Saturday, February 28, 2009

Alberta's Dirty Oil

I just finished reading Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent by Andrew Nikiforuk. It is a short book with some powerful messages, especially to people living in Alberta under the downstream of the tar sands in Fort Mac.

1) Less consumption makes for less of a need for oil. To me, this was the bottom line.
2) Alberta's "oil" is indeed dirty - it is actually bitumen, a sludgy substance.
3) It takes three barrels of water to make one barrel of sludge, I mean, oil.
4) The "boom" is causing drug use, prostitution, and all kinds of other social problems in Fort Mac.
5) The environmental and health consequences of the tar sands are horrific.

Written in an easy to follow style, this is an important book for Albertans to read.

I Was Once One Of Them

Having been raised fairly traditionally as a Jew, I used to think my view of the Israel/Palestine conflict was quite balanced. A lot of people were getting killed on both sides, and neither side was completely right or completely wrong. Well, I still don't think either leadership is perfect, but as far as people getting killed, the numbers are quite disproportionate on the side of the Palestinians. Still, it was only around 2005 that my views started changing. Many people ask me what the turning point for me was.

One of the major things was meeting people from that part of the world. It is so easy to hang on to ideals when we live insulated lives. I had never known any Palestinians. Frankly, I had never really known any Arabs. The crisis in the Middle East now had faces and names personal to me.

Another major factor was getting involved in the progressive and activist movement. Prior to this, my social life was pretty well restricted to evangelical Christians and others with Zionist viewpoints. Combine that with Zionism at home, and it makes for someone with a pretty one-sided view. In fact, the more "religious" I got, the more pro-Israel I became. I still consider myself a person of faith, though with a much more liberal theology and worldview. And my worldview includes a free Palestine.

Friday, February 27, 2009

More Norman

Some fellow YouTubers have posted some of Norman Finkelstein's recent talks this week. Check out beginswithab for a nine-part talk at WSU in Detroit, and nablesladies1 for a nine-parter from King's College in London.

Actions Have Consequences

The Jerusalem Post published a very gutsy article today. In it, writer Larry Derfner accurately points out how the actions of Israel have fueled anti-Semitism. He does not condone such actions, but draws the very obvious connections between oppression and acting out against the oppressors. The "talkbacks" are very interesting to read as well. Of course, Derfner is now being accused by some of being a "self-hating Jew."

Rattling the Cage: Provoking anti-Semitism

02.26.2009 | The Jerusalem Post

First we left the Gaza Strip in bloodied ruins. Then we raised up a politician who, with his appeal to racism, militarism, fear of alien "subversives" and the yearning for a strong leader, fits the classic, textbook definition of a fascist.

And now, what is the talking point for our hasbara (spin) campaign? The surge in global anti-Semitism.

It's hard to avoid the impression that for the champions of Israel Right or Wrong, the surge in global anti-Semitism - which is real enough - came as a godsend. Finally, Israel and its lobbyists could get off the defensive about civilian casualties, white phosphorous and Avigdor Lieberman, and go on the offensive against synagogue firebombings, chanting mobs and boycotts.

I'm not saying Israel and its cheerleaders are happy that Jews are coming under increasing attack in Europe and elsewhere. Environmentalists aren't happy about oil spills - but oil spills are a godsend for their cause. I'm saying that the chorus of condemnations of anti-Semitism from Israelis and pro-Israel nationalists has a dual purpose - to fight anti-Semitism, which is good, and to neutralize criticism of Operation Cast Lead and the spread of Israeli fascism, which is cynical and morally deadening.

THE CLAIM we hear is that anti-Semitism today is worse than it's been since the 1930s. That may be true, but it overlooks one little thing that's different about the Jews of today compared to those of the 1930s: power. The Jews back then had none, or at least none that could protect them, while Israel, the focus of today's rise in anti-Semitism, has awesome power. Incomparably more power than its enemies have, including the anti-Semites, who are legion.

