Muckoseegee Reconstructionists

I snapped this photo on a recent airboat tour of the Everglades near Miami. Repairing damage done by Hurricane Wilma, these Muckoseegee tribesmen are reconstructing a Chickee hut on a small, gator infested island. While much has been lost as the tribe has shifted from fishing (mercury levels got too high) to casino gambling and NASCAR, it was great to see an ancient practice like Chickee building done outside the confines of the museum. My aunt Sorah, a Lubavitcher recently immigrated to South Florida, explained that they fold the palm braches in half and nail them down like shingles, slightly overlapping one another. Back in the day, they slept in the roof area (the rafters) to protect their children from the gators.


Christmas! Attack!

Twas the War On Christmas

By Daniel S. Brenner

Twas the war on Christmas, when all through the land
’holiday’ greetings of happiness were banned.
Christmas cheer was spread to Sikh and Hindu,
’Christ is Born’ cards sent to the ACLU.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions 360 danced in their heads.
And mamma on her yoga mat, and I in my jeans,
Had just clicked on the TV for some more of split screens.

When there on the tube there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my Sudoku to see what was the matter.
a long haired Galilean like from olden days
was wishing Americans ‘Happy Holidays’

The moon high above the new-fallen snow
projected his image on WalMarts below.
in vast parking lots appeared all sorts of peoples
the sort who sway hands under megachurch steeples.

He spoke without parable, in verse slow and quick:
’I think that you have me confused with St. Nick!
It wasn’t to bring more possessions I came,
but to glorify, dignify God’s holy name!

"Now O’Reilly! now, Falwell! now, McCullough and Gibson!
Now, Farah! Limbaugh! Now Coulter and Dobson!
To the pew you should go! To your knees you should fall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
these warriors for Christmas let out a cry.
they wept, they lamented, they let out a plea,
Didn’t we learn anything from watching the Passion DVD?

And then, in a twinkling, my speakers blew
and somehow I heard the sounds of U2.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney Bono came with a bound.

He was dressed all in black, from his head to his foot,
And his old leather jacket was tarnished with soot.
An old Stratocaster he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His shades how they twinkled! His song so sublime!
Feed the world! Let them know that it is christmastime!
His mike to his mouth was drawn up like a bow,
Donating all proceeds that flow to the show.

Now this was a war for right jolly old elves!
To give to some cause other than themselves!
To think of Darfur and those in extreme need,
rather than waste more hot air on some holiday creed.

I sprang to my feet, gave my neighbors a call,
Muslims, Christians, Jews, Sikhs, Hindus et. al.
Let us give from our hearts and do what is right,
"Happy Holidays to some, and to others good-night!"


Jealous of The Rabbi's Cat

Back when I was scribbling cartoons in rabbinical school, I dreamed of spinning one of my one page talmudic inspired strips into a full length color tale. Searching for a copy of R. Crumb's Kafka book, I came across Sfar's work and at first was paralyzed by jealousy - this is the kind of book I had hoped to draw/write someday. I was ready to hate it. But then I started reading - and Safr's humor and brilliance won me over. I bought the book, brought it home, and stayed up late to finish it. Needless to say, this is now one of my favorite books. It ranks up there with Contract with God, Maus, The Jew of New York, and Blechman's Jonah in my Jewish graphic novels hall of fame.


Mixed Doubles

I spoke this week at the following event:

BRIS OR BAPTISM? -- AND OTHER RITUAL ISSUES FACING INTERFAITH FAMILIES What do basic rituals mean in each of our traditions? Do they determine identity, membership, salvation? Can they be delayed or chosen later in life? Can -- or should -- they be modified for interfaith families? Can -- or should -- children be given a "dual religious passport"? Join us to hear Jewish, Roman Catholic, and mainstream Protestant (Presbyterian) clergy discuss the meaning of some of the central rituals in our religious traditions.
The seminar will be led by Rabbi Daniel Brenner; Rev. Mark Hallinan, SJ; and Rev. Anne Conroy.

The discussion was fascinating - particularly the questions of the Hindu-Jewish couple and the Black Southern Baptist -Israeli couple. Thankfully, a moyel came who could speak to the medical questions.


Teaching Religious Diversity in the Public Schools: A nice write-up from the NY Outward Bound Newsletter

Exploring Global Beliefs First-Hand

Bronx Expeditionary Learning High School (BELHS) teacher
Steve Gilman led his Global History class in studying world
religions and philosophies this spring.
Following extensive classroom work, students explored the three
monotheisms—Judaism, Christianity, and Islam—in one day of
intense fieldwork.
Rabbi Daniel S. Brenner, director of the Center for Multi-Faith
Education at Auburn Theological Seminary, led the students in a
workshop on religious diversity and tolerance. The rabbi also
described the "Face to Face—Faith to Faith" program which initiates
dialogues between young people in conflict areas like Israel-
Palestine. This held special interest for BELHS students, who had
designed compelling Israeli-Palestinian peace plans while studying
the Middle East conflict.
Josh Borkin of the Auburn team escorted the students to the
Cathedral of Saint John the Divine, where they focused on how religious
beliefs are expressed through ritual, memorials and church
architecture. The class shared ideas on faith practices that create
community within and among beliefs, asked questions of the priests
and lit a few candles as they explored the massive stone Cathedral.
Poems they had written about religious diversity and tolerance will be
added to the Cathedral’s Poets Corner.
Then the students joined some 1,000 Muslims for Jumma
prayers at the Islamic Center on East 96th Street. The girls, who had
covered their heads en route to the mosque, sat in the balcony, separated
from the boys who lined up with the men downstairs. Those
who felt comfortable doing so joined in the prayers, kneeling on the
carpet, before the imam, Sheikh Omar Saleem Abu-Namous
(pictured left), delivered his sermon.
After the service, the imam led students in a discussion of Islam
and answered a number of tough questions about faith, justice, and
gender roles in Islam. Many dealt with the diversity of the faith community
in Jerusalem, a central theme in the students’ examination of
monotheisms. During the discussion, a young couple approached
the imam and asked him to marry them. He obliged, and with students
surrounding them on the carpet, the couple nervously took
their vows as the imam explained their marital obligations according
to the Koran—an unforgettable cap to this extraordinary day.
Back in class, students debriefed their intense experience, discussing
gender and social justice issues, tolerance and other topics
that arose during the fieldwork. "Students came to some eye-opening
conclusions about their beliefs, and how they believe others practice
their beliefs," Steve said.