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For the high holidays, Bernie should bring his presidential campaign to Tzedek Chicago

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This is part of Marc H. Ellis’s “Exile and the Prophetic” feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Now that Cornel West has endorsed Bernie Sanders for President, at least in the primaries, perhaps Bernie might think of attending synagogue during the upcoming High Holidays. After all, lots of high profile Jews will be attending services. Politically it could be advantageous for Bernie to appear in synagogue, especially to an American populace skeptical of Bernie’s socialism.

My suggestion for Bernie’s High Holiday observance is Tzedek Chicago which has just announced two big names as guests for their first round of High Holiday services. For Rosh Hashanah, it’s Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, one of the first female rabbis and a proponent of non-violence for social change. Whether she’s a declared socialist or not, she’s certainly with Bernie in spirit. And she’s a huge fan of BlackLivesMatter as well as an interfaith solidarity that moves beyond the interfaith dialogue that continues to feed empire violence.

But Tzedek Chicago’s other guest will challenge Bernie even more. Yes, it’s Max Blumenthal, whose earlier book, Goliath, exposed Israel for what it had become and new book on Gaza, The 51 Day War, is even more damning of Israeli violence. The kicker is that Blumenthal is scheduled at Tzedek Chicago on Judaism’s holiest and most difficult day of year, Yom Kippur.

For non-Jews who aren’t familiar with Yom Kippur and for Jews who are too familiar with Yom Kippur, the holy day features fasting and confession. In the rabbinic paradigm, Yom Kippur is the final day of reckoning. If God doesn’t hear a confession, the real deal, confessed first to those you have transgressed against, you’re likely to end up outside the Book of Life.

Leaving aside American emphasis on individuality, there are times when God thinks that sin is communal. Read the Bible for the times that the people Israel didn’t do the right thing. It isn’t pretty.

I don’t think Tzedek Chicago is bringing Blumenthal in to deliver a religious sermon. My hunch is that Blumenthal will just lay out the facts of Israel’s assault on Gaza. I doubt he’ll leave out Israel’s masterful control of Gaza’s (lack of) rebuilding in the wake of the war either.

Blumenthal’s Gaza facts might move the congregation to a deeper religious reckoning. Will his secular confession move the broader Jewish community toward justice? Embodied justice would force the Jewish religious and political establishment to publicly confess that Israel has gone over the edge of anything remotely to be identified as Jewish. They would have to do something about that injustice since another feature of Yom Kippur is that confession without action to right the wrong doesn’t go very far. With or without God.

Tzedek Chicago is stirring the Jewish pot. The question is how long even the most die-hard Israel lovers can feast at the table of injustice.

As with BlackLivesMatter, Bernie has to bite the Jewish bullet. So far in his political career, Bernie’s progressive Zionist credentials have served him well. For the change he’s articulating in his presidential campaign, though, Bernie has to move on Israeli violence and Palestinian freedom.

Like his new supporter, Cornel West, Bernie should listen to Max Blumenthal. After Yom Kippur, the three might become an excellent team.

Marc H. Ellis
About Marc H. Ellis

Marc H. Ellis is Professor of History and Jewish Studies and Director of the Center for the Study of the Global Prophetic. His new book, Finding Our Voice: Embodying the Prophetic and Other Misadventures, is forthcoming.

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29 Responses

  1. CigarGod
    August 25, 2015, 11:05 am

    Well presented.
    It is good to live during The Enlightenment.

  2. Ismail
    August 25, 2015, 11:08 am

    Marc, how many 73 year old people with what appears to be a lifelong, quasi-religious (i.e., non-rational) commitment to political belief are successfully persuaded make a 180 ?

  3. Mooser
    August 25, 2015, 11:24 am

    Holy Moley, I just hope Blumenthal is going over his presentation with a fine-tooth comb. I mean, he doesn’t want to come off like a weir-do or something.

  4. bintbiba
    August 25, 2015, 12:55 pm

    Well, Mooser,

    Max has already been * Weir-ded * by the you-know -who !!

    What does a guy have to do to do right with these people !!
    Am I getting something wrong ? or am I blind , deaf and dumb ?

  5. Steve Grover
    Steve Grover
    August 25, 2015, 12:56 pm

    Tzedek Chicago
    (1) There’s nothing tzedek about a few Israel hating “Jews”.
    (2) Tzedek Chicago advertises to be non Zionist. That is complete bull shit. Brant Rosen is the Rabbi there who had his membership revoked from the Chicago Board of Rabbis for his anti Zionism and his attempts to teach anti Zionism. Why would a Synagogue that claims to be non Zionist hire the most Anti Zionist Rabbi? Further to bring in Gottlieb and Blumenthal, two anti Zionists greater than or equal to Rosen in their anti Zionism on the Days of Awe just proves my point of the cynicism behind the lie.
    (3) It would be political suicide for Sanders to show up at Tzedek Chicago without a SodaStream in hand.

