Friday, May 20, 2011


Earlier this month, I celebrated a birthday. I was born just a month before the Six Day War, in 1967. I remember learning about the great victory this was for Israel: the nation, not yet 20 years after its establishment, had bolstered its security and laid to rest any doubts about its will and intent to survive, even if surrounded by hostile foes.

Forty-four years later, many of the same challenges to Israel and the region still exist. Over these ensuing decades, there have been continued ups and downs for the Jewish State - continued strife and additional wars, the strain of its sibling-like relationship with the U. S. (and all the love and baggage that goes with any such relationship), and especially the internal and ongoing challenge to live up to being a country that exemplifies Jewish values (including yet not limited to justice, righteousness, mercy, and pluralism - social, political AND religious) that should be applied to ALL the permanent residents within its borders.

Part of the historic controversy regarding Israel's place in the world has been brought out by President Obama's remarks just yesterday. In proposing Israel's "pre-1967 borders" as a guideline for resumption of talks with the Palestinians, Mr. Obama has raised concerns (rightly or wrongly) among people who note that no previous U.S. president had yet used that term.

As has been pointed out, the overall concept offered in the President's speech regarding a two-state solution with mutual respect and security doesn't differ much, if at all, from the generally accepted norm - yet again, it's not so much what you say, but rather how you say it (and more so, how it is heard).

Well, I guess the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian situation won't necessarily be found in this current year...yet with patience, trust, and the true desire to create a better world, perhaps in our lifetime...

Friday, May 6, 2011

my birthday wish

You say it's your birthday

It's my birthday too, yeah...

Well, it is my birthday, and I'm thankful for the hundreds of greetings sent my way, and for the beautiful sunshine out my window.

And, perhaps inspired (agitated?) by the wonderful experience I had earlier this week attending the Consultation on Conscience - the premiere social justice program on political advocacy conducted by the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism - I am hoping for something further on this birthday. Don't get me wrong, I'm not looking for any gifts, cards, or even cake. Rather, I see this day - if it's to be a celebration of life - to be a chance to ask for something even more important; and that's to ask my family and friends, community members and acquaintances to make their voices heard in the ongoing struggle for social justice. Specifically on this occasion, I want us ALL to consider the importance of advocating to protect women's health care access and rights.

There's been a recent controversy about potential legislation that would de-fund Planned Parenthood - and basically strip this vital agency (and others) from providing the great range of health care services that it has offered, which have gone to enhance and maintain the lives of so many women - and especially so many who wouldn't be able to receive appropriate medical care and guidance elsewhere.

At the Consultation, we were fortunate to hear from Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). With grace, intelligence and eloquence, she demonstrated (once again) the positive and wide-ranging effect that Planned Parenthood has in our society, and how undermining its activities would jeopardize the ability for thousands of women to receive even the most basic levels of medical attention. And then we were treated to a presentation by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, of Connecticutt. She too expressed our great need to protect women's health care programs, for the good of our society and the world. Congresswoman DeLauro also showed how our reluctance (or inability) to do so is tied to some of the issues that face women around the world: from unchecked violence and subjugation to the attribution of second-class standing (which unfortunately still plagues our American culture in many ways as well).

I am indebted to these to strong, positive women for championing such an important cause on behalf of some 1/2 of our population. Of course, its not only women who are affected by these issues - for what involves some of us, ultimately reaches all of us.

So, back to my birthday for a moment. On this day, and every, I recognize how fortunate I am - If any member of my family ever needs anything (whether a new pair of shoes, a trip to the doctor, or even a unnecessary luxury), we're basically able to get it, no matter what. And I know that so many people are not in that position, lacking medical coverage, a decent job, or a place to live. My hope is that we can work toward ending this situation - that one day, maybe even in my lifetime, that no one - woman, man, or child, will go without their needs being met. It's not only my hope for this; it has to be my voice, my actions, and yes my money that go to making the world a better place.

One last thing: every year, I used to look forward to receiving a birthday check. Now, I'm finishing my celebration by writing one to a worthy cause. Maybe you can too. Happy Birthday!