Archive for the ‘Church & Culture’ Category

The indispensable Heaps

June 11, 2017

A beautiful sunny day in midtown Toronto,right off the Kensington market and here we were happily celebrating the extraordinary Christian lives of Dan and Alice Heap.

Kudos to Heritage Toronto to have the brains and talent to marshall this one through.

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The Heap home at 29 Wales was indeed a boiler room for progressive causes of all kinds. And make no mistake about it. You could not talk about the Heaps without acknowledging their formidable partnership.The plaque unveiled was a helluva précis on the couples’ life.it touched all the basesHousing, Co-ops, Social Justice activity of all kinds.Heritage Toronto as a secular institution focussed on their trade union advocacy,community organizing, socialism ant anti-war activity.

 

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For those of us who knew them, they were fired by the gospel of liberative social justice. Both were grads of the Student Christian Movement then an almost totally Protestant organization one which produced so many great Canadian Christian activists, largely United Church and Anglican.Two of the more notable ones, though there were dozens i could name, were Anglican primate Ted Scott and United Church Moderator Lois Wilson. Both Alice and Dan were longtime parishioners at Holy Trinity the dynamic Anglican parish nestled next to the belly of the beast, that shrine to consumerism, Eaton Centre.I was privileged  to be present there at Dan’s final eucharist just before his mind would be enveloped by darkness.
Dan was elected three times in the 80s as the NDP member from Spadina. Once I called him late at night in Ottawa  when that apostle for peace Phil Berrigan was held in the West Detention Centre barred from entering Canada. One call to Dan and the nervous feds let him in. What a strange country this is sometimes —no problem welcoming war criminals like Henry Kissinger in but keeping out for gospel proponents of peace.
One could not think while listening to son David Heap’s welcoming remarks about the latest government misstep giving $60 billion to Defense as social housing goes begging.
The following story from the Toronto Star (October 19, 2011) tells of my own initial meeting with this extraordinary Christian in the mid 70’s.

 

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Ted Schmidt with some of his students at Neil McNeil Catholic High School, circa 1981.

Heap’s legacy: Life lessons off the basketball court
By LAURIE MONSEBRAATEN Social Justice Reporter

Former alderman Dan Heap inspired a coach to cancel practice and take the team to a rally for exploited grape workers.

 

Ted Schmidt with some of his students at Neil McNeil Catholic High School, circa 1981. Schmidt’s understanding of Christian social justice, which he tried to transmit to students, was inspired and shaped by Dan Heap’s example.

 

On Saturday, the Star published a story about former MP Dan Heap and the obstacles his family faced trying to get him suitable care. Since it appeared, we have been overwhelmed with anecdotes about how Heap touched readers’ lives. Each day this week, we’re featuring one of them. Today, former Toronto high school teacher Ted Schmidt.

Dan Heap brought his passion for social justice to Toronto city hall as an alderman from 1972 to 1981, where he connected local residents to global issues such as the plight of Mexican grape workers in California.

Ted Schmidt, a former religion teacher and basketball coach at Neil McNeil Catholic High School, was one of many who heard Heap’s call to action one day in 1974.

Cesar Chavez spoke for the exploited workers in California and Heap, who was holding a rally for the cause in Nathan Phillips Square, was their voice in Toronto, Schmidt recalls.

“I called off practice that day. . . I told my players that we had bigger fish to fry. People were in trouble and needed our help,” he says.

Schmidt, who grew up in Spadina, the riding Heap later represented in Parliament from 1981 to 1993, had never met Heap, an Anglican priest and former factory worker. But he was impressed by Heap’s “brave public witness.”

“I well remembered the then clean-shaven Heap picketing his own Anglican Church House at the height of the Vietnam War in 1966,” Schmidt says. “He was demanding that the church who spoke in the name of Jesus speak louder on behalf of the pulverized civilians of Vietnam.”

When Schmidt brought his basketball team to the rally, he introduced himself to Heap and told him how much he admired his defence of the voiceless.

