Uri L’Tzedek is accepting applications from rabbis and Jewish educators to go to Haiti for 4-5 day education missions. The educator will visit with the team of Israelis and American Jews doing community development to further their learning. Applicants should have strong experience teaching:
Dynamic Jewish learning through texts, spirituality, and ritual
Social justice education
The social justice educator will create their own lessons and then receive support and training from an Uri L’Tzedek leadership team. The education mission, in partnership with Tevel B’Tzedek, will cover accommodations, kosher food, and transportation in Haiti. Participants or participants’ organizations will be responsible for the cost of travel to Haiti, which is only about 2 hours off of Florida.
Interested applicants should send their resumes and a ½ page letter of interest to info – at- utzedek.org
Honoring movers and shakers doing good work on behalf of (or for) the Jooz in the areas of:
Social and economic justice and do-gooding
Peace (in Israel and elsewhere, except Iceland)
Jewish culture (whatever that is)
Spirituality (‘specially the touchy feel-y sort)
Inclusivity (Pluralist, Racial, Gender and all that ‘faggy’ stuff)
Media (it is the message after all, liek this blog)
Other things we hate but have to include.
Step one: We announce the contest and make it sticky on the site. (check)
Circulate it via email, blogosphere and intertubes. (need your help here)
Develop snarky but slick logo that looks Obama-esque (uh, check?)
Step two: Nominations accepted via form submission on the website
Post facebook event/app/group/widget to redirect voters to jewschool.com
Be sure that heads of major Joowish organizations and entities iz nominated.
Also, anyone with a huge email/twitter/facebook following…
Note that femalez iz welcome to apply but will not be winnerz
(cuz they iz too stoopid… naw, cuz they all already iz heroz- hi mom!)
Step three: Inform all nominees they are finalists. Because they are all special.
To be named a 36, they must encourage their supporters to vote for them
(and be popular).
Votes are accepted via hosted form, which collects their name, locale,
Announce winners of the cheerleading squad via press release, youtubz
Compile voter list into email database and announce winners via email list
Solicit their financial support, just for shirtz and gigglz
Use the email list for our own purposez: to give all teh kittehz cheezburgerz er- Kosher tofu-parve cheezburgers..!
Muuuuhahahahahaha!!!! I eatz it up. I laffs at u. More »
Rabbi Sharon Brous of IKAR narrates a video by the makers of The Great Schelp that prompts you and us to counter the politics of fear. Says Mik Moore on the Huffington Post as Jewish FundS for Justice launches Al Tirah:
With many Americans stressed and stretched by economic uncertainty, political leaders and media personalities are stoking our fears of outsiders, the perpetual “other,” and whatever election-time boogiemen they can conceive. The use of fear to drive voters to the polls or away from the polls is nothing new.
I often hear the trope that Germany — like America now — was an open and “civilized” society before nationalist and xenophobic powers whipped the country into an anti-Semitic, anti-gay, anti-foreigner froth. “It can happen anywhere,” the bubbes warn us. The great swath of Jewish defense organizations were established to bulwark against the potential of the Goldene Medina from stumbling upon that same slippery slope.
It is then a wonder why the organized Jewish community has raised only pithy condemnations of the rising tide of fear-based politics in the last year. Some have even participated in the xenophobia by casting blame upon Park 51 for choosing downtown Manhattan as location for a Muslim community center. If only fear-mongering weren’t part and parcel of the fundraising strategies of too many major Jewish institutions already.
Thus the torch has been taken up by the nascent Jewish social justice sector to declare, in Rabbi Brous’ words, Al tirah!Do not fear. Mentioned more times in the Torah than any other edict, 122 times, al tirah is a command billowing from the depths of Judaism’s core belief in the inherent goodness of every human being. And it is a reminder from the most hopeless moments in Jewish history, al tirah, every generation found hope to conquer evil.
I am a perpetual optimist. I believe there is no true evil in the hearts of human beings, only yetzer ha-ra — greed and selfishness. Fear is but an unchecked stampede of selfishness and greed. Counter the politics of fear with generosity and understanding. Any time your uncle sends another chain email calling Obama a Muslim, email back this video with the message, al tirah, do not fear. It is affirmative, but it is also a rejection, a permission to stand firm. With all the fear boiling from right-wing partisans seeking greater power, we have an obligation to stand firm, reject their fear, and protect America’s best principles.
My blessings upon Jewish FundS for Justice for their work and this video — may it reach 1 million views!
Salon reports that on Tuesday, the Working Group Against the Trafficking of Women pulled a stunt in Tel Aviv intended to jolt people out of their stupor about sex trafficking in Israel, and ultimately to get enough signatures to push forward a measure that would criminalize johns.
Although here in the states, I’m generally inclined to avoid clipboard holders (I’m perfectly capable of finding my own petitions to sign, thank you, and generally opposed to giving out my name and address to random people on the street whom I have no idea if they really represent the organization they state), this would probably grab my attention:
Activists lined up seven women like merchandise in the window of a shop in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Center mall. A sign above them read, “Women for sale according to personal taste.” Haaretz reports that some “were made up to appear as if they had been beaten, and all had price tags that listed details such as age, weight, dimensions, and country of birth.”
It hasn’t been a secret for some time now that sex trafficking in Israel is an enormous problem. Way back in 2005, a report was issued by The Parliamentary Inquiry Committee, headed by Knesset member Zehava Galon of the left-wing Yahad party, which commissioned the report in an effort to combat the sex trade in Israel. Findings showed that some 3,000 and 5,000 women were smuggled to Israel annually and sold into the prostitution industry for about $8-10,000 American dollars, where they are constantly subjected to violence and abuse. Two years before that Israel passed a law that would allow the state to confiscate the profits of traffickers, but watchdog groups say it is rarely enforced.
This law would be different. In 1999, Sweden took the same approach advocated by this new measure, and criminalized johns; trafficking has since been significantly reduced. A report in July of this year, published by the government of Sweden evaluated the law’s first ten years and how it has actually worked in practice. It states,
street prostitution has been cut in half; there is no evidence that the reduction in street prostitution has led to an increase in prostitution elsewhere, whether indoors or on the Internet; the bill provides increased services for women to exit prostitution; fewer men state that they purchase sexual services; and the ban has had a chilling effect on traffickers who find Sweden an unattractive market to sell women and children for sex. Following initial criticism of the law, police now confirm it works well and has had a deterrent effect on other organizers and promoters of prostitution. Sweden appears to be the only country in Europe where prostitution and sex trafficking has not increased.
Hey y’all, I just posted the next part of the Jewish Food Movement series in the Huffington Post, this one focusing on growing sustainable food. My goal in writing these pieces has been to get the word out to people about all the amazing food work happening in Jewish circles: farming, social justice, spirituality, etc…
I’m trying to include all the great work that’s going on, but if there’s anything I missed please let me know in the comments. Last time I posted up the social justice and food piece there was some helpful stuff.
Last week, Lynn Schusterman, chair of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, wrote an op-ed, “Embrace LGBT Jews as vital members of the community“, calling on Jewish organizations to enact non-discrimination hiring policies that specifically mention sexual orientation, and called on funders to make their support contingent on the adoption and practice of such policies.
Adopting formal non-discrimination policies — and ensuring their implementation — will help us achieve two goals: 1, they will indicate to LGBT individuals that the Jewish community is committed to full LGBT inclusion; and 2, they will guarantee that our institutions are walking the talk when it comes to being welcoming and diverse.
This week, Nathan Diament, director of the Institute for Public Affairs of the Orthodox Union, wrote a response, “Don’t exclude in the name of inclusion“, arguing that the religious values of Orthodox organizations require them to practice discriminatory hiring based on sexual orientation. Therefore, Schusterman’s suggestion, if fully enacted, would result in a severe reduction of funding to Orthodox institutions.
As Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu heads to Washington in a much-feted effort to restore damaged ties with the United States, new tensions in East Jerusalem threaten to rekindle a diplomatic row over Jewish building beyond the Green Line in the city.
On Saturday lawyers served eviction notices to two Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, a focus of clashes between Arab residents and settlers.
The families were ordered to vacate their properties within 45 days.
