by Moriel Rothman-Zecher
Crossposted from Moriel’s personal blog, The Leftern Wall, where you can find his prose and poetic writing about Israel-Palestine, the Occupation, non-violent resistance, and more.
This morning, I was scanning Twitter, and stumbled across this odd tweet from the IDF Spokesperson (click link).
I watched the video, which, in and of itself, seemed pretty tame. The part that struck me was not the video’s content, but the subtitles. In watching it the first time, sort of absentmindedly, I noticed some oddities in the translation, specifically around the word “terrorist.” I went back and watched it again, and was sort of stunned by what I noticed.
At the beginning, the soldier says: ”איום של חדירה”, which means, in this context, “the threat of infiltration.”
The video’s translation: More »
by Salem Pearce
Editor’s Note: This post is the tenth in Jewschool’s series of reflections on Judaism, Jewish identity, race and the events in Ferguson and beyond.
“We forfeit the right to worship Gd as long as we continue to humiliate Negros.”
Using the language of his time, so said Abraham Joshua Heschel in a telegram to Pres. John F. Kennedy, just before their meeting. Heschel was talking about the structural racism of the 1960s: He had just met the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King at a conference and was getting more involved in the civil rights movement. With this message, he signaled his desire to move the religious community to take action and make personal sacrifice in solidarity with the black community. “Churches and synagogues have failed. They must repent . . .The hour calls for high moral grandeur and spirituality audacity.”
Heschel was a poet as well as a rabbi and a scholar, and even though — or maybe because — his medium was a telegram, I know he chose his words carefully when he made this radical statement. On the one hand, “forfeit” can have an active connotation of relinquishing, or letting go. In this sense, “forfeiting” means you surrender a claim: When you plead guilty to a crime, you forfeit trial by jury. On the other hand, “forfeit” can have a more passive connotation, of something being taken. In this sense, you are deprived without your assent: When you are convicted of a crime, you forfeit your freedom. I think Heschel wanted to say both. Moral action is a prerequisite to relationship with Gd. For Heschel, racism means that we are saying no to Gd. And it also means that Gd is saying no to us. More »
by Mo Martin
Mo Martin is the host of the new podcast “Radio Free Babylonia”, produced by Jewish Public Media.
The year I first cracked open a book of Talmud was 2006, and life was pretty good. I was a moderate liberal filled with the righteous indignation of the Bush years, I was a 19-year-old Birthright-style Zionist in Israel (The Land Flowing With Beer and Single Jews My Age), and I was a loyal and proud son of the Conservative Jewish movement. Sure, life wasn’t perfect. I had an undiagnosed panic disorder, no girlfriend, and my friends back in the states missed me, and I missed them. But surely the Democrats were about to sweep the midterms, and with Israel withdrawing from Gaza, peace couldn’t be many years away, right? Talmud was an exciting intellectual adventure, and a necessary step on my way to the Rabbinate. As the foundation of Jewish religious thought, Talmud would clarify the complicated Halakhic discussions that I had been told were the heart of Jewish life. At that time, my religious life and my political beliefs were distinct.
Now it’s 2015, and I’m angry. More »
This is a guest post by Yonit R. Friedman. It was originally published at allthesedays.org
Rachel Sandalow-Ash, a senior at Harvard University, is the Internal Coordinator for Open Hillel, a student-run campaign that promotes inclusive and open dialogue about Israel-Palestine in university campus Hillels. She first became involved with All That’s Left in the summer of 2013, while interning for Shatil through the New Israel Fund.
Disclaimer: Rachel’s views, as expressed in this interview, are her own. They are not representative of Open Hillel.
At the Open Hillel conference at Harvard University in October 2014, Rachel Sandalow-Ash scanned the crowd of 350 people. “This,” she remarked, “doesn’t look like just a small group of radical activists.” Despite her not-so-subtle jab at Eric Fingerhut, the CEO of Hillel International, Sandalow-Ash, a founder of Open Hillel, is a product of institutional American Judaism. Growing up, she attended the Conservative-affiliated Solomon Schechter Day School in Newton, Massachusetts, as well as Jewish summer camps. Before college, she didn’t think too much about broadening the Jewish conversation about Israel-Palestine, as Open Hillel aims to do. Between the right-wing Zionist politics of her day school, and her parents, who she describes as “J-Street-y,” she believed that issues related to Israel-Palestine “would cause a lot of controversy, so [she] shouldn’t talk about them.” More »
Ian Thal is a playwright, performer and theater educator specializing in mime, commedia dell’arte, and puppetry, and has been known to act on Boston area stages from time to time, sometimes with Teatro delle Maschere. Formerly the community editor at The Jewish Advocate, he blogs irregularly at the unimaginatively entitled From The Journals of Ian Thal. He is a senior contributor to The Arts Fuse, Boston’s online arts magazine, in which this column originally appeared.