Here was a city councillor who was the incarnation of all the values we teach as a Catholic high school. It was important for my students to see that,” says Schmidt, 72, and now editor of the New Catholic Times, a bi-weekly online newsletter for social justice.
Over the years, Schmidt became friends with Heap and his wife, Alice. Later, when Schmidt was teaching courses to Catholic teachers, he invited Heap to speak to them about the role of the Christian in society.

“I had no real mentors in the 1960s in the public sphere,” he says. “Dan was the first.”
Watching this lovely event evolve and scanning the crowd I could not help but think how almost irrelevant the local Catholic church has become in the social sphere. As the glow of the great Council fades, we will find so few prelates engaged in the struggle for a more just world. There will be Christmas baskets and parish centred picnics but from the top down there will be little deep civic engagement and virtually little ecclesial leadership in the great social causes of our world.

 
In time the church will grow smaller and probably lay led. Inevitably there will be great people like Dan and Alice rise up. There will always be gospel dreamers singing, as we did on Saturday, that great 60s anthem:

 

Last night I had the strangest dream i ever had before
I dreamed the world had all agreed to put an end to war

Bertolt Brecht could easily been thinking of Dan and Alice when he penned these lines in The Mother(1930)

There are those who struggle for a day and they are good.
There are those who struggle for a year and they are better.
There are those who struggle many years, and they are better still.
But there are those who struggle all their lives: these are the indispensable ones.
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50 years, far too long

June 4, 2017

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First, it was  the Toronto Symphony Orchestra proving how deaf some in the arts can be. They went to israel and ignored the cultural boycott. They not only do not have the words but they do not have the right music. They went and played for apartheid.

Join us in front of the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) (corner of Bloor & Queens Park, 100 Queens Park)

Monday, June 5, 2017
at 5:30 PM (until approximately 7 PM)

The Jerusalem Foundation of Canada is holding a gala at the ROM with the Mayor of Jerusalem to celebrate 50 years of military occupation of the Palestinian Territory of East Jerusalem, West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights.

 
As we remember June 5, 1967 and the beginning of the Six Day War Join us & let Toronto know our message is

“Don’t celebrate occupation, Jerusalem is a City for All” Invite israel to stop being a pariah nation. It could be such a great country, a true democracy where each person gets the vote.

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50 years of military occupation in the Palestinian territory.

Help bring israel to its senses…and wake the Royal Ontario Museum up from its ethical slumber.

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Nappy wisdom

May 5, 2017

In 2015 there was a Synod on the Family and Cardinal Walter Kasper had to remind “the faithful” that they should not think, that everything could be decided by cardinals and bishops. All those who will participate in the consistory will be celibates, after all. But most of the faithful lived out their faith in families. Families often faced difficult situations that celibates must try to understand.  Lay people have “something to say to us,” Kasper insisted.

No kidding. Theoretically we have a church of equals, basically a lay church served by clerics and the good cardinal had to remind the baptized of this salient fact.

At this time I recall the salty (honest) former president of Ireland Mary McAleese making a few wise cracks. She knew her stuff and had been studying canon law in Rome and at that time was interviewed in Dublin.

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McAleese averred that here was something “profoundly wrong and skewed” in looking to a synod of bishops to rule on Catholic teaching about family life.

“The very idea of a hundred and fifty people who have decided they are not going to have any children, not going to have families, not going to be fathers and not going to be spouses—so they have no experience of family life as the rest of us know it—but they are going to advise the pope on family life, it is completely bonkers.”

She had replied to the worldwide survey of Catholic opinion with a question of her own for Francis: “How many of the men who will gather to advise you as pope on the family have ever changed a baby’s nappy?”

Resistance and the prophetic

April 26, 2017

Ben Ehrenreich is proof-positive that the prophetic never dies. More on this later.

