The Othering of Tzedaka in Jewish Education

PENNY IN THE PUSHKA
Penny in the pushka,
Penny in the pot,
We give tzedakah right before Shabbat.
Counting all the pennies, nickels, quarters, too
It’s fun to help each other,
It’s what we ought to do.
One for the family without enough to eat,
One for the poor folks that live down the street,
One for the little girl who learns in special ways,
And one for Israel and that is why we say…..

 

The problem with the song is that the ones we are helping are always framed as “the other,” (even if it is not the case in reality). We, the singers of the song, the teachers, the students in the class, are the “Givers,” who help the poor, those with special needs or those who do not have enough to eat. The idea that the children in our schools, or their families or neighbours may be those who are poor, who may not have enough to eat, who have complex needs or mental illness is never brought up in the context of Tzedakah in the classroom.

read the rest of my post here http://ejewishphilanthropy.com/the-othering-of-tzedaka-in-jewish-education/

 

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The Freedom Seder, radical but not Messianic

As I wrote here before I  like to get ready for Passover by reading the original Freedom Seder which took place on April 4, 1969, the first anniversary of the death of Dr. Martin Luther King, the third night of Passover.

Hundreds of people of varied racial and religious communities gathered in a Black church in the heart of Washington DC to celebrate the original Freedom Seder. For the first time, it [explicitly] intertwined the ancient story of liberation from Pharaoh with the story of Black America’s struggle for liberation, and the liberation of other peoples as well.

 

As radical as they were for the time, I noticed something a bit sad this time through:

How much then are we in duty bound to struggle, work, share, give, think, plan, feel, organize, sit-in, speak out, hope, and be on behalf of Mankind! For we must end the genocide [in Vietnam],* stop the bloody wars that are killing men and women as we sit here, disarm the nations of the deadly weapons that threaten to destroy us all, end the brutality with which the police beat minorities in many countries, make sure that no one starves, free the poets from their jails, educate us all to understand their poetry, allow us all to explore our inner ecstasies, and encourage and aid us to love one another and share in the human fraternity. All these! For, as is said, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, and none shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken. For let all the peoples walk each one in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.”

* Insert any that is current—such as “Biafra,” “Black America,” etc.—depending on the situation.

 

With all its calls and hope for”Liberation Now! Next Year in a World of Freedom”, it still acknowledged that each year or era ahead would have its own  war crimes or genocide to talk about at the seder. So in this part of the Freedom Seder there is not exactly a vision of a utopia or Messianic future, but more along the lines of

לֹא עָלֶיךָ הַמְּלָאכָה לִגְמוֹר, וְלֹא אַתָּה בֶן חוֹרִין לִבָּטֵל מִמֶּנָּה

It is not your duty to complete the work. But neither are you free to desist from it.

 

Video of the seder is below:

 

 

Enjoy a young Arthur Waskcow and Rabbi Balfour Brickner and Rev. Channing Phillips. Rev. Phillips tells abortion jokes. It was filmed by the CBC. (Yes you have your 1960s era well funded Canadian public broadcaster to thank for this historic footage.)

You can get a copy of the haggadah in pdf here.

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Hagbah observant progressive feminist Jews talking about Torah, egalitarian practice texts and Jewish life

New fb discussion group if you are interested join us

Hagbah: observant progressive feminist Jews talking about Torah, egalitarian practice texts and Jewish life

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Oh Tonight We’ll Merry, Merry Be -for Tomorrow We’ll be Sober

For generations Jewish children have sung a classic ditty for the holiday of Purim called “Once Where was a Wicked, Wicked Man and Haman Was His Name-o.” The chorus, as you may know from your own Purim festivities, goes “For today we’ll merry, merry be (x3) and nosh some hamantaschen.”

Some research reveals that this classic Purim jingle full of odd turns of phrase has its origins in the 19th-centuryEnglish drinking song, “Landlord Fill The Flowing Bowl.”

Consider:

Landlord fill the flowing bowl, until it doth run over (x4)

Chorus: For tonight we’ll merry, merry be (x3)
tomorrow we’ll be sober.

Here’s to the lad who drinks dark ale and goes to bed quite mellow (x2)
He lives as he ought to live, he’ll die a happy fellow (x2)
Chorus

Here’s to the lad drinks water pure and goes to bed quite sober (x2)
He falls as the leaves do fall, he falls as the leaves do fall (x2) 
Chorus

Read more and listen here:

http://thejewniverse.com/2015/the-old-english-drinking-song-about-haman-and-esther/

We modern Jews like to think we have a monopoly on snark and inside jokes, but here is  definite evidence of a kindred spirit winking at us from the past.

 

And for the record- While the B-I-N-G-O has the same or a similar tuner- it does not have the same chorus.

 

Note: someone else noticed this 10 years ago.

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Learning about spirituality from Oliver Sacks

Decades ago I was a Judaic programming director at a camp for children (and also a vacation lodge for adults later on in the summer) who were  developmentally disabled or had a dual diagnosis .

While the actual programming was an exciting challenge (I wrote an appropriate sidur, planned experimental learning challah baking and  homemade havdallah candles), when it came to the staff training I was stumped.

By necessity, the staff were a combination of Jews and non-Jews (who cared about developmentally disabled people and wanted to work in a camp with a good reputation). And the majority of the Jewish staff were there primarily for the same reason.

My training was to convince the staff that all this Jewish programming and prayer was worthwhile despite the fact that some of the people we were served were non-verbal or non-Hebrew speakers or not able to articulate the concepts of religion. And since this was the first few days of camp, this was my chance to win or lose the respect  of the staff.

To my rescue came Oliver Sacks. In his books there are few very moving essays about how church and shul routines and songs helped comfort and support people people like our campers.

For my training of the staff I got up and read theses essays. I  spent no time on explaining  shabbat or brachot.

And it worked. There was less grumbling during prayers ( not none, but less). People gave me and Judaism at camp a chance. One of the French Canadian kitchen staff, who was under no obligation to do so learned the first paragraph of birkat hamazon so he could sing along with us. And he asked me what it meant.

That time more than 20 years ago was the first time I saw how Dr.Sacks was a powerfully spiritual man and writer ( though that is not how we usually see him).

Yesterday was the second time I was struck deeply by his spirituality, when I read his essay on finding out he is dying. A beautiful prayer and lesson.

 

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A light-hearted guide to women’s kippot

The Forward recently published a guide to yamulkes and what they mean. Disappointingly, they did not included any kippot worn by women. And that is where I come in…

When Women Wear Kippahs

images-9 images-6

(I did not choose the title)

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Frog and Toad Christmas story – a Jewish FAIL

rainbowtallitbaby:

For whatever reason this is one of my most liked blog posts of all time- for those of you who missed it the first time around…

Originally posted on Rainbow Tallit Baby:

As a huge fan of the Frog and Toad series, I have read all the books with two of my kids (so far). On the most recent reading of Frog and Toad All Year, I noticed something odd about the last story which is a heart-warming Christmas story. It is obvious that the author, Arnold Lobel, has never experienced Christmas, even though he tries hard to fake it.

Here is the story, Christmas Eve, and how it screams “Arnold Lobel is a Jew”.

The opening line: “On Christmas Eve Toad cooked a big dinner.”

Yes, Toad is expecting Frog for a big dinner he cooked and plans to serve on Christmas Eve. Arnold, even though Jewish holidays start the night before, with a big meal (of course) and even though the day before Christmas is called Christmas Eve, Christmas dinner is actually eaten on Christmas DAY. Also note the focus…

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