Tag: Obama

Marking MLKing Day and The Inauguration with Diverse Celebrations

Michelle and I blogged together:

Amidst accessible pomp and circumstance, a president was again inaugurated peacefully in America. Partisan politics set aside, everyone gathered to celebrate the freedoms fought for by President Abraham Lincoln and dreamed about by Martin Luther King Jr.
Our President Barak Obama set a high bar: to extend equality to all, across races, religions, national origins and gender. He drew a straight line from Selma to Stonewall, between the struggles for civil rights for blacks and equal rights for gays and lesbians. He pointed us toward our best selves, that part of our nation which strives for liberty and justice for all.

We were Inspired
By the pastor offering blessings who invoked the prophet Micah, goading us to “pursue justice, seek mercy and walk humbly before God”. By the diverse gathering surrounding the president and involved in the official ceremony. And by the realization that once again, the United States achieved a peaceful transition from one presidential term to another.

How does one mark this multifaceted day of celebration?

We chose to venture down to Santa Monica to walk amongst the most diverse community around. Framed by the beach on the west side and the unique beachfront properties and Venice vendors on the east, we enjoyed the cacophony of sights, sounds and smells as people rollerbladed, biked and tossed frisbees. It was a tapestry of color.

We were especially touched by a recently painted mural “From the city of angels to the angels of Connecticut.” The names of the children killed in Sandy Hook, CT were spray painted on the mural to mark their memory and as a demonstration of American support for them and their families. If it is a civil right to be safe from gun fun violence, how do we achieve this and when?

B’tzelem Elohim, Created in the Image of God
Genesis teaches us that we were all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God. We find it perplexing that we still struggle to translate that vision I worthiness and equality of all people into policies and practices that protect us all. May the memory of MLKing and the actions of Barak Obama bring us closer to the day when all will be united in peace and friendship.

That’s how we marked Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the Presidential Inauguration.

How did you?

Andrew Adler Should be Arrested, Tried and Jailed

Late yesterday I came upon an article in Haaretz which described the controversy surrounding the editorial written by the owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Andrew Adler. As reported in Haaretz, Adler write vile words:

The owner and publisher of the Atlanta Jewish Times, Andrew Adler, has suggested that Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu consider ordering a Mossad hit team to assassinate U.S. President Barack Obama so that his successor will defend Israel against Iran. 

Adler, who has since apologized for his article, listed three options for Israel to counter Iran’s nuclear weapons in an article published in his newspaper last Friday. The first is to launch a pre-emptive strike against Hamas and Hezbollah, the second is to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities and the third is to “give the go-ahead for U.S.-based Mossad agents to take out a president deemed unfriendly to Israel in order for the current vice president to take his place and forcefully dictate that the United States’ policy includes its helping the Jewish state obliterate its enemies.”

Haaretz blogger Chemi Shalev writes:

The three or four infantile paragraphs of vile text that Adler published in his obscure Atlanta newspaper last week, in which he suggested that Israel consider assassinating President Obama, almost slipped under the radar, but was picked up yesterday by Gawker.com, and is now going viral. “A fool may throw a stone into a well which even a hundred wise men cannot pull out”, the saying goes, and it will indeed take a long time and a great effort to undo the damage that Adler has wrought, in one fell swoop, in defaming Israel by implying that it might, in anyone’s wildest dreams, consider such a kooky conspiracy; in staining American Jews by appearing to supposedly represent their twisted way of thinking; and even by undermining the institution of Jewish journalism by exposing that it harbors such birdbrained bozos in its midst.

How do we, American Jews, respond to Adler’s article – even after he apologized?

My response is simple: Adler should be arrested for incitement and tried. His 3rd suggestion is far worse than “idiotic” as his multiple apologies noted. They were words that incite. They reduce arguments over the relationship between America and Israel – between Obama and Netanyahu – to sewer-talk, or worse, to incitements to violence.

We Jews know that America is our home, and that Barak Obama is our president. Adler’s words are wrong, dangerous, offensive to all Americans and all Jews. There is no apology that can remove the damage. There is no way to excuse these words.

I look forward to hearing that all the major organizations of American Jewish life have denounced Adler’s editorial.  Abraham Foxman of the ADL denounced it, saying:

There is absolutely no excuse, no justification, no rationalization for this kind of rhetoric. It doesn’t even belong in fiction. These are irresponsible and extremist words. It is outrageous and beyond the pale. An apology cannot possibly repair the damage.

