Showing posts with label Redemption. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Redemption. Show all posts

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Don’t Cancel Alice Walker. Hold Her Accountable.

I have been a reader and follower of Yair Rosenberg for several years. He has been an amazing writer fighting the good fight against antisemitism in the media. And he has an amazing sense of humor. He has punk'd some of the most outrageous online trolls and spoken truth to power.

His regular newsletter, Deep Shtetl has become a subscriber based newsletter from the Atlantic Magazine. You can access past issues here as well as subscribe to the newest posts as well.

Because it is a subscription-based newsletter, I cannot share the entire text. You should go read it and subscribe. Really. 

Like most Jewish educators I have been teaching about redemption and the journey to freedom a lot in the last week or so. I have also been having conversations about cancel culture over the past few months. So when I read his article about Alice Walker, I was spurred to share it. The short summary is the title of this post (and Yair's newsletter post). He suggests that "for years, the public has responded to the celebrated author's antisemitism by either sidelining her or ignoring her prejudice. We can do better.

He suggest that rather than cancelling her, which is a pretty dehumanizing and humiliating act, she be challenged and asked to engage in conversation about her posts and public statements. Read Yair's article about that here. In his current post, he suggests that we treat her (and I presume others whom we might wish cancel) as a human, one who like the rest of us has flaws and brokenness. And we should instead engage with her on these issues and give her a chance to see how her words affect others. And perhaps to begin her path to redemption and escape from the narrow places.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

Monday, April 11, 2022

Sing a Redemption Song

I alternate between Pesach and Sukkot as my favorite Jewish holiday. I love building and hanging out in our Sukkah. Feeding people I love and celebrating with them is my happy place – and so I love the seder as well. Passover is so much more than that though.

Geulah – Redemption – is much more than a moment in our history: the crossing of the Sea of Reeds on the beginning of the walk to freedom. It is a Jewish value. We invoke it when we participate in freeing someone from captivity or slavery. Some of us remember participating in the movement to free the Refuseniks – Jews in the Soviet Union who only wanted to be free to be Jewish, to teach Hebrew or go to Israel. That was Geulah. Natan Sharansky, a former Knesset member and leader of the Jewish Agency was perhaps the most famous Refusenik.

Many of you know that I have been a mentor for Jewish professionals who participate in the immersion program at Beit T’shuvah in Los Angeles. Beit T’shuvah (literally “house of repentance”) is a residential recovery facility for people trying cope with alcoholism or ay of a number of other addictions. The immersion program is designed to teach clergy, educators and communal workers how to better recognize and help addicted folks in their communities.

A scene from Freedom Song

A few years ago, we brought Beit T’shuvah’s Redemption Song to B’nai Israel. It is a piece of musical theater written and performed by people in recovery. It tells a story of families with addicted members against the background of Passover seders and the Exodus from Egypt. It was and is an amazing show.

Mark Borovitz, emeritus Rabbi of Beit T’shuvah, refers to Passover as the second High Holy Days for people in recovery. For them to achieve Redemption, they must go through the steps of Repentence (T’shuvah). They use the 12 Steps of Recovery to help them do that. The 8th, 9th and 10th steps all look a lot like how we Jews are taught to atone during the period leading up to Yom Kippur:

  1. Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.

  2. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

  3. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it.

So as we prepare for own Pesach seder – as we buy and prepare the food, set the table, plan how we will lead the seder – let’s also take some time to reflect. What do I need to do to make sure I reach the other side of the Sea of Reeds? How can I make sure I and the ones I love will find redemption? I suggest making a list, making amends and continue to look to our own actions. Through T’shuvah, we can find Geulah!

We all wish you a wonderful Pesach and a safe journey to Redemption. If you need any help in preparing, let me know!



Monday, June 30, 2014

An overall anomaly
Just before Pesach, five colleagues and I went to Los Angeles for an immersion program at Beit T'shuvah (BTS). I will write a great deal more about BTS in the near future. It has taken me this long to begin to put into words I can share - in way that woudl be meaningful for others - and I promise it will be worth it. Not because my words will be so special or awe-inspiring. It will be worth it because I want you to get to know BTS and the amazing people who are there. They help people who are addicts (of all kinds) take control of their lives. And to live spiritually fulfilling lives in the real world. 

I know. Who are you and where is Ira? We will explore those questions later. 

For today, I want to share the blog of my friend Rabbi Mark Borovitz. He is "Spiritual Leader, Head Rabbi, COO, and overall anomaly" at BTS. We have been studying Heschel's "The Insecurity of Freedom" - and just being a chavruta pair via skype since I got back from LA. He blogs weekly through the Jewish Journal under the title Addicted to Redemption. Here is his posting from last week. My comments are at the end.


All week I have been thinking about this blog. I am upset, frustrated and angry. All this has to do with what is happening both inside of me and outside of me. Inside, I am upset, angry and frustrated that my message is getting lost because of my bombastic nature. As my friend and teacher, Rabbi Ed Feinstein, has said about me, I am more prophet than Rabbi and there is not a huge market for Prophets these days. At any given time, I am prone to outbursts of angry speech. I cover it up by saying I am just passionate, yet, in truth, it is anger. I am angry inside when I know that there are better ways to live than some of the ways I am living and in some of the ways the world is living. I know that I have no control over people, places and things, yet I also know that I matter and, therefore, can influence others. This paradox frustrates me and I get upset when I don’t live in the tension of this paradox.

