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Rabbi Arthur Waskow
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Rabbi Arthur Waskow has been one of the creators and leaders of Jewish renewal since writing the original Freedom Seder in 1969. In 1983, he founded and has since been director of The Shalom Center -- a prophetic voice in Jewish, multireligious, and American life that draws on Jewish and other spiritual and religious teachings to work for justice, peace, and the healing of our wounded earth.

His books Seasons of Our Joy (on the Jewish festival cycle); Godwrestling: Round 2 (on new interpretations of the Bible); Down-to-Earth Judaism: Food, Sex, Money, and the Rest of Life; and, with his wife Rabbi Phyllis Berman, A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven (on the Jewish life-cycle) have all brought new spiritual depth and newly progressive political substance to Jewish life.

Rabbi Waskow initiated The Shalom Center's Green Menorah project involving religious communities in encouraging at both the household / congregational level and at the public policy/ activism level what needs to be done to address the climate crisis by ending the over-burning of fossil fuels, and facing the political and economic power-centers that feed and intensify this addiction.

He has pioneered in developing the theology and practice of Eco-Judaism in books like Torah of the Earth, in curricula and ceremonies for various festivals and life-cycle markers, and in the daily practice of eco-kosher consumption of food, coal, oil, plastics, and other products of the Earth. He has served on the stewardship committee of the Green Hevra -- a network of jewish environmental organizations -- and on the steering committee of Interfaith Moral Action on Climate. See also his pioneering article, “Jewish Environmental Ethics: Adam and Adamah,” in Oxford Handbook of Jewish Ethics and Morality (Dorff & Crane, eds.; Oxford Univ. Press, 2013).

In 1996 Rabbi Waskow was named by the United Nations one of 40 “Wisdom Keepers” -- religious and intellectual leaders from all over the world who met with the Habitat II conference in Istanbul. In 2001, he was presented the Abraham Joshua Heschel Award by the Jewish Peace Fellowship. In 2005, he was named one of the "Forward Fifty" by the Forward, a leading American Jewish newspaper, In 2008 he was named one of the 50 most influential American rabbis by Newsweek.In 2014 he was honored by T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights with its first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award as a Human Rights Hero.

He is one co-author, along with Karen Armstrong, Sister Joan Chittister, OSB, Murshid Saadi Shakur Chisti, and Rabbi Phyllis Berman, of The Tent of Abraham: Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Stories of Hope and Peace (Beacon, 2006). The book draws on the saga of Abraham to encourage peacemaking, shared celebration, and shared political action among the three Abrahamic communities in America.

Since 1969 he has worked for a two-state peace settlement between Israel and a Palestinian state, in the context of a regional peace treaty involving all Arab states, israel, and a new Palestine. In 2002 he joined in founding Rabbis for Human Rights/ North America (now T'ruah) as secretary of its board and steering committee, and was instrumental in urging it to work on human rights issues in the US (especially torture) as well as supporting RHR-Israel's work on human rights in Israel and Palestine.

Waskow was legislative assistant to a US Congressman from 1959 to 1961; then a Fellow of the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC till 1977 and of the Public Resource Center till 1982. During those years he wrote seven books on US public policy in foreign affairs and military strategy, race relations, and energy policy, and was among the leaders of the movement to end the Vietnam War. He was elected an antiwar, anti-racist delegate from the District of Columbia to the Democratic National Convention of 1968, and was co-author of the Call to Resist Illegitimate Authority, supporting draft resistance to the Vietnam War.

He taught at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College from 1982 till 1989 and has taught as a Visiting Professor in the departments of religion at Swarthmore, Vassar, Temple University, and Drew University.

Entries by Rabbi Arthur Waskow

300+ Rabbis Sign Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis

(1) Comments | Posted May 14, 2015 | 10:28 AM

Encouraged by Pope Francis' work, they Call for Vigorous Action

More than 300 rabbis have signed a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis, calling for vigorous action to prevent worsening climate disruption, to seek eco-social justice, and to shape a world of shared sustainable abundance..

We are delighted to share...

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Ancient Torah Speaks to the Climate Crisis: From Eden to Manna to Sabbatical Year to Now

(2) Comments | Posted April 29, 2015 | 2:32 PM

On the Shabbat of May 15-16, the Torah reading (Leviticus 25-27) sets forth the Torah's most explicit and most powerful regimen for healing the Earth from human over-use.

It is a regimen and rhythm of making sure the Earth gets to rest in every seventh year -- a teaching...

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Israel is the Name of a People Also

(65) Comments | Posted April 13, 2015 | 1:40 PM

"Israel" is the Name of a People also
By Rabbi Arthur Waskow *

In the wake of the recent election in the State of Israel, there have been a myriad analyses and essays. Almost all have focused on the political implications -- for Israelis, for Palestine, for the Middle...

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Preventing and Dealing with Outbursts of Religious Violence

(1) Comments | Posted January 22, 2015 | 10:55 AM

The murderous attacks in France last week have called forth a mixture of horror, outrage, disgust, and fear -- all legitimate responses.

One response has been to claim that Islam is -- uniquely -- a religion of violence, terror, and war. Another has been to claim that the perpetrators of...

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We Can't Breathe: An American Travesty

(0) Comments | Posted December 4, 2014 | 9:07 PM

It's America and Mother Earth that cannot breathe, not only Eric Garner.

Listen to the truth:

We who believe in freedom cannot rest
We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes
Until the killing of Black men, Black mothers' sons
Is as important as the killing of White men, White mothers'...
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The Torah of Torture vs. Torah of Truth: Udall's Sacred Task

(1) Comments | Posted November 18, 2014 | 11:00 PM

For a brief moment of sacred opportunity, the American people has a chance to learn the truth about our government's deliberate use of torture as an act of policy. Senator Mark Udall holds that moment in his hands.

