into the soil.

In 2010, about 300 people (led by Jews, yet multireligious and multicultural) observed Tisha B’Av at the foot of the Capitol.

They (actually, we) were demanding action to respond to the BP oil company’s blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico that killed eleven workers and thousands of fish and birds in the Gulf. We chanted an English-language “Lament for Temple Earth” to the traditional wailing melody of the Book of Lamentations. We demanded the government create programs for "clean energy."

Yesterday went several levels of change beyond that. In Chicago and San Francisco and Philadelphia and New York and in many smaller cities and towns and neighborhoods, Jews gathered to say that we whose Torah teaches us to love and well-treat the stranger in our midst and the refugees who come to us, we who were made desperate refugees by the Babylonian and Roman conquests of ancient Judea and again by many other governments and most horrendously by Nazi Germany, would not stand silent when the US government treated refugees and immigrants cruelly. Inhumanly.

In Philadelphia, for example, a protest vigil was called by the Philadelphia Board of Rabbis. It gathered at least a thousand strong near the Liberty Bell, in the shadow of the inscription high on the wall of the National Museum of American Jewish History: “To bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance.” The passage comes from a letter by President George Washington to a synagogue in Rhode Island. The contrast between the first President and the present one was clear. Vigilers came from almost everywhere on the spectrums of Jewish organized life, and immigrant leaders spoke in English and in Spanish from the platform alongside rabbis and officials of organized Jewry.

Some of the Philadelphia speakers actually chanted from the Book of Lamentations (traditionally bewailed on Tisha B'Av), interspersed with letters from distraught children and parents.

Many of the country-wide protests focused on family separations: Some families were shattered by the imprisonment of children in concentration camps with too little food or medical care, some too young to know their own names, all traumatized by losing their parents. Some were shattered by ICE arrests aimed at deportations of hundreds of migrant workers in Mississippi, while they were at work and their children were in school or at home – left suddenly with no one to care for them.

In New York, a thousand Jews gathered to go beyond ill treatment, confronting the power relationships that are enabling the dehumanizing acts of government. They swirled outside – and some inside -- an Amazon store to protest Amazon’s contracts with ICE to supply digital support for hunting down and deporting immigrants.

Inside the store, as shown here, demonstrators said Kaddish for refugee children who died from neglect and abuse while in US government custody, about 40 were arrested.

“We mourn the destruction of all things holy on the Jewish observance of Tisha b’Av,” said Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum. “This current administration’s attacks on immigrants, Muslims, Jews, people of color, and so many others are likewise horrific destruction of holiness. CBST is proud to stand with all those suffering today and against the evil of the camps, ICE policies, and the separation of families. Never Again is Now.

“Tisha B’Av is a time for mourning destruction and devastation. Sadly, unconscionably, this year, destruction and devastation are all around us,” Rabbi Shai Held also wrote in the statement. “We have a tremendous amount to mourn—the relentless assault on the most basic values of empathy and decency; the cruelty daily enacted in our name; the metastatization of racism and antisemitism in our country. We mourn, but we are also here today to say that beyond mourning, we will fight.”

We are taught that in our doorways and at the gateeways that distinguish us from other communities, we should pause and recite the Sh'ma tht reminds us that the world is ultimately ONE. Yesterday many American Jews stepped across a threshold to assert that this Unity commands us to defend others who are being treated cruelly, as well as remembering and resisting cruelty aimed at us.

It is a fitting time to pause and say, "Hush'sh'sh and listen, you Godwrestlers:  The Breath of Life is our God, and the Breath of Life is ONE. Sh'sh'shma Yisrael, Yahhhh elohenu, Yahhh echad."

Two Holy Days of Turning: Tisha B’Av and Eid al-Idha

This weekend, the holy days of the Jewish and Muslim communities come together in a way extremely rare.

For Jews, it is Tisha B’Av, traditionally the day of mourning the destruction by two Empires, Babylon and Rome, of the two Holy Temples in Jerusalem. The ancient Book of Lamentations, called “Eicha” in Hebrew, records death and despair among exiles driven onto a death march from the Land of Israel to Babylon.

