Trump Mulls: Burn the Constitution, the Planet, or Both?

(This is satire from the well-known Satire News Agency, the Dissociated Press. Satire reports not the immediate facts but the deeper Truth that emerges from understanding the immediate facts.)

Trump Mulls: Burn the Constitution, the Planet, or Both?

Dissociated Press [Washington DC, February 15, 2019]  A member of the Trump family has described to our reporter a private meeting of the Trump Family just before Donald Trump decided today to proclaim a national emergency on the Southern US border so as to build the Wall.

The family member reports that Donald said,  

“I’m considering burning the Constitution by ignoring its provision that only Congress can appropriate money, and grabbing money from various agencies to start building that Wall.  I want your advice: Will we make more money for the Family if I do this “national emergency” thing, or if I just focus on burning the Earth?

 “I’ve already been doing my best to burn all Planet Earth. I’m  encouraging the burning of as much coal, oil, and unnatural gas as possible, ending limits on automobile CO2 emissions, allowing coal-burning power plants from spewing their poison into the air.

“The GREAT thing is, all that carbon-burning also multiplies weird cancers and terrible asthma epidemics in the Black and Brown neighborhoods, who don’t belong in our country anyway and harbor thousands of would-be terrorists. We protect America by keeping them busy with their kids in hospitals.

“Of course there is no national emergency on the border.  The real emergency is that I might lose the 2020 election if I don’t get that Wall built.

“I notice just today, my Trump Organization announced that so many elitist and globalists are angry at me they won’t stay in my Hotels any more. The new hotels we planned will have to wait.

 “So those 'globalists' like Soros and Steyer (you know who I mean, but I can’t say the whole truth about them out loud – yet!) are going to explode if I burn the Constitution too. But my loyal followers will love me even more, so it’s my best chance to win in 2020.

"The Dems will go to court, of course. But so what if they win? Once I’ve burned one part of the Constitution, what’s to stop me for burning more? As my hero Andy Jackson when the Supreme Court tried to stop him from forcing those Pocohontas Cherokees to move their asses out of Georgia, ‘John Mashall has made his decision; now let him enforce it!’

“And besides, it’s such a thrill to see McConnell so scared!  He’s so scared I’ll support somebody to beat him in the primary,  I bet if I got the actual original copy of the Constitution out of the Archives and told him to light the match to burn it on the White House lawn, he’d swallow hard and do it.

“But if it will hurt the Hotels, should I do it?   Win the Presidensity, lose a few hotels  -- is it worth it to our bottom line?”

Supporting the "Green New Deal"

Dear friends, “Sunrise” is the mostly young-people movement that first put the Green New Deal on the map. I am sharing with you an invitation to an “emergency mass phone call” at 8 pm EST  THIS evening (WEDNESDAY Feb 13) to plan an effort to win as many votes as possible in the Senate for a resolution by Senator Markey of Massachusetts in support of the concept. (See below for why this vote is coming and why to press for support.) 

My own view is that the Green New Deal offers by far the best chance of success in our struggle to prevent climate chaos, because it joins the struggle for social justice with the struggle for eco-sanity. 

This is rooted in our best religious and spiritual traditions – for instance, the biblical Shmita/Sabbatical Year both releases the Earth from overwork and releases debtors from their debts.

 -– AND it flowers with the most effective possible political energy, for it responds to all the pent-up desires in American life for well-paid working-class jobs that will be needed to create the green renewable-energy society. And it 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. 

 So I hope you will join in the call tonight. For the link to register, see here & below.“Sunrisbreaking-senate-vote-on-green-new-deal&email_referrer=email_494332___subject_636448&email_subject=breaking-senate-vote-

 Shalom, Arthur



Yesterday, Mitch McConnell announced he’s bringing the Green New Deal resolution to a vote in the Senate. Tonight we'll hold an emergency call to chart out our response. 


Rabbi Arthur, 

Yesterday, Mitch McConnell announced he’s bringing the Green New Deal resolution to a vote in the Senate. He’s wagering that he can use this to destroy the momentum for the Green New Deal before we are able to build support in the Senate. 

We intend to make him regret it. Tonight, we’re launching our plans to fight back. Join our Emergency Mass Call tonight at 8pm EST. 

McConnell made this call because he works for the fossil fuel billionaires, not our generation, and they are scared. They see the movement we’re building: the thousands of people visiting offices this week, the bipartisan support for the Green New Deal in the polls, and the wall-to-wall media coverage about a real solution to climate change. 

This vote raises the stakes higher than ever. We don’t expect to win this vote: fossil fuel money still runs Washington -- for now. But, it is a huge opportunity. It forces every member of the Senate to make a choice: will you vote for a plan to guarantee every American clean air and water, a stable climate, and a good job? Or will you stand with Mitch McConnell and the fossil fuel billionaires who are willing to put millions of lives in peril so they can pad their profits? 

Mitch McConnell thinks he can win this fight in 2019 -- but he’s actually just starting the process of losing it in 2020.

Once Senators on the record, we can hold them accountable, and begin the process of turning over our democracy to the people who are willing and able to fight for all of us - not just the billionaires. We’ll build a youth-led electoral army that will help our friends and punish the members of Congress working against us. 

It starts tonight, when we’ll meet to talk about our plan to push as many Senators to side with us before the vote, and our 3 year plan to take back power and pass a Green New Deal - no matter what happens in the coming weeks.

RSVP to join the call here.

Mitch McConnell and his allies have no plan to stop catastrophic climate change. They have nothing like this movement. All they have is fear, division, and distraction. Their time is over. It’s not going to be easy, but I believe that we can do this. 

Sunrise is a movement to stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process. If someone forwarded you this email, sign up here to get updates from Sunrise.

Living inside the Book of Exodus; Make the Seder activist again!

Today all Americans and most life-forms on Planet Earth are living inside the Book of Exodus --  our health and livelihoods, our freedom and our lives, endangered by modern Pharaohs.

One vigorous response: Turn the Passover Seder from a commemoration into an incitement.

In 1969, in the midst of a crisis over racism and war, we created a new kind of Seder. We called it the Freedom Seder. We held it on April 4, the first anniversary of the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King.

This coming April 7, fifty years later, in the midst of an American and a planetary crisis even sharper, The Shalom Center is sponsoring a new Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50.

Among its leaders will be Reverends William Barber and Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign;  Ana Maria Archila, who challenged Senator Flake in the famous elevator and who heads the Center for Popular Democracy; and Debbie Almontaser, who has both suffered from Islamophobia and transcended it.


There has been a rush of registrants in recent days. Space is limited, The time to register is NOW.

Fifty years ago, the Freedom Seder was held at an African-American church in Washington, DC. This year, the new Seder will be held at an African-American mosque in Philadelphia.

Fifty years ago, the Freedom Seder wove together the ancient story of liberation from slavery to Pharaoh with the story of the liberation struggle of Black America against racism. This year, it will address four overarching oppressions: racism, militarism, materialism, and sexism. 

Fifty years ago, it was broadcast by WBAI in New York and by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. This year, it will be live-streamed to groups around the country, large or small, that want to connect their own  Seders  with the Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50.

Why do we need to hold this Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50? Not to commemorate the past, but to once again change the future. And this year the Seder is even more appropriate as a form than it was fifty years ago,

We are dealing with a Pharaoh who has defined US citizens who are descendants of legal Spanish-speaking immigrants as a dangerous minority ethnic group, and US citizens who are members of at least one minority religious community as dangerous outsiders, likely to side with America's enemies, harboring terrorists.

A Pharaoh who is willing to subject hundreds of thousands of government workers to slavery, as they were required to work without being paid.

A Pharaoh who was willing to rip children from the arms of their parents because they were from a wave of "foreigners" he despised, and who created prisons for those children that have resulted in the deaths of at least two.

