Archive for the ‘Social Justice’ category

Reverend Lowery’s Moving Benediction

January 21, 2009

Reverand Lowery’s Benediction (transcript, video) on the occasion of Barack Obama’s historic Inauguration lit a fire in my heart and my soul.

The man spoke from his guts. He used straightforward language, and he wasn’t afraid to say what was on his mind. Don’t call him a racist or a man who is stuck in the past; he is a national hero.

A lot of people want to sit on their laurels and celebrate the election of a black man to the highest office in this country. It is a noble accomplishment, and it is something which I hope will be remembered for a very long time. It is something I will tell my children about with pride, and that I will always look towards as a sign of hope and possibility.

But there is still a lot of suffering and discrimination in this world, and in this country. People are put down and kept down for reasons of race, religion, gender, sexuality and creed. Bigotry and hatred persist in this country despite the hard work of men like Reverend Lowery.

There are over 1,000 laws in this country that apply to heterosexual married couples, but do not apply to same-gender couples who are denied the right to marry. Muslim men and women are discriminated, stereotyped and racially profiled everywhere they go. People are judged by the color of their skin, their dress, and their speech. People are not judged by the content of their character.

Rev. Lowery’s words were stirring. He used terms and expressions I would not feel comfortable using, but which he was able to deftly disarm. He was charming, witty, and inspiring. I was lifted by his words like no one elses since Dr. King.

Wanted: Palestinian MLK

January 20, 2009

Today marked the ceremonial celebration of Martin Luther King’s birthday. King lead the non-violent civil rights movement of the 50’s and 60’s until he was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

I have read many of King’s writings, and I can’t stop thinking how much of his message for racial equality in the United States would have applied to what is going on right now between Israelis and Palestinians. His message of hope is something that is still relevant today to people he may never have even thought about.

“And when this happens, when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing…” (I Have a Dream, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Dr. King is not just inspirational to blacks. He can be important to non-Americans. His message is transferable and translatable. Everyone has something to learn from his empowering message.

The Palestinian people need to find a leader like MLK. They need someone who will speak of tolerance and equality. They need someone who will denounce violence, and promote love and togetherness.

Too many leaders in the Arab world are calling for violence and the destruction of Israel. Some of the things that have happened in the last few weeks have been catastrophic. I don’t blame Palestinians or other Arabs for being angry. I’m deeply troubled by the deaths hundreds of innocent civilians.

But what we can’t do is lose sight of the big picture. For years there have been vocal liberal leaders in Israel that are demanding a swift and peaceful resolution to this impasse. I want to hear a Palestinian leader who is calling for a two-state solution. I want to hear Palestinian leaders calling for the equality of human rights that both Palestinians and Israelis equally share. I want to hear from Imam King.

I have a hope that Barack Obama will do a lot from Washington to finally bring peace to Israel and Palestine, but we need someone on the inside. Today is the inauguration of a new US President, and today is the day for all Jews, all Arabs, and all citizens of the world to stand up and call for a more peaceful tomorrow.

The Need for a Sovereign Palestine

January 14, 2009

What I have feared would come in the next couple of years seems to be here already. I have been warning my right wing Zionist friends that if there is not a two-state solution for Israel and the Palestinians soon, then the new demand that is going to be made is for a single country with two peoples. This is my nightmare.

For too long, Palestinians have been living without the basic Human Rights that many of us take for granted. Forget about their living conditions that could be easily improved with a little help from their oil-rich Arabian “friends.” I’m talking about the basic right of citizenship. Children have been born into refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza, and are refused the right to self-determination. They are refused the right to be citizens of a country. Israel will not have them, and there is currently not autonomous Palestinian State.

This war has prompted people to think twice about the possibility for a Palestinian State to exist side-by-side with Israel. People are saying that Arab countries who would have otherwise agreed to a two-state solution are now losing credibility with their populations. Experts are saying that Israel will never be able to trust the elements of Hamas in Gaza to stop attacking Israeli civilians, and that creating a police presence in Gaza is the only way to create peace.

The reason for Israel’s existence was to create a safe-haven for the Jewish people. If Jews  no longer constitute a majority of Israeli citizens (which they would not be if all residents of Gaza and West Bank were given citizenship), the State of Israel as we know it will be over.

The Israeli government must do everything in its power to arrive at a two-state solution. The Israeli public must cry out in demands for an immediate end to this impasse. Jews around the Diaspora must rally behind this cause.

