Posted in Uncategorized on March 16, 2010|
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Today’s ReligionDispatches carries an article by Professor Aryeh Cohen of the Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies of American Jewish University. Cohen does a great job of showing that there is, indeed, a sea change in the Jewish world in the relationship between traditional text study and progressive politics.
My experience in American Jewish communities, dating back to the seventies, confirms Cohen’s claims. It was rare to find a serious encounter with religious sources going hand-in-hand with left-liberal Jewish activism. The latter was the province of Reform or secular Jews who grounded their thinking less in Talmud than in Kant. The former was pursued almost entirely by Orthodox Jews who were usually conservative or not involved in the political sphere.
According to Cohen—and I happily agree—that situation is changing. Cohen offers a number of examples of Jews who are engaged in “taking back the texts.” He then asks, Why? One reason he notes is of particular interest to readers of this blog. Cohen writes that the move to ground one’s social activism in traditional Jewish text is, among other things, “a way to participate in a multiethnic and interfaith discussion from a grounded Jewish space and in a textured Jewish vocabulary.”
Fascinating! I think Cohen is right. Much social justice work in this country takes place in coalitions of faith based activists. Religiously inspired Catholics and Protestants have led many of the great social change movements in America, most dramatically the civil rights movement of the 1960’s. When Jews join with Christians to work on issues from homelessness to undocumented immigrants to the environment, they are encouraged and inspired to bring to the table their own spiritual idioms. They do not want to share the Christian language, but they are moved by Christian faith. In seeking the language of Talmud, it seems these Jews are looking less for guidance on issues than a sense of the religious depths from which they hope to act as they “heal the world.”
Here we see an example of one of the ways interfaith encounter enriches our lives.
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Recently, I came across two videos on YouTube, each designed to let young American Muslims have their chance to tell their truths—to present images different from the ones that too often fill the popular imagination.
Are these videos needed? According to a Gallup Center for Muslim Studies report released in February, indeed they are. More than 4 in 10 Americans (43%) admit to feeling at least “a little” prejudice toward Muslims — more than twice the number who say the same about Christians (18%), Jews (15%) and Buddhists (14%).
These two examples are not the same in their method, although both address some of the key prejudices Americans typically hold about Muslims.
The first was created by the Center for American Progress.
The second was by Kareem Salama, a “Muslim cowboy.”
Please check them out and let us know here what you like and why.
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In this article, Ira Rivkin raises an interesting question. The New York Times wants us to see the story of the friendship of two Princeton undergrads–a Palestinian and a Jew–as a big deal, worthy of a news item. But, Rivkin points out, doesn’t that just perpetuate the stereotype of emnity the story purports to challenge? What is the role of the “feel good” story in tracking Muslim-Jewish relations? What do you think?
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