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Ehrenreich is an American writer with a Jewish past who for 3 three years has been travelling in the West Bank staying with Palestinian families in both urban centres and small villages. his book The Way to the Spring will give you a taste of his work.

Here he tells stories which never make it into our papers but are grassroots snapshots of the ugly apartheid lives of ordinary Palestinians. These are the stories that Christian Zionists will never hear nor tribal Jews of the disapora who out of misguided loyalty defend everything that Israel does. Many of the latter have no truck with the majestic religion of Judaism but are cultural Jews seeking some kind of transcendent meaning so they reflexively support, many with huge bucks, the “Jewish” state. This type of support (of brutal occupation and pervasive cruelty) mocks the Covenant and betrays authentic universal values of Judaism.

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Ehrenreich like many Jews of conscience actually does something about the situation.He lives with the oppressed and tells their stories to people for whatever reason, (largely ideological) who refuse to believe him.

Recently on his blog (http://benehrenreich.net) this was part of a longer tale:
The Persian historian Atâ-Malek Juvaini’s History of a World Conqueror.

Eight years after the sacking of Bukhara, writes Juvaini, “a sieve maker of Tārāb in the district of Bukhara rose up in rebellion in the dress of the people of rags, and the common people rallied to his standard.” Juvaini, who had ingratiated himself in the Mongol court, describes the rebel leader with undisguised contempt.

Still, we learn from him that the poor came to Mahmud the sieve maker of Tārāb as they once did to Jesus of Galilee: to heal the sick and the paralyzed, to restore sight to the blind. He was said to converse with jinns, or spirits, who, “informed him of what was hidden.” When Mahmud the sieve maker of Tārāb entered the city of Bukhara, the alleys of the market were so crowded with people eager for his blessing that “there was not even room for a cat to pass.”

He had in mind a more holistic sort of healing, and instructed the poor to arm themselves with whatever weapons they could find. “My army is partly visible, consisting of men,” he announced, “and partly invisible, consisting of the heavenly hosts, which fly in the air, and of the tribe of the jinns, which walk on the earth.” And so the poor of Bukhara soon took the town and plundered the houses of the wealthy.

I would imagine that his point was imply to say that people inherently will rise up and challenge oppression. They simply will not accept dehumanization. Jews did in so many ways and more actively in the Warsaw uprising. So Palestinians refuse to accept their simply awful , perduring humiliation. Their resistance is perfectly understandable and legal.

RESI

United Nations General Assembly Resolution A/RES/33/24 of 29 November 1978:

Reaffirms the legitimacy of the struggle of peoples for independence, territorial integrity, national unity and liberation from colonial and foreign domination and foreign occupation by all available means, particularly armed struggle;” (3)

This justification for legitimate armed resistance has been specifically applied to the Palestinian struggle repeatedly. To quote General Assembly Resolution A/RES/3246 (XXIX) of 29 November 1974:

Reaffirms the legitimacy of the peoples’ struggle for liberation form colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation by all available means, including armed struggle; …

7. Strongly condemns all Governments which do not recognize the right to self-determination and independence of peoples under colonial and foreign domination and alien subjugation, notably the peoples of Africa and the Palestinian people; (4)

Whereas I do not accept some of the implied violence of Mahmoud I am fascinated by his  statement:

My army is partly visible, consisting of men,” he announced, “and partly invisible, consisting of the heavenly hosts, which fly in the air, and of the tribe of the jinns, which walk on the earth.

This hints of the prophetic, of unseen powers which I will address tomorrow,

Bill O’Reilly and Cardinal Dolan

April 23, 2017

What a bracing combo, Rupert Murdoch and Bill O’Reilly.

Fox news (Faux News) the rightwing drum beat with angry white men contorting the truth on a regular basis, paid O’Reilly $29 mill a year to spew his venom and insult progressives of all stripes, berate them, interrupt them etc. O’Reilly even had the temerity to lecture the Pope on immigration.

