Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Man Of Many Visions

A Universal and Shameful Connection

Religion and domestic violence have, unfortunately, not been strangers to each other. And which religious tradition doesn't seem to matter, unless there are comparative statistics I haven't seen.

Let's see, a few years ago a rabbi on New Jersey was convicted of hiring a killer to kill his wife for the sake of a mistress with whom he began an affair after she came for grief counseling upon the death of her husband. Uggggggggghh.

I'm not even going to try to count, let alone list, the cases of sexual molestation of children by Catholic priests -- which I think counts as family abuse because the celibate(?) priests had chosen the people of the Church as their family.

There may even be a psychospiritual process whereby the elevation in status and perceived holiness that defines the clergy of many different religions gives them a sense of superiority, entitlement, -- and, therefore, the right to use physical or emotional abuse.

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Arthur Waskow

Rabbi, founder and director of The Shalom Center.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow has been one of the creators and leaders of Jewish renewal since writing the original Freedom Seder in 1969. In 1983, he founded and has since been director of The Shalom Center ( In 2007, Newsweek named him one of America's fifty most influential rabbis. He is a co-author of "The Tent of Abraham: Stories of Hope and Peace for Jews, Christians, & Muslims" (Beacon, 2006). He is a pioneer in the shaping of Eco-Judaism, both through his books ("Down-to-Earth Judaism"; editor, "Torah of the Earth" (2 vols); co-editor, "Trees, Earth, & Torah: A Tu B'Shvat Anthology") and religiously rooted social action (e.g. The Shalom Center’s Green Menorah Covenant campaign). He taught at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College from 1982 till 1989 and has taught as a Visiting Professor at the Hebrew Union College -Jewish Institute of Religion and in the departments of religion at Swarthmore, Vassar, Temple University, and Drew University.


wikipedia said...

Rabbi Avi Shafran said...

a man of many visions? This man is not an orthodox jew.

Rabbi Arthur Waskow said...

If you listen to the hard-headed people who presumably keep us prosperous, Biblical and Quranic economics are, of course, quaint and unrealistic. They're based on romantic ideas about benefiting the poor, the landless, the outcast. Good for motivating open-hearted charity; bad for making hard-headed decisions necessary to run a successful economy.

Right. Which is why the hard-headed folks have created a crazy economic yo-yo skidding on the edge of massive disaster, in which the worst-hit will of course not be the Wall Street / Washington power-houses but the rest of us.

But the basic religious economic premise was not just about being nice to poor folks. It was about the flow of God's abundance that must move through the whole society, not get stuck in the pockets of the rich. When the flow gets stuck, the clumps of super-wealth become an embolus. They stop the flow of healing blood, the arteries choke up, the heart stutters and stops -- and society keels over.

Massive depressions are not good for societies or for the human race. I had just been born when a major industrial nation that had lost a war, had lost its sense of place and identity and its allies in the world, had gone through a massive economic disaster, then responded to its own fear and anger by choosing an aged, addle-headed war hero to hold power. Faced with rising chaos, he chose as his successor a ultra-right-wing crazy, who everybody said was sure to calm down once he actually held power.

The war hero was Von Hindenburg. His successor? Look it up.

So it is certainly urgent to shape our financial system so that such a collapse does not descend upon us. But are we simply propping up the old system - the same one that has set up our risk of disaster? Are we turning over the process to many of the same people who set up the disaster in the first place?

Or can we address the basic issues, the ones our religious traditions teach, the ones that the hard-headed masters of disaster dismiss contemptuously?

So far, the most "radical" poultices have been that a governmental economic czar will save the financial institutions that are in trouble, by buying and selling their assets -- and taxpayers will bear the burden and the risk.

There has begun to be discussion of a slightly deeper remedy - the re-regulation of these institutions so that greed and ambition cannot so easily pocket the abundance that must move through society.

But so far the whole notion of rhythmically redistributing wealth - a vision at the heart of Biblical economics - is not on the agenda. That vision is encoded partly in the redemption and redistribution of family land each fifty years -- the Jubilee - and the annulment of debt each seventh year - all in the context that for the seventh day, the seventh month, the seventh year, and the year of seven cycles - seven times seven plus one - the whole society rests and reflects, along with the earth itself. Not only physical work pauses, but hierarchy pauses as well. Boss and servant vanish, for a day, a month, a year.

