Money and Justice in the News

We have met the funders, and they!

The Forward, 12/19/16

The corner bar on my street is taking a tithe. Its sidewalk chalkboard announces that 10% of all weekend income in December will be donated to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Kurt Hoffman
The bar is on to something. Amid all the uncertainty of this new political era, one thing is certain: Whatever our social values may be, our financial support is needed to realize them. Tzedakah is a financial variant of the Hebrew word for “justice,” and can be understood as “just-giving”: We should just give, and we should give justly. (...)

Tzedakah has never been a spectator sport, and it has never been the exclusive province of elites. What would happen if more of us approached our personal Jewish funding decisions as part of an empowered grassroots mobilization of individual wallets — a real force for change? (...) READ MORE

Thanks to Don Abramson and Allison Kade for inspiration and insights.

Hope, Renewal, and Just-Giving: Support WAYS OF PEACE!

These are painful times of fear, anger, and divisiveness. Yet mindful responses to shared human needs continue to bring out the best in people on all sides. Hope and renewal are available — and the choices are ours.

img-handsPlease support WAYS OF PEACE Community Resources as you plan your year-end giving. Now more than ever, we need your partnership to promote peaceful coexistence, justice and kindness through community learning, personal guidance, and innovative resources for contemporary life challenges.

In 2016 we reached new milestones with the publication of our first two books, COUNTING DAYS and GENEROUS JUSTICE.* We were called to facilitate challenging conversations, expanding dialogue and support among leaders and community members. We continued to guide individuals and families through both joyous and sorrowful changes in their lives.

WAYS OF PEACE depends upon our network of individual supporters who share our vision. We have not yet received any foundation support for our pioneering model of social microenterprise. We hope you will be generous, and we promise to extend your generosity even further.*

Make your end-of-year gift to WAYS OF PEACE today!

*Just Published Guide for Just-Giving

Generous Justice CoverWhatever our visions and hopes for the world may be, our financial support is needed to realize them. Bringing together sustainability, social action, and spirituality with personal finance, GENEROUS JUSTICE is a unique one-stop guide to more effective giving throughout the year: simple, regular, and fair.

Order GENEROUS JUSTICE now — for a holiday gift that keeps "just-giving!"

Those in NYC can purchase GENEROUS JUSTICE directly from WAYS OF PEACE, without sales tax or shipping charges. Contact us for further information while supplies last!

Seeing Our Choices More Clearly

“In the market, the blind cry out to the one-eyed as clear-sighted” (Genesis Rabbah 30:9). These are words from a scholarly dispute about this week's Torah portion, which declares that “Noah was a righteous man, unblemished in his generations” (Genesis 6:9).

Rabbi Yehudah interprets the statement in Genesis as veiled condemnation — in other words, Noah could only be considered righteous and unblemished when compared with the majority of his time. In a period of utter moral blindness, the “one-eyed” Noah was the greatest hope for both humanity and the earth.

Noah’s critics often focus on his apparent silence during his extended preparations for disaster — preparations which fulfill the letter of divine command, but do not reflect any active concern for those beyond his immediate family.

To pursue this line of ethical reasoning as elections approach, it might be helpful to have our own moral “eyes” examined — and bring the focus back to ourselves. (...) READ MORE

On this 21st anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin z"l, may we continue to help each other see our own choices more clearly.

"Cause us to see clearly that the well-being of our nation is in the hands of all its citizens." (Gates of Repentance)

Not Yet Sealed. Still Deliverable!

In this season of change and uncertainty — when we face the fragile structures of our own lives — we can listen for the "still, small voice" and be mindful of our small, daily opportunities to make a world of difference.

Park Paths DivergeAccording to Jewish mystical tradition, the Book of Life is not yet sealed — or alternatively, it is sealed but not yet delivered, as the season of teshuvah (re/turning, repentance) continues through the end of this festival of Sukkot (Tabernacles). The ancient sage Rabbi Eliezer goes further in declaring that the best day for teshuvah is "one day before your death" — in other words, every day of our lives.

It's easy to forget this when we are intensely focused on one big event — whether that event is the Jewish Day of Atonement or the U.S. Election Day. But our lives and our world have never depended upon a single day — or a single personality. Our "fates" are the culmination of thousands of small, daily decisions within our own power to enact.

img-handsMore than two decades ago, while organizing rural peasants during one of the periods of political upheaval that characterize Haiti, Father Joseph Philippe realized that “even though the people might control who was president, they had no control over who ruled the economy.”