Irresponsible rhetoric metastasizes into more dangerous rhetoric. The ideas expressed in Mr. Adler’s column reflect some of the extremist rhetoric that unfortunately exists — even in some segments of our community — that maliciously labels President Obama as an ‘enemy of the Jewish people.’

Mr. Adler’s lack of judgment as a publisher, editor and columnist raises serious questions as to whether he’s fit to run a newspaper.

 So again I say, Andrew Adler should be arrested and tried for incitement against the President. And the American Jewish community should support the arrest and call for his punishment and jailing.

Not because the words embarrass us. Not because they make us uncomfortable. But because they are wrong, dangerous, extremist, unAmerican, unJewish, and maliciously unrepresentative about how American Jews feel about America and about President Obama.

Rabbi Eric Yoffie: The Impact of Storms at Home and in Israel

Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, wrote to leaders of all our congregations to share perspectives on The Impact of Storms at Home and in Israel. He addresses the devastating weather, as well as the damaging political fights erupting over President Obama’s speech and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s response. Please take a moment to read and reflect upon this important perspective:

Dear Friend:

These past few weeks have been trying ones, here at home and in Israel.

Many of our North American communities have been battered by devastating weather. Our thoughts are with the victims and we continue to work closely with our congregations in the affected regions. Please check the URJ Disaster Relief page for updates and, if you wish, to make a donation. Together, the entire Reform Movement prays for the welfare of all those impacted by these terrible tragedies. May God grant them comfort and healing in the days, weeks and months to come.

And while some of our communities in North America fight physical storms, our brothers and sisters in Israel fight political ones. Despite its military strength, Israel is a small and vulnerable state, and is now facing especially difficult times. The United Nations will vote in September on whether or not to recognize Palestinian statehood, and if the resolution passes, it will be a distressing sign of Israel’s isolation on the international stage. Uprisings throughout the Arab world create hope for democracy and change, but could also pose serious threats to Israel’s security. And Iran continues its efforts to develop nuclear weapons that will threaten Israel and the world.

Against this backdrop, we have had five tumultuous days of meetings and speeches from President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on issues related to Israeli-Palestinian peace. President Obama spoke once to the State Department and once to AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobby; Prime Minister Netanyahu spoke to AIPAC and before a joint session of Congress; and the President and Prime Minister met in the White House last Friday.

(Prime Minister Netanyahu also met with a small group of Jewish leaders during the AIPAC Conference, a meeting attended by the Union’s President-designate Rabbi Rick Jacobs.)

There have been no end of commentaries on these developments, but I would like to offer a few reactions of my own.

In his two speeches, the President expressed in the clearest possible terms the unshakable support of the United States government for the State of Israel (and in some cases went well beyond what had previously been said by him or previous administrations). He said for the first time that a Palestinian state must be a demilitarized state. He insisted that Israel be recognized as a Jewish state and the homeland of the Jewish people. He warned the Palestinians against bringing their statehood resolution to the UN. He expressed deep concern about the Hamas-Fatah pact. He affirmed that peace could not be imposed from the outside but must be agreed upon by the parties.

It is difficult to imagine, in fact, a more ringing endorsement by the President of America’s traditional support for Israel. This support was obscured, in some measure, by the bizarre claim that the President had called for a return to 1967 borders; such a step would indeed be impossible and unacceptable, but the President said no such thing, as was clear from his call for secure and recognized borders arrived at through negotiation and mutually agreed exchanges of land. As noted by Ehud Barak, Israel’s Defense Minister, a statement that negotiations start with discussions of the 1967 borders is very different from saying that that is where they end up.

The central premise of the President’s message was that if peace is to come, it will be through the establishment of a Palestinian state living in peace and security alongside a Jewish state. The principle of a two-state solution, of course, has been supported by the last three U.S. administrations and by both major parties; it is also the policy of the State of Israel. The Reform Movement has supported a two-state solution since the early 1990s.

The President also deserves our appreciation for his current efforts to convince our European allies to oppose the UN resolution on Palestinian statehood. Both of his speeches, which affirmed Palestinian rights to a state of their own, have been well received by our allies and should assist in these efforts. As noted, passage of the statehood resolution could seriously undermine Israel’s diplomatic standing.