I have been Blessed with great vision and the ability to see the soul/God-Image of others and myself. I get upset with myself when my vision of my own Soul/God-Image gets cloudy and I know that I am not perfect. I get frustrated when I KNOW what is the next right/God-Like action to take and I don’t, either because of my own foibles/ego or because I am hampered by others. The same is true when my vision is cloudy in dealing with other people and/or I am unable to find a way to speak to another in a way they can hear. All of this causes me to be upset, frustrated and angry with me. I am writing this to all of you because I am sorry when this happens, I am working on myself to be better in this area and I acknowledge that my Prophet voice is not going away. I do commit to manage it better, however.

Why am I writing about this, you may ask. I am writing about the frustration, anger and upset inside of me because some of it comes from the outside actions of the world. Over 2 weeks ago, 3 young boys in Israel were kidnapped. What is the world doing about it? NOTHING! Where are all of the people who care about humanity? Why are the countries of the world who are, supposedly, trying so hard for “peace in the Mideast” not rallying around Israel and “forcing” Hamas and the PLO to release these teenagers? I am angry, frustrated and upset because, again, Jewish lives are not as “worthy” as others. Where is the justice and compassion for these teenagers? Where is the “caring world” when it comes to Jewish lives?

I am not just speaking about Jewish lives, however. I am upset, angry and frustrated that more is not being done to protect women in Nigeria, the Congo, the United States, and throughout the world. Like Jews, women must be considered not as worthy as men. If there were hundreds and thousands of men being tortured, raped, killed, kidnapped, etc., there would be war happening to save them. Yet, where are the Nigerian women? Where is the justice and change in status for women all over the world? Where is the “caring world” when it comes to the plight of women?

I am not just speaking about Jewish lives and women, however. I am truly frustrated, angry and upset that last Saturday was the 50th Anniversary of the murders of Goodman, Chaney and Schwermer AND the Supreme Court dismantled the Voting Rights Bill they died to bring into fruition. The Congress has done nothing to rewrite this bill. So many people died, were injured, jailed and fought for everyone to have the right to vote in this country. Yet, 50 years later, we sit on our hands, don’t show up to vote and allow some of the basic rights that our soldiers died to uphold just go away.

Where is the justice and compassion for the poor and the downtrodden? Where is action of “all people are created equal”? Where is the “caring world” when it comes to people other than “them”?

I am not just speaking about “the others”, women and Jewish lives. I am also angry, frustrated and upset about our Veterans. We have treated these young people abominably. We send them off to fight and teach them to not trust anyone they come into contact with except ‘their own’. What do we do to help them re-integrate into society here when they come back? Very little!! We don’t even help them when they seek help. Where is the justice, compassion and gratitude for their service? Where is the “caring people” when it comes to serving those who serve us?

I know that I am being bombastic again. Yet, I believe deep in my soul that I am speaking a Truth that few of us want to face. I don’t have all of the solutions to these experiences and challenges. I do know and believe that “Evil flourishes when Good People do nothing.” I know and believe that just as in the 50’s and 60’s we are in need of a grassroots movement to effect change in the way we are living. I do know that this movement has to begin inside of each of us first. One of the lessons of History for me is that the movement of past generations and eras doesn’t take hold unless the changes and the movements are rooted in the souls of each of the leaders and participants of the movement.

My commitment is to keep working on my insides and outsides. This is how I live Addicted to Redemption. I am asking you to help me keep this commitment and to join me and make your own commitment to Redemption so that we can make the world Addicted to Redemption and bring about the world that has been envisioned in every Spiritual Discipline.

When Mark shared his blog on Friday I had a visceral reaction and shared it with him:

Wow. Stunning. I am reading about Mark the Prophet and remembering that most prophets did not end so well. It left me worrying for you and forgiving anything you might imagine I could forgive you for. (Actually there is nothing - your prophetic voice inspires me in ways that my hyper-rational self cannot believe!)

Then you make a sharp turn into the real issue - how "never again" is made into a hollow phrase by all of us every day. I leave on Sunday to chaperone a group of teens on the first phase of their Israel trip - by visiting Prague and Poland. We will be exploring and learning about over 1,000 years of Jewish life and then visiting Therezin, Krakow (and Schindler's factory), Auschwitz and the memorial to the Warsaw ghetto. With all of the evils you spoke of, from three young men in Mississippi to 3 young men near Kfar Etzion, the entire meaning of this journey changes.

Trips like these began in order to teach lessons like "never again." They continued to teach how the Third Reich was Egypt and Israel is again the Promised Land. 125 years ago, the early Reform rabbis in America mostly disagreed with the idea of a Jewish State being reestablished. They felt America was the promised land. In the 30's and 40's, most who held that opinion relented and the movement became staunch supporters of the Zionist dream and later of Israel. But they still held to the idealized view of the United States. I am angry with you. The lessons have not been learned. By anyone. Not just the three Jewish boys in Israel. Not just the women in Africa and in other places.

Our job as Jews, as Americans, as Humans is to protect those who need protection from evil. It is to stop genocide. It is to help one another reach our potential.

This Shabbat, I am sad angry with you. By next Shabbat in Poland, I pray that the teenagers with whom I am traveling will teach me about hope and show me the potential for good and for bringing redemption.

Shabbat shalom,