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April 23, 2014 / 23 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Tikkun Olam’

Jewish Ideals Straight from America’s Heartland

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

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Yishai kicks off this week’s show while on tour in Kansas City with an interview with rising star Rabbi Shmuely Yanklowitz of Kehillat Yisrael Synagogue. Yishai interviews this dynamic young Rabbi on veganism, moral kosher code, and the centrality of Israel for tikkun olam. A blast of Jewish energy from the American heartland!

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Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation: Women Bettering The World For Other Women

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

According to the Rambam, the highest form of tzeddakah is enabling someone to find a means of becoming self-sufficient. It is clear that the founders of the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation (TOWF) had this precept in mind when they founded the first ever Jewish women’s foundation dedicated to funding programs that bring about social change for women and girls.

TOWF was founded in 2004 when two women, Liza Levy and Robin Hettelman Weinberg, realized that there was no Jewish grant-making organization in the Washington DC area dedicated exclusively to bettering the lives of women and girls. With assistance provided by the Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the United Jewish Endowment Fund and the Vivian Rabineau Endowment fund, the two set about creating a vehicle that would not only support women’s causes, but would give women the opportunity to exercise their philanthropic muscles by having them fund and run the foundation. By providing women with the opportunity to use their leadership skills and financial resources in a charitable venue, it enables them to use both their talents and their assets to transform their communities, addressing the social issues and concerns they think are most relevant and timely.

The Rockville, Maryland based foundation lives up to its name. Tikkun Olam means “bettering the world” and TOWF strives to do exactly that by preventing social issues before they occur, attacking problems at their roots instead of just dealing with their manifestations.

“Our goal is not to provide social services,” said Sara Gorfinkel, Director of Tikkun Olam and its only full time employee. “We focus on social change, so that women don’t get to the point where they require social services. We don’t want to fund programs that deal with victims of domestic abuse. We want to prevent domestic abuse before it ever happens.”

Currently, TOWF has approximately sixty members, known as trustees, ranging in age from twenty-five to eighty plus. Membership requires a monetary gift to the foundation, payable over a five-year period. A five-year membership to Tikkun Olam requires a donation of $15,000. Lifetime memberships are available for $45,000, but with a $100,000 financial commitment, it is upgraded to an inter-generational membership that can be shared with daughters, daughters-in-law and granddaughters. Women under the age of thirty-five have the option of joining the foundation for three years with a $4,500 associate membership.

“While we do have women who prefer to just make a donation to the foundation, for many of our trustees, becoming part of Tikkun Olam is exactly the opposite of just writing out a check,” explained Gorfinkel. “TOWF gives women the opportunity to be hands on in their philanthropy, reviewing requests from organizations and researching them. It is empowering to see women taking on different leadership roles and responsibilities and getting involved in different committees. Yet every woman, no matter what her financial commitment, comes to the table with the same voice and the same vote, irrespective of how much she is donating.”

Sara Gorfinkel

Tikkun Olam’s grant cycle runs from July to June, with grants awarded during the summer. TOWF’s first grants were distributed in 2006 and the foundation is currently in its seventh grant cycle. The foundation distributed a record $100,000 in 2011 with grants awarded to nine different organizations that strive to bring about social change for women and girls – both locally and in Israel. Among last year’s grant recipients were Jewish Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, which received TOWF’s first ever multi-year grant to fund a teen-dating awareness and violence prevention program; Jewish Council for the Aging, to provide training, mentoring and support for women over fifty five who face age and gender discrimination in their job search, and the Israel based Mavoi Satum, to ensure the operation of private rabbinical courts which would protect women’s rights during both marriage and divorce. Other grant recipients included Jews United for Justice, Economic Empowerment for Women, Eretz Acheret and Mahut Center. Two Washington DC based charities, CASA de Maryland and Empowered Women International, which serve local immigrant women, were also awarded grants as TOWF trustees felt that as Jews living in America, we understand all too well the plight of those who have recently come to these shores in search of a better life.

While Tikkun Olam takes great pride in its own work, it is also part of a larger network, the Jewish Women’s Collaborative International Fund, which is working to put together a joint grant that will distribute funds in Israel.

“We found that many of the Jewish women’s funds were overlapping in grants they were making to organizations in Israel,” said Gorfinkel. “We decided to pool our resources in order to produce more effective donations to those organizations.”

Israel Apartheid Week: Coming Soon To a Campus Near You

Sunday, February 19th, 2012

Anti-Israel hatred on campus crests each year during an event called “Israel Apartheid Week.” With this ominous name and programs that thrive on ignorance and blind disregard for the facts, tens of thousands of college students are urged to rise up against Israel – painfully evoking the types of racist characterizations of the Jewish people which defined attitudes once heard in Europe in the middle of the last century. Warning: this year’s display will come to a campus near you before the end of February.

These campus initiatives were incubated in 2001 at the first Durban Conference, proclaiming “no apartheid South Africa in the 20th century and no apartheid Israel in the 21st.” This battle cry sparked the BDS movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions to punish Israel, and it all evolved into an invective-loaded campaign that found a degree of favor on campuses coast to coast, not to mention among some labor unions, churches, media and cultural institutions. But it is based on a lie.

Typically, those hurling these charges against Israel hope that their audiences are ignorant of the facts. In apartheid South Africa, blacks were not allowed to use white hospitals, they could not attend white universities and they could not participate in the South African parliament. Visit Hadassah Hospital today, or any other health facility in Israel, and see Jewish and Arab doctors caring for Jewish and Arab patients. Witness for yourself at Hebrew University or any institution of higher learning as Jewish and Arab professors teach students of different backgrounds. Go to the Knesset, and observe the debates involving both Jewish and Arab parliamentarians.

Given this reality, Justice Richard Goldstone, a former judge on the South African Supreme Court wrote in the New YorkTimes on October 31, 2011: “The charge that Israel is an apartheid state is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.” Goldstone, it should be remembered did not have a problem criticizing Israeli policies in the aftermath of its 2008-2009 military operation in the Gaza Strip. But when it came to calling Israel and apartheid state like the old South Africa, with which he was intimately familiar, he firmly rejected the charge which was completely divorced from the reality of Modern Israel.

No nation has fought racism more consistently than the Jewish people, whether through the anti-apartheid activists in the South African Jewish community or through those American Jews who joined the civil rights movement and locked arms with Martin Luther King, Jr. The Jewish state was founded on the very same moral outlook, reflecting the Jewish value of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world, which is deeply held across the Jewish religious spectrum. When Israeli medical teams rushed to international disaster zones in Turkey (1999), Kosovo (1999), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (2008), and Haiti (2010), helping the afflicted regardless of their race or creed, they were driven by the very same core Jewish value.

Moreover, no group cherishes or champions freedom of speech more than the Jewish people. But, the systematic dissemination of hate-based lies is not what freedom is about. This crosses the line. No one has a license to lie, manipulate or manufacture falsehoods. Make no mistake, the primary characteristics of Israel Apartheid Week programming are terrible, unjustified charges expressly aimed at demonizing Israel. Unsubstantiated allegations, constantly repeated, take a toll on American opinion, despite bedrock gut support for Israel which, thankfully, exists as a strong counter-force to this mass exercise in propaganda. Studies confirm that when accurate information about Israeli policies, society and values is provided, the false arguments are uniformly rejected.

Our most critical challenge is to educate the young and to begin this process during high school years or earlier–long before they arrive on college campuses. Our students feel confident and empowered when they know the facts and can challenge group-think favoring Israel’s isolation, dismantlement or destruction. We are duty-bound to engage students in creative, effective ways, through the media they best relate to: Facebook, Twitter and other Internet communication. We must knock down the posturing of the IAW agitators, who could not care less about promoting peace or helping people in the Mideast. Encouraged by foreign governments that do NOT share Israel’s commitment to democracy and human rights, they are the purveyors of hatred, akin to many others who have preceded them.

Here’s the good news. Friends of Israel are not backing off or ignoring the challenge. Important new initiatives are already working hard to roll back the hatred. We must spare no effort to protect full legal rights and freedom of speech for pro-Israel students on campus. Visual communications which have the power to speak the truth immediately and graphically are one super-critical tool required for this process.

Specifically, I conclude with a vitally important call to action, as easy to do as it is effective: I invite you to watch a film of monumental importance called Crossing the Line. This powerful 30-minute documentary exposes the growing anti-Israel sentiment taking root on college campuses across North America. Once you understand the problem, I hope you will join me in my quest to make sure all Jewish students are educated and empowered with the facts about Israel.

The Rise Of Tikkun Olam Paganism

Thursday, January 23rd, 2003

I have long had a pet peeve about the vulgar misuse and distortion of the Jewish concept of Tikkun Olam (repair of the world) by assimilationist Jewish liberals in the United States and elsewhere.

Elements of American Jewry have fallen captive to what can only be described as Tikkun Olam Paganism. Tikkun Olam Pagans are people who misrepresent Judaism as nothing more and nothing less than the pursuit of the liberal social action political agenda, all in the name of a suitably misrepresented Tikkun Olam.

Tikkun Olam is the banner waved by the countless “social action” committees at synagogues across America and in other liberal Jewish circles in support of liberal-leftist causes, including some that are harmful to Jews and some that are just plain wacky.

The Tikkun Olam Pagans’ pseudo-religion consists of the following reductionist “theological” foundations:

1. Judaism in its entirety is essentially the advocacy and promotion of social justice.

2. Tikkun Olam means pursuit of peace, environmentalism and economic equality.

3. Justice, peace and equality are synonymous with this week’s PC liberal-leftist political fads.

Ipso facto, all of Judaism is reduced to the pursuit of being a nice liberal. Now, as it turns out, each one of the propositions listed above is totally false.

This Judaism-as-Liberalism form of reductionism is extremely common in the Reform synagogue (especially its misnamed Religious Action Center) and is universal in the Reconstructionist movement. It is popular among many Conservative Jews and even has its Orthodox advocates.

A search for the term Tikkun Olam on the Internet will show you how near-universal is the equating of this concept with liberal “social activism.” Even the far-left anti-Israel magazine Tikkun, published by “Rabbi” Michael Lerner, has misnamed itself after the concept. Indeed Tikkun magazine has even advocated the use of illegal psychedelic drugs by Jews and demanded that Jews understand Osama bin Laden’s “pain, ” all in the name of Tikkun Olam.

The equation of Tikkun Olam with liberal political activism is so commonplace that it is recited as ethical basis by many of the same liberal “social activists” who cannot recite the Shema prayer correctly, who practice no Jewish ritual, and have no idea of what any other concepts are in Judaism. For a nice laugh, ask some of these people to explain even one basic Jewish concept other than Tikkun Olam.

But a clarification is in order. Tikkun Olam does indeed play an important role in Jewish theology and ethics, but its meaning is nothing like that understood by the Tikkun Olam Pagans. Tikkun Olam, the “correcting” of the universe, has little if anything to do with things like social inequality, environmental cleanliness, and distribution of wealth and jobs. Rather, it refers to the Messianic era when G-d’s laws will replace human laws, when G-d himself will be the acknowledged earthly ruler, when all forms of idolatry will cease and all will turn their hearts to the One G-d.

In other words, Tikkun Olam is a theological notion and not a trendy socioeconomic or political one. Tikkun Olam is mentioned in a major place in the Aleinu prayer that closes all prayer sessions, but again it is conjunction with the wish to see idolatry and paganism erased from the earth. There is no mention of “social justice” or environmentalist issues, no gun control proposals and no AIDS marches. This will no doubt come as a rude surprise to Jewish assimilationist liberals.

It is all the more ironic that Tikkun Olam is dredged up as underpinning for some forms of “activism” that are themselves little more than idolatry, such as the worshiping of trees, whales and nature in the name of “Eco-Judaism” by some radical Jewish environmentalists.

Even if one believed a certain amount of “social justice” could be squeezed under the Tikkun Olam theological umbrella, this would hardly justify the hijacking of the concept as artillery support for the liberal-leftist political agenda. At most, Tikkun Olam can only be conscripted as support for liberal social activism if one believes that this activism really promotes social justice. If it does promote social justice, then the incantations regarding Tikkun Olam are superfluous — the “causes” are justified on their own merits.

But does anyone today seriously believe that liberals and leftists only promote causes that are “socially just” and moral? Suppressing school choice and supporting Palestinian terrorism, affirmative action apartheid, and many other liberal causes promotes injustice and immoral outcomes.

The real issue is whether or not liberal political fads promote justice and peace and morality. And the only way to settle that question is to debate these “causes” analytically and on their own merits: Tikkun Olam has nothing to do with it.

Analytic debate of course would require some training and study of social science, policy analysis, cost-benefits accounting, and history, and liberal poseurs are far too lazy for all that, preferring effortless ethical posturing and recreational compassion. They are much too busy patting themselves on their ethical backs.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/the-rise-of-tikkun-olam-paganism/2003/01/23/

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