Director’s Desk – The Meaning of Passover 2017

Jews around the world, and my family and I, are now celebrating the eight day-long holiday of Passover (peysakhin Hebrew), commonly known as “The Festival of Freedom.” Passover celebrates four themes or moments of redemption: the liberation of the earth from the harshness of winter; the liberation of the Hebrew slaves from their enslavement in Egypt; the freeing of humankind from idolatry and ignorance; and the personal and spiritual liberation of every human being from darkness and pain.

Continue reading

MEMPHIS + 49: Honoring Dr. King

Today, April 4th, 2017, marks 49 years since the assassination of one of America’s greatest faith leaders and civil rights advocates, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. One year before his death, Dr. King delivered a historic speech at The Riverside Church of New York that forever binds the peace movement with the movement for civil rights and social justice.

Continue reading

Director’s Desk: This Is What Resistance Looks Like

In the days since Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States of America on January 20, I have often felt I was living through a nightmare from which, any day now, I would awaken from and return to “normal” life. No such luck, as each day brought new outrages from the Trump Administration, new “alternative facts” with which to bully the opposition, particularly the press.

Continue reading

Fifty Years Ago. Reflections on Bob Dylan’s Nobel Prize and the 50th Anniversary of the Film “The Battle of Algiers”

I awoke yesterday morning to hear the news on the radio that Bob Dylan had been awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature. To many in the post-war baby boomer generation, I am sure this news was met with near-rapturous joy, as it was by me. Dylan’s words and music were the soundtrack for the whole tumultuous decade of the Sixties — his words perfectly and ecstatically capturing the zeitgeist (“spirit of the age”) of sudden cultural and political change unfolding before our eyes.

Continue reading

Director’s Desk: The Obligation to Vote – The Battle for the Ballot

The right of all American citizens to vote for president and other elected officials has taken us as a nation over 200 years after the founding of the United States to achieve. The story of American democracy is the story of the expansion of the right to vote to an ever greater part of the adult population. The wealthy white men who wrote the United States Constitution in Philadelphia during the sweltering summer of 1787 did not believe in universal suffrage: working class men and all women were excluded, while African slaves counted as only 3/5 of white people for census purposes.

Continue reading

Director’s Desk: Muhammad Ali and Me

I saw him in person once. It was during his exile from the ring, after his championship title had been stripped from him by the white establishment that controlled the sport. But to the African American community, he was still “The Greatest,” and in summer of 1967, Muhammad Ali was the Grand Marshal of the annual parade through the Watts section of Los Angeles. My parents, fervent supporters of the civil rights movement, decided to take my brother and I to the parade as an act of solidarity with the people of Watts – whom only two years before had revolted in a spontaneous rebellion against American apartheid. As we drove through Watts, we could still see dozens of burned-out stores.

Continue reading

Director’s Desk: Trump and “America First”

This past Tuesday, April 26, Donald Trump won all five Republican primaries held on that day, and emerged as the presumptive candidate of his party for President of the United States.

The following day, basking in his victories, Trump delivered a speech at the Center for the American Interest in Washington DC that was billed as a “major foreign policy address” of the billionaire businessman turned White House candidate. To my ears, the speech seemed more posturing than policy, with few if any specific proposals as to how to approach and solve the myriad of complex and intertwined calamities confronting out country and the people of our planet.

Continue reading

Director’s Desk: Blood Libels, Trump, and How to Oppose Islamophobia

My aunt was blind in one eye. When she was a child in Czarist Russia, anti-Semitic gangs rode through the Jewish village where she lived, burning and shooting. A sliver of glass went into her eye. The reason for this destruction: a local child had gone missing, and the Christian peasants were convinced that the Jews had murdered the child and used his blood in the making of matzot, the ritual bread we Jews eat during the holiday of Passover.

Continue reading