Yom Kippur Appeal

My Motto: I am not perfect, but I can strive toward progress. 

We are coming up on the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur, the Day of atonement, a day for self-reflection and to ponder what I could have done better and how I can improve for the next year. I know it is a day to not just reflect on my own shortcomings, but on our communities and the world at large. My personal motto is ”I am not perfect, but I can strive toward progress.” That’s what keeps me going day to day, and especially at this time, when there are so many suffering, I think about how in my own small imperfect way, I can make a difference.

Somewhat serendipitously, the campaign that I am working on to elect Allison Galbraith for congress is also coming up on the end of the financial reporting quarter. As some of you may know, I had taken over as Acting Campaign Manager, when our previous very talented campaign manager, who was instrumental in launching Allison’s campaign had to step down due to other demands. I was honored that Allison put her trust in me, but also recognized that I am stepping into some very big shoes.

I took the plunge because I knew I wanted to make a difference in our world, and because I saw Allison fighting for principles that I believe in. Such as the right of each person to affordable healthcare, giving support to our families caring for loved ones with disabilities and health issues, taking the corrupting influence of money out of politics. And as our team has grown by leaps and bounds, I know I am not alone. Every single one of our staff members have the dedication and desire to make sure that Allison wins her election for Congress in November 2018. We do our work for the campaign without expectation that we will be paid for all the numerous hours we spend, because we believe in Allison and because this is not just a job for us: Allison is who we want to represent us!

So why am I writing a “Yom Kippur appeal” on the eve of the final day of our financial quarter? I don’t want money for myself, my staff doesn’t do this for the money, Allison herself is sacrificing hours from her own business. But what we do want is to win, and to do that we need money. In order to win in such a large, spread out district, we need to reach the many many people who I am sure will want to vote for Allison as soon as they hear about her. Even seemingly small things, such as literature and t-shirts and phone lists, add up.  We want the means to support all out canvassing and outreach to every single one of our constituents. And we want to pay our staff, because we don’t want them to have to juggle outside work responsibilities, while they organize and energize our volunteers on the ground.

So I am asking you for whatever you can afford, be it large or small. Every bit helps, because like raindrops gathering together, we can become a downpour, that washes away the corruption and greed of our current system, and replaces it with an elected congress that truly fights for the people.


 
Allison for Congress
P.O. Box 25
Fallston, MD 21047

 

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It is Passover again and I am reminded that Silence is not an option

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Of all the Jewish holidays, Passover is the one that most speaks to me as a call to social justice. From the slow decline of a minority group into oppression to the transformation of a member of the privileged class heeding the whisperings of his conscience, Passover has all the elements of the heroic tragedy we face in almost every generation and so keenly today.

Outsiders, immigrants with strange customs, the Israelites were first welcomed into the land of prosperity at the time, Egypt. But they were kept separate and never integrated, and as their numbers grew the majority or ruling class began to worry that this group would overtake them. And so the pharaohs began to limit their activities, place additional burdens in order to keep the population from expanding. When this did not seem to work, decrees became harsher, families torn apart, parents forced to give up children, including one brave woman who hopefully set her child in a basket on the river.

That child was discovered by the pharaoh’s daughter and grew up in privilege in the palace. The child drawn from the water, Moses, became aware as he grew up that his place of privilege was held at the expense of the oppression of others and he risked his life to save a slave being beaten by his master. Had he simply fled for his life to the oasis of Goshen and turned his back on his origins, we would not today have the story of the Exodus of slaves to freedom, a story that continues to ring the bell of responsibility for the oppressed, of speaking up for the voiceless.

Moses settled for a while, but inside him burned the memory and consciousness that others still suffered. This voice, that he heard on a mountain speaking to him through a burning bush, urged him back to Egypt, to speak against the injustice of his time.

Every year I think about Moses and remember that it takes one brave voice to begin the march to freedom. And eventually that voice grew into a multitude demanding liberty, and eventually that multitude became a people demanding a just society.

The story doesn’t end with dancing in freedom, though there was much joyous dancing as the waves of the red sea came down on their oppressors. The people come back to that mountain, where Moses heard the voice of responsibility and determined to return for the others. Standing under that mountain, they accepted a covenant, a social pact of justice and equality.

Of course, this is an idealized view of the Exodus from Egypt*, leading to this promised land of opportunity and plenty, each one under their own fig tree. New masters would continue to enslave others as property for thousands of years thence.

“In every generation,” we recite from the Hagaddah, “it is beholden on us to feel as if we ourselves had come out of Egypt.” Never forget, has been a mantra that harkens back as old as time. And never stand silent to the oppression of the stranger in your midst, for you yourself were once a stranger in a strange land.

 


*I would like to give credit to the original 1956 Cecil B. DeMille movie “The Ten Commandments” for perhaps inculcating this idealized view in me as well.

**Also see: On1Foot, Jewish Texts for Social Justice

Pride

Okay, this is not going to be about what you think. But here goes, a kind of follow up to my post Do What You Love. I wanted to acknowledge my pride in my recent work, particularly the launching of a lengthy labor of love, the website I helped create for the Off the Derech community. If you haven’t seen it, and if you are OTD you probably already have, as it already has far, far more visitors and views than my little blog will probably ever have, check it out: offthederech.org

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Pride is an important motivator, of which I don’t often have enough. I am one of the those people that get overly optimistic about a project, and then after a little bit, start to question, second-guess, often giving up in the process. But a little pride can go a long way. I know because among other things, I struggle with my weight, and what gets me back on track is my pride in having persevered and maintained a significant, but healthy weight loss. When I start to lose control of my eating habits, start to feel like giving up, I have this image in my mind of the person that can do this, that I know I am.

