Can We Walk, Breathe Deep, and Sing at the Same Time?

Yesterday, Shabbat, turned out to be a day of celebration: the election  of a new President of the United States! My city, Philadelphia, was at the heart of the “dancing in  God’s earthquake.”  Literally dancing. 

And then came the ceremony of Havdalah, distinguishing between Shabbat and the work week.  The ceremony calls the rest of the week, in Hebrew, “chol.” Many translate that as “mundane.” But my teacher Rabbi Max Ticktin, of blessed memory, taught that “chol” came from the same root as “chalil” or “chilul,” hollow like a flute waiting to be filled. Shabbat is given as holy; the rest of the week is up to us to fill with holiness or not. There is much we must yet do, to fulfill our sacred vision of a full democracy: 

 There are three immediate tasks that I think that our community needs to address. 

 One – that I devoutly hope we will not need to muster, but we might – is to mount a vigorous, utterly nonviolent campaign protecting democracy, in case the present lame-duck President tries to shatter it. As of this morning, November 8, that seems unlikely – but not yet impossible. 

 The second -- is to make it possible for President-Elect Biden to govern with a Congress able to respond to serious proposals to meet the deep crises facing America and Earth: 

 There are at least four: public health in a worsening pandemic; massive disemployment; broad awareness of embedded racism (including White House contempt and hatred for immigrants and refugees); and the climate crisis of wildfires and floods.

Whether President Biden can meet the need to address these four immediate crises may depend on whether half the Senate behaves as it did facing President Obama, determined to destroy every one of his initiatives, no matter how shaped to benefit the nation.  

 OR --

it may depend on the results of two run-off elections for the US Senate in Georgia. If the two Democrats both win, the Senate would be tied 50-50 and Vice-President Kamala Harris would shortly vote to organize it with Democrats in the majority.  That might not make possible major steps like admitting the District of Columbia to statehood, but it would make it possible for President Biden to name his own Cabinet without being denied major nominations by a Republican Senate (as some Senators have already threatened).

One of those Georgia elections is between Jon Ossoff. a young Jewish journalist, a moderate liberal who was interviewed three years ago by a leading reporter of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, and an incumbent Senator, David Perdue, whose record is reported by Wikipedia. (If Ossoff’s name seems odd, it is a variant of “Yosef,” or “Joseph.”)

The other run-off is being contested by Rev. Raphael Warnock, for 15 years pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which had been the church of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Kelly Loeffler,  a very rich appointee to fill the seat of a resigned senator who has put up 20 million dollars of her own money to pay for her campaign to fill the rest of the Senate seat.  

We will supply more detailed information about all four of these candidates. 

The third task that we face is deeper and harder. About 48% of the America people voted for a president who many of the other 52% think was a neo-fascist. That does not make 48% of the people racists, fascists, pro-billionaire,  pro-wildfire, pro-virus. It does bespeak a call, an outcry,  from the depths of pain of almost all the people – a call to speak and to listen to each other. We will soon write more about how to do that.

 Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste! --  Arthur 

MLK, LBJ, and Grass-Roots Change: Presidential Politics Through Spiritual Eyes

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow

In the present Presidential campaign, suddenly the question has arisen whether Martin Luther King or Lyndon Baines Johnson was more responsible for passage of the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s.

I was there, folks: working on Capitol Hill and then in the Institute for Policy Studies, a progressive research/action center. And the answer is – both MLK and LBJ were responsible – AND one might add with some exaggeration, NEITHER. .

The Road to Crawford

Rabbi Arthur Waskow 8/24/2005

As you can see on our Home Page or in the Section on the Iraq-US confrontation, in August I had a moving journey to and encounter with "Camp Casey," organized by Cindy Sheehan in memory of her son who was killed in Iraq.

The camp is directed at demanding that the President briefly interrupt his lengthy vacation in Crawford, Texas, to meet face-to-face with Ms. Sheehan and explain what "noble cause" had required her son's death.

40 Years Ago, the first Teach-in

Rabbi Arthur Waskow 3/23/2005

Forty years ago, in March 1965, the students and faculty of the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) held the first Teach-in against the Vietnam War — an all-night study session involving thousands of students and dozens of faculty that began about 6 p.m. and lasted till 6 a.m.

I was one of the speakers.

Big Oil's War against Europe

Rabbi Arthur Waskow 3/8/2005

Dear Friends,

We have posted on our Website a BBC report on rising European wrath against the US for its CO2 emissions. During early March, I was in Edinburgh to speak & teach at a conference on the spiritual roots of peacemaking. In one of my talks, I said:

Why is that White-Bearded Man Interrupting Ted Koppel's Town Meeting?

Rabbi Arthur Waskow 2/11/2005

Dear Friends,

It started this way: I was invited to bring a religious voice to Ted Koppel's Town Meeting show on January 27 to address the Iraq war. It was held in the same place, St. John's Church across from the White House, as his Town Meeting had been held in March 2003, two weeks before the invasion of Iraq.

But at the show itself, the producers asked for a written card summarizing the comments I intended to make. They had invited me knowing in general what my views were. So with honesty but perhaps a whiff of naivete I wrote that I intended to speak about a power-addicted Presidency that is bringing down plagues upon our heads, reminiscent of the archetypal power-addicted Pharaoh whose downfall is at the heart of our tradition.

A Letter to Arlen (Senator Specter) about Torture

David Kairys, Esq 2/4/2005

Dear Arlen:

I have not seen you in many years, and am quite aware that we have different views on many issues, but I was saddened to hear that you voted in committee in favor of the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for Attorney General. I thought we would share at least the fundamental belief, for the nation and the world, in the wisdom, vitality and necessity of the Geneva Accords and the basic tenets of treaties and international law that forbid torture and mistreatment of prisoners.

Should we have an Attorney General who supports torture?

Rabbi Arthur Waskow 1/26/2005

Dear Friends,

Objections to a swift decision on Alberto Gonzalez, stemming especially from Sen. Kennedy's concerns about his responses to questions about torture, have delayed the vote on whether to confirm him as Attorney General.

This gives us a momentary window in time to slow down or even halt the confirmation, and to make the record of the truth about the Administration's use of torture. SEE BELOW FOR HOW TO USE THIS MOMENT.

The Taste of Freedom: Manna & Shabbat

Rabbi Arthur Waskow 1/19/2005

Dear Friends,

In the current issue of the Jerusalem Report, you can find an essay I wrote for their "The People and the Book" column. It responds to the Torah portion that Jewish congregations traditionally read the Shabbat of January 21. (I write such a biblical commentary for JR two or three times a year.)

MLKing & Eid Al-Adha: Ten Anti-War Days in January

Philadelphia Area Interfaith Peace Network 12/27/2004

Dear Friends,

This coming January, Martin Luther King Birthday weekend, the Re-Inauguration of our War President, and the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, marking Abrahams near-sacrifice of his son Ishmael — all come during the period from Friday January 14 to Sunday January 23.


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