Living Liberally Blog

Living Liberally Blog

Praying Liberally: From Sudan to Haifa

Or Hadash is not your average Israeli synagogue. In the port city of Haifa, Or Hadash provides a home for the largest progressive Jewish community in Israel.

Rabbi Edgar Nof, the spiritual leader of the congregation, is a man deeply committed to Judaism and justice and for these purposes he has turned the synagogue into a home for all kinds of activities and community services, such as group therapy sessions for victims of terror, interfaith youth programs, immigration services for Ethopian immigrants and day care centers for local kids. He also has a contract from the City to perform Bar-Mitzvahs for youth with mental and physical disabilities.

Recently, Rabbi Nof has to take up an additional sacred responsibility. Over the past year, many refugees from Darfur have snuck into Israel to escape Sudanese genocide. This situation has cause quite a bit of debate in Israel, with some treating the refugees as enemies because of their illegal immigration from an enemy country, and others saying that as victims of the Holocaust, Israel is responsible for taking in and protecting these refugees.

Avner Shalev, chairman of Yad Vashem, the Jewish state's Holocaust museum and memorial, recently wrote to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert urging Israel to "show solidarity" with the Sudanese refugees and help find a solution.

"As members of the Jewish people, for whom the memory of the Holocaust burns, we cannot stand by as refugees from the genocide in Darfur hammer on our doors," Shalev wrote referring to the Nazi Holocaust, when six million Jews were killed during World War Two.

But the Israeli government has been unwilling to fully accept the refugees, jailing and deporting many of them. So when a Sudanese mother and her 3 year old daughter came to Nof's synagogue, he knew it was his duty as Jew to keep them safe. Nof enrolled the daughter in one of the synagogues preschools and gave the mother a part time job doing maintenance in the synagogue. Or Hadash also bought them an apartment and connected them to their immigrant services program.

The government recently took away the family's working papers with the threat of deportation but Nof, Or Hadash and their lawyers are fighting for the mother and her daughter's legal status. Just this week they sent a letter to Israeli authorities informing them that the family will be under the synagogues protection and they will shelter them and fight against any efforts by the government to make them leave.

Rabbi Nof and Or Hadash are great examples of a religious community that supports progressive action and liberal values. They truly are Praying Liberally.

From Upward Escalator to Flat Moving Walkway: Our Current Economic Prospects

My first introduction to the public-policy research institution The Century Foundation was indispensably informative-- I attended a lunchtime panel discussion, during which I was informed that my generation was in a startlingly dire economic situation.

Evidently, our generation (I'm 20, so a "millennial") is the first generation that is not expected to do better financially than our parents. What's more, we will face even more difficulty moving beyond class, race, and gender barriers-- despite the progressive action of more recent decades. Dismally shocking, and definitely action-inspiring!

Check out this video that The Century Foundation made covering the highlights of the panel discussion:

(the real highlight of which is obviously the brief clip of yours truly-- I'm the one in the purple dress proclaiming my newfound motivation to "do something")

The Century Foundation has more awesome youth discussions planned, so if you live in the New York area, make sure to try and catch one!

Daily Round-Up: You Provide the Blog Entries, We Provide the War.

1. Chris Hedges bemoans the decline of traditional media, hates the internets.

2. Feud Watch! Michael Savage has some strong words for "homosexual mafia group" Media Matters.

3. Doctors in South Dakota who preform abortions must now stick to a script claiming the abortion will "will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique living human being." Like the other famous pro-life script, Juno, it also features original songs by Kimya Dawson.

4. Here's the latest report on the mass Starbucks' closings. Looks as though some of these franchises will be caffeinating a little less...liberally?

5. Salon on how not to read.

Blogging Liberally: At Least Obama's Getting a Little Help from the Media

1.) High gas prices got you down? Blame Bush and Cheney! Pelosi does.

2.) Obama goes international and may even convince doubters that he knows a thing or two about world affairs (with the media's help).

3.) Bad financial times may have lasting effects on democracy as we know it.

4.) McCain humor watch: why bad jokes may lead to a bad president.

