I chose to focus on the biblical verse, “And Jacob said to Pharaoh…Few and hard have been the years of my life.” (Genesis 47:9]. This is not necessarily my most favorite verse in Torah, however it always touches my heart. I am fond of the person Jacob-Israel our forefather, despite of his all too human weaknesses and missteps. But mostly I like the honesty, self-awareness and sorrow that the verse reveals. At this moment in the Torah narrative Jacob-Israel is at the end of his life standing before the all-powerful Egyptian Pharaoh answering the ruler’s informative question, “How many are the years of your life?” His answer is just a few words, without self-pity yet, it is personal and acknowledges his complicated and anguished life. In his answer he is giving a self-account for himself and not necessarily to inform Pharaoh. His complicated life dotted by sorrow and grief is emblematic of his namesake, of his descendants the people Israel.
I am writing about a crisis in social psychology.
But, before I address the crisis, some background: Recently, a lot of press has been given to the Science article reporting that many psychological effects, in particular social psychological effects, did not replicate in a large scale replication project. Since deciding what replicated and what did not isnt as easy as it sounds (does it need to be significant to be successful? In the right direction? Consistent with the theory?), the exact percentage of studies isnt clear, but, to be safe, lets say over 50%. In other words, over 50% of studies didnt replicate when another researcher (not the original one who published the original paper) tried to replicate them. That sounds really bad. But it isnt the crisis I want to write about.
He was a leader who knew that his days were numbered and he wanted to make sure that his message would survive him and become a people’s legacy. It was not so much that he sought fame because he was already a preeminent leader; he was a liberator when slavery was the social norm, he freed a people when emancipation was unheard of. He was a radical proponent of One God when monotheism was not dominant. He was an exceptional leader, but not a perfect human being; he probably was not attentive to his wife and children, lost his temper, had a hard time delegating, and blamed the whole nation for losing his most precious wish, to enter the holy land. He publicly expressed the grudge he held against them, “because of you, God was incensed with me too, and told me ‘you shall not enter it. Joshua son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall enter it’” (Deuteronomy 1:37).
Citizenship has been in the news. Donald Trump wants to abolish “birthright citizenship” for Americans, primarily so he can expel some four million American citizens and their foreign born Central American or Mexican-born parents from the United States. And in Europe there is the sad spectacle of hundreds of thousands of essentially stateless refugees, desperate to flee war-torn Syria and Iraq, making their way to the safer haven of Europe in any way they can, herded like cattle, treated like produce, dying on the water, dying on the land.
I was standing in line at a suburban supermarket, thankful that there were only two people ahead of me, and expecting no more than the usual checkout routine. The cashier and the shopper had a friendly discussion about the amount of money on the debit card. Both women seemed to be in the same age-bracket, in their early thirties, the customer was African American the cashier was white.
I began to put my items on the counter when the next in line, a white older man said to the cashier, “Those people, they don’t like to work. Why should they? Obama gives them food stamps.”
J Street Statement On Gaza Conflict
J Street the Political Home for Pro-Israel Pro-Peace Americans
For more than three weeks now, fierce violence has raged between Israel and Hamas, taking an enormous toll in human life and suffering. J Street is deeply shocked and saddened by the losses suffered in this round of violence, from dozens of Israeli soldiers and civilians to the more than a thousand Gaza residents dead, and thousands more wounded.
Our hearts go out to the families of all those who have died or been injured, in particular the children whose lives have been cut short by this deadly conflict. The devastation and homelessness in Gaza must be addressed immediately or the suffering there will only continue to lay the seeds for further and deeper violence.
J Street’s position on the violence and our recommendations for actions to end it are as follows: