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“The day is short, the task is great, the master is insistent. It is not your duty to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it….”
Pirkei Avot, 2:21

I’ve been writing Tikun Olam, one of the earliest progressive Jewish blogs, since February, 2003.  It focuses on exposing the excesses of the Israeli national security state.

richard silverstein

Erika Schultz/Seattle Times

I wrote a chapter for the Independent Jewish Voices essay collection, A Time to Speak Out (Verso) and will contribute a chapter to the upcoming, Israel and Palestine: Alternate Perspectives on Statehood (Rowman & Littlefield).  I currently contribute regularly to Middle East Eye and Mint Press News.  In the past, I’ve contributed to Truthout, Haaretz, Christian Science Monitor, Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, Comment Is Free and Al Jazeera English. My work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine.  The NY Times featured my reporting about the Shamai Leibowitz FBI tapes on its front page.

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I  earned a BA and BHL from Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University, an MA in Comparative Literature from UCLA, and studied for a PhD at UC Berkeley. My languages were Hebrew and Yiddish. I spent an undergraduate and graduate year studying Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University where I learned from Dan Pagis, Gershon Shaked and Dan Miron.  I co-founded the Bay Area Jewish Music Festival.

Born and raised in the Hudson River Valley, my father’s family’s roots go back to Peekskill, NY in the 1920s. I’ve always had an abiding affection for the River and the Hudson Highlands. In 1969, I crewed for a week on Pete Seeger’s sloop, Clearwater.

I have been interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1967 and have worked all my adult life to promote dialogue and mutual recognition. I am a progressive (critical) Zionist. I support Israeli withdrawal to pre-67 borders, the sharing of Jerusalem, a Law of Return that applies equally to Jews and Palestinian refugees seeking to immigrate, and an internationally-guaranteed peace agreement with the Palestinians.

I have an online photo gallery.

Before having our kids, I hiked the Cascades.  I have always loved folk and traditional music including world music.  My wife, three children and dog live in a Craftsman home (1906) near the western shores of Lake Washington.

Favorite Yiddishisms: “Sleep faster, we need the pillows!”  “We Jews are so happy…our enemies should only be so happy!”

Tikun Olam is a Mishnaic term meaning “repair [or mend] the world.”

Unlike some religious traditions, Judaism comprehends evil as something inherently human. In the Zohar, it is this evil or impurity which causes the sacred keylim (“vessels”) to break. Performance of mitzvot (“commandments”) are the means to repair the vessels and so transmute evil into good.

A Kabbalist would have no problem understanding that hatred and violence between Israels and Palestinians are evils that pollute the world. Likewise, I’d like to think such a Kabbalist might look favorably on efforts like this blog to repair this battered region with acts of gemilut chesed (“lovingkindness”).

Speaking engagements: I am available to give talks, lectures, and workshops.

Support Tikun Olam: This blog is a no-profit enterprise done for love and passion. I gratefully accept donations from those who find value in what I do (see Paypal link above). Another way to support the site is by buying books and CDs through the Tikun Olam Store or links in individual posts. If you visit Amazon through this site, anything you buy there will provide a 5% fee back to me.

Advertise: Under certain circumstances, I will accept advertising.  Be in touch if you wish to explore this option.

Promotion: Help boost Tikun Olam’s readership by promoting posts via social networking sites. Friends of this site generate a substantial amount of site traffic, which promotes the idea of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Click on the icons accompanying each post to submit it to whichever site you belong to.

Tell your friends about this site.  Send them links to posts.  Link to my posts at other sites you visit and raise the “still small voice” of peace.

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Story Tips: Ideas, tips and stories from readers are a critical source for this blog. Please include a link and any other documenting information you can provide (stories based on rumors or thinly-sourced material are problematic). And PLEASE make sure you’ve verified the accuracy of your story and that the information is up to date.  I will publish no stories from anonymous sources who don’t provide any way to contact them or verify their identities.

E-Mail: E mail sent to me may be quoted in posts unless the author specifically requests that a message be considered private. If it seems obvious to me that a message is meant to be private I will consider it such, but don’t assume I know your intentions unless you state them. The more abusive an e mail is the less likely I may be to honor any demand for privacy.

Pro-Israel: a note about the term ‘pro-Israel’ as used in this blog. I consider myself a supporter of Israel. However, this term has been hijacked by the Israel Lobby. I’ve found it difficult to come up with an all-round phrase to characterize those who are right-wing regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So if you read the term “pro-Israel” with an adjective like “nationalist,” “extremist,” “right-wing,” etc. please know that it’s not support for Israel that I’m disparaging, but a particular type of right-wing perspective on Israeli-Palestinian politics.