5.) In addition to enjoying stimulating democratic discussion, everyone at Netroots Nation in Texas can savor some of the highest-priced electricity in the nation! Thanks, deregulation!

6.) Evidently, both autism and athsma are the genius inventions of spoiled child extortionists-- at least according to conservative radio host Michael Savage.

International Law + Texas = Supreme Court Nightmare

Liberal Perspective
by Mazhira Black

Breaking away from his blundering diplomatic agenda, President Bush has urged the state of Texas to hold off on executing a Mexican national who is on death row and scheduled for lethal injection in August. The International Court of Justice, the highest court of the UN, has responded to an appeal made by the Mexican government for the United States review the cases of 51 Mexican nationals on death row.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the President does not have the constitutional power to issue a Memorandum demanding that the states review the files of the 48 remaining individuals eligible for review.

Although the Supreme Court recognizes the validity of the Judgment to the United States' standing in international law it has ruled that regardless of the Judgment and the President's Memorandum it is irrelevant to federal laws. Thus Texas is exempt from following the ruling.The Mexican government has requested that the United States step in to ensure that these nationals receive the review they are entitled to under the ICJ's ruling.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals chooses to treat the President's Memorandum as non binding and stands by the ruling that the President's actions are unconstitutional in trying to "pre-empt Texas state law, even in order to comply with an international law obligation".

Perhaps I'm missing something but shouldn't we be paying attention to real issues such as this loophole in the realm of federal law rather than Clinton's new part or McCain's humorless sense of humor? Is there a point to being a signatory state to the UN Charter if our judiciary branch allows individual states to override international court rulings? Thanks to this country's obsession with fleeting campaign season issues this Supreme Court ruling will fester long after the '08 buttons have left permanent holes in the garment of America.

Praying Liberally: Where do American Jews stand?

Today, J Street, the super awesome Pro-Israel Pro-Peace Jewish lobby, released their new poll of the American Jewish communities opinions on politics and American foreign policy in the Middle East.

Here's a run down of poll results:

  • 83% of Jews disapprove of George W. Bush.

  • Just 21% approve of the Iraq War.

  • 71% think Bush has done a bad job handling the Arab-Israeli conflict with 61% believing Bush has made Israel less safe and Iran stronger.

  • 60% are favorable towards Barack Obama as opposed to 34% towards McCain and 37% toward Joe Lieberman.

  • Barack Obama is also seen more favorably than the Democratic Party.

  • Only 38% are favorable towards AIPAC as opposed to the 44% favorable towards MoveOn.

  • Around 80% support a two state solution establishing a Palestinian state the West Bank and Gaza with 75% saying it necessary for Israel's security.

  • More than half want the US to tell Israel to stop expanding the settlements.

  • A plurality of Jews identify as Liberal (as opposed to Conservative, Moderate or Progressive)

The big takeaway: American Jews are Living Liberally.

They aren't, as the MSM tries to make you believe, old, crotchety, hawkish, conservative, Lieberman-lovers. It shouldn't be a surprise as the largest and fastest growing Jewish movement in the nation supports gay marriage, and has taken firm progressive stands on many issues.

One thing the media is correct about, however, is that American Jews want a strong Israel and a strong United States. And as J Street and the American Jewish community rightly realize, the only way to strengthen our countries is to establish some form of lasting peace, to negotiate with our current enemies, and to craft a US foreign policy that creates allies, instead of slighting them.

Thanks to J Street for showing that while the MSM would like to present American Jews as conservative or war-hawk moderate, the reality is that American Jews are liberal.

Blogging Liberally: All Newspapers Suck

1. The HIV Travel and Immigration Ban was repealed last night, meaning that HIV positive residents like Andrew Sullivan can now become citizens. Thanks to Senators Kerry and Smith who introduced the bill, and Biden and Lugar who put it through Congress.

2. In a big F U to the Wall Street Journal, Obama raised over 52 MILLION DOLLARS this month with an average donation of $68. Marc Ambinder sums up what this means.

