Two Post-Protest Thoughts

Image: A Protest Sign. Lady Liberty captioned “I’m with her.” Photo by Rabbi Ruth Adar.

I am exhausted. I spent the morning at the synagogue and the rest of the day (when I thought i was going to take a nice nap) at a protest at San Francisco airport. Now it’s late and I want to post something but the body is saying, “Lie down, already!”

Our president chose to celebrate Holocaust Remembrance Day with an executive order. It barred citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspends the admission of all refugees for 120 days. (CNN) Our immediate protest was on behalf of the people detained at SFO who had the bad luck to have planes that took off while their visas were still good, and landed after their visas had been Trumped. I have spent some time as an innocent airport security detainee (a story I’ll share another time) and it is terrifying and miserable. I felt for those folks.

I had planned to blog tonight about the social justice tradition in Judaism. I know I’m blogging a lot about what some readers may think of as “politics” and I wanted to explain why I feel that I’m still blogging about Basic Judaism. However, that was before I spent 2.5 hours in a crowd screeching “Let In the Lawyers” and “No Bans, No Walls” at the top of my lungs.

Another time.

A couple of random thoughts:

 

  1. Please don’t take dogs to protests. They don’t know what’s going on and shouting scares them. Today I watched fearfully as a couple walked around with a tiny dachshund on a leash. The dog was visibly terrified (panting and yawning) and it was in serious danger of getting trampled. I couldn’t get close enough to them to lecture them on the mitzvah of kindness to animals.

    Big dogs are in a different kind of danger in a crowd. They can scare people, and scared people do dumb and/or mean things. When there are police around, it is advisable not to scare them, either. So leave the giant pit bull at home, too.

    Yes, I have a dog and I love my dog. This is not about hating dogs.doggie

  2. Think twice before taking photos and posting them to social media. People wander around at these things taking photos, and now that I have been home, I see their photos on social media. My face is already all over the Internet, but not everyone wants to be on Facebook.

    This also goes for selfies: think about the people in the background. I have sinned once in this respect, but I won’t do it again. Moreover, it took my son so long to take this picture that I’m pretty sure people who didn’t want to be in it had a chance to cover their faces. What’s done is done (nothing ever disappears from the Internet) but I am determined never to do it again.

    Alternatively, you can take photos of people facing the other direction. I have some “scooter’s eye view” photos that will not be of any interest whatsoever to Big Brother. (See doggie photo above.)

I’m rambling, because I am exhausted. Those were my two points. Go to bed, rabbi!

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Action on the ACA You Can Take TODAY

I received this from the co-chair of the Social Action Committee at my synagogue. I’m passing it along to each of you, my regular readers, and I hope you will join me. – Rabbi Adar

Diana Chapman Walsh was president of Wellesley College 8 years ago. She recently emailed her former colleagues the following idea:

Received this today. Creative idea … easy and worth a try.

Listen Up! The Republicans need to get the message from the majority of Americans that we value and need the benefits of Obamacare. Here’s how we do that.
On January 23rd, everyone who feels that way (our numbers are legion) sends a note to Donald Trump with a simple message:

“Don’t make America sick again. Improve Obamacare. Don’t repeal it.”

One envelope for every ACA supporter in your household…even if they are under 18 years old. Just that simple message. Put it in an envelope, and put a stamp on it.

Mail it to:
Pres. Donald Trump
1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW,
Washington, DC 20500
Can you imagine the picture of 53 MILLION letters arriving at the White House by January 26th? It will be a mountain.
Do it today! Drop it into a mailbox near you on Monday, January 23rd.
Please send this email to 20 (or more) of your friends, neighbors ann fellow Americans. Ask them to do the same.
This also helps out the US Postal Service, with about $20 Million of stamp sales.
Don’t send emails to Trump…they don’t photograph well.
This is about images, since words and ideas are falling on deaf ears.

And if you can’t mail it until the 24th, don’t let that stop you! Mail it on the 25th!

Are you IN?