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There is something seriously wrong with a system which pays a blowhard like this so much money. Even with all this excessive lucre O’Reilly still wanted  to be seen with Pope Francis. And his wish was granted—the same day he was fired by Fox for his tom-catting.

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Meanwhile back home female writers have had a field day at O’Reilly’s expense, ripping the reactionary bloviator a new one. One female columnist wrote, “I hope the Pope  washed his hands after shaking O’Reilly’s. Not bad.

Now one wonders why the pope would meet with a guy like O’Reilly whose social views mock Catholic social teaching.

Here’s the answer.

The weekly Papal audience is a large event open to the public, with tens of thousands of the faithful filling the square. The special section beside the stage holding the papal throne, where Mr. O’Reilly sat, is exclusive and can be entered only with special tickets.

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the archbishop of New York, wrote to the Vatican several months ago requesting tickets for Mr. O’Reilly and his family, according to Joe Zwilling, a spokesman for Cardinal Dolan.

That’s just the episcopal leadership we’ve been subject to for far too long.

And you wonder why the church in the USA is in free fall

Capitalism and Catholicism, a toxic brew.

Catholicism corrupted

March 10, 2017

All night on March 8, the US House of Representatives organized itself into committees to look at this shocking betrayal of American citizens and their right to decent health care. The richest (and most religious or is that irreligious) country in the world is still a dinosaur of a nation in this regard. The staggering war-making machine which dwarfs the seven next countries in bloated kill power has just been bumped another 10% by Trump…and all the while health care for all citizens is being jettisoned.

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On One of the committees the House Energy and Commerce Committee sits Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, son of Congressman Joe, grandson of Senator Robert F., and grand-nephew of President John F. and Senator Edward M. It seems that young Kennedy has not forgotten his basic catechism lessons

Kennedy verbally took on Wisconsin Republican house leader  Paul Ryan

“I was struck last night by a comment that I heard made by Speaker Ryan, where he called this repeal bill ‘an act of mercy.’ With all due respect to our speaker, he and I must have read different Scripture…The one I read calls on us to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to shelter the homeless, and to comfort the sick. It reminds us that we are judged not by how we treat the powerful, but by how we care for the least among us. There is no mercy in a system that makes health care a luxury. There is no mercy in a country that turns their back on those most in need of protection: the elderly, the poor, the sick, and the suffering. There is no mercy in a cold shoulder to the mentally ill. This is not an act of mercy. It is an act of malice.”

I wrote this 4 years ago but it apparently bears repeating:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

William Butler Yeats : The Second Coming

Nothing bespeaks the devolution of contemporary Catholicism and the abandonment of the Vatican ll vision as the announcement of Paul Ryan as Vice-Presidential Republican candidate.

One hardly knows where to start when analyzing the shocking use of “my Catholic faith” in describing Ryan’s bizarre gospel worldview.

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Of course Ryan begins with his conservative cred—-his pro life stance—-meaning anti-abortion (a fight which will never be won given the polarization in the US), so it’s safe to be “pro life”—and vote for war budgets at every chance.
In April, Ryan was taken to the woodshed when he dared use Catholic Social Teaching, in particularly subsidiarity, as the basis of his budget proposal. 50 Catholic theologians and leaders blasted his proposals out of the water.

“Simply put, this budget is morally indefensible and betrays Catholic principles of solidarity, just taxation and a commitment to the common good. A budget that turns its back on the hungry, the elderly and the sick while giving more tax breaks to the wealthiest few can’t be justified in Christian terms,” argue the signatories.

Give Ryan credit, he is not short of chutzpah. He then marched over to Georgetown, the Jesuit university to defend the indefensible. Here he was met by a petition of 90 faculty members and administrators basically telling him he was totally out to lunch. They asked Ryan to justify  cuts to social programs which benefit the poor and no cuts to the shocking bloated military budget

Former America editor  Jesuit Fr.Tom  Reese, one of the organizers of the letter bluntly stated . “This is nonsense. As scholars, we want to join the Catholic bishops in pointing out that his budget has a devastating impact on programs for the poor.”

