Tales of the Spirit Rising

Told by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

My friends have persuaded me that stories I have thought of as a book would be wonderful to share with you as –- stories!

I have been collecting from my life and the lives of my friends what I call Tales of the Spirit Rising: tales of spiritual growth in ourselves, our communities, our countries.

Moments to give us new hope –- real hope out of real life -- in an age that is ragged with fear, anger, even despair.

I have been thinking of these as a book. But when I have gotten a chance to tell the stories, people have kept telling me – “You’re a great story-teller! These are stories to tell around a modern campfire like Zoom, stories where the listeners will want to join and comment and explore.”

So I began to imagine and enjoy what that would feel like -- To listen to each other– an even better word, to hearken -- with the real organ of hearing – our hearts, not just our ears – and then to join in the telling.

What better time to do this than a summer when we are venturing out once more to a restaurant, a friend’s house, a beach, a park, even a sidewalk filled with faces?

So I am going to begin with five weekly gatherings. In each one, I will tell two or three stories around a specific theme, and then invite a conversation: a story of your own life that my story sparks, a question, a laugh, some tears.

You can register for taking part by clicking: 

These “campfires” will happen on the Wednesday evenings of August 4, 11, 18, and 25, and September 1, from 7:30 to 9 pm EASTERN Time (4:40 pm Pacific, etc.).

There will be a contribution to meet the costs of doing this and to help support The Shalom Center ‘s work: $90 for the series, $25 for those who can’t afford the regular fee, and $120 for those who can afford more, so as to help make the lower fee possible.

The sessions will be recorded, so if a participant has to miss a session, it will still be available. The number of people will be limited, so that we can have a real conversation.  So register now! The  link again:

May our spirits rise together! --  Arthur

Changes at The Shalom Center

Dear friends,

 The Shalom Center is experiencing an important change in what has been our mostly internal process, and I want to take note of the valuable work that has characterized the nine-year tenure of Vivienne Hawkins, our Program Coordinator.  She is leaving to begin a new career as a life-coach with a strong spiritual orientation.

 She has been a mainstay of The Shalom Center during these nine years, a strong guarantor of the clarity and good sense of our finances and a yeoman worker under sometimes difficult circumstances in making possible our major events, like the Fiftieth-Anniversary Freedom Seder in April 2019.  I greatly admire how she has carried out both those crucial responsibilities.  May the spiritual work she is undertaking well meet her needs and the needs of our sorely wounded, distracted, and distorted world!

 We have made arrangements to undertake the Program Coordinator work with a team of hands-on outreach workers, the Justice Gardeners, who are closely connected to the Central Reform Congregation in St. Louis, and with a financial service called the Network for Strong Communities that specializes in service to non-profits.

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

Two Days Left!

If you care about a planet that is burning, choking and strangling the Holy Interbreathing, the Ruach HaKodesh, the interchange of oxygen and CO2 that keeps all life alive, two days left.

If you care about the ancient wisdom of an earth-based people that was encoded in the Hebrew Bible and can help us learn how to heal our wounded world today, two days left.

Why We Honor Bishop Royster –

And Welcome You To Honor & to Learn

On Sunday, May 21, at Mishkan Shalom in Philadelphia, The Shalom Center is honoring Bishop Dwayne D. Royster along with Bill McKibben and Sophia Wilansky.  The celebration of these three is also a crucial fund-raising event to support The Shalom Center’s work, and we are inviting our members and friends to take part in order to learn, to celebrate, and to help make The Shalom Center’s work possible.

Who is Bishop Royster, and what is The Shalom Center’s connection with him?

Bishop Royster’s work is rooted in the Spirit. He founded and served as pastor of the Living Water United Church of Christ in Philadelphia. The UCC is perhaps the most vigorously progressive of the large Protestant churches in the United States. At the same time, Bishop Royster serves as the Assistant Presiding Bishop of Higher Ground Christian Fellowship International.

He stands and walks with one foot in the best of mainstream Protestantism, one foot in a more fluid network of Christian seekers – and his whole body in the great tradition of  eloquent Black ministers committed to grow an America of justice and Beloved Community.