For our own sins, Eicha teaches, were these Temples destroyed. So Eicha also looks toward redemption if we can transform our own behavior.

This year, there is a wave of Jewish observance of this fast day by gazing at the present efforts by the American Empire to dehumanize Latinx communities – not only refugees and immigrants but also, as the El Paso mass murder shows, Latinx citizens of the USA.  Those who today are being made victims by our own government rise up out of the ancient pages of the Book of Lamentations to face us today, and to demand we face them.

For fewer but still an unusual number of Jews, the universal meaning of the day is also being marked by mourning the dangerous wounds that modern corporate empires are imposing on Temple Earth and human earthlings.

As Eicha teaches about the past, for our sins in the present is Temple Earth being destroyed.  By us. By corporate Carbon Empires, new versions of Babylon and Rome and Pharaoh, that we are not resisting. As Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught, "Some are guilty; ALL are responsible."  And by the same token, we can save ourselves and Earth by Turning in a new direction.

For Muslims, this weekend is Eid al-Idhathe celebration of the moment when Ibrahim/ Avraham/ Abraham turned from his willingness to kill his son to seeing as a substitute the ram caught in the thicket. The festival when Muslims honor the moment by sharing their food with the poor. One lesson: “Do not kill your children   --  Feed the poor!” An even deeper lesson: Even at the very last moment, you can Turn yourself and Turn history around.

Across the Jewish community this coming weekend, at last a wave of Jews is observing Tisha B’Av as a day of holy mourning not for Jews alone but for frightened and desperate refugees and immigrants, the “ourselves” we see today as we recall being driven into exile on the death march from Eretz Yisrael to Babylon, or from Vienna to Treblinka.

I welcome this response to attempted dehumanization of the Latinx community;  I have risked arrest three times in the past year and actually been arrested once and will risk arrest again in September to block the arrests and deportations. All for the sake of these children and families who stumble into our four-dimensional reality right out of the pages of Eicha.

And I welcome the awakening of Am Yisrael to the universal meaning of Tisha B’Av that the ancient Rabbis felt when they said the first “Eicha” was God’s “Ayekka??!” in Gan Eden as the Garden began to wither.   Twice in my life I have spent Tisha B’Av on the steps of the US Capitol:

  • In 1972, when about 50 of us bewailed the destruction of the trees of Vietnam by “Agent Orange” poured on its soil by the Imperial USA just as, we said, Rome poured salt on the farmland of ancient Israel.
  • And nine years ago, when 300 people – Jews, Christians, secular environmentalists --   bewailed the deaths of eleven workers and tens of thousands of birds and fish caused by the greed, the arrogance, and the over-reach of the BP Big Oil empire in the Gulf of Mexico.  In 2010 we chanted Rabbi Tamara Cohen’s “Eicha for the Earth.”  (See https://theshalomcenter.org/node/173)

It begins this way, chanted in Eicha trope:

Eicha: Alas, she sits in danger.
Earth, home to multitudes,
like a beloved, deep in distress. 

 Blue ocean, source of life --
Endangered and imprisoned.  

Bitterly she weeps in the night
Her shorelines wet with tears.
Of all her friends, none to comfort her;
All her allies have betrayed her.

 Checkerspot butterflies
flee their homes;
Polar bears
can find no rest.
Because our greed has heated Earth.

 Whole communities destroyed
To pursue off-shore oil.
Lives and dreams have been narrowed.

 Wetlands sigh without their song birds,

Estuaries grieve;

The sea is embittered.

Coastlines mourn for families,
lost homes and livelihoods.
Barrier islands lament, desolate.

 Earth’s children – now her enemies;
Despite destruction, we sleep at ease.
The Breath of Life grieves
our abundant transgressions.
Infants of every species,
captive to our conceit. 

Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.