With three volunteers and a borrowed building, Father Joseph started Fonkoze — an acronym for “Shoulder to Shoulder Foundation” in Haitian Creole. It is a family of organizations that work together to provide financial and related mutual support services that empower Haitians — primarily women — to lift their families out of poverty. Today Fonkoze engages more than 200,000 Haitians, primarily in hard-to-access rural areas.

"And after the hurricane...and after the earthquake...and after the fire — a still, small voice." (First Kings 19:11-12)

Butterfly HandsHaiti is the poorest country in the Americas, and one of the poorest in the world. Efforts to provide top-down assistance over the decades — through relentless natural disasters and human violence — have been notoriously unsuccessful.

But Fonkoze consistently receives superlative ratings for its effectiveness in leveraging small amounts of money for life-changing impact. And it is at the forefront of efforts to empower the most vulnerable Haitians in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

In this season of change and uncertainty — when we face the fragile structures of our own lives — please listen for the "still, small voice" and be mindful of the small, daily opportunities to make a world of difference.

"Elul-vator" Speeches

It's not easy to give an "elevator speech" about money or death.

We are honored that two core programs of WAYS OF PEACE have been accepted as semi-finalists by the Lippman Kanfer Prize for Applied Jewish Wisdom. Since each program submission included an "elevator speech"—and since both are relevant to Elul, the month of turning and spiritual preparation for the Days of Awe—we would like to share our "Elul-vator" speeches with you.

Generous Justice: Jewish Wisdom for Just-Giving

All Hands InIn a world struggling with climate change and extreme financial inequality, it’s time to turn the tithe! Rooted in our ancient cycles of shmita / release, the Jewish practices of just-giving—simple, regular, and fair—are accessible to all of us. The earth can rest from our relentless consumption as we channel more of our money toward the repair of our world. Bringing together concern for the poor and vulnerable with concern for the planet, Generous Justice is the only organized Jewish presence among today’s transformative philanthropy initiatives for just-giving. LEARN MORE

Sacred Undertaking: A Natural Return to the Earth

Park Paths Diverge
Our deaths impact our climate and natural ecosystems through human funeral decisions—each emotional, social, economic and environmental consideration influencing all the others. The emerging “green" burial movement affirms the ancient Jewish wisdom of the hevra kadisha / sacred burial fellowship. Sacred Undertaking reclaims the hevra kadisha as integral to a truly caring community—preserving vital natural resources, affirming human equality, supporting each other, taming our fears of death, and renewing the circle of life. LEARN MORE

The month of Elul is a traditional time for just-giving disbursements. Please know that all of our combined efforts help pave the paths to peace in our time, and our world needs what you have to offer.

With many blessings for the Season of Turning and the New Year ahead,

Rabbi Regina Sandler-Phillips
for WAYS OF PEACE Community Resources

9/11: Fifteen Years — On One Foot

World on Three LegsAccording to a classic Jewish teaching, the world stands on a tripod of study, worship/work, and caring actions. Under ordinary circumstances, our communities tend to run on the two legs of study and worship/work. The third leg of caring actions is usually shortened to save time.

Yet caring actions represent the only "leg" that can support us reliably over the long term. This is reflected in another classic teaching about a man who approached the sage Hillel, and asked to be taught the entire Torah while standing on one foot.

Hillel's response was decisive: "What is hateful to you, do not do to your counterpart. That is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary — go and learn!"

On the 15th anniversary of tragedies that shook our cities, our nations and our world, we remember when caring actions moved just as decisively to the forefront of our concern. In the hours, days and weeks that followed September 11th, 2001, we showed up; we volunteered; we shared; we sang; we grieved; we comforted. We bore witness and sustained each other "on one foot" of the tripod.
Stephan Farfler - 1655
This 15th anniversary of 9/11/01 calls us to reconfigure our global tripod — perhaps as a tricycle, in order to move forward more effectively. The tricycle actually evolved from the first wheelchair, invented by a disabled 17th-century watchmaker named Stephan Farffler.

Can we reorganize our communities to move with caring actions as our leading wheel, while the two wheels of study and worship/work move back to supporting roles?

If we accept this challenge, we may find ourselves moving more slowly and mindfully through a frenzied world — and also more surely on the paths of kindness and justice. LEARN MORE

Will Just-Giving Save From Death (Again)?

Wealth will not avail on a day of wrath,
yet tzedakah / just-giving will save from death. — Proverbs 11:4

img-handsThe words I wrote nearly a year ago reverberate today:

"We mourn the deaths of all whose lives have been cut short by hatred and violence. For all who survive to carry the wounds, we pray for healing and recovery.

