I am now studying Torah!
I have been zooming in to Brant Rosen‘s Saturday morning study sessions with the Tzedek Chicago synagogue community that evoke an enthusiastic, wideranging, heartful, intelligent, pleasantly knowledgable response from the fifty or so people who tune in from all over the place like me. Jews partition the Five Books of Moses into weekly portions, and we read and focus on each one in turn from one Simchat Torah to the next. Simchat Torah is a holiday that comes shortly after Yom Kippur in the fall.
I am also now receiving weekly emails from Lucia Pizarro of the Jewish Liberation Theology Center (JLTC) with some perspective on the weekly portion. A couple of months back I realized I had needed to revisit Marc Ellis’ book Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation. Then I learned about the JLTC when my rabbi friends Lynn Gottlieb and Everett Gendler did something through them. For the portion Parashat Vayechi Lucia interpreted the story that Jacob reflected back to his sons on his deathbed, revisiting lessons learned from a life lived rather than sharing prophecies, a power which eluded him as he lay dying. She brought the lesson to the present moment. I appreciate her bringing attention to this terrible issue. I encourage everyone to support the six groups that Israel is attacking. Be part of these groups. Be allies, supporters, friends, accomplices. Here is why and what to do about it, from Lucia Pizarro:
Today, let’s look back at Israel’s designation of six reputable Palestinian human rights organizations as “terroritst” institutions back in October, a designation intended to halt the work of Palestinian human rights organizations in documenting Israel’s past and ongoing human rights violations and war crimes. Many world leaders, advocates, allies, celebrities, and international NGOs issued statements of condemnation, but these efforts have so far remained isolated and not strong enough to hold Israel accountable. It is for this reason that the six organizations and their allies have created a new website dedicated to the #StandWithThe6 campaign, which allows supporters to send emails directly to US and EU leaders, demanding to pressure Israel to revoke its unlawful designation, as well as to sign petitions and amplify the voices of Palestinian civil society organizations. Please visit the campaign’s website and take action: https∶//palcivilsociety.com/ Israel’s designations are an escalation of its ongoing assault against Palestinian civil society. We must stand strong in solidarity with Palestinian civil society and demand that others rise in solidarity also. Please visit the website and take action: https∶//palcivilsociety.com/
Reproductive Freedom; Respecting Women: Resource Recommendations from a Provider Friend
I am of course upset about the terrible assaults throughout the United States and at the Supreme Court on women’s rights to control their reproductive and other life decisions. I hope we all are as supportive of abortion providers and recipients as we can be, and women in general, women of color especially. A few years ago at a social justice film festival, annually organized by the law school at the University of Nevada at Las Vegas, I saw a film about the laws in El Salvador that lead women who have miscarriages to be imprisoned as though they had induced an abortion, something illegal there. Now that is happening in the United States too. I just searched on “miscarriage, abortion, jail,” and this excellent BBC report came up: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-59214544
Planned Parenthood and NARAL are of course in the forefront of the fight as organizations. They deserve our support, but if you want to help more marginalized elements of this work, here are some recommendations from a doctor friend who performs abortions and who has been in New Mexico to help people in desperate need of her help. Thank you, Shelley S., for these suggestions:
1. Access Reproductive Justice. https://accessrj.org/about-access-rj/This is a good local, i.e. California, group that operates a hotline and assists women to access reproductive healthcare. Although medi-cal covers abortion, there is still need for money to cover transportation and housing. They also help when women need to travel out-of-state if they have passed the California gestational limit.
2. Brigid Alliance,https://brigidalliance.org Increasingly, people have to travel to access care. This group provides funding for women who need to travel out-of-state to access an abortion. In addition to funding the costs of travel, they also make the reservations and help guide the woman through the process, which can be scary and complex, especially for women who have never left their communities before.
3.Jane’s Due Process, http://janesdueprocess.org/Back before Texas essentially banned abortion, this team of volunteer lawyers would help teenagers in Texas navigate the judicial bypass process to obtain an abortion AND would help young women access an abortion if/when their appeal is denied. Right now, they are focused on the latter.
4. The Mariposa Fund. http://mariposafund.org/ This group was started by several young women at our clinic to fund abortion care for undocumented women in New Mexico as New Mexico medicaid does not cover those who are undocumented.
5. National Network of Abortion Funds. https://abortionfunds.org This group disburses funds to many smaller abortion funds to cover the costs of abortion care.
Covid and Boosters
I want to update y’all on my status regarding booster shots against covid19. As I type, I have received my flu shot but not a booster. That choice was the right one for my friends Gabriella and Sam who welcomed me to visit with them and little six-week old Daphne last week. I am starting to believe, however, that basic protection does wane, but Omicron is a real game changer. Even if its symptoms are relatively mild, its increased transmissiblity portends more mutations, some of which won’t be benign at all. On 12/17 I meant to try to schedule one, but I was busy, and still a little ambivalent. I got an appointment for 12/30 but I was able to change it to today, the solstice. If I am going forward, doing so asap makes sense. I have a trip coming up on 1/11, and it will make venturing forth feel less dicey, if I am able still to go.