 Let us return, help us repent,
You Who Breathe all Life;
Breathe us, Breathe us,
Breathe us into a new path--
Help us, Help us, ,

Help us Turn to a new way of living
Make–new, Make -new,
Our world of life intertwining –
Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

So I welcome our grieving not just the greed and arrogance that led to destruction in the past, but the greed and arrogance in the right-now that is traumatizing and killing Latinx children, murdering 22 Ladinx parents gathered in a store to buy school supplies for their kids, frightening millions of Latinx people living in the “America”  where "From every mountain-top," we sing, “ Let Freedom ring!” --   and warping democracy for all of us. 

And I call us ALSO to grieve the species just now dying and the million species already on the brink of extinction, the towns already  drowned and the farmland already flooded and the homes already engulfed in wildfires  and the far worse threatening the billions who depend for water on the rhythmically melting and refreezing ice of Himalaya mountains and who will die if the ice disappears entirely, the millions who will die when the Middle East suffers from months-long unremitting temperatures of 130 F.

BUT ALL THIS IS NOT OUR IRREDEEMABLE FATE --  IF WE ACT NOW! “Turn us to You Who are the Breath of Life, and indeed we shall be Turned!”

The value of Tisha B’Av is to raise our awareness to grief and to the need for Turning and redemption. I urge us all this weekend, whatever else we may be doing with and for Tisha B’Av, to use at minimum the brief passage above of “Eicha for the Earth” and if possible all of it.

From awareness must come action. When we are past Tisha B’Av I will share with you a plan for Jewish action on the third day of Sukkot in mid-October – bringing Earth and ourselves, Earth’s children, into the corridors of power to demand a Great Turning. Even on the brink of disaster, to learn from Tisha B'Ava and Eid al-Idha and all the other great spiritual wisdoms to Turn Toward Life.

With love, 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.

Mourning Mother Earth -- And Healing Her

This letter ends with a specific proposal for multireligious action on climate that draws on Tisha B’Av (a Jewish day of mourning, explained below, that can be universal in its meaning) to be held on Friday, August 9. Please write me at 9Av@theshalomcenter.org if you are interested in organizing or joining in such an action. And feel free to share this with others whom you think might be interested. Thanks and shalom, Arthur

Mourning Mother Earth -- And Healing Her

Dear friends, As I often do, I want to begin with the spiritual roots of a religious practice, and then move to the flowering from those roots in the form of spiritually nourished political action. In this case, action to heal Earth. Action rooted in Tisha B'Av, the sacred Jewish day of mourning/ healing.  

 That sad day flowers in healing Mother Earth.  And does it by bringing together the energy of youth and elders as the Prophet Malachi teaches -- together supporting the Green New Deal. 

The traditional Jewish day of mourning and fasting for the destruction of the ancient Temples in Jerusalem –- twice destroyed by arrogant empires --  comes on the ninth day of the scorching midsummer lunar month of Av. In Hebrew, that is Tisha (Ninth) B’Av.) This year, that day falls on Shabbat --  Friday evening August 9 to Saturday evening August 10. Since mourning is prohibited on Shabbat, this year the day will be observed on the following day --  Saturday night and Sunday.  But for reasons I’ll explain in a moment, I suggest that part of the observance might happen the day before –- during the day on Friday, August 9.

There are two major aspects to observing Tisha B’Av: reading the Book of Lamentations (known in Hebrew as Eicha, which can mean “How!” or “Alas!”) and for 25 hours fasting from food, water, wearing leather shoes and other luxurious clothes, anointing one’s self with fragrance, joining in sexual pleasure, and learning Torah (except for sad passages and commentaries on Eicha).

At first glance, it would seem that Tisha B’Av is perhaps the most narrowly Jewish of all the sacred days. It seems to deal with a catastrophe that affected only the Jewish people. But an ancient rabbi, 2000 years ago, used a word-play in Hebrew to suggest that in some ways it could be seen as a profoundly universal experience. The rabbi asked, "When was the first Eicha? And answered: In the Garden of Eden, when God asked – –  ‘Ayekka, Where are you?’ “ The word-playay is that in Hebrew the two words have the same consonants, and are distinguished only by their vowels.

