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

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

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

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

To watch video clips, click on links below.

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

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

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


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

PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER ARTICLES with thanks to Ron Goldwyn, media coordinator

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

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


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

CONTRIBUTE TO THE SHALOM CENTER 

Toward a future Judaism: A Retreat This July

This summer, Ruach HaAretz (“Spirit of the Earth”), an exploratory and creative retreat experience, will meet at Stony Point Retreat Center in  New York State. That’s 37 miles from the Upper West Side of Manhattan, 130 miles from Philadelphia, 137 miles from Boston, and 50 miles from Newark Airport.

The Stony Point Center that will host this retreat is itself committed to a multireligious community that lives, farms, and learns on-site.

For Ruach HaAretz, I will be weaving a four-session participatory and conversational course that will look toward a Judaism of the future.

In shaping new versions of Judaism and other religious communities for our own and future generations, we are already turning some of what were biblical blessings or commands, like the subordination of women, into sins; and turning old sins, like male-male sex, into blessings like same-sex marriage.

At the same time, one major blessing of the Hebrew Bible was its wisdom as the spiritual experience of an indigenous people of shepherds and farmers close to the Earth.  That aspect was minimized in 2,000 years of Rabbinic Judaism. But it has become newly crucial in our generation as we face a profound crisis in humanity’s relationship with the Earth.

The course will address these two crucial issues – sexuality/ gender issues and Earth/human-earthling relationships -- and will pay special attention to biblical passages that themselves point toward a future version of Torah quite different from the over-all tenor of the Bible. (For example, the Song of Songs is a vision of a future of gender relationships utterly different from the biblical norm.)

Four sessions:

SESSION 1: Gender relationships: Reading & open conversation on Biblical texts.

SESSION 2:  Gender relationship: Reading & open conversation on theory, practice, poetry of feminist and LGBTQIA Judaism.

SESSION 3: Relationships between Earth & human earthlings: Reading & open conversation on Biblical texts.

SESSION 4: Sexuality/ gender relationships AND relationships between Earth & human earthlings. Reading & open conversation on Song of Songs.

The Ruach HaAretz retreat is itself aiming to create a week-long village, living as what Dr. Martin Luther King called the Beloved Community. Like a village, we will address such aspects of our lives as food and dance, aging and childrearing, meditation and prayer, trees and sexuality. Among the teachers and weavers will be Rabbi Shefa Gold on new forms of prayer, Rabbi Jeff Roth on Jewish meditation, and Rabbi Phyllis Berman as Spiritual Director in Residence. And as with any healthy village, there will be joyful learning for the children.

 

       Here:  yerusha.org/ruach-haaretz

In these very days, we are counting our way from the Passover of the past to the Sinai of the future. We look forward to your joining us, our joining you, in this journey.

Shalom, Arthur

Elijah at Your Seder & New "Go Down Moses"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Holy Spirit Transforms #FreedomSeder50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Becoming Elijah: Shabbat HaGadol (Tomorrow) & Passover

In the Jewish community, we are about – tonight and tomorrow -- to enter the Sabbath before Passover. Traditionally, we are invited to read  the last passage of the last of the classical Hebrew Prophets, Malachi. The passage includes the prophecy of a day that will burn like a furnace, with the promise of a healing from a sun of justice and its wings, and with the insistence that we must turn the hearts of youth and elders to each other lest Earth be utterly destroyed. The passage assigns this task of reconciliation to the Prophet Elijah.
 
This passage speaks directly to our generation – endangered by a Flood of Fire imposed on us by modern Carbon Pharaohs --  and it speaks to the Passover Seder in which, traditionally,  we open a door to welcome Elijah into the Seder. It offers an old/new way of welcoming him, which fits well with the whole effort of the Seder to bring the wisdom of the Exodus into the minds and hearts of the young.
 
Some in the communities and organizations that are struggling to prevent Climate Chaos are Jewish; some are not. I offer the two ceremonies below for all who wish to draw on these ancient wisdoms to strengthen us to face the modern Carbon Pharaohs who are bringing on us a Flood of Fire.

