Through a reader, I just got wind of the shenanigans (or, should I say, the Sheehan-igans) going on at Beyt Tikkun, the ultra Left wing synagogue in Berkeley. It turns out that the special guest at this year’s High Holy Days is going to be none other than Cindy “get Israel out of Palestine!” Sheehan.
Let me backtrack a little so that you can see what a travesty this whole thing is, and how (to my mind) it really shockingly mixes religion and politics — or, should I say, uses politics to destroy religion.
First, let’s talk about the High Holy Days. As the name implies, these are not little holidays in the Jewish calendar. In the middle and at the end of September we’re coming up to the big ones: Rosh Hashanna, or Jewish New Year, and Yom Kippur, or the Day of Atonement. One Jewish website neatly summarizes their importance:
Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the most important of all Jewish Holidays and the only holidays that are purely religious, as they are not related to any historical or natural event.
Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is celebrated the first and second days of Tishri. It is a time of family gatherings, special meals and sweet tasting foods.
Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is the most solemn day of the Jewish year and is observed on the tenth day of Tishri. It is a day of fasting, reflection and prayers.
Thus, while American merchants in December are kind enough to decorate their stores with Menorahs, all of which remind us of a great military victory (that would be Chanukah), it’s these Fall holidays that are the real deal for even the most marginally observant Jew.
Second, let’s talk about Michael Lerner, a man who is both a far Leftist and (at least in his own mind) a rabbi. Lerner has long been a well-known figure on the Left, especially since he always favored highly wrought symbolic acts to make his various political points:
A former 1960s Berkeley radical, Michael Lerner (b. 1943) is the founder of Tikkun magazine, a publication whose philosophy is an admixture of Old Testament teachings, medieval cabala mysticism, and 1960s-style campus Marxism. Though Lerner identifies himself as a duly ordained rabbi, many of his critics dispute that claim – on grounds that he was given a controversial private rabbinic ordination by “Jewish Renewal” rabbis, whose ordinations are recognized only by those within the Jewish Renewal community and Reconstructionist Judaism. Orthodox Judaism, the Reform movement’s Central Conference of American Rabbis, and the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly all consider such ordinations invalid.
Lerner’s radical politics and counterculture mindset were nourished during his years at Berkeley and have remained with him ever since. At his wedding reception, the wedding cake was inscribed with the words, “Smash Monogomy,” a slogan popularized by the Weathermen terrorist group that rose to prominence in 1969. During the marriage ceremony itself, Lerner and his bride exchanged rings fashioned out of metal extracted from a downed U.S. military aircraft. Shortly after the birth of the Lerners’ first child, the couple separated – the mother and son going to live in Boston, and Mr. Lerner returning to Berkeley. When asked why he had chosen to move so far from his young son, he answered without hesitation, “You don’t understand. I have to be here. Berkeley is the center of the world-historical spirit.” (Sha’i Ben Tekoa Israel National News – “Deprogram Program” June 4, 2001).
Lerner might have remained a fringe figure, running the Berkeley beat, if it weren’t for the fact that, during the 1990s, he sprang into the public view as the Clintons’ rabbi friend:
For some time, Lerner had a warm relationship with Hillary Clinton – and, by extension, with Bill Clinton also. Lerner’s 1997 book titled The Politics of Meaning was the source of Mrs. Clinton’s widely publicized use of that phrase. In a spirit reminiscent of the inscription atop Lerner’s wedding cake, one of his book’s chapters is entitled “The Tyranny of Couples.” In Hell To Pay, her biography of Hillary Clinton, author Barbara Olson reports that Lerner, during his years of friendship with Mrs. Clinton, liked to frequently invoke the phrase, “Hillary and I believe” as a prelude to identifying points of agreement he shared with her. However, as the Clinton presidency progressed, Lerner, a devoted far-leftist, lost interest in Bill and Hillary when he saw that polling data and focus groups were leading the administration toward moderation on such issues as welfare reform and social welfare spending.
Of course, in the 1990s, when the media was fawning over him, we never heard about (or we heard little about) Lerner’s Marxist politics and anti-American animus. Instead, we read fawning articles about his deep spirituality and his amazing ability to renew Jewish thinking amongst yuppies searching for meaning in their lives. And when he tired of the Clintons, the press ignored him and he just faded away.
Because Marxism always triumphs over all other religions, Lerner’s nominal role of a rabbi is always going to be subordinate to his political beliefs. Thus, while most Jews support Israel in her life and death struggle with the Palestinians (even Jews who acknowledge that Israel hasn’t always made the right practical or legal decisions over the years), Lerner, based upon Marxist misreadings of history, would see Israel destroyed entirely on the ground that she’s an imperialist U.S. puppet:
With regard to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict of recent decades, Lerner has consistently aligned himself with the Palestinian side. He characterizes Israel as a nation whose “repressive” and “fascistic” leadership uses “disproportionate force to repress an essentially unarmed population.” He exhorts Jews everywhere to “allow themselves to hear the cries of pain of the Palestinian people” – as a first step toward atonement for their own transgressions. When asked about a barbaric October 2000 lynching of two Israeli reservists by Palestinian police in Ramallah, he replied that he understood “how Israel’s occupation can lead to such violence.”
