It’s not that Michael Lerner is politically progressive or liberal, so am I. It’s not that Michael Lerner is a theological liberal, so am I. It’s not that Michael Lerner is passionate, at times even even zealous, so am I. No, this is my problem with Michael Lerner: he mistakes subjecting hundreds of mourners to a litany of warmed-over left wing bromides with speaking truth to power. It takes real homiletical art to interweave passion and politics with compassion and comfort. Lerner is an ideologue who couldn’t find the human heart in the midst of a community of mourners who share the same loss with both hands and a flashlight. Michael Lerner has never been much about finding light in the midst of darkness; he would much rather generate friction and heat. —Rabbi Kerry Baker
“Whether you like Bernie or Hillary, I think we can all agree that the two-party system is trash. And anybody who loves the two-party system and who loves the Democratic party is ultimately trash,” Koenig said.
So says Ezra Koenig, presumptive Jew, leader of the rock band Vampire Weekend and super-involved supporter of Bernie Sanders. Ezra, please tell us what you really think of people who disagree with you. When the Sandernistas aren’t whining, they allow their judgmental and demeaning delusions to overwhelm their decency and respect. So sad.
Whatever happened to the old American tradition of losing gracefully and treating your opponent with respect? I know how quaint I sound when I refer to such values, which today are only found in time capsules. And yet our nation’s political life has never needed traditional civic virtues more than it does today.
The Sandernistas are not any worse than the Trumpeters, I suppose, but they’re not any better, either. I’m so glad that Bernie has been deeply influenced by Saul Alinsky, the master of community organizing. Now if he would only read and learn from Rabbi Israel Salanter and other masters of the Musar (ethics) movement in Judaism, too. —Rabbi Kerry Baker
I’m putting this up on my Facebook page only because I want you to understand the extreme disadvantages under which rabbis and other members of the clergy labor in trying to explain religion to Americans. Mahar and O’Reilly are two relatively intelligent people, and yet it is difficult to imagine how they could have uttered any more imbecilic comments about religion and scripture in the span of only 20 minutes. It seems that there isn’t any theological, critical or literary term used in this debate which isn’t misused. They misquote. They ignore or misconstrue basic categories. They misunderstand or twist the context of biblical passages. They are ignorant of the basic meaning of key terms. AARGH! Harry Orlinsky, my professor of Bible and chair of the committee which produced the Jewish Publication Society translation of The Tanach, would be gnashing his teeth. I wish people who know so little but speak so much would just shut up! —Rabbi Kerry Baker
Community Tikkun Leil Shavuot, June 11, 2016, Congregation Agudas Achim, Austin
Jews have disproportionally been among the gounders and leaders of social change movements, including labor unions, socialism, feminism, civil rights and opposition to the war in Vietnam. Jews have also be disproportionately affected by social change movements, both positively and negatively, throughout our history.
How nice that some members of Trump’s family are Jewish and that he has many Jewish friends. What’s next? Will Trump be quoted as saying, “Some if my best friends are Jewish?” In any case, what’s new about an anti-Semite having particular Jews as friends because they aren’t like other Jews? Because unlike most Jews they don’t act this way or that way, or there is some obnoxious Jewish trait or characteristic they don’t display. The same thing happens when some racist points to a certain African-American as an exception, someone who is different from other AA’s, someone who a “credit to his race.” Donald Trump may talk and act like an anti-Semite, but we’re supposed to overlook this because there are individual Jews he happens to like. —Rabbi Kerry Baker
Kerry Baker Class: Jews have disproportionately been among the founders and leaders of social change movements, including labor unions, socialism, feminism, civil rights and opposition to the war in Vietnam. Jews have also been disproportionately affected by social change movements, both positively and negatively, throughout our history.
What are the roots of Jewish activism? What exactly is Jewish about “tikkun olam” (repairing the world)? What is the link, if any, between Utopianism and “ikvot haMashiach” (the messianic era)? And why have Jews so often been the targets of politically destructive social change movements, such as facism, nativism and political extremism of both the right and the left? This will not be your parents’ Tikkun Leil Shavu’ot class; I’m predicting fireworks! —Rabbi Kerry Baker
Saturday, June 11th, 9:30-10:30pm, Congregation Agudas Achim Santuary, Dell Jewish Community Campus, 7300 Hart Lane, Austin 78731
Schedule for Tikkun Leil Shavu’ot
Often words of praise for one’s own group leave me cold. Actually, the self-praise by one special group or another often sounds childish to my ear. I imagine a large blue and white foam hand with index finger raised and the words “We’re Number One” emblazoned on the palm.
