You Shall Pursue

April 22, 2013

Hunger Striking at Guantanamo Bay

Filed under: Uncategorized — marleyweiner @ 11:36 am

Hunger Striking at Guantanamo Bay

How terrifying and awful. I’m really not sure what else to say about it.

April 18, 2013

I was in Israel Last Week

And I was at the Kotel (the Western Wall of where the Second Temple used to be). And I wanted to share a brief reflection from that particular day.

I am pressed up against the warm stone, forehead to block, taking it in. The sounds of Hebrew fill my ears. On my right is a modestly dressed woman, most likely Orthodox. She is praying in French and Hebrew, and she is crying. I have a feeling that I am the only person in this entire plaza of people who can hear her, and I cannot understand what she is saying, except that she is earnest and scared and heartbroken. In my left ear is the sound of daily prayer as sung by a hazzan, a man. If I felt comfortable to sing, my voice could rival his in volume, although not necessarily quite in talent; he is good. I am silent.

My connection to God is through my voice. Back home, I enjoy few things more than leading kiddush at Shabbat meals, or leading a congregation in a spirited Kabbalat Shabbat. Five minutes ago, before pushing through the crowds of women caressing and whispering their joys and sorrows to this wall, I chanted to myself the Psalm of the Day. I was probably the only person in the entire plaza who heard my song. I was afraid that if I were to sing loud enough for the men to hear me the way that I can hear the hazzan, that I would attract looks, attention, trouble. I am silent.

April 17, 2013

By the way, that post I wrote for Jewish Eyes on the Arts

Filed under: Uncategorized — marleyweiner @ 12:30 pm

It won first place! You can read it here. Many thanks to Jonah Rank for publishing my thoughts about pop culture and Passover.

April 16, 2013

In Which I am Scared, and Sad

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , — marleyweiner @ 8:16 pm

So it’s another day, and I am still angry, and I am scared. I am scared because I saw what happened to this country after 9/11. I was just old enough to have some sense of the world, and then things changed here, and for the worst. And I am terrified, terrified, that something similar is going to happen again.

I don’t want to live in a country where domestic terrorism is dismissed as “mental illness” and we run with open arms toward jingoistic chauvinism at the slightest provocation. I am tired of my elected representatives favoring party rhetoric over meaningful change that will make the lives of the poor and disempowered better. I am so, so very tired of knowing, knowing that there are so many people who agree with me, who want peace and economic equality and dignity of work for everyone, and yet our economy is still shit and we are still killing each other. I am tired of violence, tired of hatred, tired of fear.

The voices of those acting out of anger and pain seem so very very loud. We call out for peace, and our voices are dwarfed by those who advocate for war, for violence, for destruction, for bloodshed. There is so much beauty in hands reaching out to hands, and yet so very little seems to change, to get better. When will the voice of love rise up and drown out the voice of hate?

April 15, 2013

Doer of Good and Creator of Evil

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — marleyweiner @ 11:24 pm

For the second time since I have started rabbinical school, the news is buzzing with some horrifying evil. Last time I found myself scared and sad. This time, I’m feeling pissed.

How dare the evil people of this world keep blowing away innocents? How dare they? I was speaking to a good friend today, and she is a runner, and now she is freaking out at the idea of doing this thing that she loves, because someone had to go and blow it up. And several months ago, I had to go through aching sadness every time I looked at my pupils because someone decided it would be a good idea to go and murder some kids. 

We were given this incredible capacity, as social animals. We are bonded to each other, we seek each other out for comfort and love. And we have great capacity for love. This beautiful piece by s.e. smith shows the power of our capacity for love and supporting one another in times of crisis. And that is a truly miraculous thing.

But our power to love each other gives us also the power to wound tremendously, the power to produce twisted, stunted, evil people who think that it is acceptable to hurt other people to deal with their own darkness, their own anger, their own vicious sick brokenness. I don’t claim to know what would drive someone to cause this sort of destruction. But this is a real a piece of the human condition as our capacity for love. And that is fucking enraging.

Why, oh Creator of the Universe, did you create us so imperfect? What was your plan, in making us so ready and willing to hurt each other?