So I suggest that as we open the door to Elijah, we say something like these words:
 


“Elijah, we welcome you to enter not only among us but also within each one of us. We ourselves will act now to turn the hearts of parents to their children and the hearts of children to their parents, lest the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change,  become a Hurricane that smites the Earth with utter destruction.  We ourselves will act now to draw on the energy that comes from the sun and its beating wings that engender wind, to heal us from the danger of a scorched and burning world. We ourselves will turn our hearts to the young people of the world who are demanding that we act.”
 

And I offer this Kavvanah (focusing of intention) before the lighting of the Shabbat candles this evening, for the festival candles as we enter Pesach next Saturday night, and for any sacred occasion in any tradition that includes the lighting of candles and that cares for healing God’s Creation from the Climate Crisis. This kavvanah draws on the passage from Malachi and on the traditional rabbinic midrash that the Rainbow promise to send no Flood of water did not preclude a Flood of Fire. As the Black song says in a very similar midrash  “God gave Noah the Rainbow Sign – No more water; the Fire next time!”

Please feel free to share this letter as you like.
Shalom, salaam, paz, peace -- Arthur



Between the Fires:
A Prayer for Kindling Candles of Commitment
  

We are the generation that stands 
between the fires:
Behind us the flame and smoke
that rose from Auschwitz and from Hiroshima;
From the burning forests of the Amazon,
From the hottest years of human history
that bring upon us
Melted ice fields, Flooded cities, Scorching droughts.
Before us the nightmare of a Flood of Fire,
The heat and smoke that could consume all Earth.
 
 
"Here! The day is coming
That will flame like a furnace, “
Says the Infinite YHWH / Yahhhh,
The Breath of Life --
when all the arrogant, all evil-doers,
root and branch,
will like straw be burnt to ashes.
Yet for those of you who revere My Name,
Yes! My Name, Yahhhh, the Interbreath of Life!
For them a sun of justice will arise

with healing in its wings/rays . . .
 
“Here! Before the coming
of the great and awesome day
of YHWH/ the Breath of Life,
I will send you the Prophet Elijah
to turn the hearts of parents to their children
and the hearts of children to their parents,
lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction."
                      (Malachi 3: 20-21, 23-24.)


 
Here! we ourselves are coming
Before that great and terrible day
of  smiting Earth —
For we ourselves shall turn the hearts
Of parents to their children
And the hearts of children to their parents
So that this day of smiting
Does not fall upon us.
                                                    .
It is our task to make from fire not an all-consuming blaze
But the light in which we see each other fully.
All of us different, All of us bearing
One Spark.
We kindle these candle-fires to see more clearly
That the earth and all who live as part of it
Are not for burning.
We light these fires to see more clearly
The rainbow in the many-colored faces of all life
 
Blessed is the One within the many.
Blessed are the many who make One.
 
{Say the appropriate blessing and Light candles of commitment]

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

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

Faith in Action

Revived call for change from an interfaith Freedom Seder.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Empower Passover: More Joy, More Justice

In the Philadelphia Inquirer (April 5, front page) appeared the article below.

 

Freedom Seder’s 50th anniversary to be celebrated in a Philly mosque to point up the rise of Islamophobia

 

by Kristin E. Holmes, Updated: Philadelphia Inquirer, April 5, 201,  page 1

 

DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer

 

For the 50th anniversary of his Freedom Seder — the groundbreaking observance that each year has inspired a fresh reimagining of the Passover ritual — Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow is continuing to recast ancient Jewish tradition to resonate in a new day.

 

This year, though, the Mount Airy activist and author is taking the renowned interfaith rite into a once-inconceivable place: a mosque.

 

Related stories

 


 

 

The scourges of racism and militarism inspired Waskow in 1969 to create the Freedom Seder, for which he adapted the story of the Jewish exodus from Egypt to echo the civil rights movement. For the next five decades, a steady march of crises informed the Passover observances.

 

When Waskow sat down to write the 2019 iteration of the Haggadah, the text recited during the seder, one theme in particular propelled him. That, he said, was “the rise of Islamophobia.

