Hours before authorization for military strikes oft Iran (and sudden reversal), an email from RABBI ARTHUR WASKOW‘s arrived in my inbox. Views from the Edge republishes it without further comment.

Although the focus of Rabbi Waskow’s epistle is Iran, the opening paragraph distills into a few words a perspective we share. There are “three urgent impending disasters:” war with Iran; the war that threatens to deport “millions” of immigrants; and the war against Mother earth.


“Dear Gordon, This morning I started writing a Shalom Report letter that addressed three urgent impending disasters: A Trumpist war against Iran; a Trumpist war against immigrants living in American cities and towns, whom he just threatened with imminent sudden mass deportations of “millions”; and an escalation of the Trumpist war against Mother Earth.

“The Trumpist obsession with subjugating others is at a tipping point – between utter lethal disaster or the deepening and broadening of resistance.

“I thought we had about a week. I went to an eye-doc appointment. It turned out we had only hours. setting aside the other emergencies. Still with dilated eyses, I am trying to see clearly, and I am for the moment

“I ask you right now, as soon as your receive this, to act against the Trumpists’ plans to attack Iran. After that, please read the rest of this letter where I will outline what I think is going on..

“What to do now:

{“contact.first_name, please call your members of Congress. Here’s what I invite and encourage you to do:

“1) Call the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121. Call three times, for your two Senators and one Congressperson. (If you live in DC and have no Senators, call Senator Schumer, the Minority Leader.)

“2) Ask the Capitol operator for your representative/senators, and when connected say your own version of this:

“‘My name is _ and I am a constituent living at [your address]. I’m calling to urge [Congressperson/Senator X] to publicly oppose U.S. military attacks on Iran. I urge [her/him] to tell the president he does not have constitutional authority for any attacks.’

“‘[Congressperson/ Senator X ] should point out any retaliatory strike on Iran for what happened to the U.S. drone could spiral out of control. Instead, I strongly urge [[Representative/Senator X] to call for the U.S. to return to diplomacy, including supporting a convening of the UN Security Council to work to defuse tensions in this global crisis.'”

“Gordon, I urge you to step up your activism today to prevent all-out war with Iran. The Shalom Center will have a number of suggestions for actions you can take over the next few days, but today I urge you to call Congress right away as critical meetings are happening in D.C. right now.

“A potential U.S. retaliatory strike is likely being discussed in the White House as I write this. The White House has said they will be briefing Congressional leaders later today and that is often a sign that an attack is imminent. Meanwhile, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has called a caucus meeting of Democrats for later today. Members of Congress will be the key here and active peace-loving people need to push them to stand in Trump’s way.

“The only way to pull us out of this spiral toward war is for supporters of peace like you to get active and push Congress to stand up to the president and tell him clearly that he has no authority to go to war.

“Please call now.


“But the Trumpist Regime worsened the sanctions. They were aimed at totally disrupting the Iranian economy and literally starving the Iranian people. They were beginning to damage daily life –- all because the Trumpists could not bear an Obama-initiated agreement that offered hope for bringing Iran back into the international community. Faced with enormous US pressure, the Europeans began to cave in.

"Third big step on the road to war: Trump threatened nuclear war if Iran were to resist by interfering with oil shipments in its Gulf.

 "It is not clear whether the claims of such interference are lies as blatant as the “Tonkin Gulf attacks” in 1964 that never happened; but even if they were real, they were defenses against a devastating economic war imposed by the Trump regime.

"Now it is clear – Iran and the US agree – that Iran shot down an unmanned drone. Iran says it was flying over Iranian territory.The Trumpist regime claims it was over the Gulf. No matter where it was, cause not for war but for diplomacy. And given the history of those in Washington now unleashing the mad dogs of war, veterans of the lies about Iraqi nuclear weapons, and given the history of Trumpist efforts to provoke a war, I very much doubt the US claim. It would fit Trumpist policy to send a drone over Iranian territory.