April 5, 2013

Lipstick and Pearls and Tefillin, Part 2

Filed under: Spirituality — Tags: , , , , — marleyweiner @ 12:30 pm

Issues of gender and dress, especially around ritual garments, have been coming up a lot for me lately. The first time I wrapped tefilin, I felt like I was in “Orthodox man drag” (I’m recovering from this gut reaction, but slowly). I still don’t like wearing kippot because I feel like it’s a very masculine garment that doesn’t jibe with my gender presentation. I’d rather wrap my hair to cover it during prayer, but that carries a whole other set of assumptions about my level of religiosity (and relationship status). Yesterday, I wore a headscarf to shul, and I felt like I was in “Orthodox woman drag.” And I’m also trying to decide whether or not to start wearing tzitzit.

tefillin are the wrappy arm things

tefillin are the wrappy arm things

tzitzit_women

tzitzit

I wonder what it means that so many ritual garments are coded “male” in my mind, and about the huge internal barrier that makes me feel conflicted about taking on certain rituals, especially wrapping tefilin. Breaking gender boundaries, even if they are internal, is a challenging thing. Especially when you are so closely aligned with a more traditional gender presentation in other ways.

And also part of it is about my hesitancy around looking “Orthodox” or “religious.” Clothing is a powerful marker of group identification, and  I’m still struggling to figure out where I sit between my secular/Reform roots, and the more religious life that I feel myself drawn towards.

Long story short, I never thought so many of my internal struggles around my Jewish identity and practice would come out in my clothing choices!

April 2, 2013

Steubenville, Justice, and Mercy

Filed under: Uncategorized — marleyweiner @ 12:30 pm

So, Steubenville; I’ve been meaning to write about it for a long long time, and get my thoughts in order. Basically, it’s children taught that they are gods and can do no wrong, and then behaving in the worst ways imaginable. How disgusting and disturbing that they should feel entitled to act this way.

When it comes to the theology of this case, I think that my friend Jordan has really good things to say on the subject. My favorite part is this:

Americans, especially those fond of holding forth on “personal responsibility,” love to give lip service to this idea—action and reaction, cause and effect, and so on. But when news reporters lament that two high-schoolers’ lives and career prospects have been ruined because they will henceforth be registered as sex offenders wherever they go, it reveals how inconsistently people actually believe it. Mays and Richmond will be labeled as sex offenders because they are sex offenders. That they are remorseful after the fact (that is, if they regret anything besides getting caught) is a nice thing to know, but it shouldn’t suddenly tempt us to let them off the hook morally, legally, or otherwise.

Of course, keeping our hearts hardened like this is easier said than done. For most Americans, trained in the Christian ethic of guilt and redemption, turning rape into the opening act of a morality play is far more emotionally uplifting than treating it as a crime to be paid for. But that’s another, more stereotypical thing about being raised Jewish: I tend to strongly distrust anything that’s too emotionally uplifting. There are times when this makes me seem cynical and misanthropic, but in situations like the one in Steubenville I believe people are well served by this sort of skepticism. Otherwise we succumb to the message, in effect, that we ought to feel sorry for Mays and Richmond because they feel sorry for themselves. And can they repent and be saved? The majority of Americans may think so. It’s not indecent to hope that one day, they turn their lives around and come to terms with what they’ve done. But when we think of sin this way, we make it abstract. That they might be redeemed one day in the future isn’t a comfort to me, and it probably isn’t a comfort to their victim either.

The piece that I would like to add to this is that in Judaism, the virtue of justice is balanced by the virtue of cheesed, which you can translate as love, or mercy. Not that we should let the rapists off the hook, nor that we should raise up their remorse over and above the suffering of their victim. But we should recognize that they are human beings who perpetrated this terrible act, human beings who were told over and over that they were above consequences, and that women and girls were objects for their use. They were taught to dehumanize other people, and their arrogance and sense of entitlement led them to brutalize another human being. And if they were taught this, we can teach others differently.

But if we remember that they are humans behaving badly, we can start to shift one of the most insidious myths of our rape culture; that rapists are some sorts of inhuman monsters and that ordinary, normal men would never do such a thing. However, rapists are people who rape, nothing more, nothing less. And people learn from their environment. They learn that rape is acceptable, or that treating others as less than human is okay.

As we work to dismantle rape culture one bit at a time, we decrease, bit by bit, the number of people who think that ignoring boundaries is okay. We raise the possibility that victims will find justice, that people will treat each other with respect, that sex becomes a loving and caring activity rather than a source of trauma for so many.

This is the lesson of Steubenville. We must do better for all of our children. We must teach them to love each other, respect each other’s boundaries, and be good to one another. We must start when they are very young, and continue until they are no longer in our care. It’s the only way that we can prevent things like this from happening.

A good start:

 

April 1, 2013

Next Week in Jerusalem

Filed under: Jewish Communitty — marleyweiner @ 12:30 pm

Tonight, I am headed off for a week in Israel with the Goodman Camping Initiative to learn how to teach Israel history and culture to my campers this summer. Yayyyyyyy!

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