 

Beyond the March: 7 Suggestions

Image: Signs from the March. Collage by Yahoo News, photos via Instagram, Twitter, Getty and Reuters.

On Saturday, January 21 we astonished ourselves. Millions of women and supporters around the globe turned out to demonstrate peacefully for human rights and against hate. It was a marvelous moment.

The question now stands: how do we take a moment and make it into a movement?

The Women’s March organizers are offering a new campaign: 10 Actions / 100 Days. I don’t know what their long-term plan is, but the first action they suggest is writing a postcard to our elected officials telling them what we want. Postcards sound like a great way to go: simple, cheap, and written, so guaranteed to get attention from politicians who want to be re-elected.

That’s good. I have some additional ideas. Feel free to do these, or not, or improvise upon them. If you have great ideas, please share them in the comments!

  1. Send the White House a postcard. The President cares about public opinion, so give him your attention. Give him your wish list. Don’t be insulting, don’t call names, just tell him what you want. Can’t hurt, might help if enough of us do it.
  2. Did you march with others? Did you meet anyone new at the march? Invite them over (maybe next weekend?) for a postcard writing party. Then all go out to mail them and have drinks or ice cream or whatever floats your boat.
  3. Who do you know who is different from you? Is there a person of a different race, a different religion, a different economic background with whom you can build a relationship? Become an ally. Volunteer for something they are passionate about. Help them build their organization. DO NOT EXPECT ANYTHING IN RETURN. This is about learning to be a good ally. Keep your commitments: show up on time. Do not give advice unless asked. This will be hard. Do it anyway. Pay attention, because you are going to learn, learn, learn!
  4. Choose an issue and really learn about it. Pick one topic and do more than just Google it. Read articles. Learn statistics. Learn both (or several) sides of the issue. Learn who the players are in your state. Learn who the players are in the federal government. Let what you learn inform your activism.
  5. “Go high,” as Michelle Obama admonished us. Swear off name-calling. Swear off passing along gossipy news. Swear off nasty jokes. If people are mean on social media – mean to anyone on either side – unfollow them, drop them, unfriend them! Make it expensive to be nasty: it will cost followers!
  6. Show up. The next time there is a march or demonstration you care about in your area, show up! A friend of mine pointed out that part of the reason that things went so peacefully at the Women’s March was that the majority of those marching were white women, and we are privileged – police treat us gently. We are not assumed to be trouble. We need to start showing up for our less privileged allies. Whenever I can show up for Black Lives Matter I’m going to do it. And I’ve got the button and I’m going to wear it. Which brings me to:
  7. Quit Infighting. Some readers are thinking, “Rabbi! Didn’t you read about the pro-Palestinian rhetoric in the Black Lives Matter statement? How can you support them?” I can support them because we need each other now. I can support them because one line in a document is not going to keep me from pursuing justice. I can support them because after I’ve proven myself as an ally, after I’ve shown up a few dozen times, I will have relationships that will allow maybe for a dialogue. But for now, I’m going to wear a button and show the heck up. Many of us on the left have made careers out of picking holes in each other and this is not the time. We cannot afford to stay home and lick wounds. We have to fight fascism, and we need every available person to do it.

(Note that none of these are partisan steps. You can do them no matter what your party affiliation because they are about making America better for everyone, not about supporting a political party.)

I am resolved to do all seven of the above. Maybe you want to do all seven, or maybe three, or maybe just one. That’s fine, but do something. Don’t let the marvelous, miraculous energy of the Women’s March wither and die – because that is exactly what will happen if we don’t take next steps.

See you on the barricades.

Women’s March, Oakland

Image: Family photo at the Oakland Women’s March. Linda, Marisa and I are center; Jim is the guy in the sunglasses taking the selfie. Photo by Jimbo Scott, all rights reserved.

The March would officially begin at 11. At 9:30, the the Jews of the SF East Bay began to gather at a tiny Chinatown park by the Lake Merritt BART station in Oakland, and at 10 we began singing. At 10:30, with wall-to-wall humanity surrounding us, we began a short Shabbat service. Rabbis David Cooper, Steven Chester, and I led prayers.