And a Pharaoh who is deliberately acting to worsen the climate crisis and bring far more Plagues than ten upon the Earth and all humanity. Who responded "I don't believe it" when a broad network of his own officials submitted a well-researched, comprehensive report that the suffusion of our atmosphere with CO2 and methane were already bringing about unnatural disasters and were sure to create climate chaos, deep economic dislocations, and massive medical emergencies unless major healing action were taken immediately. Just "I don't believe it."

And a Resistance emerges. On January 21, 2017, women, as in ancient times, were the first to challenge this despotic power.

Please take 3 1/2 minutes to watch this video of a street-theater action against the Carbon Pharaohs at

 All this is stunningly reminiscent of the Pharaoh in the first chapters of Exodus who tells his people that the Israelites living in an Egyptian province -- the grandchildren of immigrants to Egypt – – are having too many children of their own. He calls them Ivrim, “Cross-Overs,” a word of contempt analogous to “wetbacks, “rootless cosmopolitans,” or “globalists.”

Then he moves from words of hatred and contempt to acts of violence.  These Ivrim must be subjugated into slaves, and must be controlled by overseers who, we soon learn, are free to kill the Ivrim on a whim or a bias of their own. He sets up a program to murder their children.

When resistance begins, it is led by women -– Shifra and Puah, the midwives who invent a first stage of nonviolent resstance by refusing Pharaoh’s order to murder the boy-babies. Then Miriam and Pharaoh’s Daughter take positive rebellious action in a kind of international feminist conspiracy to save Moses’ life and nurture him.

And then there emerges a resistance movement, led by Moses, Aaron, and Miriam. When they challenge Pharaoh,  his stubbornness and cruelty and arrogance bring disasters – Plagues --  upon his own country. When his own officials urge him to let the Israelites go free because his stubbornness is wrecking Egypt, he keeps refusing – – and his refusal brings on more ecological disasters.

So the Exodus story is perhaps the first understanding of a linkage: what we at The Shalom Center today call “eco-social justice.” Racial, economic, and social justice cannot be separated from  ecological sanity.

 Today Corporate Carbon Pharaohs and their governmental enablers are using their Hyper-Wealth to choke the Breath of Life, the Wind of Change, and Its efforts -- our efforts -- to heal  the planet and our neighborhoods from abject economic inequality, deep racism and many dfferent phobias, endless war, subjugation and destruction. And their depredations harm and kill the poorest first and worst. These realities are the ultimate in eco-social INjustice.  

What to do? Today we need to create a new Resistance to these new Carbon Pharaohs.

The Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50 will gather people who are ready to resist the new Pharaohs with a new band of Resisters demanding eco-social justice. Register now at

And please begin paying attention to a new and brilliant campaign fpr eco-social justice called the Green New Deal.

It points to what Dr. King called “the fierce urgency of Now,” a fierce urgency that in the Exodus crisis we embodied in matzah – for there was no time for the bread to rise. It demands a swift transition to renewable energy with great numbers of well-paid green jobs, with special care for workers displaced as we move out of coal and oil and fracking. It demands special attention to the forgotten and forsaken in big-city neighborhoods and rural enclaves, and to the battered but resilient Native communities.

The Shalom Center has signed on as one of an array of organization supporting the Green New Deal.

I see this as the best hope for breaking through the greed of the Carbon Pharaohs and the despair of many people.

Can the Jewish community join this effort as our own generation’s renewal of the meaning of the Exodus?

The answer is blowing in the Wind -- the Wind of Change, the Breath of Life -- the breath we breathe into our own words and songs and arms and legs of action:

Go down Moses,

Way down in EVERY land --

Tell all Pharaohs --

Set My Creation free!

Please join us in eating together, singing together, learning together, taking action together --

Please register NOW at

Howard Schultz and The Challenge of "Class Suicide"

[Arlene Goldbard is the President pf The Shalom Center. She writes a blog of her own, to which you can subscribe or post comments at her Website: Till recently she was the Chief Policy Wonk of the US Department of Arts and Culture (not a government agency). She is the author of The Culture of Possibility: Art, Artists & The Future and The Wave.  Much of her work unfolds the spiritual roots of  political action; this essay is a superb example. --  AW, editor]


By Arlene Goldbard

When Starbucks founder Howard Schultz announced a few days ago that he was exploring a 2020 run for President as a "centrist independent," progressive social media exploded with reasons to reconsider. Op-eds proliferated, people began leafleting Starbucks and protesting at Schultz's speaking engagements. A chief objection is the reality that Jill Stein, running as the Green Party candidate in 2016, took enough votes from the Democrat to propel the Present Occupant into the White House. Pick a party, many say, and run as hard as you want for the nomination. But don't sabotage this critical opportunity to defeat the incumbent by pulling votes from the Democratic nominee. Michelle Goldberg did a good job of summing it all up in the New York Times. 

Schultz's trial balloon is likely to sink under its burden of self-regard, the billionaire's blithe belief that wealth qualifies him for office. If not, the history and math showing how a Schultz candidacy is likely to re-elect the incumbent are hard to refute. I imagine Schultz will back down, but I also recognize that the surrealism of contemporary American politics can outstrip my imagination. 

So what interests me most is not handicapping Schultz's chances or joining the legions exhorting him not to run, but getting to the root of his absurd ambitions, which is to say the root of our plutocracy and its kudzu-like grip on the body politic.

I can't think of anything that expresses it better than this quote from Paulo Freire's masterpiece, Pedagogy of the Oppressed. It explains the confidence of those like Schultz who believe their personal wealth and wisdom make them uniquely qualified to save the world. It explains why despite so much evidence to the contrary, they are certain they know better.

“...the fact that certain members of the oppressor class join the oppressed in their struggle for liberation, thus moving from one pole of the contradiction to the other... Theirs is a fundamental role, and has been throughout the history of this struggle. 

It happens, however, that as they cease to be exploiters or indifferent spectators or simply the heirs of exploitation and move to the side of the exploited, they almost always bring with them the marks of their origin: their prejudices and their deformations, which include a lack of confidence in the people's ability to think, to want, and to know. 

Accordingly, these adherents to the people's cause constantly run the risk of falling into a type of generosity as malefic as that of the oppressors. The generosity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be maintained in order to justify that generosity. Our converts, on the other hand, truly desire to transform the unjust order; but because of their background they believe that they must be the executors of the transformation. They talk about the people, but they do not trust them; and trusting the people is the indispensable precondition for revolutionary change. A real humanist can be identified more by his trust in the people, which engages him in their struggle, than by a thousand actions in their favor without that trust.”

I have no great love for our current electoral system. It would take all of 30 seconds to come up with something better than our money-ridden, top-down two-party structure, its flaws compounded by the deformations of the Electoral College and bad Supreme Court decisions such as Citizens United. But Schultz and others who imagine now is the time to experiment with sidestepping the Democratic Party are hugely mistaken. Perhaps wealth insulates them so fully from the consequences of such experiments that empathy falls by the wayside. Four more years of the madmen in the White House may not do irreparable damage to Schultz's bottom line; it's impossible to believe he's given full weight to the damage others are likely to sustain. Either that or he turns out to be the worst type of ideologue, the true believer who accepts the suffering of others as allowable collateral damage in pursuit of a grand idea—in this case, himself as President.

Freire recognizes the importance of the privileged putting themselves on the side of liberation. There are many examples. I wrote in 2015 about the way great spiritual and political leaders may come from wealth and privilege—Moses, Siddhartha Gautama, Gandhi, Ho Chi Minh, and many more. But no matter how gifted, such individuals cannot advance freedom and justice unless they commit "class suicide," dying to the privileged class of their birth—for instance, by taking a step with no return—and thus sacrificing privilege and power in favor of full identification with the oppressed.