Disclaimer: This blog is not affiliated with Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun Magazine.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Mark July 21, 2012, 11:55 PM

    Dear Richard,

    Last night July 21st 2012 ELAL flight :Y75 from Tel Aviv to Hong Kong turned back one hour after leaving Ben Gurion airport. The passengers were told after landing that there was a hydraulic problem, when they landed the plane was surrounded by ambulances and security forces. The flight was then delayed and eventually left at 7:04am this morning.

    The weird thing is that not one Israeli media outlet had written anything about this incident which is suspicious, as they usually report on events like these, the only reason I can see for this media silence is a gag order by the courts. This would suggest that it was not a technical problem but a security issue.

    As my daughter was on this flight I would really like to know what really happened. I hope you could be of some help.

    Thanks in advance

  • Dale August 15, 2012, 4:08 PM

    Why would you post things that put our troops and our people in danger. No matter what side of this you are on, posting something like Israeli war plans is just unthinking and unacceptable. You can’t possibly imagine the implications of a thing like war plans, if its true — And if it is not you may have played into the hands of people who want others to believe this is true.
    I appreciate, as a (40 year) working Journalist who gets paid for it, our 1st amendment rights, our responsibility to report the news and our responsibility to be loyal to our countries and protect secrets when that need arises. I am an American too, but that means the secrets of our Allies are just as important. You don’t know if you are putting American troops in danger.
    I respect your blog and just ask that you consider my comment.

    • Dale August 15, 2012, 7:41 PM

      Adding to my post above I have one question. What if those plans were not the Israeli plans but rather the United States’ plans? And no matter if they were leaked by your source in apparently in Israel or by a Pentagon official. You could be subject to criminal prosecution by the United States.
      And experienced reporter knows that no one tells a reporter (or in this case blogger) anything they don’t want them to know for some reason which may or may not be apparent to the writer. The writer is supposed to make a judgement call as to various things; newsworthiness; the credibility of the first source; and the underlying reasons for the gift of information.
      Thirdly documents are great. How did you verify their veracity?
      Then professionals understand the basic rules of journalism:
      Let’s start with the two source rule. It is nice to get a leak of magnitude. But then it is important to verify the story with another source. It takes two [credible] sources to turn a rumor into a story. It takes two sources.
      Let’s continue to the other side of the story – If someone with a perspective gives you information, then you owe it to your readers to contact the other side – someone with the opposite perspective for their version and input to the story.

  • kalte Lokshen August 15, 2012, 11:52 PM

    You write “I consider myself a supporter of Israel”. A supporter of Israel listens to what the Palestinian leadership says, mostly in Arabic but some in English and Hebrew. They will never give up what they call ‘the right of return’ and if they sign a peace treaty with Israel it will be, as they say, part of the ‘phases plan’ meaning that they will achieve Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 border and continue their effort to eliminate Israel – all the way to the sea.
    A supporter of Israel should do exactly that – support Israel, not support the people who, offered the land illegally occupied by Jordan in 1948, refused it.
    There is a peace agreement with Egypt. Now that a regime has changed to Islamic – they want to make changes to the agreement. Egypt’s president Sadat was murdered for signing a peace treaty with Israel.
    It is easy to sit in the US and criticize the Israeli government that has to secure its’ peoples security day and night.
    Liberalism is a nice exercise. If it works – fine. If it does not – well, it is Israelis who will pay the price not the person sitting by a lakeside in new York state.

    • wolff bachner August 17, 2012, 12:10 AM

      kalte Lokshen YOU ARE 10000000000000000% RIGHT. its really safe for him by the lake as he endlessly demonizes netanyahu and publishes Israel secret documents.

      • Richard Silverstein August 17, 2012, 1:12 AM

        Finally, a member of the hasbarafia who accepts the authenticity of the document (but still hates my guts!)

  • K Hussain August 17, 2012, 12:24 AM

    Dear Richard,

    Carry on the good work. Those who spread fear do so because they have no other argument to make. The truth is we can’t carry on endlessly in a status quo of of hatred, fear and destruction between Israelis and Palestinians. If we aim high we at least give ourselves a chance of achieving something better. Not trying simply because we fear the consequences, is a cop out – the excuses of those who really don’t believe in the faith/people/state they claim to protect.