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
(Click here to download a pdf of this piece)


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:

###      ###  ###

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

Solar Co-ops: Healing Home, Neighborhood, & Planet

Repairing the World with Solar

By Anya Schoolman*

[This is the second in our series on how congregations can take steps to heal the Earth from the climate crisis.

[Anya Schoolman is now the executive director of Solar United Neighbors, a network that began in Washington DC and has now spread across the country as an inspiration and guide to the creation of many local neighborhood or congregation-based solar co-ops. This is her story of how SUN began and grew.

[Inspired by SUN’s work, The Shalom Center in 2013 sparked the creation of a solar-co-op in our neighborhood in Philadelphia – the Northwest Philadelphia Solar Co-op (NAPSACK for short).   For information on and from SUN, click to  -- AW, editor]

I live in Washington, DC. Solar United Neighbors began in 2007 when my son Walter was searching for a Tikkun Olam project for his bar mitzvah. Shortly thereafter, he and his friend Diego saw the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth”  They decided they wanted to install solar panels on their homes. When I looked into going solar, though, I discovered it was complicated and expensive.

But Walter and Diego would not be talked out of it. I wondered if some sort of bulk purchase might make solar affordable. Diego and Walter knocked on doors throughout their neighborhood. In just two weeks, they signed up 50 neighbors who also wanted to go solar.

That group, the Mt. Pleasant Solar Cooperative, helped 45 neighbors go solar. Participants worked together for their rights as energy producers. They persuaded the D.C. Council to pass legislation that created a local market for solar. They also shared their success with friends and neighbors. Soon after, other neighbors from across the region started organizing solar co-ops and fighting for better solar policies together.

Solar United Neighbors grew out of this movement. The organization has expanded across the country, doing on-the-ground projects and helping communities everywhere take control of their energy. Today, through the implementation of a group purchase—known as a solar co-op --  Solar United Neighbors has helped more than 3,500 homes go solar.

A solar co-op is a group of homeowners in a defined geographic area who use their combined purchasing power to ensure they receive the most competitive solar installation. Solar installers face significant costs finding, qualifying, and educating solar customers.

By forming a group of interested buyers, co-op members ensure the most competitive pricing because the co-op has already done some of the work of finding customers for the installer. Furthermore, solar co-ops allow neighbors to work together to eliminate barriers to roof top solar, like cumbersome permitting requirements, shortsighted HOA rules, or unfair compensation from utilities.

The basics of a solar co-op are simple. Get a group together and learn about solar. Run a competitive bidding process to choose one installer to work for your group. Each participant gets a site visit from the installer and makes an individual decision about whether solar is right for them.

By working in a group, people can support each other, get better prices, get better service, and address problems if they come up. Solar United Neighbors provides technical support to groups hoping to start a solar co-op. In states where they have staff, they can provide complete support for the process from beginning to end. Solar United Neighbors provides educational resources, public information sessions, and one-on-one support for all co-op participants.

Solar United Neighbors has also helped a number of congregations go solar. Many congregations will do a combination of going solar themselves and then organizing a group purchase for their congregation. Others use a solar co-op as a way to introduce the idea of solar to a congregation and help people get comfortable with the technology before the more complicated project of solarizing the congregational building itself.

Robyn Miller-Tarnoff first got interested in solar in high school when she attended a parade featuring solar-powered cars. This sparked her interest in the impact various sources of energy have on the environment.

Fast forward several years: Now a member of Temple Sinai in Washington, D.C., Robyn encouraged her synagogue to decide to install solar on its building. Temple Sinai worked with several other area congregations that were also interested in going solar. Temple Sinai had a 124 KW solar system installed on its roof in 2016. Here is how it looks:

But Robyn and others at the synagogue wanted to do more. Using the synagogue’s installation of a new rabbi as a “teachable moment,” they launched a solar co-op to spread solar not just to congregation members, but to friends and family as well. They worked with Solar United Neighbors, as well as with Congregation Beth El in Bethesda and St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill to recruit and educate co-op members.

In total, Robyn estimates more than 225 people were educated about solar by the co-op through information sessions and peer-to-peer contact.