It is not the leftists and the peaceniks that should be demanding a two-state solution. Hawks and right wing Zionists must realize that this is the only option for Israel to survive. The status quo has been going on long enough, and it will come to an end one way or another.

It is up to us whether we have an independent Palestine comprising of Gaza and the West Bank, or an Israel that will no longer be Jewish.

Cheapskate Liberals

January 12, 2009

Recent attention has been given to a 2006 book which claims that liberals give less to charity than do their conservative counterparts. I’ll admit that I have not reviewed the research to see if the claims are true, but I will assume that the author knew what he was doing.We will also ignore the question of whether he was comparing actual dollars donated, or the percentage of income donated (Conservatives tend to be wealthier – or is it that the wealthy tend to be conservative?). Let’s take this claim at face value.

Why are we cheapskates?

I was trying to figure out an explanation or justification for why this could be? Maybe years of advocating for higher taxes and government support for the needy has made liberals feel justified in keeping whatever of their income is left. After all, if you are arguing for more welfare, more foreign aid, more unemployment benefits and universal healthcare – who are you going to give your money to?

But that can’t be the answer. There are too many people suffering out there in the world to make that argument fly.

What if it was because liberals are so dedicated to helping others, and being politically active, that they can’t get good-paying jobs. Teachers, service-industry workers, and non-CEO techies don’t have that much disposable income. Maybe they feel better about themselves when they roll up their sleeves than they do typing in their cc#.

Maybe – but I’m still not convinced.

Maybe there is no excuse. Maybe there is no explanation. Maybe years of giving a damn have cause us to forgot to give. It’s a hard time for everyone, but we have taken a major step in the right direction with the election of Barack Obama as our 44th President. It’s time to take a break from the yelling, and the screaming and the advocating, and take a second to start with the donating.

Give some money to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, and protect the most vulnerable. A few dollars can go a long way.

Read this very inspiring story of holiday-time giving, and think about what small act you can do to change another person’s life.

The Right for Gay Marriage

January 12, 2009

One of the basic rights I have always taken for granted was the right I took advantage of on May 28, 2007 when I exchanged rings with my wife, and kissed her under the chuppah.  It never occurred to me that the right to be married was something I should be particularly grateful for.

It didn’t take long after I was celebrating the amazing achievements of this past November 4th that I began mourning the most blatant act of legalized discrimination in a long time. The passing of Proposition 8 in California was a horrible example of what can happen when people are not considerate of other people’s rights.

This has become a cause I am very passionate about for a very simple reason: it is something that is within my control, and the control of my friends, to change. I care about Darfur, but I do not have the money or political clout to make significant difference. I care about peace for Israel and her neighbors, but I do not have the magic touch to solve that problem either.

The discrimination against homosexuals is something that is being done by normal Americans just like me. If a referendum were to come up in New York, I want to do my best to influence those people I know to vote for equal rights to gays. This is in my realm of possibility.

I will be updating this site regularly with links and stories related to this issues. A lot of what I get is from a great advocacy web site called Join The Impact – check it out.

It’s also worth watching these two great videos from funnyordie:

“Proposition  8 – The Musical”

“Protect Marriage, Protect Children, Prohibit Divorce”

Opening Post

January 12, 2009

For a while now I have maintained a blog through my employment that was designed to get the word out about some things I cared about that overlapped with my job. I am lucky enough that I have a lot of common values with my place of employment, and many things I would like to post on my own blog I can simply post there.

I have realized, however, that I do not really have the free-license I would like to have when it comes to maintaining the blog. I think I need to be able to express myself a bit more freely, and explore some issues I might not be allowed to on the work blog.

You will hopefully get a sense of who I am and what I care about through this site, but I will give you a bit of a taste now. I am a Modern Orthodox Jew living in New York City with my wife. I would consider myself a liberal, and believe it is every person’s duty to do his or her best to improve other people’s lives. I have a lot to say about the culture and society we live in, I have a lot to say about my religion and other religions, and I have a lot to say about politics and the way this and other countries are run.

I read a lot of things around the Internet, and I watch lots of television, and I try to stay connected as best as possible. I will be writing about things I care about on this site, and I will put in links that I think are relevant.

There will hopefully be fun and light topics explored throughout this blog, but I hope to make it all relevant to people who share my interests and values.

I am making a commitment not to moderate comments on this blog. I will not give a voice to hateful comments, but will gladly welcome open debate and dialog – so please contribute.

I hope you enjoy this blog – I’m sure I will.