Monthly Archives: November 2015

Turkeys, Thanksgiving, and Lincoln’s Legacy—by Ayala Emmett

A Live Turkey
A Live Turkey

I love Thanksgiving, yet I cheer for the lucky turkey that gets the presidential pardon because I am on the side of turkeys. I know that it is hard to make a case for them. I admit that turkeys are unattractive creatures with huge bodies and tiny heads with folds of drooping skin around their chins. They keep puffing their feathers pretending to be peacocks, emitting dreadful sounds that provoke their tribe to respond in a loud disorganized chorus.

I recognize that my support for the turkeys’ right to live could disqualify me as a Thanksgiving enthusiast. Moreover, not only do I side with turkeys, I am also an anthropologist with an interest in the origin of myths. As with all myths, research of historic documents indicates some issues with the facts in the Thanksgiving myth. The Pilgrims didn’t really have the kind of Thanksgiving that we recount in our schools; one of the early Pilgrims’ official Thanksgivings to God was rejoicing their massacre of the Pequot Indians in Mystic Connecticut. read more

American Anthropologists Betray their own Values–by ADIP Anthropologists for Dialogue on Israel & Palestine

While debating an academic boycott of Israeli universities Friday, an overwhelming majority of American anthropologists rejected a motion to reaffirm the discipline’s historic commitment to non-discrimination

 Denver, CO. A turning point in American academic history took place Friday night during the annual business meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA). With an all-time record attendance of more than 1500, the Association debated a resolution to boycott Israeli universities which was eventually upheld. Minutes into the debate, the Association refused to take up an amendment to the boycott resolution which affirms the AAA’s “long standing support of academic freedom and its opposition to measures that foster discrimination on the basis of race, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, age or disability’. The proposed anti-discrimination clause was rejected by a crushing majority of AAA members attending. With this rejection, and by embracing the boycott resolution which discriminates Israeli universities later that evening by a 1,040 to 136 majority, the AAA repudiated its long cherished values of promoting pluralism and tolerance. read more

Peace and Two States is an Anthropological and a Justice Position: No to Academic Boycotting

Anthropologists for Dialogue on Israel/Palestine
Promoting the use of anthropology in working towards peace and justice
in Israel/Palestine

Peace and Two States is an Anthropological and a Justice Position*
November 20, 2015 / Anthro-Dialogue

By Ayala Emmett, Professor Emeritus of Anthropology, U of R

My question for you my fellow anthropologists who are supporting ostracizing and isolating Israeli academics, is: What have you done for peace and a two state solution? Numerous anthropologists on this site have already posted compelling arguments against your position; for me, a long time peace activist anthropologist and writer, your answer is critical. If your answer to the question: What have you done for peace and two states, is your vote tomorrow, think again. Those of us who have been peace activists all those years, have done fieldwork among peace activists, published, gave talks, supported local activists have not seen many of you supporting our efforts to end the occupation and promote a just solution. It seems to me that like the right-wing, you embrace rage rather than compassion, destruction rather than supporting co-existence (yes, I know it’s been a long time, much too long, I was there) and you have made the task of those of us on the left, who spoke up on this anthropological/political ground for years, so much harder. I do know what I have done for peace and two states. Do you? read more

David Ben-Gurion on Saul as a Tragic King—by Matia Kam

King Saul Rembrandt van Rijn 17th century
King Saul
Rembrandt van Rijn
17th century

Ben-Gurion found King Saul particularly touching because of the contradiction between Saul’s significant achievements described in the first chapters in the Book of Samuel, and the king’s tragic end. Two verses are used by Ben-Gurion to demonstrate Saul’s skillful victories, “Saul consolidated the kingdom over Israel. He waged war against all his enemies all around-with Moab and the descendants of Ammon and with Edom and with the kings of Zobah and with the Philistines…and he rescued Israel from all its oppressors.”* read more

Thoughts about Paris—by Peter Eisenstadt

Ba-ta-clan. Before Friday, for those who cared about such things, it was the name of a fairly obscure operetta by the 19th century French master of light operetta, Jacques Offenbach. Now it is the latest entry in a long list of places that have been synonymous with tragedy, horror and senseless death and murder. The world has come together to mourn, and ponder what to do next. The question of the hour is what to do about ISIS. It is a serious question, and it deserves a serious answer.