    • eljay
      August 25, 2015, 1:53 pm

      || Steve Grover: … (1) There’s nothing tzedek about a few Israel hating “Jews”. … ||

      Tzedek (charity)

      Tzedek is a UK-based registered charity[1] organization which aims to provide a Jewish response to the problem of global poverty.

      The Meaning of “Tzedakah”:

      “Tzedakah” is the Hebrew word for the acts that we call “charity” in English: giving aid, assistance, and money to the poor and needy or to other worthy causes. … The word “tzedakah” is derived from the Hebrew root Tzade-Dalet-Qof, meaning righteousness, justice, or fairness. In Judaism, giving to the poor … is simply an act of justice and righteousness, the performance of a duty, giving the poor their due.

      Loving an oppressive, colonialist, expansionist, intransigent, belligerent, nuclear-armed and religion-supremacist “Jewish State” does not appear to be a requirement of either Tzedek or Tzedakah.

  6. joemowrey
    August 25, 2015, 2:46 pm

    Good article. But since the author chooses to use Cornell West’s endorsement of Sanders as an anchor for his thesis I feel compelled to remind everyone just who and what West is.

    Cornell West threw in big-time with Obama, making over 70 appearances around the country during Obama’s first campaign. I’ve never been able to find out how much West was paid for this onslaught, but since his speaking fees range from $20,000 to $40,000 a pop (how much per hour would that be?!) one can only imagine he didn’t do it for free.

    Too often considered to be some sort of modern day prophet, West is sure making a bundle off of his “prophetic” pronouncements. Not exactly an inspirational figure, in my view. It didn’t take him long to get past his initial racist “any black man running for President is okay in my book” perspective on Obama. But one has to doubt West gave back any of the money he earned on speaking fees whole promoting the man who would become the country’s first black War-Criminal in Chief.

    There were plenty of us out there who weren’t fooled by Obama. All it required was a little bit of research and a pair of open eyes. Apparently West was blinded by color, both black and green.

    Maybe West is looking for a sweet gravy-train ride on the Sander’s campaign. Plenty of prophetic statements to be made there.

    • lysias
      August 25, 2015, 2:56 pm

      If West was just out for money, I doubt if he would have become so critical of Obama.

      • Rusty Pipes
        Rusty Pipes
        August 25, 2015, 5:08 pm

        I wouldn’t be surprised if West missed out on quite a few high-paying gigs by spending so much time helping to campaign for Obama. A lot of people who sacrificed their time and credibility to get Obama elected have been disappointed by his record thusfar. West has been more outspoken than others.

  7. lysias
    August 25, 2015, 3:13 pm

    New poll in New Hampshire conducted Aug. 21-24: The Hill: Trump, Sanders ahead in New Hampshire poll.

    On the Republican side: Trump 35%, Kasich 11%, Fiorina 10%, Bush and Walker 7% each, Carson 6%, and then the also-rans.

    On the Democratic side: Sanders 42%, Clinton 35%

    • echinococcus
      August 25, 2015, 5:58 pm

      So what? Seen from our perspective it’s one Zionist against another.

      • JWalters
        August 25, 2015, 7:44 pm

        Bernie was the first Senator to announce he was boycotting Netanyahu’s speech, and one of the first to support the Iran deal. ALL the main players in politics and the media are still afraid to openly criticize the myth of Israel, because of the financial retribution that can follow. I suspect Bernie, like many others, is biding his time for the right moment. They all need the cover of internet discussions getting pushed into the mainstream media. At some point the coverup dam will burst. Everybody needs to keep hammering.

        Trump, on the other hand, supported Huckabee’s statement that Obama is leading Israelis to “the doors of the ovens”, and repeated the absurd warning about a “nuclear holocaust”. He is acting like a true Israeli agent. His main job may be to torpedo Jeb in a flurry of chaos, since Jeb talks to James Baker, who the Israelis hate.

      • echinococcus
        August 26, 2015, 12:50 am

        J Walters,

        It still doesn’t make a difference for those facing the business end of Zionism. So he goes along with Obama on Iran, a perhaps-lifting of illegal sanctions by two nuclear-armed rogue states, in behalf of the nuclear-armed Zionist entity, to illegally punish Iran for doing what is its basic right… so what? He is a Zionist, like a long line of genocidal Labor murderers. What difference does it make? I don’t care for Yahoo-versus-Beinart bullshit. Sanders, who passionately defended the Gaza genocidal massacre (and suspected of being emotionally tribal, too), will keep us mired in the same swamp.
        Anyway, his job is not to win elections but throw it to Hillary. Her position re Zionism is well known, too.

      • JWalters
        August 27, 2015, 6:45 pm


        “It still doesn’t make a difference for those facing the business end of Zionism.”

        I agree with that. And you may be right about what’s in Bernie’s head. On the other hand, it seems to me a lot of people who understand the atrocity of Israel are keeping their heads down, waiting for a moment when resistance will not be automatic political suicide. And Bernie may be one of those.

        I agree with you about Hillary being thoroughly compromised. But I don’t see Bernie as trying to throw the election to her. I see him as genuinely opposing the oligarchy. And Zionist money is central in that oligarchy, as everyone who follows current events knows, even though it is NEVER mentioned in the controlled mainstream media. Which shows how central it is.