On Sunday, the 85-year-old rabbi will join an interfaith assembly at Masjidullah on Limekiln Pike in West Oak Lane. The celebration — in advance of the eight-day Passover holiday that begins at sundown on April 19 — will feature the Rev. William J. Barber II, an internationally known activist and MacArthur fellow who has revived the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s Jr.'s Poor People’s Campaign. Also on the roster are Rev Liz Theoharis, co-chair pf the Poor Peoples Campaign, Debbie Almontaser, founding principal of the first public school in America to focus on Arabic language and culture, and Ana Maria Archila, head of the Center for Popular Democracy, who confronted former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake in an elevator at the U.S. Capitol during confirmation hearings for Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

A 5 p.m. dinner will be prepared according to Jewish and Muslim dietary guidelines. The seder will follow at 7.pm.

Passover’s traditional blessings will be said in English, Hebrew, Arabic, and Spanish over four cups of grape juice rather than wine, as alcohol is prohibited in Islam. The portion of the original story describing the 10 plagues God inflicted on Egypt to free the enslaved Israelites will be replaced by modern-day “plagues” — not only Islamophobia but also inequitable government funding for public schools, LGBTQ discrimination, and environmental racism.

 About 400 people are expected for the event, which is sold out but will be livestreamed.

 >> READ MORE: A new Freedom Seder for a divided nation

 The influence of Waskow’s Freedom Seder is “huge,” said Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer, co-author of Strangers, Neighbors, Friends: Muslim-Christian-Jewish Reflections on Compassion and Peace. “What Arthur did was liberate the Haggadah” from the constraints of its ancient traditions.

 The golden anniversary coincides with a time of increasingly blatant and often violent religious intolerance. In mid-March, 50 Muslims were murdered in a mass shooting at a mosque in New Zealand, nearly five months after 11 Jews were killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Last month, the Philadelphia religious community, which has a long history of collaboration, was rattled when a guest imam at a mosque known for its interfaith outreach expressed anti-Semitic sentiments in a series of sermons; the mosque immediately apologized.

... Waskow was a resident fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington when he was inspired to create the Freedom Seder following the 1968 assassination of King. As riots erupted in the district, President Lyndon B. Johnson instituted a curfew and deployed nearly 14,000 federal troops to quell the unrest.

 Along with other activists, Waskow helped members of the black community secure food and medical and legal aid. When he saw a machine gun mounted on a Jeep in a Washington neighborhood, he considered the link between ancient slavery and the turmoil fueled by racism and militarism throughout the ’60s — both cited by King in a famous speech at Riverside Church in New York.

 In response, Waskow wrote the Freedom Seder, inserting quotes by slave-rebellion leader Nat Turner on resisting bondage, the writer Henry David Thoreau on abolitionist John Brown, and King on nonviolence. His Haggadah was published in Ramparts magazine. The first observance was in the basement of an African American church on April 4, 1969, a year after King’s assassination.

 “It was so exciting. All over America, people were showing up at Passover with [a copy of the Freedom Seder],” said Kreimer, an associate professor at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote and founder of the school’s multifaith studies department. Suddenly, she said, a Haggadah that had been the same since antiquity was incorporating the wisdom of 20th century figures such as King and Mohandas K. Gandhi.

 Over the years, the Freedom Seder has been adapted to themes such as LGBTQ rights, immigration, and Jewish-Palestinian reconciliation. In 1970, the Rev. Daniel Berrigan, then on the run after being convicted of burning draft records during an anti-war protest in Catonsville, Md., sneaked into a Freedom Seder hosted by Waskow and students at Cornell University. He escaped with the help of a life-size puppet theater troupe that was part of the event.

 “He got inside one of the puppet costumes, and then he was gone,” said Waskow, who runs the nonprofit Shalom Center, a Philadelphia-based peace and justice organization. Berrigan was later arrested.

 

[Rabbi Arthur Waskow (center) with the Rev. Channing Phillips (left) and TV director Topper Carew (right) at the first Freedom Seder held April 4, 1969, at Lincoln Temple United Church of Christ in Washington, D.C.]

 Last year, Waskow reimagined his own reimagining of the rite when he created The MLK +50 Interfaith Freedom Seder to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King’s assassination. In the Haggadah, he included references to police shootings of unarmed citizens and the Parkland, Fla., school massacre.

