Monthly Archives: March 2015

Sein oder Nicht Sein. Das is hier die Frage—by Peter Eisenstadt

When you murder 149 people, and yourself as well, should this be considered suicide? If there have been more important news stories this week (Yemen, Iran, Syria, and Indianapolis) the story that has garnered the most attention is the horrific and deliberate crash of a Lufthansa jet in the French Alps by the plane’s co-pilot. I will confess to a grim fascination in following the story, in large part because of a family tragedy, suicide is a deeply personal and emotional subject for me.

Suicide remains the least discussed major cause of death in the United States, with annually, about twice as many deaths from suicide as from homicide. The vast, vast majority of suicides, over 97%, only involve self-murder, but unless someone is famous, the only types of suicide that make the news are so-called murder-suicides, like the Lufthansa incident. I have never liked the term “murder-suicide.” They are really just homicides in which the perpetrator is determined to suffer no consequences for his action (this is overwhelmingly a crime committed by males.) I don’t know what term could replace it, “homicide–self-murder” perhaps, but it is so unlike other suicides it deserves its own category. I can’t see how anyone could kill 149 strangers and condemn them to horrifying deaths without an all-consuming rage against others. Suicidal rage is typically only directed at oneself. I don’t know what to call what happened on the jetliner, but to me, it isn’t suicide, its just mass murder.

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Jewish Civil Rights Veterans Speak at the University of Michigan–by Open Hillel

March 30, 2015 ­­– As part of Open Hillel’s national tour, three Jewish veterans of the Civil Rights movement spoke in Ann Arbor this evening in the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. Over one hundred people attended the event, which was co-sponsored by the University of Michigan student group Jews Allied for Social Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace at the University of Michigan, University of Michigan Community Action Social Change, and University of Michigan Organizational Studies.

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On the Ground in Israel—an Interview with Michael Argaman*

JP: Two weeks ago you went to Israel to vote and now that you are back in the United States could you share with us some of your encounters in Israel that you find meaningful and would give our readers information that they would not necessarily get from the media.

Michael Argaman: I participated in an event that I think exemplifies what Israelis do on the ground, in various civic activities on a regular basis and not just in the heat of election time. I am talking here about Israeli and Palestinian civilians who don’t give up on the idea of a peace agreement. There are obviously a number of organizations like Combatants for Peace and Women Wage Peace, which are involved in making an Israeli Palestinian agreement part of the public discourse. The group that I would like to mention is one that would seem the least likely, bereaved family members; this group has been tirelessly active for a number of years.

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First Time at the Kotel—by Kathleen Wilkinson

Off the bus? Now, in the dark and the rain?
Our clothes are not correct, our hearts are not prepared.
The rainy walkways could be slippery but they are not.
Old men begging at the gate – “walk on by” –
They are always here.

Mothers and their small children have come,
Perhaps night is their only chance.
Prayer is alive – help, solace, hope shimmer.
I stand back a bit, unsure, but smiles
Call me forward, space is made – for me.

When I touch the stone, cold and wet,
The suns of two thousand years shine warm.
I know the comfort and the connection
Sought and found by my generations.
I belong.

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Dozens of Jewish Leaders and Professionals Condemn Hillel International for Threatening Litigation over Swarthmore Hillel Programming—by Open Hillel

March 22, 2015 — Nearly one hundred Rabbis, professors, Jewish professionals, and Jewish leaders from around the country are calling upon Hillel International to stop driving away its students.

The Jewish leaders’ statement came after Hillel International threatened to sue Swarthmore College over Swarthmore Hillel’s planned Israel-Palestine programming.  Rather than bow to legal pressure and censor their programming, Swarthmore Hillel’s student board voted to change their name.  They made this decision following a two-hour discussion open to all members of the Jewish community on campus.

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We Need Your Help–by Open Hillel*

We need your help.

Last Monday, Hillel International threatened legal action against Swarthmore College. Why? Because Jewish students wanted to bring Jewish Civil Rights Veterans to speak in Swarthmore Hillel.

Hillel International’s actions are shocking, unethical, and counter to their mission of supporting Jewish life on campus. We need to let them know that suing students is unacceptable.

Call Hillel International CEO Eric Fingerhut and tell him — don’t sue your students!

Students at Swarthmore Hillel have spent the past year carefully crafting programming on Israel-Palestine that is inclusive, engaging, and intellectually rigorous. They’re bringing in a variety of speakers to discuss Israel-Palestine, including Jewish Civil Rights heroes Dorothy Zellner, Ira Grupper, Larry Rubin, and Mark Levy. Yet rather than supporting these student-initiated endeavors to discuss racism and social justice, Hillel International is trying to censor them — through the basest means possible.

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Two Poems–by Barbara D. Holender

A Birthday

My feet are 88.
They look it–
puffing around the ankles,
collecting themselves
to shoot the dark veins
up the knotty trunks.
I travel light,
hope they’ll hold me.

But if I must go piecemeal
I’d rather go from below
like Socrates
conversant to the end,
than grope the long way down,
having thrown the master switch.

****
On Reading A Translated Poem

Yiddish poem
your bones stick through
your borrowed clothes.

Poor immigrant,
your relatives
are always explaining you,
while your displaced persona
cries out in its own voice
“That’s not what I said!”

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How long, O Lord, will You always forget me?—by Peter Eisenstadt

How long, O Lord, will You always forget me?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long shall I cast about for counsel,
sorrow in my heart all day?
How long will my enemy have the upper hand?
Look at me, answer me, O Lord, my God
Restore the luster to my eyes
lest I sleep the sleep of death
lest my enemies say, “ I have overcome him”
my foes exult when I totte
r.

I have been reading the Book of Psalms in recent weeks. This, cobbled together from two translations, is most of psalm 13. (I will leave the last verse until later.) It describes a person who keeps on looking for God, and keeps on finding that God has left the premises. It describes a person who wants to be vindicated, who has been repeatedly defeated by numerous enemies, and who expects God to help. But God doesn’t. God apparently doesn’t care. The psalmist is humiliated and tormented.

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Netanyahu’s Gambit –by Michael Aronson

The ploy worked, and unless Israeli President Reuven Rivlin throws a curve ball, Benjamin Netanyahu will be the Israeli Prime Minister for another term. It is almost a foregone conclusion that Netanyahu will staff the new government with a cast of characters culled from Israel’s hard right-wing that won him the election. Despite Netanyahu’s politicking over recent news cycles to roll back his Monday disavowal of a two-state solution – as of Thursday, a two-state solution is back on the table, and was never really off the table in the first place – people aren’t buying it, and international forces are already mobilizing to force the issue: Israel must work towards a Palestinian state in actual fact, or international recognition of a Palestinian state will be an actual fact.

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When A Leader Transgresses– By Matia Kam*

King David 6th century synagogue in Gaza
King David
6th century synagogue in Gaza

Chapter four in Parshat VaYikra (Leviticus 1-5) picks up a specific sacrifice, the one that is offered when a person (in Hebrew: nefesh) inadvertently transgresses. The chapter begins with the words, “When a person unwittingly incurs guilt”—to speak to what is involved when any person falters without an intention to do so. Interestingly, what follows is not a set of instructions for what any individual should do; instead the text offers a detailed category of people in leadership who offend unintentionally. It focuses on three kinds of leaders, the spiritual (the anointed priest), the judicial court system (known as the Sanhedrin) and the political leader (Nasii, in Hebrew, or king). Only at the end of the chapter does the text come back to discuss the person, in the singular, anyone (in Hebrew: nefesh ahat).

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