Ironically, those who smeared former Theater J artistic director Ari Roth with allegations that he is “anti-Israel” accomplished a feat that anti-Israeli activists could only dream of doing: making a Jewish Community Center boycott Israeli culture. More »
This is a guest post by Steven Philp in the Fearless Judaism series articulating visions of affirmative Judaisms and Jewish community. Steven is a postgraduate student in Jewish Studies at the University of Oxford, Mansfield College, originally from the States. He received his Masters in Divinity and Masters in Social Work from the University of Chicago this past June and served as rabbinic intern for three years at Mishkan Chicago.
Last week a colleague of mine told me that if I hadn’t mentioned it, he would not have known that I converted to Judaism. I know it’s not politically correct to say this, he confided, but you look Jewish. Perhaps a couple years ago, when I had just entered the community, this comment would have served as an affirmation of my belonging. I would have walked away from that conversation with my head held high, yarmulke pinned firmly in place. I look the part. I fit in. Now it felt like an erasure, both of my choice to become Jewish and those characteristics that co-exist with my Jewishness.
His comment, however well intended, is symptomatic of a Judaism that carefully guards its borders against intrusion. It is a Judaism that reflexively erects barriers against change, fearing that it has become thinned out or diluted – whether through assimilation, adoption, intermarriage, or the various other bogeymen of the Pew report. When my colleague says that I look Jewish, he reifies a static image of what it means to be a Jew: a certain genetic heritage, a particular phenotype, and a fixed set of cultural markers. He is telling me that I am not threatening. He is giving me a pat on the back for not rocking the boat. It is a remark that simultaneously warns and affirms: Stay the course. Do not deviate. More »
by Rabbi Michelle Dardashti
Jacob has a thing for messing with the expected societal order. His story begins with striving to claim for himself what his birth-order denied and ends with his enforcing this switch upon his grandsons.
“When Joseph saw that his father [Jacob] was placing his right hand on Ephraim’s head, he thought it wrong; so he took hold of his father’s hand to move it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s. ”Not so, Father,” Joseph said to his father, “for the other is the first-born; place your right hand on his head.” But his father objected….” (Gen. 48: 17-19).
One’s first instinct in reading is to simply presume that old habits die hard and Jacob has learned nothing from his own destructive experiences with meddlesome blessing bestowal and favoritism. But in reading Genesis this year, with dynamics of power and privilege at the forefront of my thinking, I’m inclined to believe there’s something deeper at play. A closer look at the stories of our ancestors reflects that the supposed precept of a birthright—privileging/entitling an eldest son to a greater share of blessing simply by virtue of being the first born—simply was not upheld. (Evidence: Isaac and Ishmael, Jacob and Esau, Joseph and his brothers – our narrative lists and preferences each in a manner contrary to their seniority.) More »
by Rabbi Shai Held
A Special Invitation to Jewschool Readers:
Racial Inequality in America: Judaism, Human Equality, and the Quest for Justice
January 11, 2015
Fifty years ago, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote: “Few of us seem to realize how insidious, how radical, how universal an evil racism is. Few of us realize that racism is man’s gravest threat to man, the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason, the maximum of cruelty for a minimum of thinking.” America has undoubtedly come far since Heschel spoke these words, but how far? Where have we come, and where we do still need to go? Join us for a remarkable day of learning, as we explore Jewish approaches to human equality and discuss some of the most painful and pressing questions facing America.
Sessions include: More »
BBR is a father of 7- and 10-year old boys living in DC who has been a supporter of Shovrim Shtika and the Refuser Solidarity Network. This post originally published on DailyKos.
As the conflict in Gaza raged this summer — as each day brought reports of more Palestinians dead and injured, more Israelis injured and living in fear of the worst, more Internet screeds and requests for urgent funding – after I felt off-setting rage and sorrow, one thought kept creeping back in to my mind:
“Please let this end by August 26.”
Not because of any importance on the Jewish or Muslim calendar, not because it represented a specific number of days or likely number of dead. Not even because of a particular tragic anniversary, whether in the region or my own family.
No, I wanted it over because my boys began the school year at their Jewish day school on August 26, and I could not bring myself to think about how hard it would be for me to be a parent of kids at a Jewish day school during a hot conflict.
