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Exile and the Prophetic

The challenge for Tzedek Chicago

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Rabbi Brant Rosen’s new congregational venture Tzedek Chicago continues to make news. Writing in the Forward, Jonathan Paul Katz thinks that such a non-Zionist venture rooted in universal Jewish values might fill a gap in Jewish life. That said, the issue is much more profound than Katz is aware of.

Charleston: Do Black and Palestinian lives matter?

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Do Black lives matter in America? After the murders in Charleston, the historic debate about race in American history rages on a new level. Do Black lives matter to Jews? Another longstanding debate stretching from the Civil Rights era to the present. Yet of late a new and dangerous element is being reintroduced into the discussion by BlackLivesMatter and Jews of Conscience that threatens to resolve the issue in a definitive and negative way. The issue revolves around Jews and Palestinians: If Palestinian lives don’t matter to Jews, how can Black lives matter to Jews?

In defense of Cornel West’s prophetic voice

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Marc Ellis first met Cornel West almost thirty years ago when he was invited to share the podium with him on the subject of Israel and the Palestinians. Since then West has become a leading African American public intellectual and taken daring stands for Palestinians, including during Israel’s attack on Gaza last summer. Ellis reflects on West’s career and prophetic voice in light of Michael Eric Dyson’s New Republic article excoriating West, and writes, “Though Dyson’s predicted fall of Cornel West is clearly exaggerated, his penchant for disciplining West’s prophetic voice should be taken seriously.”

Netanyahu’s honesty towards Palestinians casts unwelcome light on American Jewish leadership

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In the closing hours of his political campaign, Benjamin Netanyahu announced his opposition to a Palestinian state and evoked Jewish fears of Palestinians outside and inside of the state of Israel. Netanyahu’s honesty caught the American Jewish leadership by surprise. It seems that Netanyahu compromised a special Jewish Occupation Code honed over many years. In essence, Netanyahu cast an unwelcome light on a thoroughly compromised American Jewish establishment that has enabled Israeli policies toward Palestinians for decades. Netanyahu stood up for injustice without apology. It’s time for Jewish leaders to tell us – without apology – where they stand.

Rather than exhibit real solidarity, church leaders appeal to Israel’s occupation to protect Al Aqsa

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Ritualized solidarity remains the name of the game in Israel-Palestine, as the fate of Jerusalem hangs in the balance once again. So it was when church leaders in Jerusalem showed a sign of solidarity to Islam and the Muslim community by gathering at the Al Aqsa mosque for a photo-op last week. They also issued a statement on the need to respect the rights of Muslims to worship freely and show respect for holy places. But as the church leaders and their advisors know well the backdrop for their visit isn’t about freedom of religion or worship. The backdrop for increasing tensions at Al Aqsa is occupation and the dwindling place of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the land itself. It’s about an occupied and ghettoized Palestinian people with their backs to the Apartheid (political and religious) Wall.

A reverend sermonizes justice in Jerusalem

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Palestine is occupied by Israel. Al Aqsa is occupied by Israel. Can the churches in Jerusalem and throughout the land escape that same occupation? Last Sunday, Rev. Páraic Réamonn from the Church of Scotland at St. Andrews gave a sermon in Jerusalem that promised a breakthrough in the relationship between the Christian church and the Jewish state.

Occupied prayer at Al Aqsa

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So now we’re back to the status quo. Al Aqsa is open again for prayer. If you’re over 50. Perhaps identification proving age will be required. Al Aqsa AARP? The status quo is death for Palestinians. Before death, ethnic cleansing. Before death, ghettoization. Are we really supposed to celebrate occupied prayer at Al Aqsa?

J Street’s progressive illusion

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Are there any in more active complicity in the destruction of Palestine than Palestine’s well-wishers? J Street’s October 28 statement is the latest example of a “pro-peace” organization that is doing nothing to advance an end to the conflict in Israel/Palestine.

Chomsky at 85

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Marc Ellis comments on Noam Chomsky’s recent appearance at the United Nations.

Deconstructing John Kerry’s address to the Gaza Donors Conference

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Secretary of State John Kerry’s address to the Gaza Donors Conference in Cairo on Sunday was remarkably vacant, if not disingenuous. Reading through Kerry’s address paragraph by paragraph is an exercise in futility. Yet the political ramifications are extreme. Everyone knows that after the Gaza war a profound reckoning is needed. Yet John Kerry – and the Gaza Donors Conference – isn’t even close.

Stop the Yom Kippur prayers if they don’t make sense in the Gaza rubble

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Devastation as far as the eye can see is our Yom Kippur geography. If a closing prayer is a must, chant the Amidah. The Shema. Anything that comes to mind. With a caveat. Stop the prayers if they don’t make sense in the Gaza rubble. If a prayer doesn’t make sense when the names of the murdered are read, call up another prayer. This goes for any comments that are made as well. If they make sense in the presence of the Gazan dead. Otherwise be silent.

Rosh Hashanah After Gaza

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Rabbi Jill Jacobs’s words are worth considering as the High Holiday season begins: “To be a rabbi is to be a moral leader. Moral leadership requires us to move beyond cheerleading to drawing on our tradition acknowledge fear, address ethical questions, offer loving critique, and inspire the hope that will move our communities toward supporting peace.” As Executive Director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, Rabbi Jacobs is a religious leader with ethics at the core of her Jewishness. She should be congratulated for her efforts. But no matter how much passion she brings to her task, there’s something essential missing from her analysis.

Brant Rosen’s prophetic voice elevated him beyond the rabbinic politics of our day

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Reading Rabbi Rosen’s letter of resignation and the Tribune article I can’t help but think of the Biblical saga. Out of the blue the prophets arise, are shot down, then reappear. It hasn’t changed much in thousands of years. The prophetic is too deeply ingrained in Jewish life to pass quietly into our newly embraced colonial night. Apparently, synagogues are not for prophets. Those who practice the prophetic and attend synagogue, should take note. Your expulsion is inevitable.

Occupied Religion

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The new center

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“We are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel’s abuse of our history to justify the unjustifiable: Israel’s wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children”– so write a group of Holocaust survivors

Mr. Netanyahu, what is your endgame?

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Gaza has been destroyed. Its infrastructure, such as it was, is reduced to rubble. Israel invokes the Nazis, terrorist Hamas and now ISIS, to justify the destruction. Tell us Israel, beyond tomorrow or the next day, what do you have in mind for Palestinians? A Jew asks the leaders of the self-designated Jewish state.

Witnessing Gaza

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The Jewish state now having leveled great portions of Gaza, many Jewish reporters are entering the strip to see what happened. They need to witness to the world, but also to the Jewish community, about the end of Jewish history. Marc Ellis at Mondo.

Knight in shining armor?

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The ceasefire terms that have been reported say nothing about Palestinian statehood or nationality, and the rebuilding of Gaza would take place with Israel’s assistance, allowing the marauder to come off as a beneficent savior

Israel’s latest plan – Abbas to oversee a national security state in Gaza

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The talk in Cairo: Disarm Gaza like the West Bank has been disarmed. Reading between the lines this means arm Gaza the way the West Bank has been armed. The issue isn’t whether there will be weapons in Gaza. There will be more weapons after the agreement is reached. Instead of Hamas, the weapons will be in the hands of a submissive limited autonomy Palestinian Authority with Israel, Egypt, the United States and a host of other rogue states with their fingers on the triggers. Contrary to popular understanding, Gaza under Hamas was somewhat diverse, with competing centers of power. After Cairo, Gaza might become a national security state – without nationality.