 This year’s event is being hosted in a house of worship with its own interfaith history. The building that Masjidullah now occupies once was home to Temple Sinai synagogue and then the West Oak Lane Church of God. The mosque purchased the property from the church in 2013.

 Imam Abdul-Halim Hassan of Masjidullah has long worked with Waskow, Berman, and other area religious leaders on community issues including interfaith understanding and cooperation, and environmental conservation.

 “You can do something on one side of the world and people on the other side will know about it instantly," Hassan said. "If we can do something here to show that there is a better way, we can be a model for the world.”

 For Rabbi Phyllis Ocean Berman, Waskow’s wife and co-organizer of the celebration along woth Viv Hawkins, Program Coordinatpr pf The Shalom Center, the Freedom Seder’s evolution and influence is a testament to the staying power of the original concept.

 It “revolutionized the idea,” she said, "that sacred writing could be new in every generation.”

 

We Need Your Help to Grow the Green New Deal

The traditional Haggadah, the Telling of the liberation story for the Passover Seder,  says: “In every generation, all human beings must look upon ourselves as if we ourselves, not our forebears only, go forth from  slavery to freedom."

In every generation! 

Today we are living under pressure from a Pharaoh-in-Chief and many assistant pharaohs, including the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs whose boundless greed is aimed at burning Planet Earth, our Mother and our common Home, in order to multiply their Hyper-Wealth.

For Passover this year we need to gather everywhere to grow the Resistance again. In the Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50 we are holding in an African-American mosque in Philadelphia, but not there alone. Everywhere. Again. In every generation.

To make the Promise of Passover real, we need your help.  We need your help in gifts of money, we need  your help through invitations to come where you live to speak and teach, to weave new prayers of chant and breathing, new acts of justice. We need your help to keep doing our work to inspire and empower the Spirit-rooted Wind of the Resistance.

You can provide this help by clicking right now to the maroon "Contribute" banner on the left-hand margin of this page. Or you can read this Call to join in the work we plan, and then click to the maroon "Contribute" banner.

We seek  to grow the Garden of the Green New Deal. Inspiring and persuading religious communities – individuals, local congregations,  nation-wide religious denominations --  to support its call for Transformation.

The Green New Deal offers by far the best chance of success in our struggle to prevent climate chaos. And it calls for more -- for a society of ECO-SOCIAL JUSTICE. It demands action NOW to change our whole economy from Carbon to Renewable Energy, and to change our society from domination and despair to justice, equality, and freedom. From lies and subjugation to Truth and Transformation. 

   The matzah we eat for Passover physically embodies Dr. King's “fierce urgency of NOW.”  “The bread was not leavened," says the story, "for the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, thrust them out of the Tight and Narrow Land: Do Not Delay!”

Indeed, much of Passover is directly relevant to the Green New Deal.

Every year, on the Shabbat just before Passover, we read the Call of the very last of the classical Hebrew Prophets (Malachi 3:21-22)  

“I [God, the Breath of Life] will send you Elijah the Prophet to turn the hearts of the parents and the children to each other, lest I come and smite the earth with utter destruction.”

It was our youth who sat-in in the office of Speaker Pelosi to put the Green New Deal on the map. Our children, our grandchildren. What are we doing to turn our hearts to them?

-– AND Passover reminds us that the Pharaoh who oppresses, enslaves, and orders the murder of the Israelite workers and children --  is the same Pharaoh who brings “Plagues” upon his own country.  All the Plagues were eco-disasters: undrinkable water; swarms of locusts that ate all the crops; unheard-of hailstorms; a climactic sandstorm of darkness so thick you could touch it.

There is no separation between “social justice” and “ecological sanity.” Passover tells us there is ONE Truth -- eco-social justice. The Green New Deal demands ONE response -- eco-social justice.

The Green New Deal takes into account the pent-up demands for social justice against the pharaohs of our day who rip families apart, imprison children, impoverish workers,  destroy jobs, turn poverty into hunger and hunger into famine, incite violence against religious and racial minorities --  just as the storied ancient Pharaoh did. The Green New Deal demands support to create the well-paid working-class jobs that will be needed to build –- literally build --  the green renewable-energy infrastructure and the ways of drawing-down CO2 that will save our planet from climate chaos.