In the 1930s, Jews didn't do anything to provoke anti-Semitism. They were weak while their persecutors were strong. But today? Today's surge in anti-Semitism began with a war in which the Jewish state killed its enemies at a ratio of 100-to-1, then made a political giant out of a former bouncer whose campaign slogan was "Only Lieberman understands Arabic."

To compare Israel's predicament today with that of the Jews of the 1930s is disingenuous in the extreme. Today's rise in anti-Semitism was provoked not by Israel's weakness, but by its abuses of power, first against the Gazans, then against Israeli Arabs. The difference is night and day.

It's also disingenuous to imply, as hasbara does, that the entire wave of anti-Israel sentiment in the world is tainted by anti-Semitism. (To pro-Israel lobbyists, it's fair and acceptable to acknowledge that Israel is not perfect. Anything beyond that is suspect.) There's a great deal of moral outrage at Israel, some of it fair, some of it not. On the far side of the unfair is the anti-Semitic.

In the 1930s, only anti-Semites were incensed at Jews. Today, while there are certainly masses of anti-Semites who are incensed at Israel, they're not alone. Today the world is filled with people who are not anti-Semites yet who are incensed at the things this country has been doing. Lots of them, myself included, are Jews.

I UNDERSTAND very well that Israel is by no means to blame for most of the anti-Semitism in the world. We are not to blame for Islamic fundamentalism, or the irrational Third World Left, or the age-old anti-Jewish instincts of much of Europe and Latin America. No matter how good, how fair we are to the Arabs, the reservoirs of anti-Semitism in the world are not going to dry up.

But since this country's actions were responsible for the recent surge in the level of those reservoirs, I think there's a way of at least bringing that level down, a way that might work as well if not better than stepping up the hasbara: Let's stop fighting immoral wars. Let's stop laying siege to a tiny, destitute country. (That might stop Gazans from firing rockets at us, too.) Let's stop holding 10,000 Palestinian prisoners. (That might also help us get Gilad Schalit back.)

And finally, let's stop electing fascists to the Knesset. And if this is too much to ask of ourselves, let's at least have the decency not to bring them into the government. And if even that's beyond us, if we're going to have fascists as cabinet ministers, if we go so far as to have one for finance minister or foreign minister, then let's not complain about the next surge in global anti-Semitism, because we will have provoked that one, too.

This is not the 1930s. We, the nation of Israel, are far from being powerless, and we are far from being innocent.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Israeli Apartheid Week

For five years, Israeli Apartheid Week has been going on on campuses around the world. The week usually consists of information sessions, speakers, films, and other events that highlight human rights abuses by Israel of the Palestinians. The use of the term "apartheid" and the strong pro-Palestinian theme has made IAW very controversial. Called "hate fests" by some, the pro-Israel lobby will often put pressure on university administrations to cancel the events, or at least prevent them from taking place on campus grounds. The belief is that such events threaten the safety of Jewish students.

Edmonton is having its first Israeli Apartheid Week ever, from March 1-8. The events are rather benign. A mother from Gaza talking about her experiences. A film about occupation. A panel discussion. Music and spoken word. All of the events take place in the evening. The Jewish community is already on alert and wants to send people to "monitor" the events. However, all of the events are expected to be videotaped and posted online - so, logically, this presumes that nothing is going to be taking place or said that the organizers would not want publicized.

University campuses are supposed to be places where the free exchange of ideas and beliefs take place. Certainly most are large enough to host a variety of viewpoints. Unless those words are explicitly dangerous or racist, they should not be silenced. In fact, I would encourage those who are pro-Israel to organize their own events - something which rarely ever happens around here. Really, when people don't take a stand, they should not get upset when other people do.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

What is Israel?