Right now, today, how could someone like Howard Schultz—or Michael Bloomberg, who just said that Medicare for All would "bankrupt us for a very long time"—commit class suicide? We are taught that Moses' moment came when he was moved to kill a brutal overseer abusing a slave and Siddhartha's eyes were opened when he finally left his father's palace and saw human suffering. So yes, these billionaire politicians could simply open their eyes—if seeing led to action. A good first step would be to come out in favor of the wealth tax ideas put forward by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren, nicely explained in this column by Jamelle Bouie.

The Republican right frames a top tax rate of 70 percent for the wealthiest as highway robbery, but that was actually the rate from the mid-1940s through the 1970s. So rather than advocating unprecedented radical redistribution, present-day economic reformers are simply calling for a return to policies that kept the wealth gap far smaller than today's egregious reality, where the U.S. gap is worse than almost any other nation in the developed world.

Freire was right.The spoilers like Schultz who claim to be for the public good but sacrifice nothing to see it enacted, those whose self-importance swamps their often formidable intelligence, are rooted in economic privilege. Ralph Nader's net worth was close to $4 million in 2000 when he ran against Al Gore; Jill Stein's and her husband's net worth totaled almost exactly the same when she ran in 2016.

The possession of wealth does not cancel empathy or disqualify one from leadership any more than poverty always amplifies empathy or promotes leadership. It's not material conditions that make good leaders, but qualities: the compassion, humility, sense of reality, and commitment to love and justice which every human being has the capacity to cultivate. Tech zillionaireTom Steyer has no dearth of self-confidence, but I was glad to see him separate himself from the likes of Schultz, putting paid to rumors of his presidential candidacy by announcing he was investing the millions he would have spent campaigning on the Present Occupant's impeachment instead.

The part of that quote from Freire I love the most says that "The generosity of the oppressors is nourished by an unjust order, which must be maintained in order to justify that generosity." It's not hard to break down. The Present Occupant's many campaign promises to restore manufacturing jobs and otherwise relieve the suffering of working people were 21st-century reenactments of John D. Rockefeller passing out shiny new dimes to everyone he met. The meta-statement each gesture made is this: I'm rich and you're not. I have the power and you don't.

In the Mishnah Torah, Maimonides defines. eight levels of charity The Hebrew word for charity is tzedakah, which also means justice or righteousness. The highest  level is to help someone via a loan, job, or partnership to avoid remaining dependent on others (expressed for instance in the Green New Deal proposal growing in grassroots popularity); the lowest is to give grudgingly (as whenWilbur Ross and other such Republican spokespersons condemned government employees unpaid due to the government shutdown for applying for public assistance or protested against having to pay taxes).  

The true highest level of tzedakah is class suicide, people with economic and social power turning their backs on the system that upholds their privilege and working for a new order grounded in equity and caring, reducing their own entitlement and specialness as countless others are uplifted.

There's a rabbinic story I learned many years ago, in which a rabbi visits the town’s richest man to ask for alms for the poor, and is repeatedly refused. Finally, before he turns to leave, the rabbi asks the man to look through the window of his house and say what he sees. The man sees other people, of course, going about their business in the town. Then the rabbi directs the man to gaze into a nearby mirror and report what he sees. “Myself,” the man says. “That’s how it goes,” the rabbi tells him. “The human soul is clear, like glass, allowing us to see truly; but when we cover it with silver, all we can see is ourselves.”  

Shalom, Arlene

Translating the Bible in an Old/New Key

Jewish tradition mandates that we name our teachers, asserting that doing so redeems the world. It is therefore disappointing that neither Avi Steinberg’s article on Robert Alter’s three-volume translation of the Hebrew Bible (NYTMagazine, Dec 23, 2018) nor P. J. Grisar’s summary of the Times article in The Forward (Dec 24, 2018), mentions the real origins of Alter’s approach to the Bible.

The whole enterprise of translating the Bible so as to make available in English the rhythms, word-plays, leit-motifs, and texture of the Hebrew – rather than  “normal” or “literary” English – began in 1972 with a translation of the Book of Genesis (In the Beginning) by Everett Fox. 

Fox was then a graduate student at Brandeis and is now a professor at Clark University. His translation, published in a special issue of Response magazine (Summer 1972), stirred great excitement in the Jewish and parts of the Christian world. It led to publication by Schocken Books of In the Beginning in 1983, Now These Are the Names (Exodus) in 1990,  Fox’s The Five Books of Moses  in 1995, and The Early Prophets (Judges, Samuel, and Kings) in 2014.

Alter’s work on the Hebrew Bible did not begin till the 1990s. according to the article in the Times. His publication of the Five Books came in 2004. Steinberg refers to Fox’s work in general, yet does not mention that Fox’s entire rethinking of how to translate the Hebrew Bible preceded Alter’s work by decades.

On the other hand, from the very beginning, Fox honored his own teachers by making clear that he was inspired by a unique translation of the Hebrew Bible into German by Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig.

In another paean to Alter’s innovation, Steinberg compares his translation of a verse in the Song of Songs to the widely used translation of the Jewish Publication Society version. He is quite right that the JPS version is wooden, the opposite of the erotic overtones of the text. As Steinberg notes, in this case Alter does honor his teacher, crediting his translation of the verse to the translation by Chana and Ariel Bloch. But neither Alter nor Steinberg mentions the translation by Marcia Falk, which long preceded the Blochs as well as Alter's.  Falk not only lit up the erotic glimmers of the Hebrew without diminishing its spiritual glow or its poetic brilliance, but also first made transparent for readers of English the dialogue between the man and woman of the Song by using different type fonts for each of them.

For me as rabbi, teacher, theologian, and activist who has used Fox’s work for decades in unwrapping the Bible for students and congregants who are not adept in Hebrew, one element of Fox’s translation has been extraordinarily fruitful. He refused to obey the conventional “non-translation” as “Lord” of the sacred Name of God in the Hebrew letters “Yod Hei Vav Hei.” That convention is based on a decision of the Rabbis that the word “Adonai,” which means “Lord,” should be said whenever “YHWH” appears. Alter follows that convention. 

But it is clear that this is not what the Four Letters meant in most of the Hebrew Bible, nor were the Four Letters wrapped with vowels that would make the Name “Yahweh” or “Jehovah.” Fox, true to the vision of making the true Hebrew truly accessible in English, simply transliterated the Name as “YHWH.” 

For a generation that is uncomfortable with “Lord” as a metaphor for God and also demands truthful authenticity, Fox’s transliteration is far more truthful and invites us to wrestle in each moment with what “YHWH” meant to those who wrote the Bible, and what it means to us.  If we try to pronounce it with no vowels, most people find themselves simply breathing. So perhaps it meant, and could mean again for us, “the Breath of Life.” In any case, seeing “YHWH” invites us to wrestle with the meaning. Becoming “Godwrestlers” once again.

Colors of Resistance at the Women’s March

By Cherie Brown

[The Shalom Report during the next days will have several reports from and about Jewish women who took part in the Women’s March in Washington last Shabbat -- some Jewish Women of Color and some white Jewish women. Our first such report is from Cherie Brown, the executive director of the National Coalition-Building Institute, which for years has led workshops on racism, anti-Semitism, and the entanglements of both with each other. She is a member of the board of The Shalom Center. She wrote this memo the day after the Women’s March. Beneath her memo is a link to a video of the Shabbat service she describes, and a brief comment of mine. -- --  AW, editor]

Here is a picture from Jewish Women of Color on the stage at the march.  The two Black African-Heritage Jewish women speaking at the mike are April Baskin and Yavilah  McCoy.  Here is also something brief I wrote about yesterday.