Prime Minister Netanyahu’s powerful statement to Congress expressed gratitude to the United States government for its support and promised painful compromises for peace. The Prime Minister reviewed the policies of his government and gave special emphasis to security threats that Israel is now confronting. He spoke of Hamas’ commitment to terror and to Israel’s destruction; of the need to confront the dangers posed by Iran to the international community; and of the possibility that democratic stirrings in the Arab world could, if they take a wrong turn, lead to hostile governments rather than democratic ones. These threats are real and deeply troubling. The need for peace between Israel and the Palestinians is not less important on their account but more important; still, they remind us that true security must be an essential component of any peace agreement.

Is there a possibility now of genuine negotiations and progress toward peace? I am far from certain. I believe that the current leadership of the Palestinian Authority is generally moderate in outlook, but is surrounded by mostly unreasonable voices; the presence of Hamas makes progress far more doubtful still. Nonetheless, we know that every effort must be made. Israel has pledged yet again to do its part, and the Administration has pledged to help move the process forward. We are thankful for these efforts because President Obama is surely right that the current situation is unsustainable, and if peace does not come, Israel’s situation will be more grave 5 years from now than it is today. For that reason, my hope is that if the Palestinian Authority is not forthcoming, Israel’s leaders will take what steps they can take to separate themselves from the Palestinians in order to preserve Israel’s Jewish and democratic character.

In the meantime, our task as North American Jews is to offer Israel our love and support; to do everything possible to deepen the friendship between Israel and her most important ally, the United States of America, keeping in mind always that the goal of Israel advocacy is for American – and Canadian – support of Israel to be broad, inclusive, and bi-partisan; and to send the message that Israel’s fate rests not only in the hands of her citizens but in the hands of Jews everywhere.

As I wrote on Yom Ha’atzma’ut, let us pray, today and everyday, that peace and redemption will come to Israel’s borders and that harmony will hallow Jerusalem’s gates, bi’meheira u’viyameinu—speedily, and in our day.


Eric H. Yoffie

I Wrote President Obama about Darfur

Even with my concerns about anti-semitism in Europe, the nuclear issue in Iran and other hotspots around the world, I took a moment to sign onto a letter to President Obama, co-signed by 100 rabbis, urging a sane, responsible policy toward the Sudan (and the continuing problems in the Darfur region). The letter, organized by Dr. Rafael Medoff, director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies, in Washington, D.C., is below:

Dear Mr. President,

We were heartened by your statement last year that “There must be real pressure placed on the Sudanese government. We know from past experience that it will take a great deal to get them to do to the right thing.”

The Jewish community’s memories of the Holocaust provide a powerful reminder of the importance of taking strong action to stop genocide, and to punish the perpetrators of genocide.

We therefore hope that your policy with regard to Darfur will include the imposition of the strongest possible sanctions on the Sudanese government, pressure on Sudan’s allies to stop propping up its genocidal regime, and practical steps to implement the International Criminal Court’s warrant for the arrest of Sudanese president Omar al-Bashir.

Learn more about what is happening regarding Darfur and the Sudan at Jewish World Watch.

When Hope in America Inspires Dreaming in Jerusalem

Gershom Gorenberg writes in South Jerusalem:

Watching a videocast from Washington last night, it seemed to me that half of what seemed impossible when I wrote this has come true: Across the ocean, where hope was written off like a bad debt, it has been reborn.

Here, in Jerusalem, one still has to dream of the very possibility of dreaming. The pseudonymous and very wise Jeremiah Haber chides for even considering the possibility. But I know of no biological difference that allows Americans to imagine a better future and prevents us from doing so. With some trepidation at daring poetry in a blog, I’m posting this.


I am hoping for the rebirth of hope
I am waiting for the beat of wheels on steel, the railroad drumbeat rhythm,
I am waiting for the long-distance heaven express.
I believe its time to lay tracks up to heaven
I am waiting for Jimi Hendrix to rise and climb on, for Phil Ochs to declare he’s retracted his resignation,
to rise all bones and anger banging a guitar and climb on,
I am waiting for the kids in the high schools to lay down their guns and climb on
I believe the generation born dead, raised dead, schooled dead in the malls’ mausoleum marble will pass
I believe with an imperfect faith, cracked but still serviceable, that a generation will be born that knows how to hope.

