Tag Archive | reform

In this bitter cold, a missive to Congress and Parliament

Dear Congress of the United States of America and Parliaments of the western industrialized world:

 

Forest River. winter sunsetThis week we the residents of the United States and Canada are experiencing the sort of dangerous cold weather that kills in a matter of minutes.  This is the sort of weather where if you have no safe home to go to you really run the risk of going to sleep and never waking up again. This storm will kill thousands of people whose names are lost because we think they do not matter anymore. But each of us may easily find ourselves wandering the streets, alone, exposed to this bitter cold, never knowing when we go to sleep if we will ever wake up again.

Count your blessings for your home — then do anything and everything you can to help those without food, shelter, and warmth.

Yes, I know this is difficult for you.  You cannot relate to the rest of us.  You have more money than any single person can ever spend.  You do not look like most of us nor do you have the same life experiences as most of us.  So I can see why you have a hard time understanding how much we are suffering.  You have probably not shivered in your home because it cost too much to properly heat your home or insulate it from the cold. You have probably never had to find ways to make three days worth of food last for a week.  You have probably also never had to eat food not suitable for eating because it was the only food available to you.

We have.

Instead of bickering among yourselves in your comfort and ease, please please walk a mile in our shoes.

 

Eighty years ago everyone suffered together in the Great Depression and our countries were all stronger for it.  Stronger because instead of looking down at those of us without proper shelter, clothing, and food, those elected to your same offices you hold together experienced these things with us and therefore became resolved to create jobs, to build roads and bridges and repair those things that needed to be fixed.  They put in place measured designed to give everyone somewhere safe and warm to live and spend the winter.  And they were determined that no one in countries as great as ours would go hungry — especially our children.

I ask you to please care about us again!

No one is “surplus population.”

 

Please stop treating us as if we are!

 

Sincerely,

 

Laurel A. Rockefeller

 

Not so innocent: Israel, genocide, and the myth of the “chosen people”

Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska and attending Temple Baptist Church, I grew up with the same beliefs that many Evangelical Christians hold towards Israel:  Israel is the promised land of the descendants of Abraham.  When I read in the books of Joshua and Judges about the legendary conquest of Palestine by the Hebrews after their 40 years wandering in the wilderness, no one seemed to even notice that these military campaigns of conquest amounted to GENOCIDE where civilians, including and especially women and children, were put to the sword so the Hebrews could come in and take their land.  This was GOD’S WILL and therefore it was okay.  If God wants it, the killing is moral and just, right?

In my 20 years in the Church, no one ever questioned this doctrine.  No one ever said “hey, wait, these are war crimes.”  Instead since it was divinely mandated, it must be right — and historically true, of course.

This sentiment is echoed in temples, both reform and orthodox, especially at Hanukkah and Passover.  Israel belongs to the Jews as a right forged in an ancient covenant with God.  Jews are the Chosen People.

Being the “Chosen People” of God carries a lot of weight.  Being chosen means you are granted a measure of special grace from God, the right to do certain things without consequences.  You can kill as you please because God wants you to.

Now before anyone gets in a huff and calls me anti-Jewish, let me be very clear:  I love Jewish culture, food, tradition, and especially my many Jewish friends and acquaintances.  I lived for over four years in a orthodox Jewish neighbourhood in Brooklyn, New York as not only a gentile, but one of the Old Religion of Britain and Ireland who strives to honour and embrace the British-Irish part of my heritage in my day-t0-day life.

As a historian who often favours being the outsider because of the objectivity this offers me for learning and study, I was able to listen, learn, and observe without the social-psychological chains that often blurs most people’s perspective.  I have no agenda except discovering the truth.  This is why my writing is so powerful and my books are to be believed.  I’m not a slick politician or sales person trying to sell something to you; just an honest researcher looking for truth.

The Bible of course covers ancient history — legendary or literal is a matter of debate.  Yet in Christian churches and in many Jewish congregations as well this doctrine that Israel is the God-given promised land of the Hebrews/Jews persists.

This Zionist idea that Israel rightfully belongs to Jews transcends denominational differences and enters the realm of politics.  Israel has certain rights to behave in whatever is perceived as its own interests.  To gainsay Israel’s decisions is to be anti-Jewish.  I am here to say that nothing could be further from the truth.

Last week I found the above video in a facebook feed exploring the modern state of Israel’s history.  In it and you discover that Israel is hardly this innocent and moral God-blessed nation who can do no wrong.  Far from it.  Objectively speaking, the Israelis are guilty of genocide and war crimes such as the West typically condemns when done by any other nation — except Israel.

Indeed anyone from any country who even remotely questions what Israel does is quickly labelled as anti-Jewish, especially politicians.  It would seem that to be pro-Jewish means not noticing Israel’s faults — or its war crimes.