I just returned from attending the National Women's March in DC.  It was a powerful, moving gathering, with a strong commitment to unity.  And Jewish Women of Color  were at the front of the march and led a delegation of several hundred of us--Jewish women of Color and Allies. 

First-- a few things about the weeks leading up to the March.  I and many of us put in dozens of hours listening and working with a lot of upset people.  The issues of anti-Semitism were very real and needed to be addressed--and a lot of Jews were hurting. Some Jews  felt that the March leadership wasn't dealing sufficiently with anti-Semitism.  Others, particularly Jewish Women of Color, felt that to not stay in the Women's March was also colluding with racism and sexism.

I worked a lot with  several Jewish leaders who were struggling about whether to stay with the March in light of the issues of anti Semitism.  I continued to hold out  to everyone I talked to that we Jews need to gain the muscle to stay in Coalition ( especially when we agree with most of the unity principles) and learn how to stay AND take on the anti Semitism. 

Hard and painful and honest conversations were had between a number of Jewish women and the March leadership about anti-Semitism.

I believe we are further ahead for having had  to handle this controversy.  The first National Women's March two years ago did not mention anti- Semitism.  In today's march-- the issue of anti Semitism was included as a part of the unity principles.  Two years ago-- no visible Jews spoke from the podium.  Today-- there were three Jewish women added to the steering committee of the National March who also spike in the stage.  ( Rabbi Abby Stein, Yavilah McCoy, April Baskin).

This past week I was asked to lead a webinar for the National Council of Jewish Women on Dealing with anti-Semitism with Coalition Partners.  Over 200 Jewish women from across the U.S. signed up to be on the webinar.  It's clear that there is a growing hunger to understand about anti-Semitism and not have it get in the way of progressive Coalition work-- particularly on women's issues.

The March:   Today-- the day began for me with an early morning Shabbat service before the March-- led by Jewish Women of Color.  Hundreds of us showed up to participate and be in solidarity.  Then we marched behind a strong powerful contingent of Jewish Women of Color.

Many of us were moved to tears as two Black African heritage Jewish women ( April Baskin and Yavilah McCoy) alongside other Jewish Women of Color stood on the stage and addressed the whole March. They spoke strongly of unity and fighting together against sexism.  They spoke out against anti-Semitism and insisted that the work against anti-Semitism was a part of the work against sexism.   They were holding a Torah Scroll;  several were wearing Talleisim [prayer shawls] and they wished the Women's March “Shabbat Shalom!”

There is still a lot of work to be done.  The anti-Semitism is by no means gone.  The classic historic pattern of having anti-Semitism be thrown out as a bone to divide progress forces was so apparent in these past few weeks. The press has not always played a good role.  It has spent much of its time focused on the controversy and how the March was so divided--and very little on the important agenda goals of the March to end sexism.

I am learning a lot about how we can stand up fiercely against anti-Semitism while at the same time, not let the anti-Semitism keep Jews and other progressives divided or walking away from the work of eliminating sexism.


Rafael Shimunov filmed parts of the Jewish Women of Color Shabbat service at the Women’s March in Washington:

Rafael’s  video   is very moving, as of course were the Prophetic actions and the words he filmed --    especially Yavilah McCoy’s quotations from “the Prophet” (MLK). 

 I was especially touched by the film’s catching the traditional gesture in which Jews touch the fringes of their talleisim to the Torah Scroll when it is carried into the congregation, and then kiss the fringes.

I was taught by my friend and teacher Rabbi Max Ticktin, tz’z’l, that those who take on the joyful burden of carrying the Torah are themselves, each one of them,  a Torah  -- and he therefore touched the fringes to the carriers as well.

So I found myself wanting to touch the fringes of my tallis not only to the Sefer Torah the women were carrying but to the women themselves, to the band of Jewish Women of Color who created this powerful moment.

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace --  Arthur

MLK, Rev. Wm Barber, & new Freedom Seder + 50

Today, Dr. Martin Luther King’s official Birthday, and the day after the third great Women's March, we are living in the midst of a national and a planetary crisis that echoes his passionate commitment to freedom and justice.

So I am writing today to invite you to an event on April 7 that will link Dr. King to the long history of liberation struggles before him and to the “fusion struggles” for liberation we are living today.

For 3000 years, ancient Israelites and their Jewish descendants have each year, at the full moon of the moonth of spring, remembered and renewed an ancient liberation movement through the Passover Seder. It is a sacred ritual meal, framed by the Telling (in Hebrew, Haggadah) of the story of the ancient liberation of the children of Israel from slavery to Pharaoh in Mitzrayyim, the Hebrew for the “Tight and Narrow Place”  -- the Hebrew name for ancient Egypt.

The meal includes several ritual foods – among them a Bitter Herb in memory of the bitterness of slavery and Matzah, the unleavened bread that the runaway slaves baked and ate on the night of Exodus. – unleavened because there was no time to wait for the dough to rise. The matzah embodies what a half-century ago Dr. King called “the fierce urgency of Now.”

For all those centuries, the Passover Seder celebrated only moments of Jewish liberation. Fifty years ago, on April 4, 1969, for the first time in all those 3,000 years, we celebrated a “Freedom Seder” that wove together the Jewish liberation struggle with other struggles for freedom -- especially Black America’s struggle against racism. 

I wrote it because I was possessed by the gripping memory of the murder of Dr. King just a week before Passover 1968, and by the gripping memory of the military occupation of Washington DC by the US Army the day after Dr. King’s death – sent to put down an uprising of the grief-stricken, outraged Black community. “Pharaoh’s army,” it felt to me at the time.  

The next year, on the first anniversary of Dr. King’s death, the Freedom Seder that I wrote was held in the basement of a Black church in Washington, with 800 people  -- about half Jewish, the rest both Black and white Christians. It won a broad audience across the country.  

Fifty years later, we are in crisis again, facing four aspects of tyranny: the onslaught of racism, hatred of foreigners, and
religious bigotry; of militarism at home and overseas; of worsening poverty and overweening materialistic greed that extends even to wrecking all Earth for the sake of hyperprofits; and worsening official efforts to subjugate women and LGBTQ communities.

On this 50th anniversary, we will move forward again –- taking Dr. King’s clarity, his courage, his commitment into new worlds of freedom, to birth the Beloved Community we all call for.

We expect hundreds of people at the Interfaith Freedom Seder + 50 and at the dinner that precedes it.  Pre-registration is necessary – NO walk-ins. 
Dinner - 5:00-6:45pm Halal (fish and vegetarian with vegan, gluten-free option)
Seder -  7:00-9:30pm 
You can register through the link  TINYURL.COM/FREEDOMSEDER50

Congregations and other organizations can arrange a co-sponsorship bearing special benefits by writing  We are planning a live feed for distant communities where you could link to your own Seder; write  to make arrangements.

I look forward to celebrating with you!

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace --  Arthur

Trees, Earth, & Justice: Tu B'Shvat Seder as if all 3 Really Matter

Pray as if Trees, Earth, & Justice Truly Matter:

A Tu B’Shvat Seder

Created by students of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

and Rabbi Arthur Waskow


Written by Sarah Barasch-Hagans, Sarah Brammer-Shlay, Miriam Geronimus,

Lonnie Kleinman, Chayva Lerman, Michael Perice, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, May Ye

Formatted and Edited by Sarah Barasch-Hagans

As We Begin…

...We Pause and Ground Ourselves.


Leader: Tonight we are engaging in a 500-year-old tradition.

In some ways, the tradition is older than that. As Rabbi Rami Shapiro explains, “Tu B’Shvat, the full moon of midwinter, had been important only in Holy Temple days, in the calendar of tithing. It was the end of the “fiscal year” for trees. Fruit that appeared before that date was taxed for the previous year; fruit that appeared later, for the following year."