But Rabbi Sacks is a master communicator. He knows, I think, that at certain historic moments any group may need a little positive self-talk. His words come at a moment when the public domain is riddled with anti-Jewish sentiment and ugly, hate filled anti-Semitic calumnies. Rabbi Sacks’ comments remind us of what we Jews truly are.
When African-Americans began to chant “Black is beautiful,” they hadn’t just noticed that black is beautiful. At a certain juncture of history it became especially, essentially important to assert this truth. Black lives have always mattered; today it has become critical to declare it. When civil rights protesters chanted “We are…somebody” they were declaring at a dangerous, climactic, explosive moment that they, and all humans in the globe, have essential worth, no matter what others say or do.
Rabbi Sacks is saying, in the face of a global tide of anti-Semitism, that to be, live and think as a Jew is beautiful, and that as Jews our historic mission has always been to work to make the earth a more beautiful place for all God’s creatures.
What a wonderful article! These commentators actually look at data and their conclusions are based on the data, not some fanciful wish. Democrats had better wake up, abandon the unicorn-like wishes of the Sandernistas, base their campaign on facts and data, before they walk into a political mousetrap and suffer a massive loss in November which may turn out to be permanent.
Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, describes the qualities of good leaders that Moses should choose for the Israelites. The Torah teaches that leaders must share the common vision of the People, the moral principles upon which the vision stands and, just as important, are skilled, effective and dedicated to the practical implementation of both. The point made in this article is that Americans vote for reasons that are not congruent with the qualities of leadership. Those who aspire to lead and do not understand this will fail. Sadly, Republicans seem to understand this better than Democrats, and this helps to explain their success in recent elections. —Rabbi Kerry Baker
“It’s hard being a Jew” goes the old Yiddish saying. That’s always been true and, with a few important exceptions, no period has been more difficult than our own. Especially because we had a temporary respite from anti-Semitism as usual after the end of WWII, I was among the many Jews who mistakenly thought things had changed for good, substantially if not completely. Edmund Fleg, the French-Jewish poet, famously wrote, “Everywhere suffering weeps, the Jew hopes.” Hope like that is indispensable but dangerous because it can obscure an ugly sub rosa reality.
It might be easy to make too much of the decision of the citizens of Amsterdam to give reparations to the Holocaust survivors who were required to pay taxes and special fees when they tried to return to their homes at the end of WWII. The current city administration is doing the right thing for the right reasons, and we ought to be happy and thankful for this.
That this recognition and payment come after a gap of more than 70 years is troubling. The background of this decision includes the rise of extreme right wing nationalist groups which encourage discrimination against Dutch minority citizens and even the murder of their supporters.
There are times when it’s had to find a blessing that is unmixed, and this is one of those times. —Rabbi Kerry Baker
Here’s the thing about Bernie. He’s not a pragmatic politician and never has been. He’s not motivated by practical, incremental improvement but by ideological “revolution.” For Bernie and the Sandernistas the opposition doesn’t just disagree; they are the disingenuous apologists for a corrupt, exploitative system. They’re the representatives of the nobility, the bosses.
What are the effects of this type of thinking? There can no common ground with such dupes of the privileged. Their policies are meant to hide their real interests, their professed values are empty and false. For the Sandernistas Clinton supporters are not just wrong, they’re bad and unredeemable. To engage with them constructively would be like dancing with the devil.
This sort of disrespect is dysfunctional because it is really arrogance disguised as principle. The Sandernistas are unable to find any value in Clinton or her supporters. They swallow every Republican lie, half-truth or misrepresentation about HRC; the GOP could not find a better bunch of dupes to do their work than the Sandernistas. They are unable to cooperate with Clinton supporters because they don’t believe there might be anything worth learning from them. It’s too bad that Bernie has been unable to share this Hebrew school lesson with his acolytes: as the Rabbis of the Mishnah taught, “Who is wise? The person who learns from everyone.” —Rabbi Kerry Baker
Read referenced article: http://www.motherjones.com/kevin-drum/2016/05/decline-fall-bernie-sanders