“There are more thoughts about the past that few Americans remember but practically all Iranians do:

“The CIA’s overthrow of a democratically elected New Dealish Iranian government in 1953 to prop up a tyrannical Shah who used torture against his critics. Why this CIA/ US action? Because the Mossadeq government intended to nationalize American oil companies that were draining Iran of its resources for US profits.

“When the Islamic Revolution succeeded in 1979 and the Shah fled, the US refused to extradite him to stand trial for his crimes. Americans remember only that Iranians reacted by detaining dozens of Embassy staff for a year.

“In 1980, Iraq under the rule of Saddam Hussein invaded Iran. The US supported Saddam, even aiding him in using chemical weapons against Iran. The war ended in 1988. The death toll on both sides was about 500,000.

“This is not a history likely to inspire trust for the US government on Iran’s part. Add the
Trumpist abandonment of the nuclear-disarmament agreement so painstakingly negotiated and enforced.

“And the history of Trumpism does not inspire much trust among most of the American people in the truthfulness of the Trump regime.

“That’s the background. If you have not already made your calls to Congress, please do so now: 1202-224-3121

“Thanks!! And given the burdens this unfolding disaster is liable to put upon our ability to resist, please contribute through the maroon “Contribute” budget just below
sohl [that is “peace” in Farsi, the language of Iran], paz, peace! — Arthur
With blessings of shalom, salaam, peace.”

Thank you, Arthur,



Unspeakable Speech: 2018

What happened across America last week is unspeakable. But these unspeakable acts of violence have a long history in speech itself. The bombs mailed from Florida did not come out of a speechless void. Nor did Saturday’s attack on Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.

Tree of Life

Tree of Life*Or L’Simcha Congregation

If ever the Hebrew proverb was true that those with a pure heart and gracious speech will have the king for their friend (Book of Proverbs 22:11), it is true no longer in 2018. The massacre of Jewish worshipers on Shabbat does not come out of a vacuum. Hate speech once uttered cannot be put back. It has a murderous history we dare not forget, and casts a long dark shadow into the future we dare not abide.

Words are powerful. Speech is powerful. Silence is powerful. Acquiescence is powerful. When the words come from the President of the United States — or when they do not come, or when they come only in part — they contribute to the worst in us. They cast their shadow far into the American future. White nationalism/Christian nationalism is the forbidden fruit of the tree from which we must not eat. It is not the fruit of the Tree of Life (Genesis 3). It is the fruit of the tree of death.

As the city officials and Jewish leaders in Pittsburgh prepare for the President’s controversial visit the day they begin burying their loved ones, we offer a rabbi’s voice to help the rest of us understand.

Reb Arthur WaskowHealing for the Stricken Community,
for the Shaken Jewish People,
and for Our Deeply Wounded Country

Dear friends,

There are many disastrous levels to the murderous massacre at Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.

There is the immediate personal disaster of eleven lives destroyed, others wounded, families and friends bereft, a neighborhood traumatized.  To all these, The Shalom Center as a body and I individually send blessings of swift refuah (healing) for the wounded,  deep respect and grief for the dead, and loving care for those bereaved.

There is the broader disaster of shock to the American Jewish community, until now so profoundly joyful to have found full acceptance in America these last several generations, after millennia of persecution elsewhere and elsewhen.
Some of us took from that safety acceptance in becoming affluent, even wealthy, even powerful. Some of us took from that safety acceptance in becoming social critics, progressives, even radicals.

Less comfort as critics than as powerful, of course – but comfortable that all the clauses of the First Amendment affirmed our worth as Jews, as sacred fringes on conventional assumptions, as challengers who could wrestle not only with God (as our name “Yisrael” describes us) but with the rigidified habits of ourselves and others.

And even worse, the broader disaster of facing an American government that our immigrant forebears who came here for freedom’s sake could not have fathomed:

A government honeycombed with white supremacism, moving into neofascism,  calling forth from the shadows into boastful visibility those who concoct bombs to enforce their racism, who can openly revel in their contempt for women, who can turn hatred of foreigners into willingness to rip babies from their mothers’ breasts,  who can turn their greed for hyperwealth into willingness to torch the Earth that is our common home, our only home  — and who can turn their latent anti-Semitism into mass murder.