Personally, I find the struggle in Sheikh Jarrah to be the best thing that happened to the Israeli left in years. The number of the people present there doesn’t seem that impressive, but the crowd grows each week, and it is clear that the police and the municipality will find new evacuations very hard to carry out. More »
With Passover just around the corner, I encourage you to check out a thought-provoking haggadah supplement that Rachel Cohen, co-chair of Penn Hillel’s Moral Voices, has shared with me. The focus of this piece is on modern slavery, specifically human trafficking. Please consider inserting these reflections into the Maggid section of your seder. For more information on Moral Voices and the excellent work they do, please visit: pennhillel.org/moralvoices.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a post about how we as a community can step up our tzedaka game. After following the fascinating comment thread, with highlights from Shoshana, Avigdor, David A.M. Wilensky, ML, and others, I decided to look into some of the questions about what counts for tzedaka, what doesn’t, how to calculate it, etc. This piece I wrote for Ha’aretz was the result. It focuses on the practice of ma’aser kesafim, tithing one tenth of all income to the poor. Is this a mitzvah that the progressive Jewish community could take on in serious ways?
Jewish Bagel Brunch, Interfaith Service and Immigration Rally
Sunday March 21, 11:00 am – 4pm
If you’re in Washington DC, you can be part of history and help change the future for millions of our immigrant brothers and sisters. Join tens of thousands of people of faith from across the United States for “March for America: Change Takes Courage and Faith.” Register here: tinyurl.com/Jewishimmigrationmarch.
National Jewish Conference Call on Immigration Reform
Sunday March 21, 6pm
Learn about the Jewish imperative to call for immigration reform on a conference call with Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rabbi David Saperstein (Reform), Rabbi Morris Alan (Conservative) and Rabbi Menachem Genack (Orthodox) and other leaders.
The We Were Strangers Too coalition is helping to organize lobby visits with members of Congress. Please register at the following site if you are able to stay in town: changetakesfaith.org/.
For individuals who cannot travel to Washington on the 21/22, we need you to call your Members of Congress and advocate for reform. Everyone who registers for the March 21 Jewish conference call will receive an email with the information for the national call-in day on March 22.
Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, Jewish Community Action, and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society are the co-conveners of We Were Strangers Too: the Jewish Campaign for Immigration Reform.
“I felt, as the group passed over its metaphorical clif, that I had literally become weightless. I had abandoned gravity, was greater than it. I felt myself to be hovering above myself, capable of perceiving everything in slow motion and overwhelming detail.”
Pretty cool. It’s from “Among the Thugs,” sociologist Bill Buford’s book about the time he spent running with soccer hooligans in the UK. It could also describe experiences at Burning Man, an intense melavah malkah in Jerusalem, or a political rally: all gatherings of people striving to reach something beyond themselves.
The first verse of this week’s parasha, Vayakhel also describes a collective gathering:
וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה, אֶת-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל – “And Moshe gathered the whole congregation of Bnei Yisrael (Shemot, 35:1)”
This spiritual gathering of the people in our parasha this week is for a specific purpose: to join and perform the physical and spiritual work of building the mishkan. Through adding their personal contributions to the efforts of the collective, the Jewish people were able to build something they never could as individuals: a dwelling place for God. Those who have been a part of meaningful service on behalf of a good and just cause know the intense feelings, meaning and power that come as a result of doing the work in a large group. It can be a real high.
But there is an extra significance to this week’s gathering. More »
In a rather redundant article in Commentary, Jack Wertheimer makes another set of his sweeping – and entirely annoying – statements about how the young folks, they’re just so dumb.
He starts out with a perfectly fine, if not particularly new or startling, laying out of the observation about how expensive it is to live a Jewish life. He then veers off into a bizarre, and only tangentially related, screed about how it’s organizations that encourage young Jews to do “Tikkun Olam” who are to blame for the state of affairs in which young Jews don’t contribute to the Jewish people, and somehow links that to why no one can afford to educate Jewish children adequately.
Now normally I’d just be happy to agree with another Jewschooler who commented offblog that, “Really, the only thing more consistently wrong in American Jewish life than Commentary Magazine is Jack Wertheimer.” In fact, I find his sweeping statements about how women are to blame, young people are to blame, anyone is to blame except people like him doing what he thinks they ought to do at all times so wrong that really I just ignore anything that comes from him nowadays. Normally, I think that he’s just irrelevant. Or perhaps just apoplectic to the point of being unable to do anything but bluster. More »
That’s right folks. For every dollar you put in, you’ll generate $91 (no Ponzi). How? It’s easy!
Invest in advocacy and community organizing. This study of Los Angeles County nonprofits found that those engaged in advocacy and organizing generated nearly $7 billion in benefits for local residents, including higher wages, affordable transportation, healthcare, and much, much more. Article here.
In short, it isn’t. The latest liberal-minded organization to be targeted by all manner of far-right, close-minded, single-issue, “pro-Israel” advocates is the New Israel Fund. If you haven’t heard of them before, the first two paragraphs from their About page are an excellent intro:
The New Israel Fund (NIF) is the leading organization committed to democratic change within Israel. Since 1979, NIF has fought for social justice and equality for all Israelis. We believe that Israel can live up to its founders’ vision of a state that ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants, without regard to religion, race or gender.
Widely credited with building Israel’s progressive civil society from scratch, we have provided more than $200 million to more than 800 cutting-edge organizations since our inception. What’s more, through our action arm, SHATIL, we mentor, train and lead Israeli civil society in an ongoing struggle to empower the underprivileged.
Sounds pretty innocuous, huh? An organization that funds civil society programs in Israel with the result of promoting universal rights and equality. Definitely not free from all controversy, but probably not evil.
Image from Promised Land blog
Think again. The Zionist Im Tirtzu organization has taken it upon themselves to smear the NIF with just about anything they can dig up, including but not limited to, caricatures of its leader, former MK Prof. Naomi Hazan, claims that the NIF is responsible for “90%” of the evidence behind the Goldstone report, and that the NIF is behind the British moves towards prosecuting IDF officers for war crimes.
As should be pretty obvious, these claims are patently untrue (Hazan does not actually have a horn on her forehead, the Goldstone report got most of its evidence from Palestinian eyewitness testimony, and no one has produced any kind of evidence whatsoever linking them to British legal action). But that hasn’t stopped current MKs as well as Shin Bet and IDF officials from getting behind them. J.J. Goldberg reports that there are calls for parliamentary hearings on the work of NIF grantees (a situation which my fellow Jewschool contributor chillul Who? points out is eerily reminiscent of the Defund Acorn Act).
From my perspective, which is that of someone without extensive experience in Israeli domestic politics, I see this as misinformation intended to elicit exactly the response it has. Clearly, Im Tirtzu believes that the NIF is an existential threat to Israel (and given the NIF’s mission, that should tell you something about Im Tirtzu), enough so that they believe a smear campaign based on a flawed, narrow, and biased reading of the facts (Goldberg reports on the questionable methodology they used to get the 90% bit) is an acceptable discrediting tactic.
Ultimately, this sort of thing is totally preposterous and regressive. Unfortunately, it’s what I’ve come to expect from too much of the right. Still pushing the same tired narrative of “criticizing Israel or Israeli policy is unequivocally bad”, they resort to underhanded smears and falsehoods to attempt to delegitimize those who they disagree with. It’s no way to offer support or honest advice to a nation, especially one with as complicated a political and domestic arena as Israel.
It’s shameful that members of the Israeli government would cheapen their society by stooping to this level. Organizations like J Street and Peace Now have issued statements in support of the NIF. I echo their call.
Other references not linked in the body of the article:
Against the backdrop of its own moral and economic scandals, The Lubavitcher Hasidim are among those Jewish groups aiding the people of Haiti with important and professional aid. The presence of those loyal to the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe seems underneath, or perhaps above, the Jewish media’s radar.
Rabbi Shimon Pelman, the director of Chabad-Lubavitch of the Dominican Republic who crossed the border into neighboring Haiti on Friday, described the contrasts as day and night.