I am waiting for new songs unto the Lord.
I am waiting for new psalms,
I am waiting for a pied saxophonist to march through suburbs outside Jerusalem, leading away the houses with red tile roofs and the grownups, and leave children and rats on green lawns
I am waiting for heavenly choruses to lean down, lean down, and with each note the guns in the hands of the green boys on the streetcorners of Jerusalem will grow wings and fly off, long grey dragonflies, toward the sun setting in white foam off Ashkelon
I am certain the stillborn generation can come alive
I believe with imperfect faith, used, dented, two cylinders skipping, low on brake fluid but still driving, that a generation can be born that knows how to sing.

I believe that Moses, Blake, Abe Heschel and Reb Nahman are not dead, they are tuning their guitars in a back room and will be back on stage for an encore any moment, for the real show,
when the rabbis will shed their black coats like old snakeskins, the monks and the sheikhs of jerusalem’s alleys will dance half-nude on Jaffa Road, roaring the choruses, reaching up drunk and trying to pull heaven down,
I believe a seven year old girl with umm kalthoum’s reborn voice, voice of clouds and fire, is even now singing in a room without chairs without schoolbooks in south Jerusalem, there are no lights in the staircase, there is broken glass in the street, there are skeletons on the park benches, bones without number, dead men in the buses, dead women whispering next to the empty notice boards next to the empty storefronts
her song will reach out the windows, it will seize the bones, they will grow flesh, they will fold up the housing projects like card tables, they will dance in the fields, they will build a new jerusalem out of clouds and fire,
they will be a generation that knows how to hope.

I believe dreams sleep but do not die
I believe songs are hiding in the wind
I believe that the drumbeats of hope are curled up in the couches of our hearts and will awaken, must awaken
I believe the tanks will turn into hippopotamuses and lumber out of their bases looking for rivers
I believe we are only waiting, only pausing to take a breath, before a generation is reborn that knows how to hope.

Blessings for Today: A New Day in America

What an inspiring week. Another peaceful transition from one president to another. An affirmation of equality, of hope, of our belief that b’tzelem Elohim, we were all created in the image of God. At times like these, Jews seek words to express the holiness and the hopefulness of the moment.

Janethewriter posts Blessings for Today: A New Day in America on RJ.org, the Reform Movement’s blog.

We Jews have blessings for all occasions: for bread, for wine, for joyous times, for sad times, upon seeing a rainbow, for flowers and herbs, for social action… the list goes on. Each morning we thank God for returning our souls to our bodies and for a host of other daily miracles: enabling us to distinguish day from night, opening our eyes, freeing the captive, lifting the fallen, and so on. In our minyan this morning, we added three more blessings for the day: Baruch atah Adonai, asher sam chelki b’medinah chofesheet v’democratit.
Praised are You, Adonai, Who has allowed me to live in a free and democratic country. Baruch atah Adonai, asher tzivanu lirdof acharei ha’tzedek tokh milui chovoteinu ha’ezrahiyyot.
Praised are You, Adonai, Who commands us to pursue justice through the fulfillment of our civic obligations. Baruch atah Adonai, asher tzivanu la’asok b’ma’asei tikkun ha’olam.
Praised are You, Adonai, Who commands us to engage in acts of repairing the world. I would add a fourth: Baruch atah Adonai eloheinu melech ha’olam shecheyanu v’kiy’manu v’higyanu lazman hazeh.
Praised are You, Adonai, Sovereign of the universe, for giving us life, for sustaining us, and for enabling us to reach this time of joy. Amen.

3 Rabbis to Offer Prayers at Obama Inauguration Service

JTA broke the news a few days ago in the Jewish world that 3 rabbis

Reform Rabbi David Saperstein, Conservative Rabbi Jerome Epstein and Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein are scheduled to take part in the Jan. 21 event at the National Cathedral in Washington… Saperstein, the director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, offered a prayer on the night Obama accepted the Democratic nomination at last summer’s convention in Denver.

Haaretz comes to highlight the higher profile that religion is playing in the Democratic world and in this first African-American President’s inauguration. After a politically astute, yet very disappointing decision to invite the upcoming dean of the Christian Right world, and strong marriage equality opponent Rick Warren, President-elect Obama is offering some very significant invitations:

… Obama asked V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop, to lead prayers at Sunday’s kickoff for the inauguration at the Lincoln Memorial. Gay rights groups rejoiced, while some conservative Christians wrung their hands.

Then at the January 21 National Prayer Service that caps the inauguration:

The Reverand Sharon Watkins, the first woman president of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), a Protestant group, will deliver the sermon.

