Category Archives: Borderlands

Relating to my experience as a fronterizo/borderlander

The Antidote to Forgetfulness

It’s about five years ago, and I am sitting in a gathering space in my synagogue with a diverse group of leaders from our broad-based community organization, Border Interfaith. We are training in the art of the relational meeting, the “one-to-one” which is the heart of community organizing, and we’re doing it through a “fishbowl” exercise in which a couple of people practice while everyone else watches. Our organizer is in the fishbowl with a man, demonstrating the sort of curiosity that draws people out and gets them to tell their stories. Continue reading

Three things there are together in my eye…and one of them is a cell phone tower!

It’s budget time at Temple, and our finance committee is hard at work, crunching the numbers and creating the roadmap that will – with our discipline, generosity, and a little bit of good fortune – make Fiscal Year 2008 our eighth consecutive year with an operating surplus. It’s often noted that budgets are our real “moral documents.” That is to say, if you want to know what a house of worship, an organization, or a nation, really cares about, don’t read their high-minded mission statements: follow the money! Continue reading

Israel, fearmongering, and the Democratic primary

The crass attempts by some to cast aspersions on Barack Obama’s candidacy by painting him as anti-Israel, antisemitic, unpatriotic, etc., have been well-documented and (in my opinion) well-refuted. The Forward published an excellent editorial (which was itself misunderstood and led to a clarification) regarding these attempts several weeks ago, and the issue received a further hearing in Obama’s meeting with Jews in Cleveland and in last night’s debate. It hardly seems necessary to comment further. But, isn’t commenting on that which has already been commented upon what blogging is all about? Continue reading

The Real Political Event on February 12 isn’t the one at the Don

Rumors had been kicking around for several days that Hillary Clinton would be coming to town on the day before, or the day of, Border Interfaith’s Issues Forum with candidates for County Sheriff and State House District 78. As it turns out, she’ll be here on the night of the forum, speaking at a free rally at the Don Haskins center at the very same time.

While our event was on the calendar first, I know that coordinating the travel schedule of a presidential candidate is a great challenge, and I’m sure that the local planners weren’t given any choice about the time or format. I also understand the conflict our confirmed candidates (those running in the Democratic primary) might feel as they weigh their need to be at the largest party gathering of this election season. I hope they choose to honor their commitment to be with us on Tuesday; I won’t be surprised, or terribly angry, if some don’t. [Update: as of 3 pm on Monday, most of the candidates had reconfirmed their intention to be with us on Tuesday night, and the event is on.]

Mostly, I’m just sad about the fact that real politics is getting stepped on by a poor substitute: the electioneering/marketing efforts in what our Ernesto Cortes calls our “quadrennial electronic plebiscite.” We will undoubtedly have fewer people in attendance on Tuesday night, with some choosing instead to catch a glimpse of Senator Clinton.

It is worth thinking about what is gained, and what is lost, in that substitution… Continue reading

Why I’m going to Austin next Wednesday

I begin this post with a disclaimer. It may sound “boilerplate,” but I mean it quite sincerely:

“The views expressed in this posting (and all postings, for that matter), are the views of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the views of Temple Mount Sinai, its membership, or its leadership.”

When a rabbi, or any member of the clergy, wades into public policy debate, there’s a danger that he or she will be perceived as trying to represent himself or herself as a representative of a congregation, a denomination, or indeed an entire people. We all know the old saw about “two Jews, three opinions,” and so we know how ridiculous is the notion that one Jew — even a rabbi — would be able to speak on behalf of a diverse congregation in its entirety.

The fact that I cannot claim to speak for everyone does not mean that I do not speak for anyone — and certainly, I have the same right and duty as anyone else to speak for myself. And so, on Wednesday I will join hundreds of other El Pasoans in Austin at the TCEQ hearing related to ASARCO’s seeking permission to renew smelting operations in El Paso. Continue reading

Welcoming our newest joint proprietors.

A coalition was born on Sunday afternoon in Washington DC. It wasn’t a new alliance of Republicans or Democrats, nor was it a gathering of interests seeking to influence domestic policy. It was a group of Jews – rabbis, cantors, other professionals, and laypeople – coming together in common cause. “Big Tent Judaism” is what it’s called. Continue reading

No Jews should be Egyptians

The title on the spine of the book caught my eye: “Why Jews Should Not Be Liberals.” Larry F. Sternberg, a politically active Jew in Orange County, California, is the author of this book, which makes the case that liberalism is fundamentally inconsistent with Jewish values. Liberalism, Sternberg maintains, erodes individual integrity and responsibility. It is non-Jewish to the core, and the fact that so many Jews vote for liberal candidates and support liberal causes constitutes a betrayal of their faith and an outright shame. Continue reading