I am upset that leaders didn’t have the desire to fall back on “enlightened self-interest” to justify swift disbursement of covid vaccines, treatments and know-how worldwide. If the leaders of the United States, Britain, Canada, Germany had any inkling to be humanitarian and kind, generous and caring, but were afraid that acting that way would be translated as weakness or not taking care of people at home, they could have fallen back on enlightened self-interest to do the right thing globally. They had an easy way to do good and be helpful on a global scale and they have refused to. That is damning behavior. Nothing short of a global approach will stop it from being a major problem. They didn’t even fall back on enlightened self-interest!
I think that is because Joe Biden doesn’t really care if poor black people he doesn’t know die. He accepts that. And sadly, many people in this country and other wealthy countries are on board with accepting “avoidable excess deaths” in the hundreds of thousands; nay, millions if not tens of millions. The air was so clear at the start of the pandemic. It seemed like everything needed to slow down, hunkering down to survive. Now we seem hell bent in so many ways: fossil fuel extraction using and befouling our water as the rest is bottled and sold back to us; weapons in the hands of drones and even autonomous systems in support of greedy tyrants; withholding of lifesaving treatment resources that could be shared. God save us!
Scattered Resources For your Brilliant Hearts
Brooklyn, Inshallah, America Reframed https://worldchannel.org/episode/america-reframed-brooklyn-inshallah/ Watch this wonderful episode of America Reframed about a Palestinian-American pastor running for political office in Brooklyn, New York. Thank you to Seth Morrison, JVP board member and Las Vegas friend for bringing this to my attention.
On a similar note (Islamophobia and standing up to it), Zahra Billoo, head of the Bay Area chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) has been under repugnant attack by the San Francisco Jewish Community Relations Council.
Speaking of the military budget: Tom Englehardt’s TomDispatch (I receive a Tomgram in my email sometimes) shared an excellent piece about the Pentagon budget making rarely made connections (unless you read these Missives periodically, or know the likes of Bill Hartung, CODEPINK, Frida Berrigan and a handful of others) between what is devoted to war and nuclear insanity/immorality vs. what little it would take to do so much else better. Find it here: https://tomdispatch.com/the-u-s-military-budget-as-a-mushroom-cloud/
“Firms like BlackRock, Vanguard, and JPMorgan have pumped $157 billion into firms directly tied to deforestation in the five years since the Paris climate agreement was signed.” That is from a November article in The Intercept. I’m not happy with Lincoln Financial, the company that manages my 401k for my employer. I have had to repeatedly disinvest in BlackRock. It reappeared even after I thought I had deleted it from my future “elections.” And I can’t get my money into Pax World Fund or Calvert with them. They say they haven’t heard of filters for anything other than rate of return and investment security and risk. I’m surprised the HR folks in the nonprofit I work for had no idea either. Is this an indication that I am on the margins? With school districts not wanting to invest in gun manufacturers and a lot of institutions not wanting to invest in fossil fuels, I find it hard to believe, or hard to understand. Check out this resource for sound, socially responsible investing: As You Sow. There is also Invest Your Values.
This is an excellent and extensive critique of the efforts to include nuclear power in solutions to the climate crisis.
The Boys Who Said NO! Draft Resistance and The Vietnam War is a new film by Judith Ehrlich, presented by Bullfrog Films. “Inspired by Black America’s crusade for equal rights, young Americans choose to resist the Vietnam War, and openly refuse military service, risking prison to end the horrors of war.” Great music by local friend Beth Custer, this film raises up the experiences and example of quite a number of people I call friends. Judith Ehrlich is a great documentarian, and her earlier film about World War II conscientious objectors, The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It, had a big influence on me, solidifying what I had learned about this history in an earlier War Resisters League calendar on the subject. It was great to see my friend David Miller publicly burn his draft card, the first to do so. http://www.bullfrogfilms.com/catalog/bosn.html
Bob Meola: What is remembered, lives. Here is a fuller testimonial than I could have written about the generous, thoughtful, active life of love and dedication that Bob Meola lived: https://objector.church/bob-meola-1952-2021/ Thank you, Jeff Patterson! I knew Bob most closely through the War Resisters League.
We both sat on the WRL National Committee and “represented” WRL West.Bob stepped up when WRL appealed to people to run for the National Committee sometime in the 200s. Sadly, it stopped feeling like I or we could muster new, fresh energy for WRL West in the Bay Area amidst other organizing pushes and pulls. A few fine folk still share info on a small Riseup listserve, keeping another seed of hope alive. Bob was unflinching in his work for conscientious objectors and for people like Chelsea Manning, the amazing whistleblower who is for now free. God help her through whatever happens if Julian Assange is extradited to this bloodthirsty country.
Bob faithfully organized the May 15 International Conscientious Objectors Day gathering for noon in Berkeley. A handful of people would sing songs and hand out “pie charts” that expose the government deception about the size of military spending. A peace flag would fly in Berkeley at Bob’s behest. He made the Berkeley Peace and Justice Commission something real to me. I’m sorry Bob had such a painful end of days. He deserved peace and comfort. May Sue and Sofia, Bob’s wife and daughter, feel comfort in the memory of Bob’s warmth, integrity and deep love.