The Talmud called this legal date the “New Year for Trees.”

But the kabbalists [of Tzfat/ Safed in the sixteenth century] saw it as the New Year for the Tree of Life itself -- for God’s own Self, for the Tree whose roots are in Heaven and whose fruits are the world itself and all God’s creatures. To honor the reawakening of trees and of that Tree in deep midwinter, they created a mystical seder. The tradition of this Seder survived mostly in Jewsh communitiees of the East --  Iraq, Iran, India. It was not obseered in Western jewosh communities

In the late 19th/early 20th century, the Zionist movement created a new ritual for Tu B'Shvat: the planting of trees in the Land of Israel. This practice restored the physicality of what had anciently been the date of tithing fruit, and the physicality of connection to the Land of Israel.

Leader: Tonight, we are creating a similar seder to the Kabbalistic Seder that emerged from Tzfat. We will ascend through the cosmic tree from our material world to the spiritual realm. Our journey will take us through the world of Assiyah (action), the world of Yetzirah (emotion, formation, relating), the world of Briyah (thought, creation, knowing), and finally, the world of Atzilut (spirit, emanation, being). We will enact these four worlds through four cups of wine and four courses of nuts and fruit.

Leader: We are also engaging in another, newer tradition -- that of connecting Tu B’Shvat with a commitment to the physical health of  our entire planet, a commitment to act to protect trees and the Interbreathing of all life in which trees  and all vegetation breathe in the CO2 that humans and all animals breathe out, and all animals breathe in the oxygen that vegetation breathes out.

For some  of our communities, that Interbreathing is evoked by undeerstanding the ancient Name of God, YHWH,  as the sound of Breath, YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh. And that Interbreathing is now endangered by the unrestrained burning of fossil fuels.

So our Seder will conclude with our taking action to heal our planet  -- its trees and The Tree that encompasses all life -- by appealing to officials who make public policy to free themselves from subservience to the Fossil Fuel industry that is endangering the web of life and human civilization.

And in line with this renewed concern with the physicaliity of earth, our Seder will celebrate each of the four elements -- Earth, Water, Air, and Fire  -- that were traditionally associated with the Four Worlds of the Kabbalists..

Leader: As Rabbi Rami Shapiro writes, “Tu B’Shvat is not a call to go back to Nature…. [It] is a call to return to our nature.” Let us remember that we are of nature, not apart from it -- for we are adam, earthling, and we are made of adamah, earth.


Olam Ha’Asiyah

עולם העשייה

The World of Action // The World of Rootedness

Learning from the Forests

From The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben


But why are trees such social beings? Why do they share food with their own species and sometimes even go so far as to nourish their competitors? The reasons are the same as for human communities: there are advantages to working together. A tree is not a forest. On its own, a tree cannot establish a consistent local climate. It is at the mercy of the wind and weather. But together, many trees create an ecosystem that moderates extremes of heat and cold, stores a great deal of water, and generates a great deal of humidity. And in this protected environment, trees can live to be very old. To get to this point, the community must remain intact no matter what. If every tree were looking out only for itself, then quite a few of them would never reach old age. [...]

            Every tree, therefore, is valuable to the community and worth keeping around for as long as possible. And that is why even sick individuals are supported and nourished until they recover. Next time, perhaps it will be the other way round, and the supporting tree might be the one in need of assistance. When thick silver-gray beeches behave like this, they remind me of a herd of elephants. Like the herd, they, too, look after their own, and they help their sick and weak back up onto their feet.


Meditation with the Trees

Feel free to join a tree outside for this meditation if weather permits.

Leader: We start by seeing our foundation, our earth, and how it is lain out beneath us. Its composition affects everything that sits above it. Stone, rocks, dirt, mud, water, life.

We turn our attention to the trees in harmony with the earth...

Breathing in and out, lung to lung resuscitation between us. Our lungs to their leaves. And when their leaves are gone, our lungs look alike, winnowing from tracheal trunks down to the most minute of passages. But what will happen if their lungs, our partner lungs, disappear? Love their presence. Breathe all the way in, loving their gift.

Imagine you are…

A tree among many, roots entangled below

A sapling reaching, yearning for light and growth

An oak, branches gnarled, left standing but lonely in a concrete playground

A flowering dogwood, the belle of the forest ball

A redwood. The majestic. You have seen all and will see the rest. Not even the earth beneath you can shake you in its quaking. You and the earth are equal partners now.

As you sense the trees around you - see them for who they really are as individuals - feel the earth beneath you too. Root your feet into the soles of your shoes, feel the energy through the floor and through the building’s foundation all the way to the foundation of everything.

Dear God, our Rock and our Foundation, be still and firm underneath our feet. Be present for us, that we may remember the holy work of nurturing and defending the life that grows from You.

Take a moment and then return to your table.


Blessings and Nourishment

Fill your glass with white wine or juice  and gather some fruit with a tough outside and soft inside.

Leader: Tonight we eat the fruit and nuts that you have protected with a tough skin.

Through this act, we acknowledge that we need protection in life, both physical and emotional, as do all of Your creation. Our first cup of wine or juice is pure white. We see clearly through it, as through the leafless branches. But they are not lifeless. Blessed are You, Source of Life, who brings nature through its cycles.


בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ שֶׁחִינָּהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵאת פְּרִי הַגָפֶן

B'rukhah At Shekhinah Eloheynu ruakh ha-olam boreit p'ri ha-gafen.

You are blessed, Shekhinah, Indwelling Spirit of the World, who creates the fruit of the vine.

Drink wine or juice, making sure to leave some of it.

בְּרוּכָה אַתְּ שֶׁחִינָּהּ אֱלֹהֵינוּ רוּחַ הָעוֹלָם בּוֹרֵאת פְּרִי הָאֵץ

B'rukha at Shekhinah Eloheynu ruakh ha-olam boreit p'ri ha'etz.

Blessed are You, Shekhinah, Indwelling Spirit of the World, who creates the fruit of the tree.

Eat fruit.

Olam HaYetzirah

עולם היצירה

The World of Formation // The World of Water

Leader: As the Lakota People at Standing Rock have taught us: Water Is Life / Mni Wiconi.

Abridged from “Water Is Life”

By Craig Santos Perez, indigenous poet and professor of the Chamorro people of Guam

Poem in solidarity with Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and all peoples protecting the sacred waters of this earth, September 10, 2016

Water is life

becuz my wife labored for 24 hours through wave contractions

becuz water broke forth from her body

becuz amniotic fluid is 90 percent water

becuz our daughter crowned like a coral island

becuz our blue planet is 70 percent water

becuz some say the ocean formed within the earth from the beginning

becuz we wage war over gods and waters

becuz we say stop, you are hurting our ancestors

becuz we say keep it in the ground

becuz we say stop, water is sacred

becuz we call ourselves protectors and water warriors

becuz they bring their banks and politicians and lawyers

becuz we bring our songs and prayers and ceremonies

becuz we bring all our relations and generations

becuz someday my daughter will ask me where the ocean ends

becuz we will tell her that the ocean has no end

becuz we will tell her that the ocean blesses the mountains with rain

becuz we will tell her that the rain feeds lakes and reservoirs

becuz we will tell her that water connects us to our cousins at Standing Rock

becuz i will whisper to her, while she is sleeping, hanom hanom hanom, my people’s word for water, so that in her dreams water will call her home

Please add, popcorn style, any lines you’d like to add for why you feel water is life.


            Becuz …

            Becuz ...



Reader: 60% of an adult human body is made of water. Every single cell in our body needs water to function. Without water, a human can survive for a week, at most. Three to four days is more likely.