A prayer will be offered at the National Cathedral by Ingrid Mattson, the first woman president of the Islamic Society of North America, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information. The Islamic Society, based in Indiana, is the nation’s largest Muslim group.

Call for Climate Action

I signed onto interfaith petition to President Elect Obama on Climate Control. You can sign on too here.

Call for Climate Action
Interfaith Petition to
President-elect Barack Obama

We, the undersigned, of diverse faith traditions, stand together as brothers and sisters dedicated to finding solutions to global warming and the threat it poses to Creation. We urge you to take swift and meaningful action to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Global warming is a moral crisis that people of faith care deeply about. It endangers the lifesupport systems for all that God created and puts the most vulnerable at immediate risk. It is the world’s poor, who have contributed least to this problem, who will suffer the most.

Inaction cannot be an option. Interfaith Power and Light represents over 5,000 congregations of
all major religions throughout the country. For the past eight years, our congregations have been
changing light bulbs, installing solar rooftops and geo-thermal systems and shrinking our carbon
footprints. We’ve shown that it can be done. But we know that our actions alone will not be
enough to stem the tide of global warming.

It is past time for the U.S. to take a leadership role in this crisis. You have thoughtfully addressed climate change policy in your campaign and have embraced clean energy policy solutions. As president, we ask you to enact those solutions into law.

Please act quickly to ensure the future of our planet, and of generations to come, by implementing our clean energy agenda:

1. Make Climate Policies Equitable and Just
• Provide energy efficiency to low-income families
• Create 5 million green collar jobs
• Provide adaptation assistance to undeveloped nations
2. Green the Electricity Sector
• Move America toward a 100% clean energy future by maximizing energy efficiency,
modernizing the grid, and greatly expanding power generation from renewable energy
3. Cap Emissions and Auction the Permits
• Reduce emissions by 35% below 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050
• Work with other nations to accelerate these reductions as needed to avoid further warming
beyond 2º F
• Auction 100% of credits and direct revenue to developing a massive clean energy
transition, creating green jobs, and protecting vulnerable communities
4. Clean up Transportation
• Invest in clean mass transit infrastructure, increase fuel economy standards, and develop
alternative fuels
5. Stop New Coal
• Put a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants until and unless carbon emissions can be
captured and permanently sequestered

Obama Gathers a Wide Spectrum of Jewish Groups

President-elect Obama is proving to be very interested in hearing from a spectrum of views on Israel and the Mideast. Though that will make right-wingers very nervous, it suggests that, based in Obama’s deep appreciation for and support of Israel, we might see some creative, wide support for negotiations and peace efforts in that troubled region. (Also in attendance was the Reform Movement’s Religious Action Center).

JTA, in its Election Central Blog, reports that:

President-elect Barack Obama’s transition team’s first official encounter with the Jewish community suggested a substantial change in how his administration will deal with Jewish groups: Present were the array of dovish pro-Israel groups, including the Israel Policy Forum, J-Street, Americans for Peace Now and Brit Tzedek v’Shalom.

Of those groups, only IPF made the occasional appearance at meetings with Bush administration officials – and that was because the group has always been careful to cast a non-partisan tint to its pro-negotiations posture, effusively praising the Bush administration’s peace-brokering efforts, however infrequent those were until a year or so ago. Other more liberal groups at the table – including the Reform movemen’ts Religious Action Center – were also occasionally invited, but the emphasis is on “occasionally.”

What was remarkable about Thursday’s meeting is that the Obama team also reached out to the other side, including the Zionist Organization of America. Dan Shapiro, the transition official who handled foreign policy at the meeting, made it clear he wanted to hear all voices.

The Bush administration’s infamous tetchiness at criticism seemed to be a thing of the past: ZOA has slammed Obama’s transition team for including strident Israel critic Samantha Power in a post that barely registers above chief cook and bottle washer, but has failed to praise it for installing true-blue pro-Israel types like Jim Steinberg in more senior posts.

And that was fine with the dovish types, or at least with Diane Balser who directs Brit Tzedek, a group that has lobbied in recent years for increased aid to the Palestinians, even as ZOA has lobbied against it.

“The Obama team said they were open and understood everyone had a seat,” Balser told me. “To acknowledge there is more than one view on Israel, that we’re not monolithic – I consider that a step forward for us.”