How do we respond to these layered levels of disaster?

-Rabbi Arthur Waskow, Shalom Center, Philadelphia, PA

Following a week of unspeakable violence, Rabbi Waskow’s question addresses all of us. Today in Pittsburgh is a day to keep silence before a Word of comfort and direction deeper than our own. Tomorrow and November 6 is time for all of us to speak.

  • Gordon C. Stewart, Chaska, MN, October 30, 2018

The Election: What Now? My Quandry

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center granted permission to re-publish this morning’s reflection. It begins with a quote from Henry David Thoreau:

“Cast your whole vote,
Not a strip of paper merely.”

Dear friends,

During this week since the election, I have been living in a quandary.

The root of my quandary is my affirmation of these spiritual truths as applied to “political” events:

  • Ecology, the fullest expression of our science, teaches that if any species exerts total control over any eco-system — tries to gobble up all the nourishment in sight — it destroys the eco-system – and itself.
  • Torah teaches that we must love our neighbors as ourselves, and that we must grant the earth its rhythmic rest — or suffer disastrous floods, famines, exile.
    Democracy is an experiment in increasing interhuman compassion, community, and cooperation.
  • Ecologic sanity is an experiment in increasing interspecies compassion, community, and cooperation.

It seems to me that our recent election, dominated by huge gobs of money in the service of generating even huger gobs of money, marginalized both democracy and eco-sanity.

Part of me wants to believe that politics is always a game of waves — –– that a wave of attacks on democracy today will bring a wave of creative affirmations of democracy tomorrow. That the defeat of pro-democracy candidates (even in states where pro-democratic referenda won big) was an accident of abysmally low voter turnout (the lowest percentage since 1942), and that the progressive movement will recover in 2016.

On the other hand, part of me believes that at this moment in US history the whole system is broken, because extreme inequality of wealth and the dominant power of global corporations has smashed all the organs intended to protect and advance democracy.

And this part of me believes that this brokenness is driving not only America but all our planet into an enormous crash – a dead end where we cannot wait for the next wave of the old system, but instead must give birth to something entirely new. Beyond the kinds of elections we have now, beyond the economic structure built on fossil fuels during the past 250 years.

Not backward into feudalism but forward into new forms of eco-democratic community.

From the first perspective, what needs to happens next is more grass-roots organizing of the well-worn style, combined with a much bolder, clearer progressive populist message. The People vs. Wall Street.

From the second perspective, the meaning of this last election was taught 165 years ago in the midst of a growing crisis over slavery: “Cast your whole vote, not a strip of paper merely, but your whole influence. A minority is powerless while it conforms to the majority; it is not even a minority then; but it is irresistible when it clogs by its whole weight.” – Henry David Thoreau, “On Civil Disobedience”.

Which answer to my quandary is “right”? To get beyond my quandary – OUR quandary! – let’s start from basics:

Both our spiritual/religious traditions and the findings of modern science teach that community, connection, cooperation – in that dangerous four-letter word, LOVE –- are required for human beings and our planet to be healthy and life-giving.

It’s true that Control — in Buber’s language, I-It as distinct from I-Thou — is a necessary part of life. But when Control becomes so overwhelming that community, compassion, are erased –- disaster follows.

Triumphalism, like the “triumphs” of Pharaoh in enslaving people and the very earth his country lived in, becomes self-destructive.

Mentioning Pharaoh reminds us of an historical as well as moral truth:When Control becomes overwhelming, it self-destructs and a new form of society is born.

  • When the ancient Egyptian and Babylonian Empires over-reached, shattering the societies of early Western Semitic tribes, the new social form we know as Torah was born.
  • When the Roman Empire over-reached, it shattered Biblical Judaism – so that Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism and (a little later) Islam were born.
  • Now the machinery of Modernity has over-reached, and all the classic social forms of the last millennia have been shattered. Something new needs to be born. Is being born.
    For Control and Power to limit themselves so as not to over-reach –- is elementary wisdom, even simple sanity.

