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WAWA/WeAreWideAwake is my Public Service to America as a muckracker who has journeyed seven times to Israel Palestine since June 2005. WAWA is dedicated to confronting media and governments that shield the whole truth.

We who Are Wide Awake are compelled by the "fierce urgency of Now" [Rev MLK, Jr.] to raise awareness and promote the human dialogue about many of the crucial issues of our day: the state of our Union and in protection of democracy, what life is like under military occupation in Palestine, the Christian EXODUS from the Holy Land, and spirituality-from a Theologically Liberated Christian Anarchist POV.

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We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that, among these, are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; and, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it. -July 4, 1776. The Declaration of Independence


Home arrow Blog arrow October 2007 arrow October 23, 2007

October 23, 2007
WAWA BLOG  October 23, 2007: It's NOT just me, but 21st Century Rabbi's challenging Judeo-Christian Fascism and reminding the world:

“You have been told, O mortal, what is good and what the Eternal requires of you: only to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk modestly with your God.” -Micah 6:8

"This is a time when there seems to be a particular need for men of philosophical persuasion-that is to say, friends of WISDOM and TRUTH-to join together...We Jews should be, and remain, the carriers and patrons of spiritual values. But we should also be aware of the fact that these spiritual values are and always have been the common goal of mankind."

“Upholding Faith; Serving Humanity” : An Address for the Islamic Society of North America
by Rabbi Ellen Weinberg Dreyfus

I am honored to participate in this program today, and bring greetings from Rabbi Peter Knobel, President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, an organization of 1800 Reform rabbis in North America and around the world, and Rabbi Steven Mason, President of the Chicago Board of Rabbis, a group of hundreds of rabbis across the Jewish religious spectrum. I have read Rabbi Eric Yoffie’s remarks delivered to your assembly on Friday, and I echo his call for increased interreligious dialogue.

I very much appreciate the address of the Hon. Mr. Rasool. As part of the People of the Book, I also turn to sacred scriptures for guidance in facing the challenges the contemporary world gives to people of faith. The best text I can find for guidance on the subject of how we, as leaders and followers of various religious traditions, can uphold faith and serve humanity is from the Hebrew Bible, in the Book of Micah 6:8, as the prophet states:

“You have been told, O mortal, what is good and what the Eternal requires of you: only to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk modestly with your God.”

The first requirement is to do justice. People of faith realize that justice is not only a goal for all, but doing justice is a requirement for anyone who takes seriously the sacred texts of all of our faiths. However, none of us can hope that our work for justice will bear fruit if we work alone. If we want to be effective, we need to build and strengthen coalitions to work for basic human rights like decent housing, and universal health care, and economic justice, and fair access to employment, and freedom from violence, and clean air and water. These are not just issues for politicians to argue about as they manipulate the purse-strings of our society, often at the expense of the poor and disenfranchised. These are religious issues that demand our attention and our combined energy. If we truly believe that every person is created in the image of God, then we cannot tolerate a system that disrespects some because of their race or gender or age or orientation or nationality, and disregards others whose appearance or behavior might cause discomfort. I pray that in the years to come, religious communities will increase their involvement in these issues, so that we can work to eliminate the injustice that permeates our society.

The statement from Micah continues with the instruction to love kindness. Ours has become a very hard and unkind world. The language people use in the public sphere – and I don’t mean only talk radio – should be offensive to every ear and unacceptable to people of faith. The behavior that is spewed daily on our television screens is an affront to humanity and to God. The role models that our children see are base and crude and immodest. I am no prude, but I feel that we are sinking to new lows. We can try to blame the media, but they only give the public what they want. It is up to us, the religious communities, to help our people want something better, something more tasteful and decent and civilized than the empty calories they are being fed. If we love kindness, we will not tolerate demeaning and degrading depictions of women as objects. If we love kindness, we will not glorify violence as entertainment. If we love kindness, we will take the psalmist’s advice to “guard your tongue from evil and your lips from deceitful speech.”

And finally Micah tells us to walk modestly with our God. Of course this phrase, like so many others, is open to interpretation. I read it now to say that God has the power and the answers, and we need to be modest as we walk with God. In this context I would respectfully suggest that each of our faiths interprets God’s will and God’s expectations of us differently. We are only human, and cannot know everything. By walking modestly with our God, we recognize that we do not have all the truth and all the answers. I believe in religious pluralism. Pluralism recognizes that others hold truths that I do not share, but even while fundamentally disagreeing on what we hold sacred, we can respect others and their beliefs. This is, of course, very difficult and challenging, since we believe what we believe with great passion and sincerity. But it is the key to authentic interreligious relationships. We do not enter into dialogue with the motive of converting the other, but rather of hearing and learning from and teaching our partners in dialogue.

As we listen to each other, as we weave together the strands of our Abrahamic faiths, we have the potential to face our common challenges, to serve God and humanity. May we continue the conversation as we journey forward together.

Remarks as prepared to the Islamic Society of North America
44th Annual Convention, Chicago, Illinois
Friday, August 31st, 2007

By Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie
Union for Reform Judaism

I am deeply honored by your invitation to be present at this convention.