In fact, every cell of every being needs water to function. Bacteria, plants, and animals, including humans, are all connected by this common necessity.


Reader: As climate change increases the frequency and severity of droughts across this planet, every life form is affected. For humans, this not only means less access to drinkable water, but also more chance of famine. Across Africa and the Middle East, water crises partially due to climate change have helped trigger civil unrest, mass migration, insurgency and war.


Reader: Climate change threatens the oceans and the life within them as well. As rising atmospheric temperatures raise sea surface temperatures and the oceans absorb CO2 and thus become increasingly acidic, coral reefs are dying. Teeming with life, coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse ecosystems on the planet and are home to almost one-third of all marine fish species. Corals provide the foundation for a complex web of life, of interdependent species who rely on each other for shelter and food. From one angle, the coral reef is made up of many individual organisms. From another, it is a single entity.


Reader: While we cannot drink salt water, the ocean and coral reefs are vital to our well-being as well. Almost 40% of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometers of a coast, and many of these people live in developing countries and are dependent on coral reefs for food and income. Coral reefs provide shelter, food, and breeding grounds for many fish that people eat. They serve as a natural barrier to tsunamis and hurricanes. They prevent coastal erosion by breaking waves and providing sand. They are a source of medical discoveries. And they attract millions of tourists to reefs and beaches every year, providing a substantial amount of revenue for tropical countries.


Reader: At the same time, rising temperatures are melting the ice caps, causing the sea level to rise, submerging island nations and flooding coastal cities.


While we are all impacted by the various ways that climate change is affecting the Earth’s waters, poor people and people of color across the globe are being hit first and hardest.


Together: There are so many ways, often invisible, that life on this planet is dependent on and connected by water. There are so many ways that those connections are endangered by human actions. We pray to YHWH, the source of becoming, for the world’s ability to regenerate itself. We pray for the awareness, wisdom, and strength to keep on fighting for the health of our planet and ourselves. We acknowledge with gratitude the ways that waters, fresh and salty, sustain our bodies and our souls. May water continue to be a source of life and a womb that nurtures us.


Ritual of Water

Leader: I’d like to share a water ritual I participated in when I was at Standing Rock. As the sun rose, we walked down to the water that surrounds Turtle Island. We each carried small jars filled with water from wherever on this planet we had come from. We brought water from Michigan, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas, the Sudan, Peru, Israel, and New Zealand. This was the end of November and the river was frozen. We broke a small hole in the ice and we poured the water from our jars, showing how each of us and this whole planet is interconnected by water.

Tonight, we also recognize the ways we are connected by water. Our bodies are 60% water but that water isn't stagnant. It is constantly flowing within and between us, evaporating and reabsorbing.

As we pass this goblet around the table, I invite you to pour a little water from your cup into the goblet. As you do this, think of the water you have brought with you tonight in your cells. Think of your ancestors and welcome them into this space. From what corners of the world did they find and absorb water? Imagine how water flows through and between all of us on this planet.

Pass around goblet and everyone adds a drop of water while singing.

We Sing Together

“As I Went Down in the River to Pray”

As I went down in the river to pray

Studying about that good ol’ way

And who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord, show me the way!
            O sisters let’s go down

            Let’s go down, come on down

            O sisters let’s go down

            Down in the river to pray

As I went down in the river to pray

Studying about that good ol’ way

And who shall wear the starry crown?
Good Lord, show me the way!

Once the goblet has made it around the whole table:

Together: Just as we have each contributed a drop of water to this cup, so are we interconnected by the water on this planet. May we continue to stand by the water, as it nourishes us.

Leader: Let us say Miigwetch, thank you, in whatever language, spoken or unspoken, is meaningful to each of us.

We all say thank you in the language of our choice.


Blessings and Nourishment

Add a little red wine or juice to your white wine or juice and gather some fruit with a tough inner core (such as a seed or a pit) surrounded by a soft outside.

Hold up wine or juice.

Leader: Red is the color of love -- may our love for the Earth overcome our fear and spur us to action.

Leader: Red is also the color of determination. As we bless and drink this wine, let us set our kavanot (intentions) and refocus our attention on the holy work ahead.


נְבָרֵךְ אֶת עֵין הַחַיִּים מַצְמִיחַת פְּרִי הַגָפֶן

N'varekh et Ein Ha-khayim matzmikhat p'ri ha-gafen.

Let us bless the source of life that nurtures the fruit of the vine

Drink some wine or juice, making sure to leave some behind. Pick up a piece of fruit.

Leader: The fruit you are holding is like a microcosm of this planet. Just as the earth’s crust is covered, on most parts, by water, so the pit of your fruit is covered by a watery flesh.

Leader: While the flesh of your fruit appears solid, it contains much water. Similarly, most of the water on this planet is hidden from plain view, whether it is in our cells or lies a few feet beneath the ground.

Leader: And, just as your fruit is exposed, without a shell to protect it, so too are the Earth’s waters vulnerable to pollution, easily absorbing excess CO2  from the atmosphere, excess fertilizer from our farms, and excess chemicals from our factories.

Leader: We bless and eat this fruit to remind ourselves of the centrality of water, seen and unseen, to our lives.


נְבָרֵךְ אֶת עֵין הַחַיִּים מַצְמִיחַת פְּרִי  הָאֵץ

N'varekh et Ein Ha-khayim matzmikhat p'ri ha-eitz.

Let us bless the source of life that nurtures the fruit of the tree

Eat the fruit.


Olam HaBriyah

עולם הבריאה

The World of Creation // The World of Air


”Who Has Seen the Wind?” by Christina Rossetti


Who has seen the wind?

Neither I nor you:

But when the leaves hang trembling,

The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?

Neither you nor I:

But when the trees bow down their heads,

The wind is passing by

“On Air” by Ellen Bernstein


Then YHWH God formed the human [adam] of the dust of the ground [adamah], and breathed into the human's nostrils the breath of life; and the human [adam] became a living soul. (Genesis 2:7)

            In Arabic, the wind is ‘ruh’ and the same word also means ‘breath’ and ‘spirit’, while in Hebrew “ruach” enlarges the sphere of influence to include wind, breath, spirit, and concepts of creation and divinity. And the Greek “pneuma” and Latin “animus” and "spiritus" are redolent, not just of air, but of the very stuff of the soul.

            Without wind, most of the Earth would be uninhabitable. The tropics would grow so unbearably hot that nothing could live there, and the rest of the planet would freeze. Moisture, if any existed, would be confined to the oceans, and all but the fringe of the great continents along a narrow temperate belt would be desert. There would be no erosion, no soil, and for any community that managed to evolve despite these rigors, no relief from suffocation by their own waste products.

            But with the wind, Earth comes truly alive. Winds provide the circulatory and nervous systems of the planet, sharing out energy information, distributing both warmth and awareness, making something out of nothing.


Story and Art Activity

The leaders of this section now lead us in a creative activity connecting us to Olam Ha’Briyah.  [For example: using crayons, draw what for you is a represenatation or a symbol of the winds that bring life.]


Raising Our Voices in Song

“Blowin’ in the Wind”

by Bob Dylan

[Verse 1]

How many roads must a man walk down

Before you call him a man?

Yes, and how many seas must a white dove sail

Before she sleeps in the sand?

Yes, and how many times must the cannonballs fly

Before they're forever banned?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

[Verse 2]

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist

Before it is washed to the sea?

Yes, and how many years can some people exist

Before they're allowed to be free?

Yes, and how many times can a man turn his head

And pretend that he just doesn't see?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind

[Verse 3]

Yes, How many times must a man look up

Before he can see the sky?

Yes, and how many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry?

Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows

That too many people have died?