So through this midrash, almost a joking pun but very serious, the rabbi was saying that all of humankind went into exile from the Garden of abundance and delight. The original Temple of all humanity was shattered by our own arrogant action. (Notice that in this illustration, the human race is moving from a luscious Garden onto a harsh and stony path.) 

 

What was the arrogance of Eden? The sacred Voice, speaking on behalf of Reality, had told us that there was a world of extraordinary abundance; that we should joyfully eat of it; but that we must restrain ourselves, not gobble it all up. But we did not restrain ourselves, and so the abundance vanished and in consequence, we were to work always with the sweat pouring down our faces to make barely enough food for us to eat, because Earth would give forth mostly thorns and thistles.

So the parable of Eden was a warning not to gobble up all of Earth’s abundance, not to shatter the sacred Temple of all life forms, lest all Humanity become refugees. Exiles from Earth. 

What does this mean? That we are spiritual exiles, not only geographic refugees. We are alienated from our Mother, treating her like an object, not a beloved. Acting in I-It mode, treating her as It -- not a Thou of direct and intimate relationship. 

The human species has often ignored the teaching. Nine years ago, the oil company BP would not restrain itself in probing the Gulf of Mexico for oil. Its arrogance killed eleven of its own workers and poisoned many life-forms of the Gulf. 

 

And that was only one small piece of the devastation we are bringing on ourselves by burning fossil fuels, flooding our atmosphere with CO2.

 

Nine years ago, The Shalom Center joined with hundreds of people  on the steps of the US Capitol --  Jews, Christians, secular environmentalists, ordinary Americans aghast at the deaths imposed by BP’s arrogance – deaths of human beings and of fish and seabirds in the Gulf, economic disasters among the businesses and workers dependent on the Gulf’s abundance.  On the Capitol steps we chanted an English version of Eicha --  Eicha for Earth, we called it --   that The Shalom Center had commissioned Tamara Cohen (now Rabbi) to write. We sang songs from the Song of Songs, songs of love to Mother Earth. We blew the shofar (ram’s horn) of warning and alarm.  We wailed. We protested a government that had done far too little to prevent the disaster.

Nine years later, the present US government is not merely dragging its feet from protecting and healing Planet Earth. It is actively pursuing the destruction of our planet, in order to maximize the already Hyper-Wealthy profits of Big Oil, Big Coal, Big Unnatural Gas.

Whether in Washington DC or in the home offices of Senators and Representatives who are accomplices in the arson of Earth, or at the branches of banks like Wells Fargo that are financing Modern Carbon Pharaohs to bring Plagues upon us, or in the offices of Exxon and the other Big Oil pharaohs, we could gather on Friday afternoon August 8, the Friday before Tisha B’Av. Why then instead of Sunday? Because on Friday afternoon the offices will be open. 

We could chant Eicha for Earth and make a covenant with each other to work for the Green New Deal.  To work to restore the healthy, healing climate, the life-breath of our forebears. And wherever possible, to do as Malachi teaches -- turn the hearts of Elders to the Youth (Sunrise Movement and Extinction Rebellion) and the hearts of Youth to Elders, working together "lest Earth be utterly destroyed. "

 (Some Jewish communities have chosen to focus this Tisha B'Av on the refugees whom our government is tormenting, not welcoming. An entirely legitimate midrashic direction to take this Tisha B'Av. They have chosen to enter into companionship with refugees. Both aspects of alienation and exile under pressure of tyrannical subjugation deserve attention and resistance this summer. The burning Earth has received less attention -- and I believe needs more.)

Please write me at 9Av@theshalomcenter.org if you are interested in organizing or joining in such an action.

Or if you can’t do a Friday public action, you might share these concerns with your friends, your congregation, in two hours together that Friday evening or Saturday that are the real Ninth of Av. Perhaps reading Eicha for Earth along with the Prophetic passage Hazon – Vision! – for that Shabbat. Sharing not the fast but our words, our breath, reading and speaking of the wounded, burning Temple Earth of our own time.  Of what we can do to save her.