It is much easier to say what not to do. What we should not do is, as some are already doing, talking about restricting civil liberties, or blaming Edward Snowden. One ill-thought through Patriot Act was enough. We should not be blaming Islam for this tragedy. God knows we’re no fans of George W. Bush, but at least after 9/11, he was forthright in saying that Islam was not our enemy. Even the term “radical Islam” is far too imprecise. (Why are there no radical Jews or radical Christians?) We know that when the term “radical Islam” is used it filters right into the atmospheric of religious prejudice to become Islam is radical. To listen to the current crop of Republican candidates attack Islam, or governors say they want no Syrian refugees, or at least no Muslim Syrians in their state is to listen to a party which has no shame to use this tragedy to support and perpetuate xenophobic, and racist ideologies. read more

On the Road in Israel Between Acre and Kiryat Motzkin—by David Langerman

Two weeks ago I went to pick up food from our restaurant, which is 7 kilometers from my house in Kiryat Motzkin and close to the port town of Acre. We don’t own the place, but we refer to it as ‘our restaurant’ because for many years it has been a place that we call a culinary home away from home, we eat there at least once a week, we do take-outs we bring family and friends to celebrate, to enjoy good food and good company. When the restaurant is not busy, or when we stay late, the owners join us for coffee and conversation. We know about each other’s life and families. read more

Antisemitism & Islamophobia: A Panel Discussion—by Ayala Emmett

interfaith dialogue
interfaith dialogue

Antisemitism and Islamophobia were the focus of the panel discussion yesterday November 12, at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester. The panel tackled each topic in its specific historic context, avoiding simplifications or reductionism and demonstrating that there are people in Jewish and Muslim communities who condemn violence. The panelists, Dr. Afridi, Dr. Shafiq, and Rabbi Katz drew on scholarly publications and on personal and professional experiences.

Each panelist offered a coherent perspective and each spoke with honesty, resolution, and enormous empathy for suffering; they all spoke of pain and tragedy inflicted on victims of senseless bigoted hatred. They spoke with great respect, and with what we call in Hebrew k’vod ha’adam, human dignity, invoking God creating humans in God’s image, in the Book of Genesis. Each spoke with clarity and courage about their respective communities and spoke across faith traditions with appreciation and affection. That great respect that the speakers have demonstrated resonated in the room and gave hope to the audience. read more



A talk with Alan Elsner, J Street VP for Communications.
Presented by J Street Rochester
Tuesday, November 17, 7:30 pm at the JCC, 1200 Edgewood Avenue, Rochester N.Y.

With the current horrific violence in Israeli and the West Bank and Gaza, many Israelis, Palestinians and American Jews have given up on ever reach peace. Yet, according to Alan Elsner, the two-state solution remains the only viable way to resolve the conflict. This talk will examine why the current situation is unsustainable. Elsner believes that if the parties continue on their present course, Israel’s future as a democracy and Jewish homeland will come under increasing threat. His lecture is entitled: read more

Thrice-Anointed King—by Matia Kam

King Saul
King Saul

Saul is a unique case of a biblical king anointed three times. The first time he was anointed secretly by the prophet Samuel, some time later he was declared king publicly after being chosen from amongst the tribes. Yet, even at that public ritual he did not receive full public support. Opposing him were conniving men who expressed contempt for him. Saul definitive victory in the battle with the Ammonite won him sizeable support and admiration, followed by calls to denounce and kill those who plotted against the king. Saul had the wisdom to refuse that kind of vindictive action; Samuel, however, took advantage of that moment of victory and offered to “renew the kingship” ceremonially with huge public support and great jubilation. read more

All That Glass–by Gertrud J. Lind*


All that glass
shattered one long ago November night,
can never ever be swept away.
Splinters are pushing into the light of day,
still sharp on all sides.
When sunshine hits these broken pieces,
millions of yahrzeit lights illumine the loss,
while fragments of the rainbow flicker with hope
and the promise of Tikkun Olam.


*Gertrud Lind died on June 15, 2015.
Her poem was published in The Jewish Pluralist last year.
Gertrud’s life was marked by courage, self-determination, and social commitment.
She is always in our hearts.  May Her Memory Be Of Blessing read more