With hours to go until the onset of Shabbat, the rabbi counseled earthquake survivors in the devastated capital of Port-au-Prince and was briefed on efforts undertaken by United Nations troops and aid workers in the city.
Pelman, who in conjunction with Chabad of the Caribbean has set up a relief fund and Web page to keep people abreast of developments, said that those who were lucky enough to survive the Jan. 12 quake were in desperate need of food, water and medicine…
After the close of Shabbat Saturday night, he and his wife Michal Pelman, and two rabbinical students who were dispatched from New York to help during the tragedy, prepared boxes of hot meals and sent them with an Israeli convoy travelling across rugged terrain to a field hospital in Port-au-Prince. The rabbi also arranged for a local bakery to prepare bread for foreign military forces in Haiti, including an Israeli delegation that numbers in excess of 220 personnel and is comprised of K-9 search-and-rescue units, a medical team and support staff.
Sunday morning, the rabbi was working the phones to secure warehouses to support the effort.
He said that his journey to Haiti on Friday was sobering. What he saw among the lucky survivors who managed to obtain shelter at a tent set up outside the half-destroyed U.N. headquarters, he explained, was heartbreaking.
“People are waiting for something to happen,” he said. “They have no food, no water, no medicine.”
This is a guest post by Joanna Ware, a queer Jewish community organizer, activist, and rabble rouser at Keshet, a Boston-based non-profit building community locally and creating change nationally, working for the full inclusion of GLBT Jews in Jewish communities.
This year, my Simchat Torah preparations are a little bit out of the ordinary. I’m rushing to squeeze in one more load of laundry, wash a last round of dishes, and pack myself a liquid-less lunch, because tomorrow afternoon I’m taking off for DC.
In addition to Simchat Torah, this Sunday, October 11th, is the National Equality March, in Washington, DC. Representing Keshet, I will be marching and celebrating with a broad-based Jewish coalition dedicated to advancing full equality for all GLBT Americans. Every person in our contingent will have a story, a reason they’re dedicating their Sunday afternoon to this March — some markedly Jewish, some less so — but we’ll be together marching as Jews, on Simchat Torah.
During Simchat Torah, we are commanded to come together in celebration of Torah; in celebration of our laws. On Simchat Torah we weave and dance our way through singing, joyful communities, and each one of us, of all genders and sexualities, are offered an opportunity to both carry the Torah scrolls and to pass them on to another.
For me, as a queer Jewish feminist, the laws contained therein are fraught with complication. Our text teaches that Simchat Torah is an occasion when women are welcomed to carry the Torah even in some observant communities – a noteworthy difference between this day and the rest. But what of the genderqueer, gender non-conforming, and trans people within our communities? Can Simchat Torah be their day as well, or is it a day reserved for those of us who fit comfortably within traditional definitions of “man” and “woman”? These aren’t easy questions to face, for those of us for whom dignity and justice are everyday battles. The text in those scrolls both welcomes us, celebrates our efforts to live ethical Jewish lives, and also is too often used to remind us of our place – at the sidelines, or worse.
And yet, if there is anything Judaism allows us, it is space to wrestle with our traditions, teaching, and text; space to challenge and engage when the first answer feels troubling, secure in the knowledge that to question in this way is fundamentally Jewish.
So on Saturday night, the DC JCC will be filled with song, dance, community, joy, and contention. As I carry the Torah during our Queer Simchat Torah celebration, I will carry both its infinite wisdom and our points of contention. And on Sunday, as I march, it will be in both celebration and contention. My steps will be Jewish, not simply because I am a Jew, but because I know that to demand justice and dignity for every person is a Jewish act. Because it is a Jewish act to balance the contradiction of our country’s avowed dedication to equality and justice, and the reality that within our borders there are far too many who are denied dignity, respect, and legitimacy. Because it is a Jewish act to draw courage from our convictions in our work for justice. And because, on Simchat Torah, we are to become the feet of Torah — and so I march for justice.
Join us this weekend, if it is in keeping with your Simchat Torah observance:
Queer Simchat Torah celebration: Oct 10th, 6:30 pm at the DC JCC (16th & Q St NW)
March meet-up: Oct 11th, 10:30am at the DC JCC