Jews rarely go out to do political things on the Sabbath. I am not sure how many Jews were there, but we were there in force (at least 200 from Temple Sinai, Oakland, plus Kehilla Congregation and Congregation Beth El Berkeley, and maybe more.)

Early on, I was anxious about safety: my own safety, on a tiny scooter in a big crowd, and the safety of everyone marching with Temple Sinai.

scooterview
My scooter-eye view

Gradually my anxiety lifted, as people kept pouring out of the BART stations, from the buses, from everywhere. The small park in Chinatown where we’d been told to gather was a mass of humanity. Total strangers greeted each other like old friends. We were all so tired of being alone with our TVs and computers, so glad to find out that we were not really alone.

My mood and the mood of the crowd was warm, almost joyful. We were standing together after the last few weeks of transition to an Administration that alternately shocked and confused us.We held downtown Oakland in the embrace of an absolute gridlock of bodies. The age range ran from the seventies (at least) to infants in strollers. One very old lady smiled and waved down on us from a Chinatown apartment, showing us “V for victory” with her fingers.

Linda and I were together on scooters, and our son Jim and his wife Marisa joined us. I thought about all the times I’d gone to peaceful demonstrations of one kind or another holding tightly to his hand; now he and Marisa were watching over us two aging boomers: sweet role reversal. They were kind enough not to mention that they were looking after us.

Eventually the crowd began to move, slowly. No one was upset or angry; we were all happy to be together. The March was marching! By 3pm, police were suggesting detour routes to those who were getting tired. One cop said that he estimated the crowd at 100,000. There was no violence at all.

A gentle rain fell. I don’t know how many made it to City Hall for the rally, but many of us dispersed as gently as the rain. We’d made our point.


Some great signs today:

annssign
Cheerful marchers, serious messages. (Photo Ann Thomas Seitz)

“Paul Ryan Health Care Plan: Die already, and hurry up about it.”

“Not My President”

“This is NOT a DRILL”

“Sing for our Rights”

“It’s Not a Hot Flash, It’s Climate Change”

“Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue”

“Freedom and Justice for All.”

“Nurse Practitioners against Trump: Leave Pussy Grabbing to the Professionals”

All day I kept thinking about the Holly Near song, “We Are A Gentle Angry People:”

 

 

 

 

Hats, Slogans, Signs: Preparing for the Women’s March

Image: DREAM Act Protesters for President Obama’s Visit to Austin by Todd Dwyer (some rights reserved) Listening to protesters goes with the job, Mr. President.

No one who knows me well will be surprised to know that I’m going to be in the Women’s March in Oakland this Saturday. I and a lot of other women are going to go to the street to raise up our concerns about the expressed agenda of the new administration.

It sounds like there are going to be a bunch of us. 31,000 people have said they are going on Facebook; 45,000 more have registered as “interested.” From my synagogue alone, we have over 100 people registered. I’m going to be there on my scooter.

To those who say “give him a chance” I say, I’ve been working on that since November 10. What I heard during the campaign was a lot of hateful rhetoric about Mexicans, and immigrants, and Muslims, and African-Americans. What I have seen since the election has been a swift upsurge of violence against those groups, with the President-Elect saying hardly a peep about it, despite the fact that he tweets about many other things. For a man who prides himself on plain speaking, he is very coy about saying “Cut it out!” to people who do violence in his name.

So I am going to hit the streets with a few friends, and we will engage in a peaceful demonstration of our concerns. Peaceful, because I am a law-abiding person. Peaceful because what I want for this nation is peace.

Normally I would not participate in a political event on Shabbat, but this is no longer a normal situation.  Nothing about the past transition period was normal, and I have the impression that many of Mr. Trump’s supporters are happy that it was not a normal transition. This fills me with alarm. If I am wrong (I would love to be wrong) then at worst I am being foolish. I am willing to look foolish when I believe lives are at stake.