“It felt like a reunion,” Robyn said of the info session, noting how many of her friends and neighbors attended.

More than 50 homes went solar with the group, including Robyn’s.

She had a 12 kW system installed on her roof and estimates that it will offset just about all of her electricity needs.

“We could invest in a mutual fund where you don’t know where your money is going,” she said. “If you’re buying solar, it’s the ultimate local investment.”

Robyn opted for dark-blue panels so that they stand out on her roof. She wants the panels to be a conversation starter.

The conversation has already started within Robyn’s own family. She said she inspired a cousin who lives in California to look into starting a similar solar co-op group in her neighborhood.

Organizing a solar bulk purchase is one of the easiest things a congregation can do for the environment. Going solar isn’t complicated. Going as a group makes it possible to share the work, fight against barriers in the market, and join together for more impact. It is an important step in helping repair the world.

[To add just one more note: We urge that solar co-ops see themselves not only as energy-saving and money-saving groups, not only as planet-healing work; not only, in neighborhoods with high levels of coal dust or oil refineries, as ways to heal from asthma and cancer epidemics; not only as political groups to press for governmental action to heal the planet;  but ALSO as communal groups that gather perhaps once a month to sing, share home cookery, tell stories of their lives. The co-op should be a place of joy as well as justice.--  AW, ed.]

2 More Days of 2018: Sunday potatoes; Monday potatoes; Tuesday a pot full potatoes --

One of the wonderful aspects of Eastern European Yiddish culture was turning poverty into laughter. There was a Yiddish song that began “Sontik bulbas, Montik bulbas ----  that is, “Sunday potatoes, Monday potatoes --” about eating potatoes for a whole week. The content might have seemed sad, but the song was funny.

So  I’m saying --  these last few days of 2018, many of you have given us a much better end-of-the-year meal than just potatoes.

But it’s still true that many of our readers write us how much they enjoy this mailing or that, or how they appreciated a new idea even if they’re not sure they agree, or how moved they were by one of us getting arrested for the sake of decency and life –-

But then don’t send the contribution that will make it possible for us to keep on doing what they like.

For those who made helpful contributions in the last few weeks as the year waned, many thanks!  For those who have not, we plead with you to help make it possible,  through yourr tax-deductible contributions, to keep on with our healing work.

Coming up: the story of how a Brooklyn synagogue became the first in the US to move its money from a bank that was lending it to the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs to burn up the world, into a community bank that meets community needs;

Coming up: a rabbi’s thoughts about how rabbis can deal with “intergenerational trauma” among Jews – and others.

Coming up: a report on how Washington DC became the hot center for neighborhood solar co-ops to help cool the planet, and how to bring other communities along.

Coming up: Webinars on how to shape Tu B’Shvat and Passover into moments to heal our wounded Mother Earth.

Coming up: Growing the movement for a Green New Deal.

To make all this possible, we need your gifts now. Please click to the maroon Contribute button on the left-hand margin of this page.

Thanks! And blessings to you and all of us that 2019 be a year of more joy, more justice. --  Arthur 

"Some are guilty; ALL are responsible"

The 46th yohrzeit  -- death-anniversary – of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, one of the most fruitful Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, in the Jewish calendar is 18 Tevet. It falls this year on the evening of December 25 through the day of December 26. 

The quotation that entitles this Shalom Report comes from Heschel, repeated over and over during his spiritually rooted activism of the 1960s  -- - often side by side with Dr. Martin Lutherr King, as here, when  they were protesting the US War against Vietnam -- .

That teaching -- "All are responsible" --  has its seed in a much earlier essay (1944) that asked who was responsible for the bloodbath of World War II. He named who was guilty -- and then said all of us were responsible. It is that essay that I suggest we explore to honor Heschel's yohrzeit.

His yohrzeit comes during the week when Jews begin the reading of the Book of Exodus, the Torah portion known in Hebrew as Sh’mot, where the struggle begins for freedom from slavery to Pharaoh.  That timing is especially appropriate because Rabbi Heschel spent much of the last ten years of his life struggling against the Pharaohs of racism and war. He joined his intellectual and spiritual commitment to the ancient Hebrew Prophets with his own prophetic physical activism on the streets -- demanding voting rights for Southern Blacks and opposing the US War against Vietnam.

