To a Good, Sweet and Peaceful New Year
Blessed are You God and may we have a good and sweet New Year!
I hope you’re able to enjoy my favorite apple variety, Honeycrisp, and dip them in some local honey and enjoy that indescribable mix of sweet and sour that comes from a bite of apple dipped in honey.
May we have a year of hope, justice and peace. And may all of my pessimistic prognostications be proven wrong. And may Bibi Netanyahu realize the error of his moral blindness, break free of the yoke of his racist father, do teshuvah, and make peace. I don’t know if stranger things have happened. But peace is possible. Whatever it takes.
The season of the New Year in Jewish tradition is a time of cheshbon nefesh, of spiritual stock-taking. It is a time to examine our values and commitments and either change them or reaffirm them. In the Jewish tradition, tzedekah is one of the key ways we express our values. In my case, tzedakah reaffirms my commitment to tikun olam and social justice.
That’s why I want to reach out and ask all of you to open yours hearts and wallets to some worthy causes. Two of them that have come under attack from the far-right, and which I’ve written about here are Cordoba House (Park51 Mosque) and New Israel Fund.
I’ve written about the millions which Aubrey Chernick has invested in portraying Islam to the world as a religion of hate and violence. I’ve written about his funding of the efforts by Robert Spencer and Pam Geller to destroy the Cordoba Initiative, a project designed to bring Islam into dialogue with other religions like Judaism and Christianity. One of the ways they smear the project is to predict the Arab terror money from Saudi Arabia and elsewhere that will be needed to finance the $100-million pricetag. Well, let’s say to these asses that WE will give our money. We who are neither terrorists nor ideologues in the Spencer-Geller mode, will open our hearts and wallets to the mission of Cordoba. I’ve made my gift and I ask you to make yours.
My vision of Judaism is one of tolerance. There were times in Jewish history when anti-Semitism prevented Jews from building houses of worship in communities where they lived. Jews faced many of the same restrictions and prejudice that Muslims now face here. Why do we want to inflict on them what we ourselves suffered? Why do we want to view them with the same mistrust and ignorance we ourselves experienced? The High Holy Days should be a time for us to reaffirm our vision of a tolerant religious tradition open to engaging with other religions. Not a time for us to retreat into suspicion and recrimination.
I can only hope that rabbis will have the courage of their convictions (that is, those who have any) and seriously address this issue in their High Holiday sermons. And when they do or if they do, I hope not to hear jingoism, but profound spiritual introspection on the subject of religious tolerance.
For the past few months, I’ve written extensively on the attacks against Naomi Hazan and New Israel Fund by the Israeli far-right under the banner of Im Tirzu. While I don’t always agree with all the views and decisions of the Fund, by God the enemy of my enemy is my friend. And NIF is one of the few NGOs that is fighting on behalf of social justice in both the Israeli Jewish and Israeli Palestinian communities. I will not let the demagogues and petty dictators of Im Tirzu tell me who is a kosher Zionist and who isn’t. I won’t let them dictate the death of Israeli democracy. I ask you to reaffirm your commitment to an Israel that is a state for all its citizens whether Jewish or Muslim by making a New Year gift.
Finally, I want you to do a little stock-taking regarding the value of this blog to you. If what I write is important to you, if it reflects your values, if you think I’m fighting the good fight–I ask you to open your heart and wallet to support the work I do here. When I first started the blog in 2003 and hardly anyone seemed to be reading or caring, I kept going because writing this blog meant something to me regardless of what it meant to anyone else. Now, I know that it means a great deal to many of you and I’m deeply grateful for that. But think about the commitment of time and energy that writing this blog involves. Think about the research, the writing, the thinking that goes into it. If that means something to you, if you value it, reach into your pocket and show your support. And a sheynem dank. Gut yontof and Eid Mubarak.
17 thoughts on “To a Good, Sweet and Peaceful New Year – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
Comments are published at the sole discretion of the owner.