But this election was a triumph for the practice of insisting on Total Triumph — Big Money, Big Corporations, choking Earth’s atmosphere, heating Earth’s oceans, depriving the poor, the young, the Black, the Brown of the right to vote while giving the rich millions of extra votes in the form of hundreds of millions of dollars spent on elections.

More important – this election was a defeat for defeatists. Defeat for those who refused to stand up against these policies of Top-Down Power. Defeat for a President and a Party that has practiced preemptive surrender to Big Money since it took office in 2009. Defeat for those “liberals” who whimpered about Obamacare instead of proclaiming its undeniable though limited success.

By their timidity they were thinking to appeal to “moderates” — but instead they convinced these moderates that even the timidly progressive President and Party must be a failure.

Many of these same defeatists will behave as if 2016 can be won by the same defeatism that lost in 2014. They will point to mechanics: more Republicans up for grabs in the Senate, a respected woman candidate for President who is a pro-Wall Street “moderate,” more turn-out in a Presidential year.

But even their best efforts will be given to lessen disaster. The basic structure – enormous inequality in wealth, free use of that wealth in politics, the purchase of the Supreme Court by anti-democratic forces — will remain the same, and because of their own defeatism they will remain defeated, prisoners within it.

Even if they “win” the 2016 election, their “winning” will really conceal a more basic defeat — as it did for Obama in 2012.

Yet — preventing the worst is still desirable. Resistance to the worst attacks on democracy could begin right now: Not waiting for the next election, or even the next Congress to convene in January. What would that take?

(This is the first half of an exploration of the quandaries we face from a spiritually rooted perspective on the last elections. The second half is available at our website at, and will also be in your in-box in the next few days.)


Thank you Rabbi Arthur Waskow for connecting the dots of faith, politics, economics, and the sacredness of the Earth.

Click HERE for the Shalom Center website.

As War Looms: a Jewish-Muslim fast day July 15

Isreali-Palstinian relations are getting worse. Rabbi Arthur Waskow speaks from within the Jewish community. His words have weight because they do not come from an outsider. They have no source in the historic anti-Semitism that makes Christian criticism suspect.
The best criticism is always self-criticism. Rabbi Waskow published this piece in the Shalom Report of the Shalom Center.

As War Looms, Can Jews & Muslims Join In 17 Tammuz/ Ramadan Fast on July 15 In “Hunger Strike Against Violence”?

Dear friends,

There are two crises in the world that call especially for Jewish responses:

One because it involves the future of a state that calls itself “Jewish,” and of its supporters in America — their spiritual, intellectual, ethical, and practical futures – at a moment when the relationship between Jews and our Abrahamic cousins of Palestine is filled with violence that threatens to kill more people, breed more hatred, and poison the bloodstream of Judaism and Jewish culture;

The other because it calls on Judaism as –- probably uniquely — a world religion that still can draw on having once been an indigenous people of shepherds and farmers with a Torah, offerings, festivals, and many other practices centered on the sacred relationship with the Earth. Can these roots regrow new flowering at a moment when all the wisdom of all human cultures is needed to cope with a planetary crisis that originates in human mistreatment of the Earth?

Reb Zalman addressed both of these, beginning from the deep spirit-place that was his calling in the world. In two Shalom Report letters this week, I will suggest ways to begin the spiritual turning necessary to address both these.

Let me begin with the first crisis, which every hour is worsening toward war:

Bottom line, a proposal, originating from Israelis & Palestinians; : That the traditional Jewish fast day of 17 Tammuz, which coincides this year with a day in the month-long Muslim fast of Ramadan, be set aside on Tuesday, July 15, as a “Hunger Strike Against Violence.”

Background: Murder, violence, and ugly threats of it have broken out in Israel, its settlements in Occupied Palestine, and in Palestine itself – at both the level of street mobs and the level of governmental rockets, bombs, and troop mobilizations.