 This approach can awaken a great new coalition that treats ECO-SOCIAL JUSTICE as a many-faceted but unified agenda. It can appeal to workers, to the disemployed, to wide swaths of the religious communities, to the “forgotten Americans,” to those already suffering from climate disasters and those who know what is coming.  

The Green New Deal also addresses the need for a just transition from Carbon to renewable energy by affirming the need for new jobs for those now locked into Carbon industries and for special aid to depressed and isolated communities, rural and urban.

To make this broad and deep coalition real and ready to resist, to be seeds of transformation, we need to work at the grass roots.  These are four ways The Shalom Center intends to do this:

  • Inspiring religious congregations to Move Our Money/ Protect Our Planet (MOM/POP); moving money --  out of banks that invest in burning the world,  into banks and credit unions that will invest in local neighborhoods and people. Our work has already inspired the MOM/POP decision of the first synagogue to do this; much more needs to happen. See --

       https://theshalomcenter.org/content/one-synagogue-divests-carbon-pharaoh-bank

  • Showing congregations, rabbis, and other spiritual leaders how to draw on the remarkable treasury The Shalom Center has developed of “Prayer and Bible Exploration as if the Earth Really Matters” --  renewing especially but not only Jewish prayer forms and interpretation of Torah for use in communal and public settings, to energize religious commitment to act on behalf of God’s Creation. We have been successful in unifying public prayer with public actions for eco-social justice.

 

  • Organizing Training Institutes to train activists of varied religious communities and traditions to draw on their distinctive wisdoms  -– their prayers, their stories, their sacred texts, their festivals and foods, their ceremonies --  to awaken activist commitment to heal the world from climate crisis.  

 Let me be clear and honest: To make this happen, we need your help.

In all of these grass-roots approaches, emails like the Shalom Report are helpful, but physical on-site presence is more effective.  I have seen and felt and heard how more changes after I actually meet with, speak with, and weave conversations and prayer experiences with congregations and their leaders. 

So I invite you to invite me to do this with your community -- a congregation, college classes, an interfaith conference. We can discuss this if you write me directly at Awaskow@theshalomcenter.org

And to keep making possible the range of writing, activism, interfaith cooperation, occasional arrests that The Shalom Center does and sponsors, please click to the maroon “Contribute” button on the left-hand margin of this page, and make your Passover contribution to The Shalom Center.

With blessings that we can all turn the hearts of the Elders and the Youth toward each other, bringing new life and energy, nrew freedom and compassion, into our varied religious, spiritual, and ethical communities, and renewing a planet, a climate, as life-giving for our grandchildren as it was for our grandparents!  --  Arthur

If You Trivialize the Holocaust, You’re Unfit to Lead White House Climate Panel

With all the talk of troubling comments about Jews, what about William Happer?

By David Waskow

[This article originally appeared in The Times of Israel, March 11, 2019David Waskow is an expert on international climate policy based in Washington, DC, where he is a member of the senior staff of a world-renowned research and policy center on global resources. He has graduate degrees from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and the University of Chicago Divinity School. Please note some additional comments after his essay, suggesting advocacy responses to the Happer appointment.]

Given the heated debate over anti-Semitism now taking place in Washington, you would imagine there would be a glaring spotlight on any White House official who had made deeply troubling comments about the Holocaust. Instead, sadly and disturbingly, there’s been hardly a peep about the appointment of William Happer to the staff at the National Security Council.

Last fall, Happer quietly slipped onto the NSC staff, without much fanfare. Now he’s the driving force behind the Trump administration’s new panel to counter widely accepted scientific research about the causes and consequences of global warming.

Though Happer’s a professor emeritus of physics at Princeton University, he’s not a climate scientist. Moreover, his belief that excess carbon dioxide is a positive force directly contradicts the widely-held scientific consensus on the dangerous impact of greenhouse gases on global temperature.

As a climate policy expert, I was disturbed when I heard of his role. As a Jew, I was appalled.