Many Jewish people connect with Israel as part of our religion. The Torah discusses Israel, as do other parts of the Bible. But what exactly is Israel? The word "Israel" means "one who wrestles with G-d." Wrestling with G-d and asking questions is an integral part of Jewish spiritual life. I started asking questions at one point about human rights and social justice between Israel and Palestine. In this context, "Israel" is not a land, but the people. The chant, "Am Yisrael Chai" means "long live the Jewish people" not necessarily "props to the land of Israel." The nation itself is Eretz Yisrael - the Land of Israel, that which was given to the Jews by G-d in the Torah, in approximately the same area where the modern State of Israel now resides. However, resistance to Zionism is not just the domain of Jews on the left. An extreme branch of Orthodox Jews believe that it is only when the Messiah comes (or returns, depending on one's theology in that regard). Also interesting is that the original Zionists were secular and politically left-wing. The whole idea of the kibbutz (communal work camp) is founded on socialist beliefs. Such a land of contradictions - religious extremism in leadership and socialism amongst the people; human rights violations of others and its own religious/cultural preservation. As a Jew, I wrestle with G-d. Sometimes I think the land of Israel wrestles against G-d, or at least in spite of Him.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Without a Jewish State - More 'New' Anti-Semitism

My father asked me to read this article from The Jerusalem Post. Of course, I can't say no to my father (dutiful daughter that I am), so I did.

Making the world 'Judenstaatrein'
Feb. 22, 2009

Naturally, I have some reactions. The article, in a nutshell, basically sees Irwin Cotler, a Canadian MP and pro-Israel advocate, equate the "new" anti-Semitism with anti-Israel attitudes. Nothing really "new" about that. Hoes does "new" and "old" anti-Semitism compare? In Cotler's words:

In a word, classical or traditional anti-Semitism is the discrimination against, denial of or assault upon the rights of Jews to live as equal members of whatever host society they inhabit. The new anti-Semitism involves the discrimination against the right of the Jewish people to live as an equal member of the family of nations - the denial of and assault upon the Jewish people's right even to live - with Israel as the "collective Jew among the nations."

The curious thing here, is that the Jewish people have a nation. Israel exists. It is a UN-recognized country. As a Jewish leftist, I believe Israel has a right to exist. The conflict between Israel and Palestine can be solved with a two-state solution, with strong, non-extremist leadership for both peoples. One state would never work. Sixty years of history can't just be magically erased. Yes, there are factions on the Palestinian side that would happily see Israel no longer exist. But Israel is not innocent either. By continually defying UN resolutions, engaging in human rights violations (such as what goes on at the checkpoints), and putting its military might to supposedly strategically get rid of "terrorists" while killing hundreds, sometimes thousands of women and children in the process -- isn't there bigotry and hatred in that?

But the rise in traditional anti-Semitism is bound up with the rise in the new anti-Semitism, insidiously buoyed by a climate receptive to attacks on Jews because of the attacks on the Jewish state. Indeed, reports illustrate both an upsurge in violence and related anti-Semitic crimes corresponding with the 2006 Second Lebanon War and the recent Israel-Hamas war, which delegates to the ICCA conference characterized as a "pandemic."

Any acts of violence or vandalism against Jewish people and institutions (like synagogues) is wrong. But I disagree that the cause of these attacks are the "attacks on the Jewish state." Instead, they are angry, inappropriate reactions to how Israel is treating the Palestinian population. The behaviour of the Israeli government has done more to fuel anti-Semitism than leftists ever could.

Cotler also discusses two very common comparisons used to describe Israel, especially by people who are anti-racist and pro-peace: that of Israel being a state that espouses apartheid and Nazi values.

And so it is then that Israel is delegitimized, if not demonized, by the ascription to it of the two most scurrilous indictments of 20th-century racism - Nazism and apartheid - the embodiment of all evil. These very labels of Zionism and Israel as "racist, apartheid and Nazi" supply the criminal indictment. No further debate is required. The conviction that this triple racism warrants the dismantling of Israel as a moral obligation has been secured. For who would deny that a "racist, apartheid, Nazi" state should not have any right to exist today? What is more, this characterization allows for terrorist "resistance" to be deemed justifiable - after all, such a situation is portrayed as nothing other than occupation et résistance, where resistance against a racist, apartheid, Nazi occupying state is legitimate, if not mandatory.

