Orange for Passover

March 28, 2013

Folks have been turning their Facebook pages red in solidarity with the GLBT community and particularly to support gay marriage this week as the Supremes hear oral arguments on two key cases before them.

At this time of Passover, I think we should go Orange as we have on the Seder Plate.  Here is the origin (pun intended):

The Origin of the Orange on the Seder Plate
In the early 1980s, the Hillel Foundation invited me to speak
on a panel at Oberlin College. While on campus, I came
across a Haggada that had been written by some Oberlin
students to express feminist concerns. One ritual they devised
was placing a crust of bread on the Seder plate, as a sign of
solidarity with Jewish lesbians (“there’s as much room for a
lesbian in Judaism as there is for a crust of bread on the Seder
At the next Passover, I placed an orange on our family’s Seder
plate. During the first part of the Seder, I asked everyone to
take a segment of the orange, make the blessing over fruit,
and eat it as a gesture of solidarity with Jewish lesbians and
gay men, and others who are marginalized within the Jewish
community (I mentioned widows in particular).
Bread on the Seder plate brings an end to Pesach – it renders
everything chometz. And its symbolism suggests that being
lesbian is being transgressive, violating Judaism. I felt that an
orange was suggestive of something else: the fruitfulness for
all Jews when lesbians and gay men are contributing and
active members of Jewish life. In addition, each orange
segment had a few seeds that had to be spit out – a gesture of
spitting out, repudiating the homophobia that poisons too
many Jews.
When lecturing, I often mentioned my custom as one of many
new feminist rituals that had been developed in the last
twenty years. Somehow, though, the typical patriarchal
maneuver occurred: My idea of an orange and my intention of
affirming lesbians and gay men were transformed. Now the
story circulates that a MAN stood up after I lecture I
delivered and said to me, in anger, that a woman belongs on
the bimah as much as an orange on the Seder plate. My idea,
a woman’s words, are attributed to a man, and the affirmation
of lesbians and gay men is simply erased. Isn’t that precisely
what’s happened over the centuries to women’s ideas?

—Susannah Heschel, April, 2001 Eli Black Professor of Jewish Studies Dartmouth College

I’m changing my Facebook profile photo to an Orange.  Now that’s Iconic.


To Tea or not to Tea

July 30, 2011

As a progressive I am very encouraged by the successful obstructionism of the Tea Party during the debt ceiling crisis in Congress. Not for the obvious reason that as with Gingrich’s 1995 hostage taking of the Clinton government. (which inadvertently gave us the Lewinsky scandal) their maneuvering towards a shutdown may well ensure a second term for Obama.

What I find encouraging is this. For a long time I have lamented the two party system in American politics. It drives all discourse the center and almost ensures that nothing ever really changes. The Tea Party is the first really successful third party in a hundred years going back to the Progressives (ironically a Republican splinter to left). The fact that they ran on Republican ballot lines is just a case of wolves in elephants clothing. They are a true, ideologically distinct party and they are pushing their agenda and winning. Short term I hate the direction they are moving the country. Long term I am truly hopeful that if the left can muster an energetic electoral strategy around a progressive agenda to challenge old school Democrats and garner support from the very progressive and independent constituencies that propelled Obama’s 2010 election, we could have a new voice for issues like climate change, alternative energy, civil liberties and investment in pure research and development which are the true drivers of economic growth.

So I’m excited about the Tea Party. Now that’s ironic.

Other Ironic Hacks

June 9, 2011

I’m sure you saw the news about British intelligence replacing bomb recipes with cupcake recipes.  Now if that’s not Ironic Jihad,  I don’t know what is.

I did some digging and found out about some other efforts that have remained under the radar:

  1. Mosad officers anonymously enter Hamas’ most elite and deadly terrorist cell as contestants on MTV’s competition “America’s Best Dance Crew”.  (the joke is on the Israelis when the Hamas team totally rips it up to Cee-Lo Green’s “F*%# You”)
  2.  Irish government operatives in Dublin posing as members of the Northern Ireland Home Office convince the Rand McNally Company that they have changed the name of their capital city to Coopertino.  All 2012 Atlases reflect the change. (the hack has unintended consequences in the Tech Sector as well)
  3.  Cyberwar specialists at the NSA replace Al Jazeera’s daily satellite news stream with a Laverne and Shirley marathon throwing millions of people in the Middle East fall into a narcoleptic stupor.
  4.  US Marine Corp drone aircraft sneak into Cuba and paint handlebar mustaches onto all public images of Raul Castro in the hopes that citizens will think they are now governed by Rollie Fingers.
Now that’s Ironic

In his op-ed today Robert Bryce answers his own question but doesn’t seem to realize it.  Here is the piece

Mr Bryce rightly points out that small is beautiful, but natural gas and nuclear don’t have small eco footprints, even if they have smaller one than the mega wind and solar projects proliferating in the southwest and west.  Rather than extrapolating how much land would be used in these huge centralized installation promulgated by the very energy utilities that have been burning coal all these years, he should be looking at the vast real estate available and at hand right where the power is used.  Our rooftops.