About hats: I’m not wearing any headgear named after a vulgarism for a body part. I have no judgement on someone else, it’s just not my thing. I am serious about what I’m doing.

About signs: I’ve been thinking all week about what to put on my sign. I finally settled on this:

לֹא תַעֲמֹד עַל-דַּם רֵעֶךָ

Do not stand by while your neighbor bleeds. – Leviticus 19:16

That seemed to me to be the verse that best applied to my concerns. I am worried for friends who have health insurance through the ACA but who have pre-existing conditions. I fear for disabled people. Right now there does seem to be a guarantee that the ACA is going away, but no equal guarantee that it will be replaced by something better.

I am worried for friends: African-Americans, Latinx, Muslims, and trans persons who have been targeted with hateful rhetoric and by outright violence. I know some young DREAMers who are terrified. They haven’t been “given a chance” – no, even before the new administration came in, the fans of that administration have been giving us what I fear is a preview of the Trump years. I don’t like seeing and hearing threats to my neighbors; I am horrified by accounts of violence against them.

And honestly, I’m worried for the Jews. In the past two weeks there have been two waves of bomb threats against 30 Jewish institutions in 17 states including two JCCs in my area. JCCs more often than not have daycare centers. We heard not a peep of concern from President-Elect Trump. (I know, his daughter is Jewish. This does not explain his silence.)

I am done waiting for Mr. Trump to have an awakening of conscience. I am planning to bring my concerns to his attention on the first full day that he sits in the Oval Office. Get used to it, Mr. President: listening to protestors is now part of your job.

 

CA Manicurists Transform Lives

Image: Delane Sims at work. (Photo courtesy of Ms. Sims, all rights reserved to her.)

Maimonides taught that the highest form of giving, of tzedakah, is to assist a person in becoming independent, so that they will not need charity. That might take the form of an interest-free loan for a business, or money for tuition, or a partnership in business.

There’s a program here in California that personifies Maimonides’ teaching. Steps to Success is transforming the lives of single mothers on welfare, helping them move off welfare and into employment and entrepreneurship. This transforms not only their lives but their children’s lives and the life of their communities.

The back story, as told by founder Delane Sims to the San Jose Mercury News:

“My husband was a veteran, an engineer, and we were looking at being a solid, middle-class family,” she said, sitting atop a luxurious red-leather bench in one of the salon’s treatment rooms. “Literally overnight I was plunged into being a single mom in poverty when my first husband suddenly became addicted to drugs. I felt like a turtle in the ocean with all my babies on my back. I had to find a way to survive for them. So I promised myself, if I make it through this period in my life and ever had my own business, I would do something for single mothers who are struggling.”

Fast forward to today: Delane is now the co-owner of Delane’s Natural Nail Care, a salon that provides manicures and pedicures that meet medical standards of care. The women who work at Delane’s are all on their way up: they are single moms whom Delane has mentored through cosmetology school and into a unique paid internship in her shop. They make a living wage while they learn how to run a business, how to balance parenthood and career, how to deal with the public, and things as basic as how to balance a checkbook. They benefit from networks of resources and relationships that Delane has built over the last 25 years.

As proof of this pudding, meet Myeshia Jefferson, who is co-owner of Delane’s Natural Nail Care. Myeshia is herself a graduate of Steps to Success, the single mother of a 5 year old boy. One of the great beauties of this program is that the women who rise through it become mentors for the next generation of success stories. Other Steps to Success grads have their own businesses in a variety of fields.

So now I invite you to participate with me in building Steps to Success. They have just launched a year-long effort to put the program on a firmer financial footing. Their initial very modest goal is to find 300 people who will contribute $35.  The campaign page will tell you more about specifically how they will use your funds to lift up Steps to Success to serve more women. 

Remember, this is the highest form of tzedakah, of charitable giving! You are making it possible for women with so much going against them to beat the odds and break out of generational poverty. 