You can bet Ryan never heard of America a well-respected Jesuit magazine.

But he sure loves Ayn Rand, the high priestess of capitalism. Here are a few choice bons mots of Ryan on his literary heroine:

•    “I just want to speak to you a little bit about Ayn Rand and what she meant to me in my life and [in] the fight we’re engaged here in Congress. I grew up on Ayn Rand, that’s what I tell people.”

•    “I grew up reading Ayn Rand and it taught me quite a bit about who I am and what my value systems are, and what my beliefs are.”

•    “It’s inspired me so much that it’s required reading in my office for all my interns and my staff. We start with Atlas Shrugged. People tell me I need to start with The Fountainhead then go to Atlas Shrugged [laughter]. There’s a big debate about that. We go to Fountainhead, but then we move on, and we require Mises and Hayek as well.”

•    “But the reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”•

“It’s so important that we go back to our roots to look at Ayn Rand’s vision, her writings, to see what our girding, under-grounding [sic] principles are.”
•    “Because there is no better place to find the moral case for capitalism and individualism than through Ayn Rand’s writings and works.”

Israel fails in “rebranding”

February 23, 2017

What a bust!

Israel is now tied with North Korea as the pariah nation par excellent. For years now it has been attempting to rebrand itself as a tourist mecca. As a frequent visitor, it is indeed a fabulously interesting place—if you can look beyond a 50 year occupation and the daily humiliation of another people.

A week in the West Bank would cure anybody, even a rabid tribalist of total support. Forget a trip to Gaza the only democracy in the Middle East will not allow you to visit and see what 3 brutal killing rampages has done there in the last decade.

The state has tried desperately to “pinkwash” over the ugly facts by talking about the liberal charms of Tel Aviv (never Jerusalem, too many Muslims with a highly conservative ethos). So they promote the country as a haven for gays. See how liberal we are !

Also a failed attempt to “greenwash” the awful ecological mess Israel has created there. The settlements have been dumping untreated waste directly into a sewage canal that runs through the occupied West Bank, affecting Palestinian villages along its banks.The toxic chemical waste has for years been dumped on agricultural land, with villagers reporting a rash of skin diseases and respiratory problems.

Israel has been dumping waste, including hazardous and toxic waste, into the West Bank for years as a cheaper and easier alternative to processing it properly in Israel at appropriate hazardous waste management sites,” according to Palestinian Environmental Authority (PEA) deputy director Jamil Mtoor. The Israeli government has banned plans by the Palestinian Authority to build pipes and pumps to treat and divert wastewater away from the affected villages.

As part of its greenwashing Israel crows about its “reforestation”—such as Canada Park—built over destroyed Palestinian villages.

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All in all, the rebranding has been a bust and now the latest failed venture. The US Campaign for Palestinian Rights reports the following:

With the Academy Awards fast approaching this Sunday, it’s been a full year since Israel offered all-expenses-paid trips to 2016 Oscars host Chris Rock and 25 top nominees including Mark Ruffalo, Michael Fassbender, Kate Winslet, Matt Damon, Mark Rylance, and Cate Blanchett. The Israeli tourism ministry organized the trip with hopes that the superstars would use their platforms to show Israel in a positive light, countering worldwide outrage over Israel’s oppression of Palestinians.

So what happened? It was an utter failure. One year later, it appears that not a single star visited Israel. Last night, the AFP wire service ran this extraordinary headline appearing in many media outlets, “Israel invited 26 Oscar stars to visit. So far none has.”

Bringing celebrities to Israel has long been part of a “Brand Israel” strategy to improve the country’s image abroad. As Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin explained last year, “These are the most senior people in the film industry in Hollywood and leading opinion-formers who we are interested in hosting. Their visit will have enormous resonance among millions of fans and followers, including social media.” But as of this week, the Israeli tourism ministry would not confirm any visits by the stars, and there was no evidence of trips on social media.

