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Rabbis Protest Trump’s Comments by Boycotting Conference Call

All four Jewish groups — the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the Rabbinical Assembly, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism — said they could not participate in interactions with Mr. Trump around the fall holidays.“We have concluded that President Trump’s statements during and after the tragic events in Charlottesville are so lacking in moral leadership and empathy for the victims of racial and religious hatred that we cannot organize such a call this year,” the statement said.The organizations withdrawing from the call hail from three branches of American Judaism: the Central Conference of American Rabbis and the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism represent Reform Jews, while the Rabbinical Assembly is a coalition of Conservative rabbis. Reconstructionist leaders make up the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association.Rabbi Jonah Pesner, director of the Religious Action Center, said in an interview that events in Charlottesville had sent a deep shudder through the rabbinical community. He said Jews were appalled by the experience of rabbis in Charlottesville, who feared that they would become the targets of neo-Nazi violence, and by Mr. […]

Pennsylvania Religious Leaders To Announce Support For Medical Marijuana

A group of Pennsylvania religious leaders will announce their support for medical marijuana legislation Wednesday at a news conference at 11 a.m. ET on the Lt. Governor’s Balcony in the Pennsylvania State Capitol. They will then visit with lawmakers to convey their support in person. A diverse group of more than 50 clergy members in […]

70 Years After Hiroshima, Disarmament Is Still Vital

Co-authored by Ken Olum, research professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department, Tufts University. A little over 70 years ago, our father, Paul Olum, stood with his colleagues in the desert near Alamogordo, New Mexico. They had spent the last two and a half years designing a new weapon, the first atomic bomb, and now they waited to see whether it would work. Then the explosion seemed to fill the sky, until it resolved into a huge mushroom-shaped cloud. The project had succeeded. They had designed and built the most powerful weapon ever seen on Earth. Three weeks later, on August 6, 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, and, three days after that, another bomb on Nagasaki. The two bombs together killed over 100,000 people instantly, and a similar number died later from radiation exposure. Paul had mixed feelings about the bombing of Hiroshima. It seemed clear it would end the war swiftly, but there had been a very high cost in civilian lives. However, he felt the bombing of Nagasaki was unconscionable, because three days had not been long enough for the surrender. Six days after the bombing of Nagasaki, Japan did announce its surrender. World War II was over, but the nuclear arms race had begun, and Paul Olum became a lifelong advocate of nuclear arms control and disarmament. By the 1980s, the United States and the Soviet Union together had amassed about 27,000 “active” strategic nuclear bombs each hugely more powerful than those that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The arsenals of either nation were sufficient to destroy humanity many times over. Paul had been only 24 years old when he and our mother Vivian went to Los Alamos in 1943. After the war was over, he went on to a distinguished career as a mathematics professor at Cornell and later as provost and then president of the University of Oregon. Yet, whatever else he was doing, he felt a responsibility to talk about the dangers of nuclear weapons and the importance of disarmament. In 1983, Paul and Vivian received an invitation to a celebration of the 40th anniversary of the opening of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, where the atomic bombs had been designed. They felt they did not want to celebrate the building of those bombs, which led to nuclear arsenals that could destroy the human race. Paul drafted a petition calling for an end to the nuclear arms race and the eventual elimination of nuclear weapons. It was signed by 70 scientists, including five Nobel Prize winners, and widely publicized. The scientists wrote that they were “profoundly frightened for the future of humanity.” Paul’s efforts, and those of many others, brought a turning point in the arms race. Treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union and later Russia began to reduce the numbers of warheads and remove them from active status. When Paul died in 2001, the total number of active strategic nuclear warheads had been reduced to about 14,000. When the New START treaty of 2011 is fully implemented, the U.S. and Russia will have about 3,000 deployed strategic warheads in total, but this is still more than enough to destroy civilization. Unfortunately, the threat of nuclear weapons seems to have faded from public consciousness, perhaps having been displaced by concerns over climate change. Climate change is a very serious threat, but it is a threat of a different character. Climate change could kill billions of people over the course of decades and render parts of the world uninhabitable. Nuclear war could kill billions of people immediately and might render the entire world uninhabitable as a result of radioactive fallout and nuclear winter (severe global cooling caused by soot propelled into the stratosphere from burning cities.) So it is crucial that nuclear disarmament continue. Instead, the U.S. and Russia seem poised on the brink of a new nuclear arms race. Present U.S. plans involve new warheads with new missiles, bombers, and submarines to deliver them, at a total cost of about $1 trillion over the next 30 years. And this huge expense does not make America safer. Our current arsenal goes far beyond anything needed as a deterrent. Instead, it increases the risk that these weapons will someday be used, either intentionally, accidentally, or because they fall into the wrong hands. Enough is enough. More than 30 years after Paul’s Los Alamos disarmament petition, nuclear weapons still pose a threat to the existence of the human race. The time has come to end this threat, so that that 30 years from now it will not be necessary for our children to begin an article, “One hundred years ago our grandfather stood in the desert near Alamogordo….” Joyce Olum Galaski is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Ahavas Achim in Westfield, Massachusetts, and Ken Olum is a research professor in the Physics and Astronomy Department at Tufts University. This year, they established the Paul Olum Grant Fund through Ploughshares Fund to support scientists working for nuclear disarmament. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website. […]