This was my first sign that, for the first time in close to 20 years of activism and engagement around Israel and Palestine, I have come close to losing hope and am searching for refuge. And I am struggling with what that means for me and for my family. More »
Editor’s Note: This post is the ninth in Jewschool’s series of reflections on Judaism, Jewish identity, race and the events in Ferguson.
By guestposter Yavilah McCoy
The Call to Action….
“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—I took the one less traveled by, And that has made all the difference.” Robert Frost
My daughter spoke before a crowd of over 350 mostly White Jews who gathered in Brookline last evening to march, affirm and say together the simple slogan that has been sweeping our country: “Black Lives Matter.” My daughter, with tears in her eyes and a voice filled with emotion, shared what was at stake for her in a world where increasingly militarized police forces in our communities feel free to target unarmed people of color not just with guns but with deadly stereotypes and assumptions around what constitutes a criminal in our country. She spoke of not wanting to continue being scared for her brother and father’s safety. She talked about how much she worries about them walking home alone through the wealthy, White suburban communities of Boston that we live in to be in close proximity to other Orthodox Jews. As we have been asked, by the youth leaders of Ferguson, I stood behind by daughter last evening and supported the use of her voice. I listened while my heart was breaking, to my child describe and decry the failure of our community and country to make a space where all our children can feel safe. I felt proud, but I also felt a deep and compelling question emerging in my breast: What now? Hadn’t I been working for most of her lifetime to open the doors and minds of our community to a broader consciousness of the multiracial and multicultural constitution of our membership? Hadn’t I surrounded her with role models of family, people and leaders, who lived justice with their lives and hearts, and that she could call “uncle” and “auntie” and mean it, whether she was related to them by blood or not? Hadn’t I spent tireless hours working with the schools and institutions that she and her siblings navigate revealing the nuances of racism and providing tools for them to race forward and not backward in the way we educate and provide services to an increasingly diverse constituency of our people? More »
Editor’s Note: This post is the fifth in Jewschool’s series of reflections on Judaism, Jewish identity, race and the events in Ferguson.
Max Socol is an organizer and educator in North Carolina.
Moses was a murderer. How infrequently we speak of him that way. In its enormity, the decision to take the life of another person seems character-defining, yet the episode in Shemot when Moses, acting to defend an Israelite slave, kills an Egyptian slavedriver rarely comes to mind when I think of Israel’s greatest prophet.
As the turmoil over unchecked police brutality in American cities grows, I find myself confronting the raw edge of political nonviolence and political violence. I know I’m not alone. Even within the Jewish community, where so many of us (but not all of us, not by a long shot) are insulated from daily police harassment, those of us who are searching for a meaningful, moral role as allies in the struggle against racist oppression are met with competing demands that feel impossible to reconcile.
Thsi is a guest post by Zach Carstensen, the Government Relations and Public Affairs Director for the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle. For the last nine years Zach has led the Jewish community’s work in issues ranging from the freedom to marry to gun responsibility. (Above: Congregation Beth Shalom of Seattle members gather around Cheryl Stumbo, center right, a survivor of a 2006 shooting at the offices of the Seattle federation, in support of Washington state gun control Initiative 594.)
Pundits are debating the winners and losers of the 2014 election. Some point to Republican gains in Congress as a sign of conservative ascendancy. Others cite successful ballot measures to raise the minimum wage as a sign of increasing economic populism. More than a few mined voter data, proclaiming the death of the once-effective coalition of young voters, people of color, and women.
What these pundits miss are the lessons for the Jewish community from the success of Washington state’s Initiative 594, which closes a loophole in state law by requiring a background check for all gun sales.
The central lesson from I-594 is that, in the 21st century, there is still need for Federations and Jewish Community Relations Councils (JCRC) to lead the Jewish community in action-oriented social change. More »
Editor’s Note: This post is the fourth in Jewschool’s series of reflections on Judaism, Jewish identity, race and the events in Ferguson.
Maharat Rori Picker Neiss serves as the Director of Programming, Education, and Community Engagement at Bais Abraham Congregation in University City, MO. She is one of the first graduates of Yeshivat Maharat, a pioneering institution training Orthodox Jewish women to be spiritual leaders and halakhic (Jewish legal) authorities.
I didn’t know who to call.