It seems that the harder Israel tries to improve its image, the worse it fails. Yesterday’s news comes on the heels of former Super Bowl star Michael Bennett and several other NFL stars also choosing to #SkipTheTrip that they were offered by Israel.

Far from achieving their desired effect, these propaganda trips give us an opportunity to create broader awareness about the Israeli government’s brutal policies and attempts to whitewash them. While not every celebrity will turn down such offers, our cultural boycott campaigns are ensuring that every celebrity facing the choice must now consider the Israeli government’s cynical motivations and the impact on Palestinian communities struggling to survive.

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That’s why days after the Oscars trips were announced last February, the US Campaign helped organize a coalition of Palestinian, Israeli, European, and U.S. organizations to launch a #SkipTheTrip campaign including a petition to the stars, individual letters to actors, and a comprehensive social media strategy. The dynamic campaign included creative memes, a comical video, and a satirical invitation from the legendary Brian Eno highlighting the types of “holiday” experiences one could have visiting Palestine like being interrogated, tear-gassed, beaten, and shot at.

One should not ever lose hope about the many Jews of conscience within and without Israel who for years have seen through the blatant propaganda or hasbara.

It was the veteran Israeli diplomat to West Germany Yohanan Meroz (d. 2006) who coined the expression “hasbarable.” Some things you simply can not spin and the shocking brutalization of a civilian population is one of them.

Haaretz columnist Gideon Levy gave voice to this truism in June 2011: “Hasbara will not overcome the unequivocal fact that Israel has been an occupying power for more than four decades. No propaganda can persuade people of good conscience that we’re right as long as millions of Palestinians are living without rights.”

The Pope, Trump and capitalism

February 21, 2017

On Friday Feb 17 Pope Francis spoke to a meeting of popular movements in California.His encouraging words need to be unpacked.

The direction taken beyond this historic turning point, the ways in which the worsening crisis gets resolved, will depend on people’s involvement and participation and largely on yourselves, the popular movements. Sooner or later, the moral blindness of this indifference comes to light, like when a mirage dissipates, the wounds are there, they are a reality. The unemployment is real, the violence is real, the corruption is real, the identity crisis is real, the gutting of democracies is real. I know you have committed yourselves to fight for social justice, to defend our sister Mother Earth, and to stand alongside migrants. I want to reaffirm your choice,” he wrote.
Yes , taking to the streets is a good, a necessary mobilization Francis says.

Is he referring to the fake populism of Trump. Doubtlessly.

Matthew Fox:

We all have to wake up. Young people have to get away from their addictions to the social media, and realize that this is serious business, politics and life itself. And we’ve got to stand up and be counted.

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How can people duped by Trump really believe the billionaire has their interests at heart? Are they too wounded and betrayed by the Democratic Party to fall for the narcissist?Many are.

Capitalism with its power to confuse people, divert their energies, accept the status quo of dramatic inequality is the real enemy here.
Pope Francis:

 
The economic system that has the god of money at its center, that sometimes acts with the brutality of the robbers in the parable, inflicts injuries, that to a criminal degree, have remained neglected. Globalized society frequently looks the other way, with the pretense of innocence, under the guise of what is politically correct, or ideologically fashionable. One looks at those who suffer, without touching them.

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Where are the Catholics in this equation? 52% of US Catholics fell for Trump.

 
The leadership is nowhere. It has turned inward, placed the church not the kingdom at the center of their lives. The right wing JP ll/Ratzinger bishops have betrayed the gospel and short circuited the renovation movement of Vatican ll. This has left a huge hole in the institution. Many progressives have left disgusted by the right wing turn and the ecclesial coverup of the pedophilia scandal.

Add to this the local church is operating out of a charity not a justice model, presided over by many foreign born priests who do not bring a progressive theology to bear on issues of social justice, ecology and gross inequality. This is the dilemma of many good priests who have to deal with this situation. many of their allies have left the church so they battle on. God bless them! Meanwhile the Pope is left to fend off attacks from within by disgruntled appointees of the last two reactionary papacies.