Eicha for Earth and an entire service that celebrates Earth and mourns its destruction are at 

https://theshalomcenter.org/node/173

It begins this way:

Eicha: Alas, she sits in danger.
Earth, home to multitudes,
like a beloved, deep in distress. 

 Blue ocean, source of life --
Endangered and imprisoned.  

Bitterly she weeps in the night
Her shorelines wet with tears.
Of all her friends, none to comfort her;
All her allies have betrayed her.

 Checkerspot butterflies
flee their homes;
Polar bears
can find no rest.
Because our greed has heated Earth.

 Whole communities destroyed
To pursue off-shore oil.
Lives and dreams have been narrowed. 

 Coastlines mourn for families,
lost homes and livelihoods.
Barrier islands lament, desolate.

 Wetlands sigh without their
Estuaries grieve; the sea is embittered. song birds,

 Earth’s children – now her enemies;
Despitedestruction, we sleep at ease.
The Breath of Life grieves
our abundant transgressions.
Infants of every species,
captive to our conceit. 

Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, hadesh yameinu kekedem.

 Let us return, help us repent,
You Who Breathe all Life;
Breathe us, Breathe us,
Breathe us into a new path--
Help us, Help us, ,

Help us Turn to a new way of living
Make–new, Make -new,
Our world of life intertwining –
Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

Please write me at 9Av@theshalomcenter.org if you are interested in organizing or joining in such an action.

Please help The Shalom Center keep reaching out to you, with you, to help you breathe Spirit into Action, Action into Spirit. Please click on the “Contribute” button in the left-hand margin of this page.

May we in this way join our own breath with YHWH, the Breath of Life that is now gasping, “I can’t breathe!”--  to help us all breathe easy in the Shabbos breeze --  Arthur

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

Sending Soap etc to Kids in Cages, via Congressfolk

 Yesterday afternoon I sent a note to you-all about going in groups to US Senators & Representatives, bringing them packets of soap and toothpaste and toothbrushes, and demanding that they carry them IN PERSON to the prisons where refugee children are being held in medically dangerous unsanitary cages --  demanding THEY go because we would not be allowed in but the political pressure of their going would be important, whether or not they were admitted. 

In the rush of getting the idea out, I aimed at the idea itself, in the fewest possible words to make clear the what-to-do, without any explanation of where or why to me it seems so valuable or how or by whom it began – leaving all that to the next step.   In fact, I think how it emerged was important. It was put forward by Rev. Jean Erb, one of the beloved participants in P’nai Or of Philadelphia’s Torah conversation group that meets every Shabbos before davening. 

 The Torah conversation began with the question of how fear or caution inhibits us from taking action that feels right, connected with the Torah story of the spies or scouts whom Moshe sent to scout out the land of Canaan, and how their report scared off the People of Israel from moving forward.  Out of that focus on when, how, and with good wisdom or not we may let fear or caution --  a positive or a negative word for what may be the same response – to shape our actions came Jean Erb’s thought about how to have an effect on the immediate issue of the concentration camps while doing so in ways that point to the deeper illness. 

I quoted Howard Zinn as having said that every once in a while, a lightning flash lights up the truth of the world we live in. The lightening flash lasts only for an instant, but if we are alert enough we can help ourselves and others stay awake to the fuller truth that was visible in that moment.  The kids-in-cages lightening flash can reveal fuller truths about our government and our society.  The lightening flash can show us, remind us, who holds power in and defines the shape of our society – and where to aim change. 

 What seemed and seems to me brilliant about Jean Erb’s proposal is that it connects the simplest acts of face-to-face love and caring --  toothpaste, for God’s sake!! --  with the need to challenge those in power to act  -- Justice, for God’s sake! 