While I am not one of those off the gridders, I am all for decentralized generation of power that obviates the need for a) huge centralized wind or solar farms, b) creation of transmission infrastructure that may have ancillary health impact and c) returning to the failed ideas of nuclear power or fossil fuel based power generation.

Let’s put our efforts into battery technology and local energy coops to handle the issue of capturing energy in off-peak times and meeting increased demand at peak times.  A group doing good advocacy work is Environmental Action

And how did we get to a point when it is the environmental activists who are the main opponents of alternative energy projects, it’s because we’ve gone big instead of staying small and local.

That’s ironic

Just this week I received an email from a friend of mine, inviting me to a panel discussion during the Vision Festival called “Imagining a Culture of Resistance & Radical Vision: Artists & Social Action”.  Vision Festival is an annual Jazz/New Music event in Manhattan.  Now I’ve been a regular attendee of this festival over the last eight years (this year marks its 16th, so I am no early adopter).  Check out their offering at

Now on the opening night of the festival is another panel called “Obama, Class Struggle, The Media & The Arts”.  As I read through the panelists I noticed this:  Marvin X – Prime Minister of Poetry, First Poet’s Church of the Latter Day Egyptian Revisionists.  Now I like an alternate church as much or more than the next guy and was myself a member of the Looghamite Radio and Television Ministry back in the 80’s (stories for another day) and just the idea of Marvin X interested me. Also the name made me assume there must be a tongue planted firmly in someone’s cheek as regards the Latter Day Egyptian Revisionists.  A Google search, however, revealed that while the LDER’s take their name and inspiration from Sun Ra, membership and study first require completion of the course “Overcoming Addiction to White Supremacy, 13 Steps”.  Now while Sun Ra had a strong strain of African nationalism and a early history of interest in the philosophy of Marcus Garvey, he also claimed to bring forward the philosophy of ancient Egypt by way of the planet Saturn and regularly dressed in space robes and a gold sequined turban.  I saw Sun Ra perform at least a dozen times over the years and clearly this was a man with a sense of humor about himself.

The fact that Sun Ra, Malcolm X (Marvin X and compatriots are also heavily influenced by Elijah Mohamed) were influenced by Marcus Garvey prove that it’s not OK to have a white guy in a hood tell people “why don’t you back to where you came from”, but it’s ok for a black man in a colonialist sea captain’s uniform to tell people “why don’t we go back where we came from”.  A valuable lesson on the importance of pronouns

Reading through the materials of the Egyptian Revisions made me think about an encounter I had with Israelite Revisionists last summer.  I was walking down Seventh Avenue, near Penn Station, when I saw several men behind a card table with a large poster depicting two tablet shapes (ala Moses as opposed to Bayer) within which were the names of the twelve tribes of Israel and the ‘true’ ethnic descendants of each.  Here is the basic information in a nicer graphic than the one sported by my Israelite brethren that day

One aside I must make, my father taught me as a child that we were Levites.  Apparently Jews know what tribe they are. My Grandfather couldn’t find his car in the Shea Stadium parking so how on earth we know which tribe we are is mystery to me.  So as a Levite my new found African cousins are in Haiti; ‘out of the frying pan’ as they say.

Back to the table on Seventh Avenue, as I stopped to take in the new information about the Diaspora, I was told by one of the acolytes ‘keep moving, there is nothing here for you’.  When I stopped, I was accosted with a verbal jeremiad peppered with references to myself as a ‘white devil’.  The bottom line; after 400 years of oppression as ‘the blacks’ now they want to be ‘the jews’.

Now that’s ironic

Shopping at Borders

May 23, 2011

1967 Borders.

A great deal of squawk going on very recently about President Obama pointing out the obvious, which is that the starting point for a settlement on borders in an agreement between Israel and the Palestinians would be the 1967 borders.  The 1967 borders for Israel look essentially like the state of Delaware with a kidney cut out of them along the West Bank of the Jordan River

Delaware minus a kidney

© Koret Communications Ltd.

As someone who just had kidney surgery a few months ago, I understand the Israeli’s reticence toward having that kidney removed.

The Palestinians on the other hand have a legitimate concern about what their homeland would look if it were cut into the eastern half of Delaware, which then make them neighbors to New Jersey.  You think a border crossing with Israelis is tough; the governor of NJ doesn’t even want his own people crossing into NJ and back from NY.  Imagine how he’d feel about Palestinians trying to make the crossing over from Wilmington.

Really, both the Israelis and Palestinians should be glad they are exactly where they are and not subject to the contamination coming from these places

So rather than contentiousness, I think we’ve turned this one into a win/win for all our Semetic brethren