The endemic violence of occupation has been intensified by the murder of three Israeli youngsters by some Palestinians, one lynching murder of a Palestinian youth by Israelis, Israeli street mobs threatening pogroms against Palestinians and Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin, and exchanges of rocket and missile/ bomb firing between Gaza and Israel.

Eliaz Cohen (an Israeli poet/ settler in Gush Etzion) has proposed that Jews & Muslims respond to the outbreaks of violence by joining in a Hunger Strike Against Violence. He suggested fasting on the traditional Jewish fast day of 17 Tammuz, this year on July 15, which is also a day in the month-long fast of Ramadan. (Both fasts are from sunrise to sunset.)

What is 17 Tammuz about? It commemorates the day when the Babylonian Army broke through the walls of Jerusalem in 586 BCE, three weeks before the Babylonians destroyed the Temple.

So it is, among other things, a day of sorrow for the dead and self-restraint from killing.

My thought: — It would be both a serious expression of commitment to peace and decency and also a serious memorial to Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, who died last week, for us here as well in the USA to join with Muslims on 17 Tammuz in a Hunger Strike Against Violence, and to end the day together with Iftar, the evening break-fast.

To do this, we could ask a mosque near any one of us, and/ or a chapter of organizations like CAIR, the Council of American-Islamic Relations, to join with our own congregation.

What does this have to do with Reb Zalman? He schrei’d Gevalt, gevalt, about the massacre of Palestinians in Sabra and Chatila; he visited the Tomb of Abraham in Hebron not in triumph but in Abrahamic peace; he became a Sufi initiate; he climbed the mountain known as Sinai with Muslims.

Why should we do this? The editorial board of Haaretz, not just an op-ed piece, has just warned that :


“There are no words to describe the horror allegedly done by six Jews to Mohammed Abu Khdeir of Shoafat [allegedly to “avenge” the murders of three Israeli youngsters]. Although a gag order bars publication of details of the terrible murder and the identities of its alleged perpetrators, the account of Abu Khdeir’s family — according to which the boy was burned alive — would horrify any mortal. Anyone who is not satisfied with this description, can view the horror movie in which members of Israel’s Border Police are seen brutally beating Tariq Abu Khdeir, the murder victim’s 15-year-old cousin.

“[We Israelis] belong to a vengeful, vindictive Jewish tribe whose license to perpetrate horrors is based on the horrors that were done to it.

“Prosecuting the murderers is no longer sufficient. There must be a cultural revolution in Israel. Its political leaders and military officers must recognize this injustice and right it. They must begin raising the next generation, at least, on humanist values, and foster a tolerant public discourse. Without these, the Jewish tribe will not be worthy of its own state.”



It seems to me that for the sake of God’s demand for justice, peace, and love for BOTH the peoples of Israel and Palestine, and for the sake of our own souls as well, we must support such a “cultural revolution in Israel” and in the American Jewish “organized” community — where idolatry for Israel is replacing love for Israel, despite deep disquiet and disaffection at the grass roots.
Below is what Eliaz wrote. And below that is a report from The Times of Israel (NOT a left-wing or liberal paper) about visits of sorrow and condolence between the bereaved families of the two peoples, including a Palestinian Muslim who affirmed the idea of sharing the Fast of 17 Tammuz/ Ramadan.

(If you want to know more about Eliaz Cohen, as I did, see


Shalom, salaam, peace! — Arthur


Thanks to Rabbi Eyal Levinson of northern Israel, who sent me Eliaz Cohen’s proposal:


“A day of fasting together, or in the language of civil protest: a hunger-strike day, next Tuesday, when the Jewish and Muslim calendars are united in a day of fast: the fast of 17 Tamuz and the fast of Ramadan, Jews and Muslims will unite in a day of fast.

“For both traditions/cultures – this is a day designated for soul-searching, an opportunity for people to take responsibility, for self repair and for self and communal purification and for repentance.