Another form of support, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area: contact Delane’s and make an appointment for a manicure or pedicure. Meet Delane and Myeshia, meet their employees, and get the safest, healthiest manicure available. (I originally met Delane when I went for a pedicure, to check them out for a diabetic friend.)

Some ways to learn more about Steps to Success:

Recent article in the San Jose Mercury News

Interview on KGO Radio with Brian Copeland

Story from KTVU TV

“Holiness in the Nail Parlor” (on this blog)

Want to make my day? Contribute to Steps to Success via my fundraising page. Anyone who contributes $35 or more to their campaign by the end of January 2017 through that page will receive an hour of study with me via Skype. Your choice of text or topic!

 

 

Vidui in Memory of MLK

Image: President Lyndon B. Johnson meets with Martin Luther King, Jr. in the White House Cabinet Room, 18 March, 1966. Public Domain.
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A vidui is a Jewish confession of sin. We tend to associate this form of prayer with Yom Kippur and with the prayers of the dying, although a short vidui is part of the traditional weekday liturgy.A communal vidui includes sins which I may not personally have committed, but which some in my community may have committed. By claiming them as my own sins, I underline that I am responsible not only for myself, but also for elements in our communal life which may have fostered the sin in our members.Some Jewish prayers include acrostics as a hidden message within the prayer. For a vidui, making an acrostic of the entire alphabet is a way of saying that our sins go from aleph to taf, or from A to Z – we confess to an entire library of sin.I offer this vidui for my sins and those of my communities.

For all our sins, may the Holy One who makes forgiveness possible forgive us, pardon us, and make atonement possible.

For the sin of Arrogance, that makes it difficult to see our own failings

For the sin of Brutality, that makes it possible for us to stand by and think, “He must have deserved it”

For the sin of Credulity, in which we have believed “news” from unreliable sources

For the sin of Disregarding facts that were uncomfortable for us

For the sin of Executing those whose offenses did not merit their death, and for standing by as our civil servants carried out those acts

For the sin of allowing unreasoning Fear to dictate our behavior towards others

For the sin of Greed, underpaying for work or over-charging for services

For the sin of baseless Hatred, that demonizes entire groups of other human beings

May the Eternal forgive us, pardon us, and make atonement possible.

 

For the sin of willful Ignorance, not wanting to know things that are embarrassing to us

For the sin of Jailing massive numbers of people for nonviolent crimes, separated from opportunities to better themselves and their families,

For the sin of Killing the hope of young men who believe that their only futures lie in prison or the grave

For the sin of Laziness in speaking up, when we hear racist language

For the sin of Minimizing the discomfort of others

For the sin of Non-Apologies that failed to express true sorrow

For the sin of Omission, when we failed to act upon our expressed convictions

For the sin of Presuming on the basis of skin color

May the Eternal forgive us, pardon us, and make atonement possible.

 

For the sin of Quiescence in the face of the racist behavior of others

For the sin of Racism, in all its myriad forms

For the sin of Self-congratulation for acts of common decency

For the sin of Taking umbrage when someone calls us on a racist word or act

For the Unconscious acts which have injured others without our awareness

For the sin of Violence against other human beings

For the sin of using Words in ways that perpetuate racism in any way

For the sin of Xenophobia, fearing and hating those who seem foreign to us

May the Eternal forgive us, pardon us, and make atonement possible.

 

For the sin of Yakking when we should have been listening

For the sin of Zoning out when we assumed this list wasn’t about us

For all of the sins of commission and omission, all the sins we committed consciously and unconsciously, for those that were simply accidents and those for which we failed to make an apology

May the Eternal forgive us, pardon us, and make atonement possible.

For it is through true acts of genuine repentance and a sincere desire to change that we will open the future before our nation: a future of fairness, justice and peace. May all troubled hearts be comforted, may all wounded souls be healed, and may we live to see the day when the scourge of racism is truly behind us.

Amen.

Image: Rabbi Stacey Blank of Kehillat Tzur Hadassah in Israel blows the shofar. Used by permission of Rabbi Blank, and all rights to it are hers.