A shonda and hillul hashem

January 10, 2017

Religions are never pure. All have their outliers. Nixon had his rabbi, Baruch Korff, Catholicism had its Fr.Coughlin and those scandalous popes of the Borgias. There is no end to wacky mullahs without learning and credibility. Israel has ist share of rabbinic posers who sanctify occupation and and anti-Arab hostility. So Trump now has his rabbi to bless what? Who knows.

Now that the Donald has a 16 year old singer to headline his inaugural he has his rabbi. Marvin Hier could not resist his 15 minutes

 

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But wait. all is not kosher in the Jewish community.

Hier’s friend Rabbi Moskovitz publicly upbraids him.

Rabbi Marvin Hier should not give a blessing to this President at the Inauguration next week. I appreciate Rabbi Hier’s work at the Museum of Tolerance in Los Angeles (a community where I too was a rabbi for 13 years). He has done a great deal to advance the cause of racial/religious tolerance and to fight anti-Semitism. Rabbi Hier also previously served in my current community of Vancouver, British Columbia, where he is still spoken of in high regard. But Rabbi Heir is wrong on this issue and his lack of rabbinic judgement reflects poorly on all rabbis.

 

A rabbi is a symbolic exemplar. When we appear or speak publicly we represent more than ourselves, we represent Judaism. Not just “the Jewish people” but also the moral/ethical code of the Jewish tradition. The Talmud instructs us, “It is not the place that honors the person, but the person that honors the place.” (Ta’anit 21b). It is not an honor for Rabbi Hier or the Jewish religion to be associated with Mr. Trump’s campaign rhetoric, it is a shanda, a disgrace.

 

When asked what blessing he will bestow Rabbi Hier stated that he will offer readings, recite an original prayer and give Mr. Trump and incoming Vice President Mike Pence each a personal blessing. Not a blessing for the nation, but upon the man. At present Mr. Trump’s venomous insults continue unabated by his new station, and are inseparable from the high office he is about to occupy. Thus to bless Mr. Trump in this most public of way is to bless all that he has said and stands for. Rabbi Hier’s participation as a Rabbi gives a Jewish hechsher, a kosher certification to the swearing in of a man whose social conduct, rhetoric and fomenting of hate and division are directly at odds with Jewish tradition (and the work of Museum of Tolerance that Rabbi Hier leads). I firmly believe that it would be hillul hashem (a desecration of G-d’s name) to give a rabbinic imprimatur to this man at this time.

Bad religion—once again in israel

December 22, 2016

In a letter faxed to hoteliers in Jerusalem, two of the city’s chief rabbis warned against displaying Christmas trees on their premises.

 

Baah humbug.Start talking about compassion and human dignity.

“As the secular year ends we want to remind you that erecting a Christmas tree in a hotel contravenes halacha [Jewish law] and that therefore it is clear that one should not erect [a tree] in a hotel,” the letter reads, according to the Times of Israel. “It is also appropriate to avoid hosting parties to mark the end of the secular year.”

 

Don’t tell us what to do.This is a democracy.

The Israeli daily said the letter could be interpreted as a “veiled threat” to hoteliers who risk losing their kosher licenses. This flies in the face of recent developments, including a March 2015 ruling by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate that lifted a ban on Christmas trees in hotels and tied the criteria for kosher certification more closely to the preparation of food.

 

It’s not kosher!

Christmas trees and other symbols of non-Jewish traditions rankle some Israelis; the country’s ultra-Orthodox rabbis are known to criticize their display. In a separate incident reported by Israeli media, a rabbi at Technion Institute of Technology in the city of Haifa warned students against entering the student union building because of a Christmas tree there, arguing that the tree was “not a Christian religious symbol, but even worse, a pagan one.”

 

Save me from all fundamentalisms!