“This is an attempt to direct the consciousness of both peoples to this day as a “peak day” “in which each man and woman in their home and in their communities will be invited to take part, to fast in solidarity with the suffering, violence and pain of self and others, to ask how to end the cycle of bloodshed and draw a horizon of hope and vision.

“Afternoon gatherings and classes will be held between the two communities – sharing stories, studying and praying together, and by the appearance of the stars the people gathered will share an “iftar” – breaking the fast with a delicious meal.”



From The Times of Israel
Earlier Sunday, two Palestinians from the Gush Etzion area … arrived at the Fraenkel’s Nof Ayalon residence where the family is in the midst of the traditional seven-day mourning period [for one of the three Israeli youngsters murdered by Palestinians].
Last week, the Fraenkels condemned the murder of Abu Khdeir [a Palestinian youngster murdered by Israelis], saying, “There is no difference when it comes to blood. Murder is murder; there is no justification, forgiveness or atonement for any murder.”

One of the visitors [said] that Fraenkel’s statements last week after Abu Khdeir’s murder “touched a large portion of the Palestinian people.”
“I come from a bereaved family, I lost my brother and I have family that were former prisoners, unfortunately we also threw stones at you. …
“The moment we learn to deal with each other’s pain and stop the anger against one another, the situation will be better,” the visitor said. “Our mission is to strengthen the family and also to take a step forward towards the liberation of my people. We believe that only through the hearts of the Jews will our liberation happen.”

He described the warm welcome the Fraenkels gave him, and said: “We are sorry for any harm against people, whether Jewish or Muslim. We don’t want anyone to be hurt, and want to reach a political agreement.”

The two Palestinians also described an upcoming initiative called the “Hunger Strike Against Violence,” next Tuesday, on which the Jewish fast of the 17 of Tammuz coincides with the ongoing Muslim Ramadan holiday.

I hope that as we mourn Reb Zalman, we turn the mourning not only into tzedakah (socially responsible charity) but also into tzedek (balanced justice), chesed (loving-kindness), and mishpat (justice on behalf of the poor and disempowered) . “Tzedek u’ mishpat ashira: l’cha YHWH azamaira. Of love & justice I will sing, to the ONE Breath of Life I’ll sing praises!”

Shalom, salaam, peace — Arthur

Dead young men – a Rabbi’s perspective

Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow

Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia is one of the more interesting religious leaders of our time. Views from the Edge republishes this week’s “Shalom Report” with permission.

Dead Young Men: 50 Years Ago and Now

Spirals of Violence — or Nonviolence

Dear friends,

I spent several days last week in Mississippi –Mourning the murders of three young men

  • 50 years ago (and many others before and since);
  • Celebrating a Mississippi that today is very different;
  • Facing the truth that Earth and human communities –– especially, still, those of color and of poverty –- are being deeply wounded by the Carbon Pharaohs’ exploitation and oppression;
  • Talking/ working toward a future of joyful community in which Mother Earth and her human children can live in peace with each other in the embrace of One Breath.

And then, a few days later, came the news of the murders of three young men just weeks ago –- three Israeli youngsters — their bodies, like those of Mickey Schwerner, Andy Goodman, and James Earl Chaney, hidden while the search went forward for them.

But not only them. The violent deaths of young Palestinian boys/men as well, during the Israeli Army crack-down on the West Bank. Their mothers also mourning. As the New York Times reported the day before the three Israeli bodies were discovered:

“Most Israelis see the missing teenagers as innocent civilians captured on their way home from school, and the Palestinians who were killed as having provoked soldiers. Palestinians, though, see the very act of attending yeshiva in a West Bank settlement as provocation, and complain that the crackdown is collective punishment against a people under illegal occupation.”

Is there a danger of “moral relativism” in mentioning these deaths together? Is the cold-blooded murder of three hitchhiking youngsters morally equivalent to killings carried out by angry, frightened soldiers faced with a protesting mob? At the individual level, No.

But at the level of decision-making and public policy, there is also no moral equivalence between a cold-blooded military occupation and the impotent rage of the occupied.

Above all, there is no “relativism” in the tears of mothers.