In an interview to cnn
Imam Abdul Rauf stated few very interesting things:
1. Denying the muslim right to build the mosque will become a threat to the American national security interest.
2. If he had known the level of controversy building the mosque would raise, he would have chosen to do it elsewhere.
3. That he condemns Hamas as a terror organization.
no one doubts that the American Muslims has the legal right to build the mosque on their property. but as obama himself stated i will not comment on the wisdom of the act.
however i think that for the sake of national security the united state shouldn’t back because of extremist threats to its national security interest. Personally i do not understand the second statement of the Imam, if he really means what he says he can still relocate the mosque elsewhere, he was even offer NY state assistance in finding a different piece of property for that purpose by the NY state governor, after-all he didn’t start building the mosque yet.
The Cordoba folks have the right to build on the site. So are you saying that the gov’t should step in & forbid it? Under what guise would they be prevented fr. building there? It so happens that if Muslims are forced to abandon the project at this site it will make America look like an enemy of American Muslims. But that’s not the primary reason it should be built there. The primary reason is that America is built of religious freedom & tolerance. If we say that there are places in America where you may not build a Muslim community ctr. then there will be other places you cannot build a synaoguge or a church. Which gets you into the realm of lunacy.
And this is also why the project should not be relocated. There is no reason to relocate it except to placate nutcases like Pammy Geller & Pastor Jones. If America starts determining its policies on the sensitivities of loons like this we’ll rapidly become the basket case of nations (which may happen anyway w/o their assistance–but why allow them to speed the process?).
I’m not interested nor are the principals in the so called assistance offered by the governor. Instead of making such empty proposals he should be speaking up forcefully as our president has just done today, Kol hakavod lo.
Happy Rosh Hashanah to the Jewish community and ‘a”id al-fitr al-mubarak lil-muslimiin. May peace come to the Holy Land.
Heart of the other: A Palestinian confronts the Holocaust
(The final scene is very strong)
Not only did you compare the NIF to a mosque, you gave the NIF the “enemy of my enemy” tag, while the mosque seems to get your complete endorsment.
A mosque is still a mosque. You get all excited about muslims being tolerant, you forget that they are SUPPOSED to be tolerant. It’s the millions of muslims who aren’t tolerant that are our enemies, not the muslims who are tolerant who suddenly become saints.
Even if they accept the idea of gays and women rights, and the freedom of religion of other creeds, they will never fully endorse them. All I ask (or rather demand) is that they accept that other people can hold on to these rights without penalty, and that’s all I offer them. I think it’s terrible that people oppose the project not because it’s a good idea, but because in a democracy people have a right to do whatever the hell they want within the bounds of the law.
If anything, the mosque is the “enemy of my enemy”. I listened to Naomi Hazan at a rally – she had some very inspiring and true things to say, none of which included the identity of a one true god or of his prophet, or that homosexuality is a sin.
If the muslims can’t fund their mosque, there is no reason us liberals should do it for them. Defending their right of worship and funding that worship are two very different things.
I would personally love to donate to both the NIF and Tikun Olam, but the IDF just doesn’t pay that well.
Stop calling it a mosque. It is not a mosque, it is a community center. It will have swimming pools, basketball courts, and classrooms. That is not a mosque.
Muslim community center. If they fully support liberal values despite what Islam has to say about them, then they represent an insignificant fraction of muslims, and are thus irrelevant. If they are only as liberal as Islam allows, they deserve our help against the american right wing, but not our support.
Part of what the NIF does is protect us from religious nutjobs, so I think the comparison is insulting.
‘I think the comparison is insulting’
Like comparing Israel to a Western democracy ?
That’s actually pretty funny, and yes, comparing a civil rights group to a religious group IS like comparing a democracy to a religious ethnocracy like israel.
Sufism has so little to do with religious ethnocracy that yr analogy is completely daft. I get the impression that you mean well and I too share you quarrels with religious fundamentalism (though not all religion). But I think you take things too far.
I didn’t compare the NIF to a mosque. I merely posted two causes worthy of support which happened to be NIF and Cordoba House. It’s yr in yr own mind that I ‘compared’ them.
If Muslims are SUPPOSED to be tolerant, then so are Jews. But there are just as many hateful, violent Jews as there are Muslims. Well, there are many times the number of Muslims in the world as Jews so perhaps there are a few more intolerant Muslims than Jews, but we certainly don’t lack for intolerant ones among our tribe.