And this year it is especially appropriate for us to honor him on his yohrzeit, because the present US government embodies Pharaoh -- espousing white nationalism, making racism official policy, and enabling a cruel war against the people of Yemen.  And because we are witnessing the birth and growth of a vigorous Resistance that Heschel would have joined.

Two years ago, facing the victory of a proto-fascist presidential candidate, I chose to offer for study the same essay, which he published in February 1944 on “The Meaning of this War” [World War II]). In it he examined the responsibility of liberal Westerners in Germany, Europe, and perhaps America, in not responding to the pain and despair of the suffering Germans who chose to support Nazism. (The essay appears on pp. 210-212 of a brilliant selection of Rabbi Heschel’s writings edited by his daughter, Susannah Heschel --  Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity [Farrar Straus Giroux, 1996]).

 "Let Fascism not serve as an alibi for our conscience,” he wrote. "Where were we when men learned to hate in the days of starvation?

"When raving madmen were sowing wrath in the hearts of the unemployed?"

Two years ago, I asked the question, what had we liberal Americans failed to see or do while the sense of defeat, demoralization, despair were turning into rage among millions of rural and small-town Americans who had been robbed of their jobs and their sense of personal worth, spiritual and cultural values -- and even their life expectancy?

Were we reexamining our selves, our own willingness to enhance our own comfort while ignoring their pain? Were we rallying to meet their needs, or looking down our noses at them as outdated members of a lost America? –

 Could we have insisted on including them not instead of but in addition to the full inclusion in America of Blacks, Latinx, women, immigrants, LGBTQ folk, Muslims, Jews? Insisting that no one should be left out of America? 

Heschel continued, "Good and evil, which were once as real as day and night, have become a blurred mist. In our everyday life we worshipped force, despised compassion, and obeyed no law but our unappeasable appetite. The vision of the sacred has all but died in the soul of man."

Why do I urge us once again, today, to study this out of all Heschel’s wisdom? Because now we must look to the future, not the past. We have seen our country begin to turn the corner away from fascism. Vigorous nonviolent actions like the Poor People's Campaign and the young climate activists Sunrise have inspired and connected with a newer generation of electoral candidates, many of them women previously outside political activism. They affirm the need not to go back to the one-eyed neo-liberalism of the past, but to open our eyes, our hearts, and our hands to imagine and enact a new society.

[Sit-in at Speaker-elect Pelosi's office by Sunrise activists demanding a Green New Deal, joined by Congresswoman-elect Cortez]

There lies before us still another election. Can this new vision succeed? Can it affirm and respond to the angst felt by many of the “forgotten Americans” who turned their angst into hatred?

Can we like alchemists of heart and soul turn their leaden weight of fear and hatred into the gold of active hope and hopeful change?

Can we do this with a vision that speaks not only to them but also to millions of other “forgotten Americans” –- some among the Black, Latinx, and young communities –- who have given up on politics altogether – whether in the voting booth or marching on the streets  -- and in despair or overwhelm stay home?

I have suggested that we might cut through old barriers of race and class and gender by including in a Green New Deal a Neighborhood Solarization Administration, bringing grant money, job training, and well-paid jobs to co-ops in urban and rural neighborhoods alike, as the old New Deal brought the Rural Electrification Act to co-ops of farmers who had been left out of what was then the new technology.

And I have suggested that these same co-ops become centers of community, of cultural festivals that enrich not only the pockets but the souls of their members, and embody in their community a commitment to the Community of Earth that their solar energy is helping heal.

This is a hunch, a hypothesis. I welcome your thoughts and comments.

I suggest that to honor Heschel this week, we read this essay at> and discuss these questions. And I suggest we take this moment to gather study groups to read together, essay by essay, Susannah Heschel’s collection of them in Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity.