Some Israelis and some Palestinians have joined their sorrow over the killings of their own children to work in the Circle of Bereaved Families for a peace that would end the killing. (See

Others –-including some Israeli cabinet ministers in the last day — have defined their deaths as the warrant for more killing.

But Mississippi did not change through threats like that. It changed because an aroused American citizenry from outside Mississippi allied itself with the oppressed community inside Mississippi to demand – through nonviolent direct action and through passing laws — that an oppressed population of black folk be freed to achieve some measure of political power.

As a result of that arousal, the deaths 50 years ago have made a visible difference. Fifty years ago, a scant few black Mississippians had been allowed to register to vote. As the “Freedom Summer + 50” gathering opened last week, thousands of black Mississippians who are devoted to the Democratic Party intervened in a Republican primary to prevent the nomination and for-sure election of a far-right Tea Party candidate.

Important change? Yes. Enough change? No.

In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, no sufficiently powerful outside energy has made the commitment to bring all its lawful, nonviolent power to bear to achieve a two-state peace. So the violence worsens in a downward spiral of injustice.

What the gathering in Mississippi showed was that even when change is still necessary, even when injustice still continues, there can be an upward spiral, growing from past transformations into future ones.

For the gathering at Tougaloo College addressed the future as much as the past. The memory of youthful deaths so many years ago –- we recited their names, we sang their songs, we welcomed their families — became the celebration of youthful courage that had led to serious change. So not only many veterans of 1964 were there, but also many many young activists, come to learn and be inspired.

So we addressed the injustices that persist, and we took up some levels of injustice that fifty years ago were not on anyone’s agenda. Even Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, published in 1962, did not envision a massive disruption of the planetary climate system and the web of life it has nurtured for millions of years.

So there was a confluence of issues almost unimaginable in 1964 when Jacqueline Patterson of the NAACP staff brought together two excellent workshops on ”climate justice.” They were the first climate–action settings I have ever seen in which people of color — Black and Hispanic and Asian and Native — were at least half of those present.

Many spoke of two clear cases in their own region when the fossil-fuel Pharaohs had shattered the lives of poor communities of color even worse than they had damaged prosperous whites:

  • How Hurricane Katrina (which was greatly worsened by the oil rigs that chopped up marshy wetlands that used to absorb much of the energy of hurricanes when they hit land) had most damaged the poor folk who were living closer to the river (because houses were cheaper there).
  • And how poor folk also were the slowest and still the least served by relief and reconstruction efforts after the BP Oil blow-out in the Gulf.

And we learned as well how on a global level the overheating of our planet was hurting and killing the poor even worse than others: How droughts in California, the US corn-belt, central Africa, and Russia had raised the price of staple foods so badly that those who were teetering on the edge in poverty fell into hunger, and those who had been hungry faced starvation. And some who were starving fought civil wars to get their hands on food.
We discussed alternatives for climate activism. Some of us talked about the model of the “Freedom Schools that emerged in 1964, teaching where the impulses to learn and teach were deeply interwoven with the impulse to heal the world. Those Freedom Schools helped give birth to the Teach-Ins against the Vietnam War that flowered in the spring of ’65.

Could we create new Freedom Schools, new Teach-Ins, to fuse the science of climate and the facts of Corporate Carbon domination with the strategies of change? Was our gathering itself a kind of Freedom School, a Teach-In, with the young and the old teaching each other?

And Freedom Summer inspired co-ops, the redirection of our money from feeding bloated corporate power to nourishing the seeds of a grass-roots economic democracy. In that spirit, I shared The Shalom Center’s campaign to Move Our Money/Protect Our Planet (MOM/POP) and handed out copies of our “Action Handbook” on specific steps for how to Move Our Money. See

All of us learned more deeply how important it is to recognize and act on the true linkage of what we might call eco-social justice.

And we learned that what happened fifty years ago in Mississippi sowed the seeds of our ability to recognize and resist new depredations of today. We saw how deeply the nonviolent movement of fifty years before had, even when some of its activists were killed, given continuing birth to nonviolent responses to make more necessary change.