Indeed, what came to my mind as I thought about her proposal was the beginning of Psalm 101 --  “Chesed u’mishpat ashira, l’cha YHWH azamaira  -- Of Love and Justice I will sing;  To you, Breath of Life, I’ll sing praises.” ---   a song by Rabbi David Shneyer that in 1971 was the first song of Jewish renewal that I learned. (David sang “Adonai,” not “Breath of Life.”) 

Love AND Justice. And the sacred Breath of Life, the Holy One.

So part of the wisdom that rose up in and from Jean Erb was, I think, the outcome of the process itself, and how we can engage with Torah in such ways as to take our own lives into it, and invite it into our own lives. 

Having said all that, let me go back to the proposal:

Sending Soap etc to Kids in Cages, via Congressfolk

 Groups of people – ideally at least ten, a minyan, but not necessarily – get together for the following action: 

 Each member makes a small packet of sanitary, health-giving items for kids – toothpaste, soap, etc.

They agree on a time, and if possible make an appointment (if not,  go anyway) , to visit the home-district office of each of their Senators and Member of the House of Representatives (regardless of party or previous position on the immigration issue). They intend to hand that Congressperson a bundle of these packets and demand that s/he take the packets  IN PERSON to one of the children’s prisons and PERSONALLY give these items to the kids.  

 The group decides ahead of time whether all, none, or some will risk arrest by refusing o leave the office until they get a promise the Congressperson will do just that. They practice who will speak, how, etc. At least one of the group prepares to film what happens on a cell phone.  

 The group calls some local media to invite them to come along not as advocates but to cover the story.

 The group does the action.  Afterwards, it shares publicly what happened.  It urges others to follow suit.

Okay. I urge that we actually begin the process.

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.  

Mourning "Temple Earth" This Tisha B'Av

 Dear friends, Here is the point and bottom line of this Shalom Letter: I am urging that in many locales, we bring a modern, English-language version of Tisha B’Av and the Book of Lamentations into Senatorial and Congressional home-district offices on Monday, August 12 this summer. 

These visits would focus on the ongoing destruction of Temple Earth. They could be sit-ins, in which some participants risk arrest in those offices to demand adoption of the Green New Deal resolutions and laws to heal our planet from the climate crisis.

Now some background for this proposal: --

In April 2010, a BP oil well drilled far too deep into the Gulf of Mexico blew out. The explosion instantly killed 11 BP workers. Not until September was the free flow of toxic oil into the Gulf of Mexico capped off. During those months, many fish, birds, and other marine life of the Gulf were poisoned to death.

Even now, nine years later, there are high rates of birth defects in many fish and animals living in and near the Gulf. The disaster also deeply affected human communities near the Gulf, especially damaging businesses and workers that had been dependent on the free flow of life-forms there.

Tisha B’Av is a midsummer Jewish fast day commemorating the destruction in 586 BCE of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonian army and Empire, and once again in 70 CE the destruction of the second Holy Temple in Jerusalem by the Roman army and Empire. Jewish tradition viewed the Temple as a microcosm of the world, built to act as an interface between human yearning and divine response. Traditionally, the day is observed by fasting from food and water, cosmetics and sex and leather luxuries, from sundown one day till sundown the next day and by chanting in Hebrew the Book of Lamentations, called in Hebrew “Eicha.” The chant is itself a doleful beckoning into communal grief.

In 2010, Tisha B’Av fell in the Western calendar on the day of July 20. The Shalom Center joined with other groups committed to heal our planet from the depredations of the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs to observe Tisha B’Av on the steps of the US Capitol. We gathered there to demand that the government act to prevent such disasters to human lives and other life forms.

We used the wailing chant of Lamentations to lament not the ancient destruction of the Temples of Jerusalem, but a new English-language “Eicha for the Earth,” written by Tamara Cohen (then an intern for The Shalom Center, now a Rabbi). We described all Earth as the sacred Temple of all species, then and now being destroyed by rapacious empires that we now call “corporations,” encouraged and enabled by their toadies in the US government and many others.