Meanwhile, if our lifting up for you this Heschel-Torah brings you into a new exploration within your self  -- then please right now, as the old year ends, make a tax-deductible gift to The Shalom Center.

It takes unfreezing the frozen energy of money to keep us thinking, researching, writing, --  even to keep getting arrested to test out these ideas -- and to keep mailing these thoughts to you. You can do this by making a contribution through the maroon "Contribute" button on the left-hand margin of this page.

The US needs to create a Green New Deal.

The steps to make a Green New Deal happen have been laid out for the new leadership of the new House pf Representatives that convenes January 3. The leadership is dragging its feet. WE need to insist they get moving.

 So I am writing with urgency to ask you to call Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi and your own Congressmember and urge them to make sure a new Select Committee on the Green New Deal is appointed, with full power (including subpoena power) to investigate the needs, blockages, and pathways for a Green New Deal  and then to submit legislation to the whole House.

I am going to briefly review the background of this effort, and then give you the key information to act.

We need to urge the new leadership of the House, especially to take action as strong as the climate crisis is dangerous. Yet they are dragging their feet.

In the last two months, four events have opened up new energy for a struggle to heal our climate and our planet – and us!  --

  • Two careful, detailed, and sober reports on how dangerous the climate crisis has become to human health and prosperity – one by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and one by experts across a dozen US governmental agencies – the National Climate Assessment;
  • Wildfires consuming huge areas of California, killing dozens of people, destroying thousands pf homes, blistering an entire city;
  • Election of a new wave of members of the House of Representatives who are passionate about climate and are gutsy, free of “conventional assumptions” about political “realism,” and ready to hear and join the prophetic insistence for change coming from the youth of Sunrise.

 Sunrise (founded by young people in April 2017 and already engaging thousands of active youth) has stepped forward with a new program that the conventional “environmental” organizations have not. It is called the Green New Deal, and what is exciting and important is that it breaks down the stupid wall between “social justice” and “healing Earth.”

 For several years, The Shalom Center has said these must no longer be seen as separate. We set as our goal “eco-social justice.”  The Green New Deal proposal demands action to transform our economy – creating well-paid jobs for all, jobs that heal the Earth instead of burning or poisoning her, with levels of investment that will meet the need. Hundreds of billions of dollars.

So I am sad to report that as I write on Saturday evening, the Democratic leadership of the new House – including Speaker-in-waiting Nancy Pelosi –have so far been unwilling to take the first step Sunrise was and is demanding:

That is to create a Select Committee of the House with a mandate to develop a Plan to carry out the Green New Deal and then to bring bills to the floor of the House that would make the Green New Deal happen. The Sunrise proposal would also bar from the Select Committee any Congressmember who has taken campaign money from the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs.

So far, the House leadership has endorsed only a much weaker climate committee without subpoena or bill-submitting power that would address only climate, but not the technological, job investment, or economic  that might well include as members Congressmen  who have received many dollars of donations from Big Oil,  Big Coal, and Big Unnatural Gas.

  1. We have a week to change Speaker-elect Pelosi’s mind.  First, please read the Green New Deal proposal at

2. Then please call your own Congressmember. Call 1202-224-3121 and ask for your Representative, and ask her or him to urge Speaker-elect Pelosi to set up and empower a Select Committee for a Green New Deal.  

 3. Then please call Ms. Pelosi herself at (1202) 225-0100

Office of the Democratic Leader
H-204, US Capitol, Washington, DC 20515
and urge her to create the new Select Committee. Mention its full powers (subpoena and legislative) and its membership (No recipients of Carbon Pharaoh money).

Rainbow Haftarah with Trop by Hazzan Jack Kessler

For the story of the channeling of the “Rainbow Haftarah” see


For the English text by Rabbi  Arthur Waskow and its translation into Hebrew by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, see

For the Haftarah in the original English set to Haftarah trop by Hazzan Jack Kessler, click on the attached file above.

Ring the bells that still can ring!

This line from the Prophet Leonard Cohen’s song “Anthem”  goes on ==

Ring the bells that still can ring . . .
There is a crack in everything.
That's how the light gets in!