I am here as the leader of largest Jewish religious movement in North America, consisting of more than 900 congregations and 1.5 million Jews.

My organization is currently discussing with your leadership a joint dialogue and education program that we hope to launch in the very near future, involving our congregations and your mosques. This project is a matter of the utmost importance to my Movement and to me personally, and I would like to share with you why that is so.

There exists in this country among all Americans — whether Jews, Christians, or non-believers — a huge and profound ignorance about Islam. It is not that stories about Islam are missing from our media; there is no shortage of voices prepared to tell us that fanaticism and intolerance are fundamental to Islamic religion, and that violence and even suicide bombing have deep Koranic roots. There is no lack of so-called experts who are eager to seize on any troubling statement by any Muslim thinker and pin it on Islam as a whole. Thus, it has been far too easy to spread the image of Islam as enemy, as terrorist, as the frightening unknown.

How did this happen?

How did it happen that Christian fundamentalists, such as Pat Robertson and Franklin Graham, make vicious and public attacks against your religious tradition?

How did it happen that when a Muslim congressman takes his oath of office while holding the Koran, Dennis Prager suggests that the congressman is more dangerous to America than the terrorists of 9/11?

How did it happen that a member of Congress, Tom Tancredo, now running for President, calls for the bombing of Mecca and Medina?

Even more important, how did it happen that law-abiding Muslims in this country can find themselves condemned for dual-loyalty and blamed for the crimes of terrorists they abhor?

And how did it happen that in the name of security, Muslim detainees and inmates are exposed to abusive and discriminatory treatment that violates the most fundamental principles of our constitution?

One reason that all of this happens is the profound ignorance to which I referred. We know nothing of Islam — nothing. That is why we must educate our members, and we need your help. And we hope in doing so we will set an example for all Americans.

Because the time has come put aside what the media says is wrong with Islam and to hear from Muslims themselves what is right with Islam.

The time has come to listen to our Muslim neighbors speak, from their heart and in their own words, about the spiritual power of Islam and their love for their religion.

The time has come for Americans to learn how far removed Islam is from the perverse distortions of the terrorists who too often dominate the media, subverting Islam’s image by professing to speak in its name.

The time has come to stand up to the opportunists in our midst — the media figures, religious leaders, and politicians who demonize Muslims and bash Islam, exploiting the fears of their fellow citizens for their own purposes.

And finally this: The time has come to end racial profiling and legal discrimination of any kind against Muslim Americans. Yes, we must assure the security of our country; this is absolutely our government’s first obligation. But let’s not breach the constitution in ways we will later regret. After all, civil liberties are America’s strength, not our weakness.

We hope to accomplish all this and more with our dialogue program. This dialogue will not be easy. It will work only if we approach it with humility. We should remember the words of President Lincoln at his second inaugural; he spoke of a transcendent God whose will we cannot hope to entirely know. Surely this God is big enough to accommodate a range of thinking and an inescapably plural religious reality. And surely, because God is God and we are not God, we can recognize that other religions have much to teach us.

The dialogue will not be one way, of course. You will teach us about Islam and we will teach you about Judaism. We will help you to overcome stereotyping of Muslims, and you will help us to overcome stereotyping of Jews. We are especially worried now about anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Anti-Semitism is not native to Islamic tradition, but a virulent form of it is found today in a number of Islamic societies, and we urgently require your assistance in mobilizing Muslims here and abroad to delegitimize and combat it. A measure of our success will be our ability, each of us, to discuss and confront extremism in our midst. As a Jew I know that our sacred texts, including the Hebrew Bible, are filled with contradictory propositions, and these include passages that appear to promote violence and thus offend our ethical sensibilities. Such texts are to be found in all religions, including Christianity and Islam.

The overwhelming majority of Jews reject violence by interpreting these texts in a constructive way, but a tiny, extremist minority chooses destructive interpretations instead, finding in the sacred words a vengeful, hateful God. Especially disturbing is the fact that the moderate majority, at least some of the time, decides to cower in the face of the fanatic minority — perhaps because they seem more authentic, or appear to have greater faith and greater commitment. When this happens, my task as a rabbi is to rally that reasonable, often-silent majority and encourage them to assert the moderate principles that define their beliefs and Judaism’s highest ideals. My Christian and Muslim friends tell me that precisely the same dynamic operates in their traditions, and from what I can see, that is manifestly so. Surely, as we know from the headlines, you have what I know must be for you as well as for us an alarming number of extremists of your own — those who kill in the name of God and hijack Islam in the process. It is therefore our collective task to strengthen and inspire one another as we fight the fanatics and work to promote the values of justice and love that are common to both our faiths.

I am optimistic that we can do this. After all, there is much that we share. As small minorities here, we worry how we will fare and if we will survive in the great American melting pot. As committed God seekers in an age of moral relativism, we are distressed by the trends that pollute our children’s lives: incredibly trashy television, high divorce rates, and media images that demean and objectify women. At the same time, and without contradiction, we are both beneficiaries of the blessings bestowed by this great and wonderful country. For all of its problems, America provides us with a secure sanctuary that safeguards our right to be different. And despite the prejudice that we still confront, America offers a measure of diversity and tolerance unmatched in any place or time in history.