And the redistribution is also encoded in the right of the landless to feed themselves by working, gleaning, in the fields of the landowners. No one can deny them this relationship with the means of production. No "unemployment."

And no compulsory overtime. Shabbat is for everyone.

Let us start to imagine how to transcribe this wisdom for a society that needs to let the earth rest from our pouring CO2 into its breath, from our sucking out the water from its veins, from our injecting poisons in its body.

We can restore our economy for both work and rest by building energy-efficient railroads, windmills, solar collectors. We can use the new governmental ownership and oversight of banks to insist on micro-lending to the poor for urban gardens, for workplaces within walking distance of our homes, for insulating our houses to save the heat and money that are pouring out of our porous doors and windows.

We can insist not only on a living wage, but also livable hours. Time to sing, to dance, to pray and meditate, to rear the children, to care for the elders, to make love.

If the flow of abundance starts at the grass roots, it will reach everyone. Our banking crisis and the fear that elevates a Hindenburg will vanish.

The decentralized, shared economy of the future starts with the decentralized polity, the shared citizenry of today. If politics begins at the grass roots, so will economics. In this very moment, it's up to us.

Shalom , salaam, peace -
(Rabbi Arthur Waskow,

YouTube said...

DECLARATION OF PEACE - Rabbi Arthur Waskow 9/26/06

Waskow doesn't get it said...

Does he really think peace is forfeiting your right to self-defense?

Belsky thugs said...

When you need muscle to get the job done you know you can count on us.

They help 'get' it together Jewish women aided in divorce

BY Erin Durkin

Thursday, February 26th 2009, 4:31 PM

Three years after she left her abusive husband, a Borough Park Orthodox Jewish woman still can't move on.

At first, she said, "he would call me names, he would call me stupid, he would yell at me for any little thing."

Soon the abuse became physical and sexual. "There were many times that I wanted to call the police," she said. "But I was afraid of him. I felt trapped."

The woman turned to the Organization for the Resolution of Agunot because her husband refused to grant her a get, or religious divorce.

Agunot is the Hebrew term for "chained woman."

The group had the man's name published in the Jewish press to shame him. Rabbis have attempted to persuade him to give the get.

Founded by Yeshiva University students in 2002, the group works to persuade husbands to grant the get, a move which no court or religious authority can force. They start with quiet negotiation, then ramp up the pressure, even holding public rallies at the homes and workplaces of husbands who hold out.

The group has successfully resolved about 100 cases and has 70 more open, mostly in Borough Park and Flatbush.

"Often, the husband will hold it as a bargaining chip until he gets what he wants in court," said ORA Executive Director Michael Kaplan. "Sometimes, it's just straight-out extortion. He'll ask for $100,000 in exchange for the get.

"Our organization came along so that a woman wouldn't have to succumb to these threats," said Kaplan.

He said the group has seen an increase in the number of women seeking its help as women have realized they don't have to accept the indefinite limbo. When ORA started out, they got about 10 new cases a year; now it's closer to 30, said Kaplan.

The group is not without its critics. Some of its rallies have drawn counterprotests from men in the community.

"There's a proper Jewish way to go about getting a divorce," said Dov Charnowitz, a leading critic. "ORA unfortunately doesn't really care about that."

But Kaplan said most rabbis are supportive of their efforts, even joining in their rallies.

"We don't think there's ever a reason to withhold a get," he said. "It's a form of emotional abuse."

Meanwhile, the woman in Borough Park is still "chained" because her husband has refused to grant the get.

"He knows there's no way I'm going back to him," she said. "It's out of spite and it's sick."

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It is unfortunate that it has come to this. It is a big darn shame it has come to this. It is very hurtful that it has come to this. But yet, IT HAS COME TO THIS. It has come at the price of a GREAT CHILUL HASHEM. It has come to Hashem having to allow his holy name to be DESECRATED so that his CHILDREN remain SAFE. Shame on all those responsible for enabling and permitting Hashem's name to be desecrated! When you save children you save the future. You save the future you save generations. You save generations you save lives. You save lives you have saved the world!!!!!!!