I ended one of those workshops by invoking the spirit of Vincent Harding. If he had not died just a month ago, I said, he would have been deeply pleased by our intergenerational learning, and he would have brought his own deep listening and the quiet with which he surrounded his own wise words.

And most of all, he would have brought his willingness to invest his life in the effort to use nonviolence to expand democracy, to win justice for those who have been oppressed.

And now, in the wake of the news from Palestine and Israel, his ghostly, powerful presence actually reminds me of the Unity of that long effort. For just two summers ago, Brother Vincent took part in a delegation of American Jews and Blacks to visit the occupied West Bank and bring hope to Palestinians committed to nonviolence.

Brother Vincent would have wept over the deaths of the young men of both peoples. As do I.

May the tears we shed become the wellsprings of transformation, not revenge — as they did in Mississippi.

And may we teach the intertwinement of eco-social justice, learning anew from Freedom Summer’s creativity to go beyond our forebears — as they did.

Shalom, salaam, paz, peace! — Arthur

New EPA Regs: Myths and Facts

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center in Philadelphia shares this analysis of corporate and media claims regarding the EPA’s new regulations to reduce carbon emissions. Click HERE to read “Myths & Facts: New EPA Regs on CO2 Emissions from Coal Plants.”

Climate change is the number one issue facing every country across the globe. The brutal fact is that the United States is the second only to China on the list of carbon polluters. Rabbi Waskow calls the opposition to responsible climate change action the new Pharaoh.

This morning we posted a piece on Walter Brueggemann’s Sabbath as Resistance. Walter and Arthur share a biblical point of view on the sacredness of Earth and the human vocation.



“Love your neighbor” NOT unconstitutional

Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Center in Philadelphia sent this email regarding the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act.

The Supremes have decided:

“Love your neighbor as your self”

is NOT unconstitutional. 

Mazeltov to them and to all of us that, when push came to shove, the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court mostly reaffirmed the notion that fellow-human beings and fellow-citizens owe loving-kindness to each other.

That we owe each other food when we are hungry, a place to live when some bank takes our home away,  money to tide us over when some boss or some bank  takes away our job.  And health care when we are sick.

That notion is rooted, thanks be to God, in our ancient religious traditions.  But over and over, it’s up for grabs.

And I do mean “grabs” –-  grabs of the merely wealthy to be super-wealthy, grabs of the super-wealthy to invest hundreds of millions in campaign ads and lobbying,  to grab still more power…

Even this decision treated some neighbors as not quite worthy of the same respect and loving care as others. This one gave the states a way out of their Medicaid obligations  — to the very very poor. No surprise. If somebody’s gonna be left out, who else?

It’s also true that this Supreme Court has done some terrible damage — that ironically misnamed decision “Citizens United,” worst of all.  And yet I’m tickled that this time Chief Justice Roberts did what his appointer, President “W,”  would not have wanted. The history of Justices whose lives turn out to have a tiny taste of freedom tucked away —  it’s delicious.

So there is still more work to do.  In the New Declaration of Independence from Corporate Domination we sent yesterday in honor of July 4, we mention Medicare for All.  That’s still the fully decent answer.

But for now, take a deep breath, grab your sweethearts and dance a dance of joy.

In the Passover Seder, there is a really strange song. It says, “If we had reached the Red Sea but it had not split, Dayenu! – good enough! If we had reached Sinai but there had been no Revelation, Dayenu! – good enough!”

At one level, this makes no sense. At another, it makes EVERY sense. If we want to transform the world, then we must celebrate each step on the journey, even if it’s only half a step. We know there must be another step; the song has many verses. But if we refuse to celebrate, we will burn out before we can take another step.

Today, right now, rejoice. Tonight, tomorrow, on the FOURTH itself, begin to plan the steps we still must take.

Enjoy the fireworks. They are celebrating one small step of Independence from the Corporate King George.

And — fly the Flag of Freedom. It’s right here.

Blessings of justice and joy —  Arthur