What should happen?

Jewish tradition teaches that torture is utterly forbidden --...

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Electing Our Leaders Today: The Torah of Our Choosing

(0) Comments | Posted November 4, 2014 | 11:57 AM

(What follows is my midrashic interpretation of Deuteronomy 17: 14-20 -- AW)

You may set, yes, set over you some to hold office
Who are aware that the Breath of Life is One,
Uniting all, breathing into life all God's Creation.
You may not give power to...

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The Last Tisha B'Av: A Tale of Jewish-Muslim Reconciliation

(0) Comments | Posted July 28, 2014 | 10:07 AM

A Tale of New Temples

[By Rabbi Arthur Ocean Waskow & Rabbi Phyllis Ocean Berman.* This year, the Jewish Fast of Tisha B'Av (Aug. 4-5) and its memory of bloodshed and destruction of the Holy Temple/s in Jerusalem comes in the midst of bloodshed between the...

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Can We See All Earth as the Sacred Temple of Today?

(0) Comments | Posted July 22, 2014 | 10:39 AM

There are two crises in the world today that call especially for Jewish responses:

One because it involves the future of a state that calls itself "Jewish," and of its supporters in America -- their spiritual, intellectual, ethical, and practical futures -- at a moment when the relationship between Jews...

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Dead Young Men: Mississippi, Israel, Palestine

(0) Comments | Posted July 2, 2014 | 5:11 PM

I spent several days last week in Mississippi, mourning the murders of three young men 50 years ago, celebrating a Mississippi that today is very different, facing the truth that Earth and human communities -- especially, still, those of color and of poverty -- are being deeply wounded by the...

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Losing a Gentle Prophet: Vincent Harding

(0) Comments | Posted May 23, 2014 | 11:29 AM

This post is co-authored by Rabbi Phyllis Berman

Last week, in Philadelphia, one of the great lights of the Southern Freedom Movement -- Dr. Vincent Harding -- died. He was an extraordinary gentle, persistent, clear, loving, and prophetic voice for peace and justice in America and in the world. And...

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Preparing for Sinai: Uniting Earth and Heaven, Words and Wheat

(0) Comments | Posted May 16, 2014 | 9:45 AM

From the evening of Tuesday June 3 through the evening of June 5, Jews will be celebrating the festival of Shavuot, which in most of Jewish life today is focused on the revelation and acceptance of Torah at Mount Sinai.

During the next weeks, the Shalom Report will be suggesting...

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Are You a Member of Alpha Epsilon Pi? (And Why Am I Asking?)

(1) Comments | Posted May 12, 2014 | 10:18 AM

I joined AEPi in my freshman year of college. In my chapter at Johns Hopkins were mostly what we'd now call "nerds." Including me: In those days, I could imagine writing 22 books in my future, but certainly not getting arrested 22 times. I enjoyed most of our very tame...

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Experimenting Toward Sabbatical/Shmitah in America

(0) Comments | Posted May 9, 2014 | 6:55 AM

Can we turn our eco-wisdom
Away from climate doom,
Into a joyful future?

Often the climate crisis is described only as approaching doom. As the official U.S. report on the impact of global scorching (just released this week) makes clear, that is one possible result. Yet the Torah...

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First-Borns and Rebirth: My Own and All of Us, Facing Passover

(0) Comments | Posted April 14, 2014 | 3:05 PM

This year I am feeling haunted by one of the lesser-known aspects of Passover; on the morning before the First Seder -- which means this very morning --- first-born sons (or in this generation, first-born children) are supposed to fast from daybreak until the Seder.

We first-borns are released from...

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Innermost Secret of Passover Seder: Charoset

(1) Comments | Posted April 8, 2014 | 9:09 PM

Earth and Eros in the Passover Celebration

There it sits on the Seder plate: charoset, a delicious paste of chopped nuts, chopped fruits, spices, and wine. So the question would seem obvious: Why is there charoset on the Seder plate? That's the most secret Question at the Seder -- so...

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MLK, Isaiah, Sinai and the Prophetic Voice Within Us

(0) Comments | Posted January 20, 2014 | 1:52 PM

This past Saturday, I was scheduled to lead Torah study in Mishkan Shalom, one of the three Philadelphia-neighborhood congregations that Phyllis and I belong to. 

Actually, I don't "lead" it so much as I "weave" it, choosing the specific passage we read and then encouraging the participants to explore...

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Four Teachings for the Four Worlds of Tu B'Shvat

(2) Comments | Posted January 13, 2014 | 3:35 PM

This year, the full moon of midwinter, the re-birthday of trees and of the Tree, Tu B'Shvat, will come on Wednesday evening, Jan. 15.

The trees are reborn in the depth of winter, and the Kabbalists of Tzfat (Safed) taught that the Tree of Life, God's own flow of abundance,...

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120 Rabbis in Congressional Record: Toward Peace or War With Iran?

(0) Comments | Posted January 13, 2014 | 12:20 PM

The Rabbinic Statement on Moving Step by Step toward Shalom with Iran (initiated by The Shalom Center) has been placed in the Congressional Record by Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky of Illinois.

She wrote me,

Dear Rabbi Wasko [sic], I remember very well the meeting in your home. It...

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Israel, Hillel, & Idolatry

(1) Comments | Posted December 17, 2013 | 8:39 AM

Recent controversies within Hillel International, the "home" for many Jewish college students of diverse backgrounds and beliefs, have made public in a sharper way a profound spiritual issue confronting American Jews and their "official" organizations.

The spiritual issue: When does strong support from many American Jews for the State of...

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