Kosher Marijuana Edibles Could Be Coming To New York

I have a lot of friends in the marijuana industry and activism movement that are Jewish. I am not Jewish, but I have always respected the Jewish religion and culture. One of my Jewish friends text me a link while I was at work yesterday which talked about the likelihood of some medical marijuana products […]

Religious Effort To Halt Climate Change Puts Rabbi Moti Reiber Behind Church Pulpits

Rabbi Moti Rieber is director of the Kansas chapter for the San Francisco-based Interfaith Power & Light.

(RNS) Rabbi Moti Rieber travels the politically red state of Kansas armed with the book of Genesis, a psalm and even the words of Jesus to lecture church audiences, or sermonize if they’ll let him, about the threat of global warming.

“My feeling is that I’m the only person these people are ever going to see who’s going to look them in the eye and say, ‘There’s such a thing as climate change,’” Rieber said. “I’m trying to let them know it’s not irreligious to believe in climate change.”

He is at the vanguard of religious efforts — halting in some places, gathering speed elsewhere — to move the ecological discussion from its hot-button political and scientific moorings to one based on theological morality and the right thing to do.

Where allowed behind the pulpit in a United Methodist or Lutheran church, Rieber can sense a restless shifting in the pews as he draws parallels between God asking Adam to tend the Garden of Eden and humankind’s stewardship duty to the environment.

He can see a few faces turn away while describing the disproportionate plight of human-driven climate change on the world’s poor, and reminding parishioners of Jesus’ admonition that “as you do it to one of the least of these my brothers, you do it to me.”

Rieber has his work cut out for him in a state governed by Tea Party favorite Sam Brownback — who has blasted Obama administration rules on reducing carbon emissions — and home to the conservative-activist billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

Rieber, who leads a congregation of about 85 families at a synagogue in Lawrence, is director of the Kansas chapter for the San Francisco-based Interfaith Power & Light — one of the most prominent groups championing greater faith-based activism on climate change.

Led by an Episcopalian priest, Sally Bingham, the organization is a network of 15,000 churches across 41 states, including some of the most conservative in the country. Members often begin with promoting green technology in a church — efficient light bulbs and solar panels — before turning to the morality of environmental stewardship.

“I honestly believe that there’s not been a single cultural change or big movement that didn’t have the voice of the religious community,” Bingham said. “It’s crucial.”

Her effort is not alone. The United Methodist Church promotes a “Green Church Initiative.” A core mission of the Episcopal Church is “to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.”

In May, the U.S. Conference on Catholic Bishops urged the Environmental Protection Agency to draft new carbon-pollution rules for power plants. For years, the leader of the 300-million member Christian Orthodox faith — Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, known as the “Green Patriarch” — has declared planet stewardship a spiritual duty.

And this year, Pope Francis is preparing an encyclical — one of the highest forms of papal opinion — on the “ecology of mankind.” He has already weighed in against what he calls the greedy exploitation of the environment.

“I think it will be a game changer,” said Mary Evelyn Tucker, director of the Forum on Religion and Ecology at Yale University, of the encyclical that would guide 1.3 billion Catholics. The forum is an international multireligious project that promotes dialogues with religions and other disciplines on environmental solutions.

Research scientist Anthony Leiserowitz, as director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication, studies the ebb and flow of discourse over environmental changes. He believes the faith-based embrace of the issue is “one of the most exciting things happening in this entire space.”

It moves the discussion, he says, beyond science and polar bears to “a whole different set of values. Not liberal vs.conservative, but now moral and religious … It can engage people in, I think, a particularly deep and powerful way.”

The toughest hurdle, however, are evangelical Christians, Leiserowitz noted in a published paper last year. One in four Americans fall into this group, a powerful supportive force for those in Congress who do not believe in global warming. Yet even among evangelicals, Leiserowitz says, there is not just one view about climate change.

When asked in a 2008 survey cited in Leiserowitz’s study whether “global warming is happening,” 44 percent of evangelicals said it is and the result of human actions, 41 percent said any warming was not caused by man.

Evangelicals tend to be less receptive to outsiders, making efforts such as Interfaith Power & Light ineffective, say evangelical leaders such as the Rev. Mitchell Hescox.

Hescox is president of the Evangelical Environmental Network, devoted to raising awareness about the threat of climate change.

Hescox said the reach of his network has grown from 20,000 evangelical Christians to 300,000 in five years. the organization has 900 “creation care specialists,” many of them evangelical ministers, trained to spread the gospel of safeguarding God’s handiwork.