Out of this commitment, Bishop Royster founded POWER  -- Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild.  POWER brought together churches, synagogues, and mosques to support community organizing efforts toward justice and a living wage for Philadelphia workers; an effectively budgeted and democratically controlled public school system; and deep reforms of the criminal-justice system to end its racism in police behavior and in mass incarceration.

You might say these issues are the obvious ones for any urban justice movement. Then Bishop Royster took the un-obvious step of connecting jobs for the disemployed with  creating transformative solutions for the climate crisis.  He encouraged POWER to work with the Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) to demand that Philadelphia’s electric company train Black disemployed workers as solar-collector installers and begin a major program to solarize the most poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the city.

As he moved from the Philadelphia scene to the national one, and from Philadelphia to Washington DC, Bishop Royster said,

 “ My faith has been equally important to me --  longer than politics. It has been a hard decision to leave POWER and head to DC. Yet, I am feeling called to our nation’s capital for such a time as this.

“As the Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman asked in his book Jesus and the Disinherited, ‘What does our faith have to say to people with their backs up against the wall?’ For far too long the church has been a sleeping giant. It is time to ‘Wake Up!’

 “We must work to challenge the narratives and stories that have anesthetized our faith traditions into a dreamless slumber that does not even produce rest. We do not need a sleeping giant, but instead a massive army of faith people that calls this nation to its better self. A massive army that draws our faith communities out of the walls of their institutions and to care for the greater community that surrounds them, a call to care for all of God’s creation.’

 “So I head to Washington to be a faith warrior, to fight for a moral economy, to fight for racial justice, to fight for an end to mass incarceration, to fight for a pathway to citizenship, to fight for climate and environmental justice and to fight for issues yet to be named.”

Does this sound like a “prophetic voice,” like the one we at The Shalom Center strive to be?

On May 21, Bishop Royster will bring his insight, his eloquence, and his skills as organizer into a conversation with Bill McKibben and Sophia Wilansky. We urge you to come and learn, come and grow, come and help The Shalom Center keep growing into an ever deeper, fuller  prophetic voice.

And if you are too far away to come, please contribute through the Tribute Book. (See below.)  


Three aspects of the event are:

DINNER:  where registrants will be able to meet each other and our three honorees, 5-7pm.  

Click here to Register Now for the Dinner!


 HONOR EVENT:  A shared conversation in which the three honorees will talk with each other and other attendees, in Mishkan Shalom’s sanctuary, 7-9 pm. Click here to Register Now for the Honor Event!



Space is available in the nation-wide tribute book to publicize your community and/ or offer tribute to the honorees. 

To publish in the tribute book, click here:


Many thanks!  We look forward to welcoming you on May 21.

May 21: Meet & Honor McKibben, Royster, Wilansky

And Sow the Seeds of Transformative Leadership

The Shalom Center invites you to meet and to honor three crucial activists who “Sow the Seeds of Transformative Leadership” at a celebration on Sunday May 21, 2017 in Philadelphia (Miskhan Shalom 4101 Freeland Ave, Roxborough neighborhood 19128):

Dinner: A dinner where registrants will be able to meet each other and our three honorees, 5-7pm.  
Please be aware that space is limited and that on 5/8/17, if space is still available, the contribution level increases.  Click here to Register Now!
Honor Event A shared conversation in which the three honorees will talk with each other and other attendees, in the host congregation’s sanctuary, 7-9 pm.
Please be aware that fot the Honor Event as well, space is limited and that on 5/8/17, if space is still available, the contribution level increases. Click here to Register Now!


Space is available in the tribute book to publicize your organization and/ or offer tribute to the honorees.

To publish in the tribute book, click here.
Text for the tribute book is due to The Shalom Center ( by 5/7/17 in order to meet deadlines for layout and printing.

Below: Bill McKibben, world-renowned leader of and of campaigns against the Keystone XL Tar Sands dirty-oil Pipeline —  shown here (R) with Aaron Mair (L) , president of the Sierra Club;


Below: Bishop Dwayne Royster (in center of photo, with sunglasses), political director of PICO, the national umbrella for religious congregation-based community organizing, with a special concern for and involvement with African-American and Latino communities;

Below: Sophia Wilansky (after the police attack that mangled her left arm), with Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry. Wilansky is the young anti-pipeline organizer who, after stints working against oil-delivery pipelines in New England and New York, came to Standing Rock as a Water Protector and was cruelly wounded by the militarized police. 