The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind

The answer is blowing in the wind



Blessings and Nourishment

Gather fruits that are soft on both the outside and inside and pour a bit more red wine or juice into cup:


בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ חֵי הָעוֹלָמִים בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הַגָפֶן

Baruch atah Yahh Eloheinu chey ha-olamim boreih p’ri ha-gafen

Blessed Are You God, Breath of Life in all the Worlds, Creator of the Fruit of the Vine

Drink all of your wine or juice.

בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה יי אֱלֹהֵינוּ חֵי הָעוֹלָמִים בּוֹרֵא פְּרִי הָאֵץ

Baruch atah Yahh Eloheinu chey ha-olamim boreih p’ri ha-eitz

Blessed Are You Our God, Breath of Life in all the Worlds, Creator of the Fruit of the Tree.

Eat fruit.


Olam Ha’atzilut

עולם האצילות

The World of Essence // The World of Fire

A Prayer for Kindling Candles of Commitment

“Between the Fires”


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. Murderous wildfires.

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 all who revere My Interbreathing Name, 

a sun of justice will arise 

with healing in its wings, its rays, its winds. . . . 


“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 the 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 light these 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 our many-colored faces.


Blessed is the One within the many.

Blessed are the many who make One.


Blessed are You —  our Source of Being, 

 Interbreathing Spirit of all life,  

Who makes us holy through connection with each other

And directs us to connect the past and future generations

By kindling the candles of Elijah’s Covenant.

(Light candles of commitment)

Baruch attah YyyyHhhhWwwwHhhh /Yahhh 

elohenu ruakh ha’olam  

asher kidshanu b’mitzvot, 

vitzivanu l’hadlik ner shel brit Eliyahu

Beyn haDorot.


Singing Forth the Light

“This Little Light of Mine” // Or Hadash

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine

Let it shine, shine, shine

Let it shine!

[To same melody:]

Or chadash al tzion ta’ir

Or chadash al tzion ta’ir

Or chadash al tzion ta’ir

v’nizkeh chulanu m’hera l’oro


Fire in Our Time

Reader: “A messinger of YHWH appeared to [Moses]  in a flame of fire from within the bush, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, but the bush was not being consumed” (Exodus 3:2).

"But the bush was not being consumed." For the flame was a nondestructive source of power. When fossil fuels are burned to produce energy, they emit harmful gases that are the primary cause of air pollution and climate change. With every burning of coal or unnatural gas to generate electricity , every burning of gasoline to power a car ride down the street and heat a hot shower, we harm our planet.


But there is  a life-giving way, a sacred way, a way of love: At the same moment when we honor the rebirth of trees, the rebirth of the Tree of Life,  we honor the birthday of Martin Luther King and the rebirth of the energy he symbolized:
"A genuine revolution of values means that our loyalties must become ecumenical rather than sectional. Every nation must now develop an overriding loyalty to humankind [and the Earth] as a whole in order to preserve the best in their individual societies.


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


"Let us hope that this spirit will become the order of the day. We can no longer afford to worship the god of hate or bow before the altar of retaliation. The oceans of history are made turbulent by the ever-rising tides of hate. History is cluttered with the wreckage of nations and individuals that pursued this self-defeating path of hate.


"We are now faced with the fact that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history there is such a thing as being too late.


"Over the bleached bones and jumbled residue of numerous civilizations are written the pathetic words: "Too late."  We still have a choice today; nonviolent coexistence or violent co-annihilation.


"If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.


"Now let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter but beautiful  struggle for a new world. The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise we must choose in this crucial moment of human history."


Renewable resources such as solar and wind provide us with natural, clean energy. Solar power is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity, and wind power is the use of airflow through wind turbines to produce electric power. However, as of 2018, wind power makes up only 2% of the total worldwide electricity production, while solar power makes up only 1.5%. But in some countries, these sources of energy have become much more fully used. The potential is great.

Reader: Throughout our history, in times of great sorrow and vast uncertainty, the power of hope has sustained the human spirit from complete and utter despair. That precious gem of human ingenuity remains our greatest dictum of ascendancy. But where does it come from?

In Jewish tradition, the Ner Tamid, “eternal flame,” is a light that shines in front of the ark in Jewish houses of worship.  It is said to represent G-d’s eternal presence in our holy sanctuary. However, it could also be said that we too have an eternal, or internal flame. Our eternal flame ignites our passion and desire to seek justice -- not only in the world but also for the world. In the Torah, God tells Moses that the Israelites will be a light unto all nations. That light represents a beacon of hope. It is thus our sacred responsibility to speak outan act n behalf of all  Earth and the sustainable management of its resources both in public policy and individual behavior. Only then can we truly be a light unto all nations. Only then will be worthy of calling this planet, our home.

A Leader:  We will distribute pens, paper, envelopes, and stamps, and invite each of us to write a public official to urge some action to protect our Earth. One possibility is to write a Senator, asking him or her to sign a pledge to take no campaign contributions from Fosssil Fuel companies.


Blessings and Nourishment

At the level of Spirit and the Will to Create, the fruit we eat is utterly perrmeable, beyond physicality , emotion, or intellect. We pause in contemplation of the Universe as the fruit of the Tree of All Life, and we eat no fruit.

Pour red wine or juice into your cup.


נְבָרֵךְ אֶת עֵין הַחַיִּים מַצְמִיחַת פְּרִי הַגָפֶן

N'varekh et Ein Ha-khayim matzmikhat p'ri ha-gafen.

Let us bless the source of life that nurtures the fruit of the vine.


Birkat Hamazon

ברכת המזון

Blessing After the Meal


V’akhalta ואכלת

Hebrew: Deuteronomy 8:10

English: Hanna Tiferet Siegel,

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ

V’achalta, V'savata, Oo-vay-rach-ta

We ate when we were hungry

And now we’re satisfied

We thank the Source of Blessing

for all that S/He provides

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ

V’achalta, V'savata, Oo-vay-rach-ta

Hunger is a yearning

In body and soul.

Earth Air Fire Water

And Spirit makes us whole.

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ

V’achalta, V'savata, Oo-vay-rach-ta

Giving and receiving

We open up our hands

From Seedtime through Harvest

We’re partners with the land

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ

V’achalta, V'savata, Oo-vay-rach-ta

We all share a vision

Of wholeness and release

Where every child is nourished

And we all live in peace {Ameyn!)

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ

V’achalta, V'savata, Oo-vay-rach-ta


This ceremony for the Tu B'Shvat Seder, created in 2018,  has been modified in 2019 to honor the confluence pf Martin Luther King's Birthday with Tu B'Shvat.

Resources for the history, spiritual evolution, and practical celebration of Tu B'Shvat: See Trees, Earth, and Torah: A Tu B'Shvat Anthology, edited by Ari Elon, Naomi Mara Hyman, and Arthur Waskow (Jewish Publication Society, 1999).

One synagogue divests from a Carbon Pharaoh Bank

One synagogue divests from a Carbon Pharaoh Bank


A  chronology of divestment

The process by which one Jewish congregation divested its holdings in fossil fuels

By Membrs of Kolot Chayyeinu


[This essay begins a series of Shalom Reports on how individual congregations can act to heal their neighborhoods from the Carbon-burning danger of local diseases like asthma and strange cancers, and the Earth from the Carbon-burning danger of climate chaos. --  AW, editor]

Kolot Chayeinu. which translates as Voices of Our Lives —  is a progressive Jewish congregation located in Brooklyn, NY, which was founded in 1993, and where social justice is an important priority and shared value. Our mission statement includes the lines…we are creative, serious seekers who pray joyfully, wrestle with tradition, pursue justice, and refuse to be satisfied with the world as it is….we search for meaningful and just expressions of our Judaism in today's uncertain world.