      • echinococcus
        August 27, 2015, 10:01 pm


        You wouldn’t be hypothesizing some crypto-antizionism in Bernie Sanders if you had watched his hysterical, tearing-out-his-heart defense of the Zionists committing their latest genocidal massacre in Gaza. Look up the tape (you tube, type Sanders Israel Town Hall Meeting.)

        I won’t continue discussing his sheep-dog function as this is outside the purview of the site.

  8. Rusty Pipes
    Rusty Pipes
    August 25, 2015, 5:02 pm

    If Sanders doesn’t happen to be in Chicago for Yom Kippur, supporters like West could fill him in on details about Israel and Palestine that he did not pick up at the kibbutz.

  9. JWalters
    August 25, 2015, 7:34 pm

    “Read the Bible for the times that the people [of] Israel didn’t do the right thing. It isn’t pretty.”

    They’re clearly not doing the right thing today. Hopefully they will soon learn of Avigail Abarbanel’s analysis, “It’s time for American Jews to recognize they have been duped”.

  10. Frankie P
    Frankie P
    August 25, 2015, 8:42 pm

    Gee, I sure hope Max Blumenthal delivers a confession first to the German people for the anti-gentile transgression he made against them, labeling them, on Mondoweiss no less, “a sick society.”

    • Kathleen
      August 25, 2015, 11:45 pm

      Well what took place in Germany etc during WWII was “sick” extremely sick. Sick does not even touch the gruesomeness of those crimes against millions.

      I mean he could say not all Germans etc were responsible.

      The U.S. is a sick society for our genocide against Native Americans, genocide and enslavement of Africans, genocide in Vietnam, genocide in Iraq. Does that mean that all Americans are complicit. Not all but most.

      I used to endlessly wonder while I read books about WWII in my teens how millions of people did not react to the horrific slaughter taking place not far from them. Ok some were in the dark but millions had to know. Same things with the U.S. slaughter in the Vietnam war, U.S invasion of Iraq. Millions have stayed mum. Sick very very sick

  11. Kathleen
    August 25, 2015, 11:37 pm

    What a great suggestion Marc.

  12. Rodneywatts
    August 26, 2015, 10:47 am

    First,thank you Marc for your many contributions through your understanding of God’s desires for His people, as a Jewish theologian. I was aware of you a fair time ago through the writngs of your Christian counterpart Rev Dr Stephen Sizer, and your last piece on Jimmy Carter prompted me to make contact again with Stephen, who is still basically gagged, after complaints from the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

    Your article about Bernie is interesting and important from obvious American considerations, but because he has an older brother, Larry, who has made his name in Britain, the BBC has done a piece called ‘The Sanders Brothers : a tale of two underdogs’

    Whilst your article focuses around Yom Kippur, I am mindful of Sukkot and the fact that the latest lunar tetrad (or four blood moons, so important to John Hagee) is complete on that date.
    You have pointed out that in the prophets (and I am reading Habakkuk/Habaqquq at the moment) the consequences of Israel/Judah not doing as they should -“It isn’t pretty”.

    Clearly the current State of Israel does not practice justice, compassion or mercy and the time of reckoning must be drawing near. However , whilst I await the end of the tetrad with keen interest, I am not with Hagee’s apocalyptic understanding. I am praying that ‘ the nations that shall surround Israel’ this time, unlike the Babylonians, will deal with Israel through BDS and like means. However, as someone who was involved in the struggles, and to some extent still am, in Southern Africa, I am mindful that not only BDS played an important part but also armed conflict. I hope and pray that Jews and others of conscience (including Bernie) bring the US and Israel to their senses before further armed struggle – or terrorism to zionists – actually occurs.

    Update: UK petition to parliament to arrest Netanyahu is at 85,587

  13. Marnie
    August 26, 2015, 12:42 pm

    I’m no spring chicken myself but Bernie looks pretty old, even in pictures that aren’t as scary-looking as this one.

    • Mooser
      August 26, 2015, 3:30 pm

      “I’m no spring chicken…”

      Still, your writing stays, in the very best sense, “forever young”. If you don’t mind a compliment from an old capon.

    • JWalters
      August 27, 2015, 6:52 pm

      All he needs is Ronald Reagan’s hair cream and Elizabeth Warren as his running mate.

      • Citizen
        August 27, 2015, 10:29 pm

        Sure is an interesting picture of Bernie Sanders, eh?

        Marc’s piece was also interesting.

  14. Citizen
    August 27, 2015, 10:39 pm

    Parliament Petition now has 88,235 signatures–Brit & UK citizens, please sign to get to required 100,000

  15. W.Jones
    September 2, 2015, 8:08 pm

    Weekend at Bernie’s
    On the other hand, Hamas… A lot of money were given to Palestinians…. went into tunnels… you got a group of people who want to take (Iraq) into the 7th century… ending the blockade should be a goal… concerns about Hamas…

    Sanders says he has no solution to IP crisis and needs more time to think about it.

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