Who is “us” as in “our enemies?” Who are you speaking for? Jews? Israelis? You’re certainly not speaking for me nor for most of the Israelis I know. So who precisely are you speaking for? Yourself? That I concede. You may speak for yourself and others who hate Islam. But for no one else.
There you go again with the “us” rhetoric. Who says you’re a liberal? Perhaps you’re a libertarian. But anti-Muslim racism doesn’t qualify you as “liberal.”
Save yr shekels.
You seemed to portray both groups as equally donation worthy, and prehaps park51 as more so. This is what I found so objectionable.
Ofc jews are also supposed to be tolerant. If anything, intolerant jews are way more dangerous to me personally as an Israeli than intolerant muslims.
“us” as in liberals/left-wingers generally. All intolerant people our “our” enemies. My point is, muslims shouldn’t get any discounts for being usually the oppressed side of most conflicts. Just as “we” won’t see any intolerant jew as in any way acceptable, there is no reason any intolerant muslim should be anything other than “our” enemy. A group of muslims working for tolerance aren’t “better than most muslims who are also ok”, but rather tolerant muslims are the only muslims that should receive any tolerance at all.
I am not a racist, however if I were, I would certainly represent most Israelis.
Abrhamic religions are by definition intolerant. Anyone who chooses to follow one of them without atleast partially renouncing the many many hateful parts of them is intolerant and an enemy of “us”.
I hope this clears things up a bit.
Of course they’re equally worthy. You appear to hate all religions including yr own so at least you don’t discriminate. Despite yr distaste for ’em you should study a bit about Sufism, which this project is sponsoring. Of all religions in the world it’s one of the least dogmatic, more accepting, most tolerant, most loving, etc. They’re the Muslim equivalent of Quakers fer Godssakes! In many ways, it’s deeply ironic that Cordoba is being attacked in this way & lumped in w. Al Qaeda & other Islamist groups. And that is why I support them. As you wrote, any religion would be legally permitted to open a house of worship on that site. So why not Muslims? And let’s also keep in mind that this is really & largely a community center w. a small mosque included in it just like a hospital will include a small chapel on its grounds.
I completely agree with you on Sufis and Quakers!
Shana tova, Richard.
About 2k from my house on the Brittany coast is a site where an American C-47 was attacked by two Messerschmitts and shot down during the war. There was one survivor. He was rescued by two teenage girls who kept him hidden in the woods until the Résistance could get him safely across the Channel to England. Sadly, the other four airmen were killed.
The villagers gave the four dead Americans a proper Catholic funeral, and a most public one at that, which was a brave thing to do under the eyes of the occupying Germans. Over 4,000 people attended, an amazing number of people for this very rural area of France. Mourners could only have come from many kilometers. The women were described as wearing garlands of flowers to indicate their sympathy and solidarity. There were reprisals, as everyone knew there would be.
After the war a Breton stone wall with a memorial plaque was erected at the site of the crash. Local people still leave flowers there.
Having attended university in New York, and being attuned to such things, I noticed that two of the airmen had Jewish names.
On Rosh Hashanah I take apples from my orchard to the wall with little American and French flags. (Honey would only make a mess and draw wasps.) The French flags are because when foreign soldiers fall in the service of France, they belong to France and we care for these fallen as we do our own: Les Américains Morts pour la France.
I will go to the village church and light a candle for peace.
L’Shana Tova! Best wishes to you, your family and the rest of the world. May 5771 bring Peace and harmony to us all.
This poem by Vaclav Havel explains the quality of the soul that is required to write a blog like yours better than I could ever do it myself. I wish you all the best in this new year. And of course, we do hope for a good outcome.
Deep in ourselves we carry hope;
if that is not the case, there is no hope.
Hope is a quality of the soul, and does not
depend on what happens in the world.
Hope is not to foretell or foresee.
It is a directedness of the mind,
a directedness of the heart,
anchored beyond the horizon.
Hope in this deep and powerful meaning
is not the same as happiness because all
or readiness to devote yourself
to that which has success.
Hope is to work for something because it is good,
and not only because it has a chance to succeed.
Hope is not the same as optimism
neither is it the conviction that something will end well.
Rather it is the certainty that something is meaningful,
irrespective of the outcome, the result…
I am truly touched by the generosity of spirit of the poem & you’re dedicating to this blog. Thank you fr. the bottom of my heart.