           Background: Perhaps the beginning of our journey occurred on a cool spring evening in 2015, when a few dozen members of Brooklyn’s Jewish community sat in the informal garden of a neighboring synagogue to listen to the featured speaker, Rabbi Arthur Waskow.  He had been invited to talk about the particularly Biblical obligation to be environmentally active. It wasn’t very much in our Jewish tradition in recent centuries -- for a variety of historical reasons -- he said. But we lived in different times, and it was now very much a Jewish responsibility.   And Rabbi Waskow gave us some financial advice. He suggested that divestment from our oil-steeped banks was the most potent tool to counter the dire effects of climate change and global warming. We Kolotniks took careful note. Our financial assets were entirely with Chase Bank, which we knew invests heavily in fossil fuel projects. 

Our climate change committee formed about a year later, in the fall of 2016 and riffing on the now-famous protest line, “There is no Planet B”  we named ourselves the Planet A Working Group.  At some of our earliest meetings our five member committee discussed divestment, and quickly and unanimously voted for it to be our first priority.   But we also wanted to understand the several climate change issues and fossil fuel projects, from the perspective of bank-funded operations, both far from us and close to home.

As a community, Kolot became committed to supporting the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. Our then- student rabbi, Miriam Grossman, had previously lived on Standing Rock Reservation working for the Tribal Historic Preservation Office, a Lakota organization which fights pipelines coming through sacred lands. Miriam maintained relationships with co-workers and friends who became Water Protectors and leaders in the struggle. In 5777, Miriam shared their call to action with us in a Rosh Hashanah sermon and mobilized with the community to raise thousands of dollars for the Water Protectors before joining the Oceti Sakowin encampment herself. 

And the Water Protectors, as they were known, drove home Rabbi Waskow’s message with their thoroughgoing analysis of banks’ ties to fossil fuel extraction, and the roughshod abuse of native people’s rights.  The Water Protector’s leadership implored allied activists to protest at bank locations and divest accounts at Citbank and TD bank in particular, as well as Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo.

Closer to home, two major natural gas pipelines — the Pilgrim Pipelines — were being planned; they would run under the Hudson River and skirt the Indian Point nuclear reactor.  Not coincidentally, these two conduits were also going to cut through native lands — in this case, the traditional territory of the Ramapough-Lenape Nation. We researched the financial institutions which were behind Pilgrim and the Dakota Access, learning that not coincidentally many of the same entities were involved in both, including Chase.

Perhaps the equally seminal event,though, that left us with the feeling that we ourselves were newly vulnerable to  global warming, was Superstorm Sandy, which had made landfall just south of us only a few years earlier, in 2012. Sandy had pounded coastal New York, including the Rockaways and Red Hook, two New York City neighborhoods not far from our congregation.  About 230 people in eight counties died as a direct result of the storm, and  thousands of others are still rebuilding. But as climate scientists are advising,  Sandy was only a warning shot. These storms will only grow in frequency and ferocity with global warming and large swaths of the City will likely be underwater before the end of the century.


The Process:  Our task was relatively simple. All of our money was in Chase, and since we don't own our own building, we have no mortgage. Given that our resources were entirely  liquid, we believed that moving them would be fairly straightforward   So our foremost and most important task was to undertake an analysis of the best place to move our money to.

Through the following year,  2017, the members of Planet A visited almost all of the local banks in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn, where Kolot is located, meeting with managers, reading annual reports and submitting financial statements to our banking-savvy members for their analysis.   And although not in our neighborhood, we added one of the most well known union-created banks, Amalgamated Bank, that was founded in 1923 by the Union of Amalgamated Clothing Workers.

Amalgamated's stated mission resonated with our own… to be the financial institution for progressive people and organizations: those who are working and living to make the world more just, more compassionate, and more sustainable.  Amalgamated had committed itself to supporting organized labor, creating affordable housing, and more recently they’d adopted a strict policy of renewable-fuels investment. Any proposal that contained a whiff of fossil fuels would be rejected out of hand.

By the Fall of 2017, with the help of our treasurer and executive director, who had become directly involved at this point, we narrowed down the choice of eligible banks to two — a local savings bank, within walking distance of our office, and Amalgamated. Safeguarding our deposits and withdrawals  and the convenience of the banks were our major concerns, but it became clear fairly quickly that with the advent of remote, computerized banking and improvements in its online security procedures, Amalgamated could match our requirements in both areas. Our decision was clinched when we learned that the local savings bank had made loans to a predatory landlord.  We obviously couldn’t exchange one unsavory bank for another, even if it had no interests in fossil fuels.

We were surprised and excited to learn that we would be the first American Jewish congregation to publicly  and completely divest.

Our relationship with Chase:  Our choice of bank was final now, but at the suggestion of Amalgamated Bank, we spent some time considering how to maintain an ongoing  — albeit non-fiduciary — relationship with Chase, in order to put pressure on the bank in a variety of ways to move towards renewable-energy investments.  Of course we wouldn’t change their portfolio — we are a very small congregation in terms of our wealth and we don’t own a building — but we could be a persistent messenger to them.


In terms of how we communicated our decision to Chase management, we made it clear that we didn’t hold the individual branch responsible for corporate policy and bore them no hard feelings. Our Rabbi and Treasurer met with a member of our branch’s management to explain our decision to withdraw our funds.

Mission statement for the “roll out:”

Our primary purpose is to create an afternoon event that will take place in or near Amalgamated bank, our new bank,  that both celebrates Kolot's achievement, as the first Jewish congregation in the U.S. to divest publically from an institution that invests in fossil fuel projects, and also motivates  other Jewish congregations to likewise divest their holdings. A well-strategized system of publicity, both conventional and social-media-based will allow the event to be shared widely and also shared over a continuous period, thus magnifying its impact.  


APRIL 17, 2018:   The Day of Divestment was planned to coincide with Earth Day.  It was chilly, and threatening rain, but we gatheredwith feelings of triumph outside the main Brooklyn branch of Amalgamated Bank. 

Our press release read: Kolot Chayeinu community members and supporters rallied at Amalgamated Bank today to announce that the congregation is publicly divesting from Chase Bank and proudly moving their accounts to Amalgamated Bank, in order to divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline, and from the fossil fuel industry. Kolot, the first Jewish congregation in the country to publicly take such divestment action.

Our ceremony was introduced by an improvisational “Ode to Mother Earth” on fluteby a member of Kolot followed by a call and response song engaging everyone.    

Who came:  We had a strong showing from the Congregation, many younger members included.  Our local Councilmember (and Kolot member), Brad Lander, was present, along with Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, many of whose constituents had been severely impacted by Superstorm Sandy.  We were delighted that NYC’s Public Advocate, Letitia James was there and we were also honored to welcome Chief Perry and Owl, leaders within the Ramapough-Lenape Nation on whose ancestral land we were standing. A representative of Amalgamated, with whom we had worked to establish our account was also present.

The best way to conclude this account is probably with our founding rabbi’s words.

Rabbi Ellen Lippmann (now retired) said,

This is the first time our community has decided to use its financial power to make change. We are not a large nor a wealthy congregation, but we hope and believe this divestment will make a difference to Chase, and we are so glad to know it makes a big difference to Amalgamated, and to the world in which we live.

Check out the video that filmmaker (and Kolot member), Lynne Sachs, made of the event:

Or to read our press and see more pics and videos, please visit  Planet A’s fB page:

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Dear friends, We intend to publish a series of Shalom Reports on how congregations are dealing with the climate crisis and ecological diasters. If you have a story that might help others to act, please send it to   Thanks!

And The Shalom Center needs your support to keep inspiring actions as we did this one,  and to keep spreading the word. Please help us keep on by clicking on the maroon "Contribute" button just below. 

-- Shalom, salaam, paz, peace --  Arthur


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