3. Composting is the key to everything.

4. The bodies of two Israeli soldiers kidnapped at the outset of the second Lebanon war were returned.

5. John McCain thinks rape is hilarious.

6. John McCain thinks attacking teenage girls is hilarious.

7. John McCain thinks genocide is hilarious.

8. John McCain threatens fellow senators with waterboarding when they don't obey his will.

9. 30 Rock, which actually is hilarious, leads all sitcoms in Emmy nods.

10. TOP STORY: Hillary Clinton's new do.

Lame? Duck!

The Iraqi Prime Minister calls for withdrawal,
joining the majority of US public opinion,
& yet our unpopular President stays the course
& manages to keep Congress tangled up too.

Despite unconstitutional domestic spying,
& amnesty for telecom's unlawful acts,
our disapproved Prez pushed for his FISA bill
...& Congress caved to his domestic agenda.

Though it's not a solution to our energy woes,
lowly-regarded W now wants off-shore drilling
...& Congress could get pressured to pump.

Bush just keeps throwing sucker punches...
& Congress is too lame to duck this lame duck.

You'd think Congress's 14% approval rating
would be low enough to duck this sucker...
let's hope they don't try to sink even lower.

Your spirits could drop, or come lift a glass
as you raise your ideas, frustrations & hopes
sharing a night, while you share a pitcher
at your local progressive social club.

Find - or start - a chapter near you.

Balling Liberally

Jordan Farmar, the Los Angeles Lakers young point guard has decided to keep his Nikes on over the summer, but he's not playing the NBA Summer League, he's going overseas.

This summer, Farmar is going to Israel to run basketball camps for Israeli and Palestinian and in doing so trying to relieve some of the cultural tensions that divide them.

Farmar comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an interesting perspective, both as a Jew and an African-American, like the Palestinians, an ethnic minority.

His belief in this project, working in accordance with Israeli President Shimon Peres's Peres Peace Center, is that the most viable way to achieve peace in Israel is to get both parties involved in unifying social activities, especially at a young age. In a game like basketball for example, Israeli and Palestinian youth on the same team would have to work together to be successful.

This connection between the social and the political is an important part of what Living Liberally believes in. Changing people's interpersonal attitudes is a key part reshaping the political tone. Or in the words Mr. Farmar: "If you can have a good time with someone you're supposed to be enemies with, and you guys can work together, things can be better for your future."

That's why we applaud actions like Farmar's and Peace Players International, another organization that puts together basketball camps in conflict zones from Israel to Ireland, in order to unite youth and give these nations more hope for the new generation. And so, Jordan Farmar, by the power vested in me by the Living Liberally Blog, I know pronounce you Balling Liberally.

Denver and the Future of Poverty

In Denver, it has become pretty apparent that the convention is coming to town. Official Pepsi Center prep has begun, staff have infiltrated the City, and an organization called the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless is arranging to give Denver's homeless movie, zoo and museum tickets during the convention. They are also arranging for day shelters to expand their hours during convention time and starting a voter registration drive.

Some believe that the group is working as a tool of the DNC and the Denver municipality to "hide" the homeless from the convention-goers and make Denver seem like a more polished and problem-less City. The group responded that the services they are offering, are designed to aid the homeless from the disruption the convention and its accompanying protests will cause.

But these trips and gifts aren't going to solve the problem of homelessness in our cities. And organizations like the Colorado Coalition for the Homeless are doing important work like expanding mobile health care and creating transitional communities for people trying to escape poverty.

Anti-poverty measures are sure to be a key part of platform discussion as well as the numerous speeches that will be made at the convention between August 25th and 28th. Obama has many plans to fight poverty, such as establishing "Promise Neighborhoods," in high crime, high poverty, low academic achievement areas that will provide networks of services including "early childhood education, youth violence prevention efforts and after-school activities, to an entire neighborhood from birth to college."

These neighborhoods will be modeled after the Harlem Children's Zone, a New York City non-profit that, in my experience as a New York City youth organizer, trains the best young leaders in the entire City.

While CCH efforts for the convention won't make substantial change, I do hope the DNC is compensating them dearly so that they can continue in their efforts to fight poverty in one of America's growing metropolitan areas.