We still can ring the Liberty Bell, but a great crack in the bell prevents our ears from hearing it. It rings in our minds and hearts and souls. The Shalom Center pours light through its crack – the light of the Torah that is quoted on the Bell – the Torah of Leviticus 25, the Shmita/ Sabbatical Year and Jubilee, the light of liberty for all humanity and all the Earth, the liberty of time to rest.  Time for humans to rest from crushing debt. Time to let the Earth rest from burning the carbon that burns the Earth.


We devote ourselves to shining new light into and through the cracks in our wounded religious life, our wounded country, our wounded Earth.

And we need your help to do it. With the official “tax year” coming to an end, we need to ask for your tax-deductible contributions for us to go forward in that healing.

Money is frozen energy. It comes from the unfrozen work that you and we do every day. We set it aside, freeze it, ready to thaw and pour into action. To change society, we must unfreeze the energy again. You can unfreeze that money by contributing some to The Shalom Center. Without it, we can’t do that work for change.

I have always made a point of explaining what work we will do with the contributions that you-all send us. I did that in detail a week ago, but I noticed that then the Shalom Report got long and the point got lost. So I want to be brief and pointed:

We put our bodies and our minds on the line. From a spiritual perspective, we inspire new ways of thinking about the great issues of our time. Those new ways of thinking distressed and angered some people, and energized many more.

 We don’t stop there. We initiate new actions that fuse “the spiritual” and “the activist” into one, or One. When we put our bodies on the line, we risked arrest and often actually got arrested. Even in the moment of arrest, we reminded the police that far worse crimes than a nonviolent sit-in are being committed by people who work in the White House, and we asked the police to keep that in mind when they act as citizens doing their civic duty. As the Prophet Leonard also sang:

. . . I can't run no more
With that lawless crowd
While the killers in high places
Say their prayers out loud
But, they've summoned up
A thundercloud
And they're going to hear from Me.

From us.

There are two closely related Hebrew words: Tzedek means “justice.” It names the work we do to change an unjust law, to create a just community. Tzedakah means “the money we give to help others work for a just society.” Notice that “tzedakah” adds a breathing sound. It is a softer, gentler word than “tzedek.”

The Shalom Center strives to do tzedek. To do that, we need your tzedakah.

Please click on the maroon “Contribute” bar on the left-hand margin of this page.

Thanks! And blessings of shalom, salaam, paz, peace --  Arthur

Save the Date! 50th Anniversary of Interfaith Freedom Seder

   Sponsored by The Shalom Center 

A treasury of materials from this event is available at

Sunday April 7, 2019

Dinner - 5pm, Seder - 7pm


7401 Limekiln Pike, Philadelphia 19138

 Pre-registration required. It will start mid-January at


Come co-create an interfaith pre-Passover Seder that transforms the ancient struggle of Israelites from slavery to Pharaoh to confronting the Pharaohs of today:

  • Racism – in official policies of white nationalism, religious bigotry,  and immigration injustice
  • Materialism – in the form of extreme economic inequality and devastation of the Earth
  • Militarism – overseas and at home
  • Sexism – the subjugation of women and LGBTQ people

This Seder’s central symbol is the Globe reframed as matzah, the unleavened bread of fierce urgency for freedom. It symbolizes our sense of the urgent need for global liberation.


Seder leaders include: 

  • Reverends William Barber and Liz Theoharis, co-chairs of the Poor People’s Campaign
  • Ana Maria Archila, director of the Center for Popular Democracy, who confronted Senator Flake in the US Capitol elevator during Kavanaugh nomination hearing
  • Debbie Almontaser, founder of the Khalil Gibran School, survivor and “transcender” of bitter Islamophobic attacks, and founder / director of Bridging Cultures
  • Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center and author of the original Freedom Seder 

 The original Freedom Seder was held in 1969 on the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King. It was the first Seder in 3,000 years to weave together the Jewish liberation struggle with other struggles for freedom, especially Black America’s struggle against racism.  

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.

 Organizations and congregations can co-sponsor.  Email to learn      about co-sponsoring, live streaming to distant communities, or when registration opens. 


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