In an interview on CNBC in 2014 [ https://www.cnbc.com/video/2014/07/14/princeton-prof-shut-up-over-climat..., Happer said that “the demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler.” He has never retracted or apologized for his comments.

When word of the White House climate panel leaked in late February, there was a brief flurry of media attention about his past comments. But since then, all has gone silent. In a troubling sign of the times, his outrageous statement has largely been ignored by Congress and elsewhere.

Happer’s comparison of millions of slaughtered Jews to carbon dioxide blatantly trivializes the horrors of the Holocaust and the vast human suffering that resulted from the Nazis’ atrocities. Molecules of carbon dioxide can hardly be subject to the deprivations that the Nazis inflicted during their brutal attempt to destroy European Jewry. Conflating chemical compounds with millions of murdered Jews dishonors and grotesquely casts aside the memory of those who suffered and died.

Trivializing the meaning of the Holocaust in this way should always be unacceptable. With his ignorance of history and callousness about real suffering in the world, the last place he should be is on the National Security Council.

Furthermore, it means that he’s also not fit for the task that he’s set himself and the administration on climate change. Someone who is unable to comprehend the gravity of the Holocaust is not someone who should be trusted to understand the dire impacts on people’s lives that climate change is already causing and that will worsen dramatically over time.

Indeed, Happer’s views have already demonstrated his lack of concern for the severe threat that climate change poses for humanity. In a Wall Street Journal op-ed, [https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB10001424127887323528404578452483656067190... Happer tried to excuse impacts of carbon pollution by noting that the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over 65 millions years ago was over 3,000 parts per million, well beyond the current levels approaching 410 parts per million.

But that entirely misses the point: What we are witnessing now is completely unprecedented for humans. The earth has not seen the current levels of carbon dioxide for more than 3 million years [see https://www.climate.gov/news-features/understanding-climate/climate-chan..., at a time when sea levels were 50-80 feet higher than today and no humans lived on the planet.

We have never faced the type of changes that are coming. But given his thoughtless comments on the Holocaust, does Happer possess the capacity to care about the pain caused by climate change??

Will he care about the Alaskan communities whose livelihoods and way of life are threatened as ice melts and the sea intrudes? Or about the 1.6 billion people living downstream from the Himalayas who will face catastrophic water shortages as the mountain glaciers that provide their water melt away?

Will he care about those suffering from increasingly powerful and destructive hurricanes or terrifying and deadly fires in water-starved forests? Or about the island nations whose very existence will be endangered by rising sea levels?

In a superb essay at https://medium.com/s/story/sorry-yall-but-climate-change-ain-t-the-first..., climate author Mary Annaïse Heglar recently suggested that, though climate change does not have a direct historical parallel, we can still learn from the existential threats faced by specific communities, like the slavery and lynching of Blacks in the United States. Those past traumatic experiences can help us understand how to tackle the climate crisis that imperil the basic underpinnings of our society and millions of lives.

Unfortunately, William Happer’s views on the Holocaust demonstrate that he is dangerously unaware of the past and won’t be able to see or understand the devastating pain that climate change brings in its wake. At a time of heightened awareness of anti-Semitism, Happer’s utter insensitivity to the slaughter of millions of Jews should cause alarm. He should not be sitting on the National Security Council with the future of the planet –- and especially the people who live on it –- in his hands.

^^^^^^^^^^^

A Note from the Editor: This information, which connects the dog-whistle anti-Semitism expressed by some in the White House with the willingness to wreck and burn our planet for the sake of Hyper-Profits --  should be brought to much wider public awareness. We suggest writing your city's major newspaper and also a Jewish communal newspaper a letter to the editor quoting Willism Happer's contemptuous Holocaust-minimizing and calling for the rejection of Willism Happer from all governmental assignments, and especially from his appointment to head  a commision on the climate crisis.

Denial of the climate crisis is in some ways even worse than Holocaust denial, because the Holocaust is behind us -- its horror nust be remembered but cannot be prevented -- while the danger of Climate Chaos is still preventable, and climate denialism threatens hundreds of millions of lives.

With blessings of Truth, Justice, and Peace-- the three pillars that uphold the world -- Arthur

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