Jesse Lewis and Patty Carmody of the Los Angeles Catholic Worker: What is remembered, lives. Jesse died the end of October, but I just saw it in their newsletter. Patty went to Jesus in December. I recall Jesse’s great perseverance once his parkinsons began to develop. Whenever I visit L.A. I would always be a little sad if Jesse and Martha were out of town. Great heart. Great mind. Great spirit. Patty I would see at gatherings or once in a blue moon at the kitchen or a Friday Clarification of Thought. She also exemplified what MLK said God calls us to be: both kind and intelligent. What is remembered, lives.
Another Offensive, Islamophobic Attack by the SF JCRC: I say C’mon PEPs! Get on Board! And meanwhile, Back in the south Hebron Hills…
Zahra Billoo is a wonderful and inspiring person. She has spoken as an honored guest at many synagogues including my own Kehilla Community Synagogue. Now, she under scurrilous attack by the avowedly Zionist Jewish Community Relations Council (and now others as well), yet another stalwart woman of color, Muslim (not Palestinian herself as I recall) who articulated for the Palestinian cause and national narrative to be attacked. Linda Sarsour, Lara Kiswani come quickly to mind. All Jews of conscience need to step up for Palestinian, Arab, Muslim women leaders and not buy into misguided repetition of disingenuous questions of their integrity. You can’t let prevalent, systemic antisemitism make you a sheepish hater. Stand with Jews who stand with Palestinians!
Meanwhile, Back in Palestine…I was on a recent zoom presentation by Rabbi Arik Asherman and other brave souls of Ta’Ayush and Torat Tzedekh, Asherman’s post-Rabbis for Human Rights group. As they described their days in Area C and the harrowing lives of the Palestinians there, videos that Palestinian friends Basil, Eid and Awdah have shared on social media in the past few months. They issued a compelling call for donations so they can add a lawyer to staff to assist brave Palestinians who are willing to legally challenge the physical assaults and destruction of property to the police and in the courts. Jewish observers are calling these attacks by Jewish colonists and occupiers “pogroms”! How can that not strike at the heart of every Ashkenazi, if not every Jew? Support Torat Tzedekh!
I want to go back to Palestine and Israel with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence this year. We’ll see how the trip(s) develop. Nonetheless, if you are donating money, it would be great if CJNV could be on your list!
And don’t think that Palestinians inside ’48 have it much better than those in the official Occupied Territories. They sort of do, but when pogroms against Palestinians are on the rise, they can happen very close to home…and the home of my sister. They live near Lydd (Lod). My last night there in 2020 we went there to have dinner. https://www.972mag.com/lydd-settlers-jewish-extremists/
War Tax Resistance Leading to More Threatening Letters
I’m grateful for the guidance and uplift I receive from National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Network (NWTRCC.org). They are a wealth of knowledge on a lot of tax stuff in general. Also, over the years, NWTRCC advocacy has actually led to some important changes. The IRS wanted to call it “frivolous” to write something about why one isn’t paying their liability as calculated. The network pushed for a change so that writing on the official form is actionable, including a letter with a return is not. NWTRCC helped garner non-filers access to stimulus/pandemic payouts too.
The IRS has been sending me monthly statements for tax years 2019 and 2020. Nothing about 2011 which I am sure I owe them something for, but not for long. The IRS may have made recent noise as though they are dropping their ten year statute of limitations on collecting, but that is still a thing. That is why I finally did file for 2019 a year late; I wanted that clock to start clicking. Seems unlikely that I’ll make it to ten years since the last letter said they could start taking my assets in thirty days. The accruing interest and penalties are daunting, but I have been assured that they are par for the course. I like the idea of them having to take it from me instead of me giving it to them, especially after year after year of bipartisan explosion of the Pentagon budget and the failure to fund any good on that scale. NWTRCC has a small staff. Check them out. Support them if you can. (And sister organization, the War Resisters League too!)
Chava, David and Yona Visited during Chanukah (and Everyone is Well.)
It brought me to Baywood at other than my usual Tuesday and Saturday mornings to lead my exercise and “Sit, Stretch and Smile” classes. We all enjoyed the tree lighting celebration in the front parking circle as part of our Shabbat (along with nightly Chanukah candle lighting in the library). The festivities were almost over the top, but done so well, all of them! The Santa and helper at easy to access photo booth was a delight. The crepes were nice and the nog and cider. The horse drawn carriage rides were outstanding, and the seniors could do it. Yona really connected with the horses in a sweet way and they enjoyed her petting their noses. The tree is 30′ tall and brought in from Oregon. It took quite an effort over several days to get it up and decorated. The choir was very special. Their repetoire wasn’t edgy, but it was different, with none of the usual stuff. Funny, touching, not just a throw off. It was a fun party.
I’ll hopefully travel to visit Eamon on January 11!