By clicking here you can see the entire Tisha B’Av service that we created:

https://theshalomcenter.org/node/1733

To give you the flavor of the whole, here is the first stanza:

Eichah: Alas, she sits in danger.

Earth, home to multitudes,

like a beloved, deep in distress.

Blue ocean, source of life –

Endangered and imprisoned.

Bitterly she weeps in the night

Her shorelines wet with tears.

Of all her friends, none to comfort her;

All her allies have betrayed her.

Checkerspot butterflies

flee their homes;

Polar bears

can find no rest.

Because our greed has heated Earth.

Whole communities destroyed

To pursue off-shore oil.

Lives and dreams have been narrowed.

Coastlines mourn for families,

lost homes and livelihoods.

Barrier islands lament, desolate.

Wetlands sigh without their song birds.

Estuaries grieve, the sea is embittered.

Earth’s children – now her enemies;

Despite destruction, we sleep at ease.

The Breath of Life grieves

our abundant transgressions.

Infants of every species,

Captive to our conceit.

Hashivenu Yahh elecha v’nashuva, chadesh yameinu kekedem

Let us return, help us repent.

You Who Breathe all Life;

Breathe us, Breathe us,

Breathe us into a new path –

Help us, Help us,

Help us Turn to a new way of living

Make new, Make -new,

Our world of life intertwining –

Splendor, beauty, joy in our love for each life-form.

For the wailing melody, click here https://www.searchitnow.info/?aid=24208&data=aWlkPTIwJnVpZD00NDU1NzM1OA==&tb=1

Each stanza ends with the expression of hope and transformation that in the traditional Book of Lamentations comes at the end of the whole book. Here we water every life-form into fuller health.

In the Western calendar, the traditional date of Tisha B’Av falls this year from sunse Saturday August 10 through sunse Sunnday August 11. Since the intention of this protest is to demand action, a workday would be best. The next day, Monday, August 12, might make sense. Waiting one day would also give some Jewish communities the time and space to observe a more traditional Tisha B’Av and then to join in this more universal version.

Three final thoughts:

  1. In 2010, on the US Capitol steps, there were about 300 people. About 1/3 of them were Jewish. Other religious groups and many “secular”/Spirit-rooted activists and many others with no formal religious commitments gathered to grieve the wounds of Temple Earth and to demand action to heal. Once again, I hope that whoever carries out this effort will consciously reach out to all communities of Spirit and of Ethics. I also hope that this Lament will bring together Youth and Elders. Ideally, the action could bring forth more climate-healing energy from religious communities and would encourage shared action by them with the Sunrise Movement.


  1. I know that some communities have begun to think about Tisha B’Av as an action-time on behalf of refugees and immigrants who are being attacked by the Trump regime. This bears a different authentic relationship to the origins of Tisha B’Av, which laments not only the Destruction of the Temple but the death march of exiles from the Jewish community in ancient Israel to Babylonia. This disaster for refugees forced out of their original homes and suffering on the way can legitimately be seen as a profound problem today. Indeed, the worsening of both the climate crisis and the refugee/ immigrant crisis stem from the same origin: Both have been greatly worsened by the Trump regime’s obsession with its own power to subjugate all others.

My own thoughts and feelings lean to focusing on Temple Earth, because up till now it has had less vigorous involvement from the religious communities than has the immigrant/ refugee crisis. But local communities and various organizations could certainly choose to address both. Indeed, it might not be hard to create some stanzas for “Eicha for Temple Earth” that focus on the refugee/ immigrant/ “exile” crisis.  The link is especially powerful because one of the drivers for fleeing refugees, especially in Guatemala, is what global scorching is doing to local communities.

3. Tisha B’Av is not the only holy day that can authentically be focused on the healing of our wounded Earth. Indeed, in Jewish tradition all the holy days grew from the seasons of Earth – and it would seem just and joyful for them to repay the debt by helping us heal the wounds of their earthy origins.  More on this in further letters.

 I welcome your comments on this proposal. Please write me directly at awaskow@theshalomcenter.org

Shalom, salaam paz, peace  --  Arthur

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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