When Hescox speaks to congregations across the country, he says climate change threatens a core evangelical concern — the sanctity of life.

“One of the key values of the evangelical church is being pro-life. I’m pro-life from conception to natural death. To go in and be able to talk about my values truly gives me an opening for them to hear what I have to say,” he said.

A rising star in this new firmament is Katherine Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian who is also a scientist and director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. Her husband, Andrew Farley, is an evangelical minister.

She was featured in Showtime’s climate documentary “Years of Living Dangerously,” and in April was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people.

“You have to know who your audience is,” said Hayhoe who speaks at churches, evangelical colleges and conferences, half of them from red states. “I know what people are thinking. I know what many of their questions are. I know what they’ve been hearing.”

She answers their doubts even before they are raised. But more importantly, Hayhoe said, “I start out by sharing not from my head, but from my heart — what my own values are and why I care about this issue.”

(Gregg Zoroya writes for USA Today.)


Supreme Court Decision On Official Prayer Will Not End Public Debate

The Supreme Court’s decision Monday to approve of explicit ceremonial Christian prayer before government meetings will not bring any truce in the ongoing legal and political battle over the proper role of religion in American public life. MoreGeorgia’s Sweeping Gun Law Sparks Religious BacklashSupreme Court Upholds Prayer at Town MeetingsMen Charged With Toppling Ancient Rock Formation Avoid Jail Time Huffington PostHere’s An Updated Tally Of All The People Who Have Ever Died From A Marijuana Overdose Huffington PostAdele Teases Potential New Album on Twitter PeopleShortly after the ruling came down, the American Civil Liberties Union tweeted its disappointment—“Official religious favoritism should be off-limits under the Constitution”—while conservative Christian leaders from Russell Moore to Ralph Reed praised the decision as a First Amendment victory. “The court has rejected the idea that as citizens we must check our faith at the entrance to the public square,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, says. “This welcome decision is very helpful in putting the brakes on the efforts of militant secularists to rid the public square of any religious expression.” Popular Among SubscribersMillennials: The Me Me Me GenerationThe Mystery of Animal GriefBarbara Brown Taylor Faces the DarknessToday’s Town of Greece v. Galloway case began brewing in 2007, when two residents from town of Greece, near Rochester, NY, complained that the town’s monthly council meetings regularly opened with Christian invocation. The plaintiffs, one Jewish and one atheist, argued that the prayers constituted an establishment of religion by the government, and sued the town in federal court. The Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last May, and the Obama administration surprised many people last August when it filed a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the town. The U.S. solicitor general argued that the U.S. Constitution allowed for sectarian prayer as long as the prayer did not proselytize or disparage another faith. The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty called Monday’s ruling a “great victory” for religious freedom. “Prayers like these have been taking place in our nation’s legislatures for over 200 years,” said Eric Rassbach, deputy general counsel at the Becket Fund, which filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the Town of Greece case. “They demonstrate our nation’s religious diversity, and highlight the fact that religion is a fundamental aspect of human culture.” Penny Nance, president of the Concerned Women for America, also applauded the ruling. “Everyone wins, including the staunchest atheists, when we allow the free exercise of religion or non-religion according to a person’s conscience,” she said in a statement. Russell Moore wrote that the Supreme Court didn’t violate the separation between between church and state, but upheld it. “Maybe this is a sign of a better way forward, toward a right kind of free marketplace of faith expression in American life,” he said. “Let’s pray that it is.” But the losing plaintiffs also have some religious leaders on their side. Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, president of the Interfaith Alliance, and Rabbi David Saperstein, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, stood against Monday’s ruling and may be allies for the opposition as the fight continues. “If there is any positive side in this disturbing decision it is that the court makes clear that if ‘the invocations denigrate nonbelievers or religious minorities, threaten damnation, or preach conversion…That circumstance would present a different case than the one presently before the Court,’” Gaddy said. “The distinction is a difficult one to make and one I expect will cause the courts to revisit the issue soon.” It is hard to hear responses like Perkins’ and Rassbach’s without remembering that the Supreme Court is expected to rule on another religious freedom case this summer: Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby. The Becket Fund is also defending the Green family, the owners of Hobby Lobby, in that case. For Rassbach, the Green family is asking the Courts to recognize religion as a fundamental aspect of human life in Hobby Lobby just as it did on Monday. “In Town of Greece, the Supreme Court has affirmed that religion is not a vaguely shameful thing that must be confined to private life,” he explains. “In Hobby Lobby, however, the government argues precisely the opposite. It says religious people are entitled to hold their beliefs in private; but once they create a business, they must check their religious beliefs at the door—on pain of multi-million dollar fines.” […]

Reprise: Have a green sustainable Seder tonight

The Jewish seder is a big meal with a lot of courses; Here are some ideas for making it a little more sustainable. […]