1% Chutzpah

Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction:
Hensarling (TX) co-chair, Toomey (PA), Upton (MI),
Kyl (AZ), Camp (TX),  Sen. Portman (OH),

Murray (WA) co-chair, Kerry (MA), Baucus (MT),
Clyburn (SC), Becerra (CA), Van Hollen (MD)

The after-tax income of the top 1% of US Households has almost quadrupled since 1979. Meanwhile those at the bottom experienced an 18% increased according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Accordingly 68% of Americans are asking the richest to do their fair share and pay an extra couple of percent on their marginal tax rate for their income beyond $1,000,000. Nevertheless, the Republicans on the “Supercommittee” charged with reducing the deficit are intransigent. They have signed Grover Norquist pledge to never increase taxes and want to balance the budget by cutting expenses. This puts onus largely on the backs of the working poor who will suffer the most from reductions in social security and other entitlements.

However, the Republicans did offer a token compromise. Yesterday, they offered to eliminate certain deductions. Millionaires would no longer be able to write off interest paid for their yacht or summer home.

However, in exchange they want to make the Bush tax cuts permanent and expand them, slashing one-fifth of the income tax for millionaires by reducing the top rate from 35% to 28%.

That’s not tax reform.

That’s chutzpah.

Jewish Leaders Denounce Right-Wing Smear of Occupy Wall Street

We are publicly engaged American Jews who support both Israel and the ideas behind Occupy Wall Street and who also strongly oppose right-wing attempts to smear that movement with false charges of anti-Semitism.

It’s an old, discredited tactic: find a couple of unrepresentative people in a large movement and then conflate the oddity with the cause. One black swan means that all swans are black.

One particularly vile example was a television ad during Sunday talk shows paid for by something called the Emergency Committee for Israel that is organized by William Kristol and Gary Bauer.

It is disingenuous to raise the canard about Jews and Wall Street in order to denounce it.

Occupy Wall Street is a mass protest against rising inequality in America, a fact documented last week by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Anyone who visits Zuccotti Park understands that it has nothing to do with religion and everything to do “with liberty and justice for all.”

All of us irrespective of party or position should expose and denounce anti-Semitism where ever it occurs, but not tar hundreds of thousands of protestors nationwide because a handful of hateful people show up with offensive signs that can’t be taken down in a public park open to all.

We are pleased that the Anti-Defamation League agrees that some random signs “are not representative of the larger views of the Occupy Wall Street movement.”

List of co-signers follows after the jump.

  • Stuart Appelbaum, President, RWDSU*
  • Jeremy Ben-Ami, founder and President, J Street
  • Richard Brodsky, former Assemblyman, New York
  • Richard Cohen, Washington Post
  • Danny Goldberg, President, Goldve Entertainment
  • Mark Green, former Public Advocate for New York City
  • Elizabeth Holtzman, former Congresswoman and District Attorney (Brooklyn)
  • Rabbi Steven Jacobs, founder, Progressive Faith Foundation
  • Rabbi Jill Jacobs, Executive Director, Rabbis for Human Rights-North America
  • Madeleine Kunin, former Governor, Vermont
  • Jo-ann Mort, CEO, ChangeCommunicaitons
  • Eliot Spitzer, former Governor, New York State
  • Andy Stern, President Emeritus, Service Employees International Union
  • Hadar Susskind, Vice President, Tides Foundation
  • Margery Tabankin, President, Margery Tabankin Assoc.
  • Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers

*Institutions for identification purposes only.

Does The Spirit Matter?

— Rabbi Arthur Waskow

Last week, The Shalom Center suggested and encouraged Jewish communities to carry the celebration  of Yom Kippur into public space — in the “Occupy Wall Street”  protests.

In New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, Washington, and other cities, people worked out ways of celebrating the most sacred Jewish festival while affirming that it  speaks powerfully to issues of justice, equality, the “99%” of Americans who have had more and more of our power to govern ourselves yanked away by the 1% most rich and powerful.

We have received dozens of letters from people who connected prayer with action in this way and who wanted to thank The Shalom Center for its support. Here is one:

My girlfriend (who is Jewish) and I (who am a Christian) attended the Kol Nedrie service across the street from Occupy Wall Street, on Friday evening. It was by far the most moving religious service I’ve ever attended. Such an example of a community consciously engaging with G_d to dream of change and a better world. I understand that you were one of the sparks that brought this event to fruition. Thank you so much.

More after the jump.
Indeed, we DID strike a spark with Dan Sieradski in NYC, and then with other creative people;  from those sparks, these sacred burnt-offerings arose.  

You can see and read a powerful video and article about the New York Kol Nidre, put together by the Forward newspaper, by clicking here.

One participant wrote:

The high point came during one part of the sermon, as Getzel’s voice rose louder and louder:
“Yom Kippur is the day that we are forgiven for worshipping the golden calf!
“What is the golden calf?
“It is the essence of idol worship!
“It is the fallacy that gold is God!”
Afterward, I felt like I was walking on air, and judging from the spontaneous song session that sprung up later, I suspect I wasn’t the only one.

One passage from the ancient prophet Isaiah and one from the modern prophetic teacher  Abraham Joshua Heschel were used again and again in these services across the country:

“This is the fast I have chosen:
to unlock the shackles of injustice,
to loosen the ropes of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free!”

“Prayer  is meaningless unless it is subversive, unless it seeks to overthrow  and to ruin the pyramids of callousness, hatred, opportunism,  falsehoods. The liturgical movement must become a revolutionary  movement, seeking to overthrow the forces that continue to destroy the  promise, the hope, the vision.”

The Yom Kippur prayers ask, “Who shall live and who shall die? Who by fire, who by flood?”

In our generation,  it is the whole planet, in the sacred Name of YHWH, the Interbreathing of all life, that asks this question. For we face the  danger of planetary Death, rooted in greed and domination —  and the joyful possibility of a Living Future rooted in love, in justice, and in compassion.  

What are we choosing? Can we make Spirit matter by infusing our pocketbooks with prayer, our compassion with commitment? With your help,  The Shalom Center will keep striking sparks of  sacred transformation.