The OTD website has been a long time in coming, and I almost did give up. I had never built my own website before, aside from starting this blog on wordpress.com, and you can see I’ve kept it pretty bare bones, nothing fancy. I knew a little bit about html coding, from an online course I took, but hardly enough to make a complicated, well-designed site.

The suggestion to use a wordpress platform came from a good friend of my husband’s, a can-do, jack of all trades guy, who had taught himself the skills needed to create a web design business. In fact, he was also the one who inspired me to try my hand at some other unusual activities for an urban-raised, academically-minded individual; he was my mentor in woodworking and gardening, even gave me the confidence to get under the sink and replace my own kitchen faucets.

It did take me several years to build enough confidence to finally launch the website. Along the way I had various collaborators, who were also willing to take time from other occupations to pursue this project. My OTD colleagues live across the globe, so we have held our meetings on conference calls and google hangout.

We started with a very basic wordpress platform and began writing pages. For a few bucks, I purchased a domain name and found a web-host. We wanted something that wasn’t static, that would provide up to date material. Achieving this wasn’t so simple for amateur web-designers. We experimented with various plug-ins and themes, but there were a lot of bugs that we couldn’t quite figure out. We were getting frustrated and the project began to stagnate.

Then, a professional  web developer offered to make a custom designed site in his spare time. He volunteered an enormous amount of time, did an amazing job, and the site was put up. Unfortunately, we quickly discovered that without his continued support, which he was unable to sustain long-term, we were left with something that we had no idea how to maintain. We didn’t want to pull the plug, but after a few months with no new content, we took the site offline.

I still wanted to do this thing, so did my collaborator, but we needed time for other things;  I was busy advocating for my special needs child, who needed a more appropriate school placement; my friend was working a new job that needed his attention. We seemingly went our separate ways.

About a month or so ago, I started to get involved in a local political action group. I offered to help with their website. To my surprise and the delight of the professional web-designer, I  was quickly able to get in and start editing and uploading content to the wordpress based site. Then, in some serendipitous act, my OTD collaborator contacted me; it was time to get this site online already. He had purchased a new wordpress theme that had all the functionality we needed. With new found confidence in my understanding of how to work with a wordpress platform, I got to work rebuilding our site.

I know it is not perfect, but I have impressed my collaborators, my OTD community, and most importantly, myself, with the result. I am proud of my work and proud of what we accomplished. And that pride continues to motivate me, to keep learning and gaining skills, to persist in adding up-to-date content to the website, to never give up on my dreams.

 

A Thanksgiving Seder

Last night, my son had trouble sleeping, while I was messaging with a friend. He (my 9 year old) told me to get off my phone and meditate. He was right, that’s what I needed to do. I sat down next to him and closed my eyes, and tried to think of something calming. Probably because I have been concerned about the people protesting the DAPL (Dakota Access Pipeline), what sprang into my mind’s eye: the vision of a young Native American girl in a brown tunic, standing amid the trees on the shore of the Hudson River, catching her first glimpse of Europeans, perhaps Henry Hudson himself.

Sounds a bit like Pocahantus right? Well, that image is one I had years ago before I ever saw the movie, while doing a hypnotic regression. Kind of crazy, I know. My husband is into New Age spirituality, life after death, reincarnation. I’m agnostic about these things, but found it fascinating and was reading some of his books on doing past life regression. Really not surprising, since I have a thing for Native American culture that I would conjure this image. For our anniversary one year, we visited the Smithsonian National Museum of the Native American and I bought and devoured a book on the history of indigenous Americans. I don’t claim to have had a past live as a Native American, but who knows.

Then my mind drifted to the #noDapl movement and this upcoming Thanksgiving. My husband and I had decided we would again host my extended family. Since going off the derech, we are the non-religious ones, so it makes sense for us to be responsible for this secular holiday celebration. But what I really want to do is be in North Dakota standing with Standing Rock. Can you imagine doing a Thanksgiving celebration with actual Native Americans, European americans dressing up as a pilgrim, and together we recreate the “original” Thanksgiving feast? I don’t know if that would go over well, not sure how Native Americans feel about this holiday, and is the story really accurate or an idyllic reinventing of history? I’m going to have to do some research, I think.

Now, I figured I will not be able to drag my family across the country (or would I?), but maybe we can do something more than stuff ourselves with a dead bird and pumpkin pie this year. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, because of it’s name, reminding us to be thankful for all we have. But there’s more to it, perhaps Thanksgiving can instill an appreciation for Native american culture and a desire to right the wrongs of the past four hundred years.  

One year, actually it was the year of Thanksgivukkah, the big cousins organized a Thanksgiving play, about the pilgrims and Indians. The little cousins, my kids included, were given little parts to play and the big cousins made hats and headresses to wear. It was a spectacular performance, followed by the oldest cousin doing a tap dance solo. Now, what about doing something like that, but incorporating the real history of Thanksgiving, the actual native american experience, and what about including the storytelling and lessons of their earth based spirituality, that us Europeans really need to learn, before we destroy our planet.

I began to think of this as a Thanksgiving Seder, similar to our Passover Freedom Seder, where we learn and remind ourselves of the oppression that still exists in our world. I once thought that Jews, with their moral teachings of being kind to the stranger and seeking justice for the downtrodden, were meant to be a “light unto the nations.” I’m starting to think that we need to turn to our Native brothers and sisters to shine their light and guide us back to harmony with nature and each other. I see their peaceful struggle and the solidarity of tribes from all over our country joining to protect our water, our future.

I don’t mean to misappropriate Native American culture, but I would love to begin a discussion of how we can organize to bring these inspiring people into the limelight, because it is their turn to shine.