"The tragedies are relentless and overwhelming — yet we cannot afford the luxuries of numbness or despair. No matter how heartbreaking the situation, there are always real, practical options for sharing our time and money, for bringing people together across differences to affirm our shared humanity."


Ted Jackson - - Times-PicayuneIn these painful times, it's tempting to hide behind analyses and arguments. But as our ancient sages remind us, actions in good faith speak louder than words — and freedom means doing what we can with whatever we have. READ MORE

The imperatives of just-giving — simple, regular, and fair — have never been more vital. Learn how to put just-giving into action!

In our commitment to just-giving, WAYS OF PEACE donates at least 10 percent of net staff compensation to other organizations that uphold our core mandates of promoting justice and kindness across lines of diversity.

The "Holding Room" — and the Choices We Face

It was an empty office on one floor behind the nursing station, cooled by a single air conditioner. It was called the "holding room.” As a chaplain, I sometimes accompanied the bodies that were held there.

Butterfly HandsThe holding room was the place where deceased residents were brought, to be picked up by funeral homes — or to be sent to the medical examiner’s morgue, if funeral arrangements had not been made by a designated time limit.

Recent media coverage has heightened public awareness of Hart Island, the largest mass burial ground in the United States. Some of those buried on Hart Island are people whose time ran out — in a "holding room" or elsewhere — before next of kin could arrange for their funerals. They then became vulnerable to the general practice of using (presumably) unclaimed bodies without consent for anatomical education and research.

As the New York State legislature seeks to curb this practice, we can leverage our own powers of choice to honor the dead as well as improve health care for the living. READ MORE

Preparing for the Count: New Healing Guide for Jews in Recovery

WAYS OF PEACE is pleased to announce the publication of COUNTING DAYS: From Liberation to Revelation for Jews in Recovery.

CountingDays_Cover07COUNTING DAYS guides readers through the season of spiritual preparation between Passover and Shavuot with daily reflections on Twelve Step principles, integrated with classical Jewish teachings.

It's a new resource for students of Mussar (Jewish ethical discipline) and Jewish mysticism, chaplains, spiritual directors, synagogue leaders, Jewish Family Service staff, and all who care about healing the scourge of addiction within the Jewish community and beyond.

“A wonderful addition to resources for Jewish people in recovery.” —Marcia Cohn Spiegel, Doctor of Jewish Communal Service

Addiction has been called the sacred disease of our time. Many spiritual traditions teach that it is human nature to be addicted in varying degrees—whether this is defined as the worship of false gods, or the suffering that comes from attachment.

While most of us may not suffer to the extremes that require medical or legal attention, the human spiritual condition of "dis-ease" is quite universal. And Jews across the denominational spectrum—from the most secular atheist to the most insular Orthodox—have found healing through the Twelve Steps of recovery from addiction, originally articulated by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Order COUNTING DAYS now to insure delivery in time for Passover!

Nobody Believes It

"Everyone knows they're going to die, but nobody believes it," observed Morrie Schwartz in Tuesdays With Morrie. Two decades after Schwartz's death, it's illuminating to consider how difficult it was to find a publisher for the bestselling memoir that has now been translated into 45 languages, as well as adapted for the stage and television.
The hevra kadisha (Jewish sacred burial fellowship) believes it.

It is customary around this time of year to acknowledge the hevra kadisha for its quiet presence and simple actions to accompany the dead as well as the living. It's part of how Jews help each other to move from the winter of grief into the springtime of hope and renewal.

Those in the greater NYC area are welcome to join WAYS OF PEACE for these upcoming programs:

Facing Death As Jews

Thursday evenings March 3rd, 10th, and 17th in Brooklyn, NY

From Caring Community to Sacred Fellowship

Shabbaton March 11th-12th in Beacon, NY

Some deaths are tragically preventable. WAYS OF PEACE dedicates the following resource to the memories of the four New Yorkers in four boroughs who have been killed in traffic accidents over the past few days.

Red Light, Green Light: Ethical Choices at Street Level

Tablet Magazine, 11/12/14
I had been reading reports that traffic deaths in my home city of New York had dropped during the previous year. When I divided the total number of fatalities by 12, it became clear that the reports were viewing “only” 23 traffic deaths per month as evidence of progress.

I probed further and discovered that there had been 10 times as many traffic fatalities in the State of Israel since 1948 as deaths from terrorist attacks. Something was terribly wrong. What could I do about it—immediately and continually? (...) READ MORE