Compare this with the situation in Christian Europe. For centuries we were the “other” in Europe. The Europeans have little ability to deal with difference, and often show suspicion or outright contempt for people of faith. As you are well aware, there are places in Europe where wearing a headscarf to a public school is a punishable offense. What an outrage this is, what an abomination! In a global media culture that fawns over Britney Spears and Lindsay Lohan, why should anyone criticize the voluntary act of a woman who chooses to wear a headscarf or a veil? Surely the choice these women make deserves our respect, not to mention the full protection of the law.

America, fortunately, is different in this regard. What distinguishes America is our religiosity and our pluralism. More than 150 million Americans worship on a regular basis, in an astonishing number of denominations. Americans respect religion and believe in God, and they eventually learn to respect religions different from their own. If we add to this the great principle of church-state separation, we can be certain that our religious autonomy is assured. And we can conduct our dialogue not in despair but in hope, knowing that we will ultimately find a secure place in the American religious mosaic.

Permit me to conclude with a few words about the situation in the Middle East — because this too must also be included in our dialogue.

American Jews have a deep, profound, and unshakable commitment to the State of Israel. We see assuring the security of Israel as one of our community’s most important accomplishments, and we see maintaining her security as one of our most important priorities.

At the same time, we understand the ties of Muslim Americans and Arab Americans to the Palestinian people.

The challenge that we face is this: Will we, Jews and Muslims, import the conflicts of the Middle East into America, or will we join together and send a message of peace to that troubled land?

Let us choose peace. Let us work toward the day when a democratic Palestinian state lives side by side, in peace and security, with the democratic State of Israel.

The basic outline of such a peace has been clear for a long time. For peace to be achieved, territorial compromise will be required of Israel. Unconditional acceptance of Israel as a Jewish state will be required of the Palestinians. Jews will need to accept the reality of Palestinian suffering, and understand that without dignity for the Palestinians, there can be no dignity for Israel. Muslims will need to accept the reality of Israeli vulnerability, including the vulnerability of that tiny nation’s ever-threatened borders.

And what can we do, American Muslims and Jews? Three things, I believe.

First, while the terms of a settlement must be negotiated by the two parties, an American role in achieving such a settlement will be essential. Therefore, we must urge our government to commit itself to active, high-level engagement, in order to move the parties toward peace.

Second, if the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is seen in religious rather than political terms, resolving it becomes impossible. If Israel is portrayed as “a dagger pushed into the heart of Islam,” rather than a nation-state disputing matters of land and water with the Palestinians, we are lost. As religious Jews and religious Muslims, let us do everything in our power to prevent a political battle from being transformed into a holy war.

And finally, to all those who desecrate God’s name by using religion to justify killing and terror, let us say together: enough.

No cause in the world, and surely no religious cause, can ever justify murdering the innocent or targeting the uninvolved. You cannot honor a religion of peace through violence; you cannot honor God if you do not honor the image of God in every human being; and you cannot get to heaven by creating hell on earth. If we can agree on nothing else, let us agree on this, and let us remain united on this point, come what may.

We have expressed these views, and so have you, with your clear statements condemning terrorist attacks. But let us agree that this task will not be done until the message is heard, and others in the Muslim world join with ISNA in ringing denunciations of terror that will be heard throughout the globe.

Our agenda is long and difficult. There is nothing simple or easy about the project that we are about to undertake. But, interconnected since the time of Abraham, thrust into each other’s lives by history and fate, and living in a global world, what choice do we really have? Surely here, in this land, we cannot permit fanaticism to grow or prejudice to harden. Surely here, in America, as Muslim and Jew, we have a unique opportunity to reclaim our common heritage and to find a new way and a common path. Brothers and sisters, let us begin.

Thank you very much. May God bless the work of this assembly.


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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© 1968, 2001 Kent M. Keith

" In the final analysis, it is between you and God.  It was never between you and them anyway."-Mother Teresa

“You cannot talk like sane men around a peace table while the atomic bomb itself is ticking beneath it. Do not treat the atomic bomb as a weapon of offense; do not treat it as an instrument of the police. Treat the bomb for what it is: the visible insanity of a civilization that has obey the laws of life.”- Lewis Mumford, 1946

The age of warrior kings and of warrior presidents has passed. The nuclear age calls for a different kind of leadership....a leadership of intellect, judgment, tolerance and rationality, a leadership committed to human values, to world peace, and to the improvement of the human condition. The attributes upon which we must draw are the human attributes of compassion and common sense, of intellect and creative imagination, and of empathy and understanding between cultures."  - William Fulbright

“Any nation that year after year continues to raise the Defense budget while cutting social programs to the neediest is a nation approaching spiritual death.” - Rev. MLK
Establishment of Israel
"On the day of the termination of the British mandate and on the strength of the United Nations General Assembly declare The State of Israel will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel: it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion it will guarantee freedom of religion [and] conscience and will be faithful to the Charter of the United Nations." - May 14, 1948. The Declaration of the Establishment of Israel
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