That was the thought that kept coming back to my mind. More »
Standards of Partnership turn Hillels from gateways to Jewish identity into discriminatory gatekeepers
Dear Mr. Fingerhut,
In recent weeks, events at Hillel affiliates across the country have highlighted the inherent flaws of Hillel International’s Standards of Partnership (the “Standards”). The Standards, which you recently assured the Knesset are enforced “rigorously,” have been deployed to silence Jewish students and communities that oppose Israel’s occupation. Recent events at Princeton University and University of Michigan Ann Arbor demonstrate that the exclusionary Standards will not stop us, as Jewish students, from exercising our right to create politically pluralistic Jewish communities. Recent events have shown that the “Standards” are not standards at all, but rather are deployed arbitrarily by Hillel staff to discriminate against and exclude Jewish students based on political ideology. More »
Editor’s Note: This post is the third in Jewschool’s series of reflections on Judaism, Jewish identity, race and the events in Ferguson.
MaNishtana is an Orthodox Jewish blogger, author of “Thoughts From A Unicorn: 100% Black. 100% Jewish. 0% Safe” and “Fine, thanks. How are YOU, Jewish?”. He blogs at www.manishtana.net.
Before I get into the topics of Michael Brown or Eric Garner which have been dominating the news cycle these past couple of weeks, I’d like to discuss something entirely different first.
As the recent massacre in Yerushalayim two weeks ago have shown us, the world is experiencing an unprecedented spike in anti-Semitism, and I’d like to direct you to just some of the alarming amounts of incidents involving the mishandling of justice when it comes to Jews.
Dear Raphael Magarik (and other students at Berkeley participating in the vote today),
Thank you for bringing attention to the debate going on at your campus. I would like to respond to a few assertions that you make in the article
, and urge you to reconsider your vote against BDS at Berkeley. I am not a student at Berkeley, but I am a graduate student elsewhere,* and have also been thinking through my own participation in a BDS movement, should it ever arise on my campus.When you say that “BDS may well create the hard-right, recalcitrant Israel it imagines already exists,” I can’t help but question it’s ever a good idea to condition intervention on the possibility that someone doing something wrong will throw a temper tantrum in response. BDS aims to non-violently de-fang a national military industrial complex of what is already a country that has proven time after time that “asking nicely,” even when done by its most acquiescent and milquetoast of political allies, doesn’t work. More »
Editor’s Note: This post is the second in Jewschool’s series of reflections on Judaism, Jewish identity, race and the events in Ferguson.
Dr. Carolivia Herron is an author and educator living in Washington, DC. Her works include “Nappy Hair,” “Asenath,” and the opera libretto, “Let Freedom Sing: The Story of Marian Anderson.” She has held professorial appointments at Harvard University and the College of William and Mary.
I have nothing to say.
I know you want me to say that the things I know about Ferguson have nothing to do with this specific case of Big Mike and the policeman and can’t be admitted by law so I should just shut up about them or else I’ll be just inciting folks to riot or protest and I shouldn’t even mention that you don’t know the difference between protesting and rioting. I don’t have anything to say because 45 years ago, when I was a black teenager, before I was Jewish right out loud I was a summer missionary for the Southern Baptist Convention there near Ferguson in St. Louis County. I almost got my head shot off by the Klan because I was walking with three other summer missionaries two black, two white, evenly divided by gender and I, like a fool, when the four of us were walking on the wrong side of town (that’s the white side), ran up to the car that was slowly driving beside us, me thinking that the guy wanted directions or something so I just ran up to the car window and there was the Klan man with the sawed off shot gun pointed at my head. Every time I try to say about Ferguson, obey the law, accept the findings of the hearing, my voice chokes because I remember that gun and because the Klan man and I lived in different worlds I ran toward the man with the gun. I had no better sense than that. And why should I say something just because it pops up in my head. That shot gun at my head happened in the late 1960s, what’s that got to do with today? And back then it was the Klan. It’s not the Klan today, so I’m not saying anything.
This is a Guest Post by Dana Mandler.
Taken seriously, the idea of democracy threatens every
established elite of privilege or power,
all hierarchy and deference. “On Participation”
Hanna Fenichel Pitkin and Sara M. Shumer
Democracy is a way of life
. It’s the way we relate to people, to places, to ideas. Democracy extends far beyond a political system – it travels through our society, runs into our schools, our media, and into our consciousness.John Dewey wrote, “In the broad and final sense all institutions are educational in the sense that they operate to form the attitudes, dispositions, abilities, and disabilities that constitute a concrete personality.” He calls on us to be mindful of the society that we participate in, create and reinforce, and to be self-aware fighters for democracy.
So what happens when our society educates us towards hate, violence, racism?