I learned about Nelson Mandela’s death on my way back to the office from the White House Hanukkah reception yesterday. The news was not a complete surprise to anyone as the 95-year-old Mandela had been suffering with an intractable respiratory infection for many months. But it caught me short and saddened me deeply. With Hanukkah themes fresh in my consciousness, I could not help but see connections between the holiday and this great leader’s life.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with enjoying delicious food with friends and family – that’s the best part about holidays. For those of us who can. But on behalf of the millions who can’t, I propose we embrace a far more radical interpretation of this momentous occasion.
Chanukah and Thanksgiving both celebrate the importance of freedom – freedom from oppression, from religious persecution and from want. As we gather to celebrate our hard won freedoms, we must also raise our voices. And keep raising them until everyone in America can enjoy the most basic freedom: freedom from want.
The sad truth is that, even in Jewish communities that stand for egalitarianism on the pulpit and in the pews, gender-equality disappears in the home.
Just in time for Chanukah, funnyman Josh Healey’s comedic trip from Mos Def to masturbation to God himself to see who comes out ahead in that age-old battle: Jewish vs. Goyish. Read the article.
“American Jews doing social justice work is nothing new. But the field of Jewish social justice is an emerging yet mighty one. Pew isn’t just an affirmation of social justice work. It’s a wakeup call that we can do better,” writes Abby Levine of the Jewish Social Justice Roundtable, reflecting on this week’s Network Assembly.
The Zeek archive is packed with articles that have as much relevance and urgency today as they did when they were written. Like this one – in fact, it’s even more timely than it was back in 2010, when it originally ran.
Two years later, writes Sarah Seltzer, Occupy reminds us that we have to think big, think together, and keep the slogan in our minds, even when it seems far from reality: another world is possible.
I have seen the same primary care doctor for about five years, and she gives me good care. Unfortunately, I just saw her, and she told me — not without a guilty look in her eye — that expenses and regulations were just too much, and she had decided to close up her current shop and open a concierge practice. My blood ran cold: I mean, sure, I could afford it (I make a good living), but what about all the people who can’t? Is my doctor making an unethical decision? Should I stick with her?
The US Senate could vote this week on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA). [See editor’s note for updates.]
May this bill pass in 2013, ending the 19-year struggle to ensure recourse against workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
Why is passing this federal legislation so critical? Right now, transgender people can be fired in 33 states while lesbian, gay and bisexual people can be fired in 29, merely for being ourselves. Seeking fairness and justice state by state has been a tortuously slow process that leaves millions of people at risk for joblessness and its potential ramifications: poverty, homelessness, shame, depression, illness.
Why as Jews should we attend to this travesty? Regardless of our sexual orientation and gender identity, why should we make this struggle our own?
“Will we pause long enough to look at the objects we possess and see that what we think of as ‘process’ is actually a chain of human beings? If not, then we participate in a criminal act of willful forgetting,” writes Rabbi Menachem Creditor. This Chanukah, let’s shine a light on modern-day slavery and ensure our choices support freedom.
The question is not whether we can afford to work with CAIR, but whether we can afford not to.
“At the most basic level, it seems like the Jewish question is to ask whether an employer would be satisfied with their workplace policies if they knew those policies would also be applied to their parents, children, or siblings.” — Rabbi Elizabeth Richman, rabbi-in-residence, Jews United for Justice
On Friday, September 27, Deb Tambor, a young mother with bright eyes and deep dimples, killed herself. Deb was a member of the same circle of former ultra-Orthodox Jews that I belong to. Her death, at 33, is sending shockwaves through my community, a sharp reminder of the suffering some of us must endure. Deb went through a brutal custody battle because she rejected ultra-Orthodoxy. Her former community banded together to destroy her children’s relationships with her, using legal muscle, bullying, and religiously fueled indoctrination to reduce her contact with her three children to only one supervised visit a month.
Many have already responded eloquently to Deb’s death with an outcry against the abominably corrupt custody processes that so many former ultra-Orthodox Jews are trapped in, something I care about deeply. Today, though, I’m moved to talk about something else, something more personal for me.
My deepest reaction to this tragedy is not as an activist, but as a fellow former ultra-Orthodox Jew, reminded that so many of us, while moving forward in our lives, are pulled back by a siren call of death.
Technologies are not innocent. They embody human values. And the way we design them determines winners and losers among us, writes Asaf Bar-Tura. Here’s what you should be thinking about when you’re thinking about social change online.
A white Jewish woman finishing up her certification as a nurse midwife wants to honor her commitment to racial and economic justice. And provide quality care to all women without compromising her commitment. Now what?
“In my art practice I’ve been frustrated by my discomfort with bringing my spiritual practice and identity into the objects I make,” artist Danielle Durchslag, co-creator of “Assembly Required: Sukkah Salon,” tells Zeek in this Q & A. “Somehow the two have stayed separate. This exhibition is an attempt to bridge those worlds.”
Tonight at Kol Nidre services, I will chant the prayer that absolves me from all oaths taken the previous year. The thing is — just yesterday I took an oath, alongside 119 women on a very hot day in the shadow of the US Capitol building, an oath that I (with the organization I represent, the National Council of Jewish Women) plan to keep. In part, we promised to:
create a House United for fair immigration reform, a House United through my family, my community and my place of work, a House United for justice and equality for all and especially for the women and children who make up three-quarters of all immigrants but whose needs are woefully ignored by our failed system.
And we put our bodies on the line to reinforce our commitment to this promise.
I begin each day of my life with a ritual. I wake up at 5:30 am, put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirt and a hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym at 91st street and 1st avenue, where I work out for 2 hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go, I have completed the ritual. —Twyla Tharp, “The Creative Habit”
Why do we recite Kol Nidre on Yom Kippur night? The exact history of this prayer is a little vague, but what is clear is that this prayer is not a prayer at all: the Aramaic text, dating from at least the ninth century, is a legal formulation for the annulment of vows. It doesn’t mention the themes of the season: forgiveness, teshuva, renewal. It does not mention God. Unrelated in its content to the rest of the Yom Kippur liturgy, it seems at first blush to be a strange way to start a 25-hour period of intense introspection and self-reflection.
Part of Kol Nidre’s rhetorical power comes from its repetitive language: READ MORE
“This is Meredith,” the voice on the phone announced one afternoon in March. “We have someone who needs a place to stay for the night.”
I took a deep breath. It was the first time I’d gotten a call from the Haven Coalition since I’d signed up to volunteer. I ran my fingers through my hair as Meredith told me about Pearl: 25 years old, 20 weeks pregnant. She’d arrived in New York City from Buffalo and just finished the first part of a two-day abortion procedure. She would wait for me at the clinic on the Upper West Side.
We are in the Hebrew month of Elul, a time of review, return, and renewal leading to the High Holy Days. During Elul, we are asked to take stock of where and how we have fallen short, leading us to teshuvah, generally translated as “repentance” but really meaning “return.” Our “sins” serve as catalysts to return to our better selves, to God, and to Torah. This year, let us include among our shortcomings forgetting the humanity of those whom we have imprisoned and denying them the opportunity to do teshuvah.
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