For us at The Shalom Center, she is a wonderful example of a Jewish activist who translates Jewish values into support for oppressed communities and for our wounded Mother Earth. Especially as we approach Passover, we not only look backward to remember thos who resisted the ancient Pharaoh -- but look foward to those who continue to challenge the Corporate Carbon Pharaohs of today.

We are especially conscious that on the very land where we will honor these three, the original land-holders, Earth Protectors, were the Indigenous Nations.

To Sow -- and to Grow

Why are we creating this event?  We have three goals, as we all face the most important political, cultural, ecological, and spiritual crisis of our lifetimes:

(1) To raise money to make it possible for The Shalom Center to respond in life-giving ways to our heightened, worsened  crisis.

(2) To make available the wisdom of our three inspiring honorees to strengthen the ability of our members to act.

(3) To make it possible for people at the event itself and others who can tune in to choose to take action through social media that very evening and in the days soon after.

Three aspects of the event are:


To register your organization or congregation as an event cosponsor, click here.

We are living in the midst of a profound political, social, ecological, and spiritual crisis. To meet that crisis, the net proceeds of this celebration will benefit the on-going work of The Shalom Center in two directions: Seeding and Weeding.

  • Sowing seeds of social change toward racial, religious, economic, & gender justice;  compassion; and democracy, including action to heal our wounded Mother Earth and the human communities under threat of climate chaos; and
  • Weeding out  efforts at top-down, anti-democratic domination and subjugation of Earth and human earthlings.

Muhammad Ali & Breaking the Rules

[Jacob Bender, the author of the following celebration of Muhammad Ali, is an affirmatively identified Jew. He and the Philadelphia chapter of CAIR, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, both "broke the rules" (unofficial but strong) of their respective communities when Philadelphia CAIR hired Bender to be its executive director. Both he and they have thrived in their relationship.

[Bender had created an extraordinary film, "Out of Cordoba," that celebrated the period in  Al-Andalus -- now called Spain -- during the Middle Ages, when Jews, Christians, and Muslims  enjoyed philosophy, politics, poetry, religious conversation, and life with each other.

[The film focuses on two great philosophers pictured below -- the Jewish Moshe ben Maimon or Rambam (Maimonides) and the Muslim Ibn Rushd (Averroes) -- who both lived in the Andalusian city of Cordoba.


[You can see a trailer of the film at <>

[Now, just after the death of Muhammad Ali and just before the New Moon that began the simultaneous sacred months of Ramadan and of Sivan -- the months of the Revelation of Torah and Quran -- Bender wrote this memory of "Muhammad Ali and Me." With his permission, we are sharing it with you. It lifts up for us how Muhammad Ali "broke the rules" of conventional America, and how a young American Jew responded. I will add a few other comments of my own after his essay. --  AW, editor]

"Muhammad Ali and Me"

By Jacob Bender
CAIR-Philadelphia Executive Director
I saw him in person once. It was during his exile from the ring, after his championship title had been stripped from him by the white establishment that controlled the sport. But to the African American community,

Learn for Doctorate in Jewish Spirituality

Reb Arthur as Mentor on Ecosocial Justice in New Distance-Learning Program Beginning now, Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center, will be serving as a professor in a newly creative enterprise leading toward a Doctorate of Ministry  (D. Min.) degree in the area of Jewish Spirituality. The program is sponsored by the Graduate Theological Foundation, and students can study at a distance. Reb Arthur will serve as Mentor in the field of Jewish Social and Ecological Justice.  Among the courses he will be teaching are --

  • Eco-Judaism: The Theology & Practice of Jewish Responses to Ecological Crises, Past & Present
  • Buber and Heschel: Two Neo-Hassidic

CNN Reports: How Rabbis Responded to the Pope's Encyclical

[Dear chevra,

[Just today, my email arrived with an article from CNN on non-Catholic responses to Pope Francis. It includes a passage based on an interview with me about the Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis and some related matters.  So I thought you-all might like to know about the article and to see that passage.

[For the whole article, see <>  Below is the passage based on the interview with me.


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