 

I stand here asking you to now question that dogma.  Take a step back towards objectivity. When Iraqis do this to its peoples, when Syrians do this in its civil war, when Russia treats a minority group this way, DO WE NOT CALL THEM WAR CRIMES and CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY?

 

Perhaps it is time to abolish this whole “chosen people” propaganda and instead look at all human beings as humans.  No one is expendable.  Life is life!  Every single human in this world deserves a decent and safe home, clean and nourishing food and water, the best possible education, decent clothing, safety from harm, and the chance to live a satisfying life.  Anyone who steals any of these things from anyone else needs to be sanctioned and dealt with.  Everyone has the right to live.  Everyone.

From Orthodox to Reform: an Introduction to American Judaism

Changing gears, here is a post exploring Judaism in America.

 

From Orthodox to Reform: an Introduction to American Judaism

Exploring the Basics of Judaism in the United States

 September 6th, 2013
Growing up in Nebraska I knew almost nothing about Jewish cultures — even after taking a full year of Hebrew/Jewish history as part of my history major at the University of Nebraska. It took a 2005 move to Midwood, Brooklyn and a concerted effort on my part to discover and appreciate the enormous diversity in Jewish life, diversity most gentiles never explore. In the news, all Jews (ethnic and/or religious) are portrayed as the same. But in fact, there is at least as much diversity in Jewish life as there is Christian life, if not more so. There are Jews who live by very strict guidelines set by their denominations and Jews whose religious lives (or lack thereof) have absolutely no correlation with their heritage — and everything in between.To further enhance my understanding of my neighbors, I took time out in 2010 to regularly attend services at Temple Beth Emeth located only a few blocks away from the Church Avenue Station on the Brighton line (B/Q trains). Here are a few things I learned along the way:

  • Dietary rules vary greatly across Jewish denominations. The secular Jews I know usually eat no different than others in mixed Jewish/gentile groups. At Beth Emeth, the Reform Jews I met ranged across the dietary gambit from absolutely strict kosher to non-kosher. By contrast, the most orthodox and conservative congregations tend to practice a kosher diet.
  • Gender segregation, while common in orthodox congregations, is not practiced in reform congregations. At this time, I have not located definitive information one way or another concerning segregation or a lack of segregation among conservative congregations.
  • While there are certain cultural and core theological ideas across the gambit of Jewish congregations, how these ideas manifest greatly depends on both the denomination of Judaismand the specifics of an individual congregation.

 

Jewish Congregations tend to fall in one of three categories: orthodox and ultra-orthodox sit at the most traditional end of the spectrum. In the middle are conservative congregations that retain many of the ideas and practices of the orthodox, but not all of them. At the most liberal end of the spectrum are reform congregations like Beth Emeth. The European equivalent of “reform” Judaism is called “progressive.”

 

Not surprisingly, conservative and reform Judaism are both more popular in the United States than orthodox.

 

In day to day life, these differences can be dramatic. In orthodox Judaism, the rules for living can be very exacting and detailed, especially during shabbat or during a particular holiday like Yom Kipper. So as you might expect with anyone whose life experience centers on interacting with people of the same cultural and religious background, I noticed it was difficult for my orthodox neighbors to understand why I would, for example, go off to catch the train on a Saturday — or even take the train to go to Temple.In reform congregations, there is no problem with driving or taking public transportation during shabbat. So no one blinked an eye when I took the B train to get to services. Under orthodox Judaism, it is not allowed to travel by train or bus during shabbat; orthodox Jews tend to walk to services.

These sorts of rules are probably one of many reasons why American Jews often prefer conservative and reform temples.

Fortunately there is a lot more to Jewish life an culture than just rules and theology. In my five years in Brooklyn, I discovered the many beauties of this culture — along with delicious cuisine that all gentiles should really give a try to.

For some reason, Jewish culture and Judaism remain mysterious among gentiles. I would like to suggest to you that it is time for that to change. Regardless your opinion about the particulars of one denomination of Judaism or another, the wonderful truth is that Jewish culture is beautiful and precious, its food delicious, and its holidays of value to all cultures around the world. As we enter the high holiday days that fill September, I wish you peace, joy, and enlightenment.

Shalom! May you have peace.
Learn more about Judaism at:

http://www.world-religions-professor.com/orthodox-jews.html
http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/conservatives.html
http://www.policymic.com/articles/41113/israel-orthodox-laws-why-is-israel-moving-away-from-them
https://sites.google.com/a/bethemeth.net/templesite/
http://www.jewfaq.org/beliefs.htm
http://www.beliefnet.com/Faiths/2001/06/What-Orthodox-Jews-Believe.aspx