“I believe,” says Lerner, “that the Israeli people will never be safe until the Occupation ends and a new spirit of repentance and generosity spreads through the Jewish people” He urges Jews “to atone for the pain we have inflicted on the Palestinian people in [many] years of brutal occupation, and in forcing so many Palestinians out of their home and not allowing them to return in 1948-49.” “Israel needs an atonement for what it has done,” he adds, “for the way it has failed to recognize the humanity, the sanctity of life, of Palestinians.” He lists, among Israeli transgressions, their responsibility “for expelling hundreds of thousands of Palestinian civilians during the War of Independence in 1948”; “for not having fulfilled the terms of the Oslo Accord, which envisioned granting Palestinians an independent state several years ago”; “for not being able to recognize themselves as the superior force with the greater responsibility to compromise and respect the needs of the less powerful”; and for “the deep racism in their society.”
Notably, Lerner does believe that the obligation to pay restitution to victims of injustice is a two-way street. Thus, while calling for Israel to provide “significant compensation for the families of Palestinians who were forced to leave their homes in 1948,” he similarly advocates a “corresponding compensation from Arab lands for Jews who fled Arab oppression in 1948-1954.”
Given all this, would it surprise you to know that the guest of honor at Beyt Tikkun’s High Holy Day services this year is going to be Cindy Sheehan, who is also completely hostile to Israel? At Free Republic, someone who is on a mailing list received this invitation to Beyt Tikkun’s services:
You may not live in the SF Bay Area, but there is a very good chance you know someone who does and who would love the High Holiday services conducted by Rabbi Michael Lerner. Cindy Sheehan will speak on Yom Kippur.
This year, all of America needs repentance and atonement, not just Jews. The failure of Americans to give an unequivocal message to their elected representatives that they must immediately cut off fund for the war, prevent a US attack on Iran, reverse the decision to expand the President’s power to tap our phones and invade our privacy, and stop the assault on immigrants provide an immediate focus for repentance, but the larger context of materialism, self-centeredness and environmental irresponsibility add dimensionality.
You don’t have to be Jewish to use the repentance and atonement traditions of the Jewish High Holy Days this year. So even if you can’t come to Rabbi Lerner’s High Holiday services, you can still use some fo the resources below, and you can tell people you know in the Bay Area about the services and expose them to a spiritual progressive version of religion. This is a Judaism of love, generosity, kindness, social justice, environmental sanity and peace. Rosh Hashanah is the evening of Sept. 12th and then Sept 13 & 14th. Yom Kippur is eve of Sept. 21 and all day Sept 22nd. Also note the course on A Judaism of Love being offered by Rabbi Lerner the weekend of Nov.9-11 (see below).
To get a better sense of what Jewish High Holidays are about, and how they can provide a spiritual practice even for people who don’t believe that there is such a thing as “spiritual” (much less God), please go to this website and download the High Holiday Guide (which also appears in Tikkun Magazine between pages 16-17. http://www.beyttikkun.org/article.php?story=HHDmain
Information and registration at http://www.beyttikkun.org. Take it from us, it’s a life changing experience for those who come to all the services and then use the High Holiday Guide above during the week between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur (which is why some people have flown to our services from Miami, NY, Boston, Minneapolis, San Diego and Chicago?and were happy they did! So, let your friends in this area know about the services by urging them to go to http://www.beyttikkun.org. They do NOT have to be Jewish to get a huge amount out of this practice.
It’s worth traveling for!
The one bummer: we have to charge for this. We believe all religious services should be free, as should health care, higher education, utilities, the internet, public transportation and legal costs. Unfortunately, we aren’t there yet, and in order to pay our yearly expenses we have to charge (sliding fee scale). In exchange for some volunteer work and commitment to attend the Global Judaism of Love course in Nov (but see http://www.beyttikkun.org for all conditions), people 21-34 can become a member of Beyt Tikkun for free and then don’t have to pay to go to services at all.
Mearsheimer and Walt Speak on The Israel Lobby for Beyt Tikkun and the NSP
(I hope you caught that bit at the end, which has Beyt Tikkun avidly supporting Walt & Mearsheimer’s repackaged Protocols of the Elders of Zion.)
Is it just me or does this announcement have absolutely nothing to do with religion? As I read it, it’s the usual Leftist/Progressive anti-American, anti-Israel, anti-Administration blather with a thin coating of religion painted over it. Why do these people even bother with the religious veneer? This is politics, pure and simple. It reminds me of the way in which the former Soviet Union used to pretend it had a Russian Orthodox Church by propping up a few old churches, and staffing them with KGB clergy.
There are a lot of people who hate Israel and who hate Jews but it always seems to me that some of the worst (sadly) are Jews themselves.