Let's see now -- Palestinians have been forced into camps that are separated by a wall . . . this has happened before in history, hasn't it? And there is a different set of rules for people who are Palestinian, as opposed to Israeli - checkpoints, harassment, restrictions. But let's not use such harsh terms as "Nazi" and "apartheid." It may offend someone.

How ironic it is that a group of people who have used the Holocaust to justify the need for Israel, then turn around and become the oppressors. Then, for people like Cotler to say that being upset towards Israel for this behaviour equates hatred of all Jews everywhere, because of course Israel is a Jewish state. Please - not in my name. While I am sure there are people who hate me for who I am no matter what I stand for, as a Jewish person who espouses values of dignity, human rights, and freedom for all people I am not going to pander to extremists and justify all Israel does simply because it is a "Jewish state."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Now, This is Anti-Semitism

Canada native leader cleared in second hate trial

My comments: If Ahenakew did not actively intend to promote hatred, what exactly was he trying to do? Gee, does this mean he can have his Order of Canada returned? I hate to admit this, but I agree with the CJC - hopefully he now knows what kind of damage such speech can do. His comments have been hurtful to both Jews and Aboriginals, causing deep shame and possibly damaging relations between the two groups.

OTTAWA (Reuters) - A Canadian native Indian leader who called Jews a "disease" was found not guilty on Monday of willfully promoting hatred, although the judge said the comments were "revolting, disgusting and untrue", the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. reported.

The trial was the second for David Ahenakew, 75, who told a local newspaper in the western province of Saskatchewan that Jews were a "disease" that Hitler was trying to "clean up" when he "fried six million of those guys".

Saskatchewan provincial court Judge Wilfred Tucker ruled that prosecutors had not proven that Ahenakew -- who made the remarks in a conversation with a reporter -- actively intended to promote hatred.

"Thank God it's over, and I mean that," the CBC quoted Ahenakew as telling reporters as he left the courthouse. "It's been awful."

Ahenakew, the former head of the Assembly of First Nations, was convicted of hate crimes in 2005 and successfully appealed the decision in 2006. He was fined C$1,000 ($800) after his initial conviction and stripped of the Order of Canada, the country's highest civilian honor.

During the second trial, Ahenakew told the court that he believed Jews had caused World War Two.

The Canadian Jewish Congress said in a statement it hoped Ahenakew "has come to understand the pain he has caused. We urge Mr. Ahenakew to make amends so he can be remembered for healing rather than for hurting".

($1=$1.25 Canadian)

(Reporting by David Ljunggren; editing by Rob Wilson)

Self-Hating Jews

Jewish people on the left wing are often accused as being self-hating. People like Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein, in particular. The reason is that those on the left, Jews included, tend to be highly critical of the policies of Israel towards the Palestinians.

Ridiculous. Or, should I say, mishugah.

Taking a stand for human rights and peace is one of the most Jewish things a person can do. Applying standards of justice and righteousness to Israel, as to anywhere in the world, is consistent with being part of the peace movement.

The term "self-hating Jew" implies that we have issues with our Jewishness. Being critical of Israel does not in and of itself equal having identity issues. I know Jews who support Israel who have issues with their Judaism. In fact, I would dare to say that we all have issues with ourselves, regardless of our political persuasion. Struggling with our faith and culture is part of being human. I know Christians who struggle with their identity, as well as people from different ethnic backgrounds who are trying to reconcile who they are with the world around them.

Accusing left-wing Jews of being self-hating is a distraction from the issues at hand: Israel's racist and war-mongering policies. I watched a video of Finkelstein on YouTube last evening that pretty well summed up the situation. Slapping the label of "self-hating" on to any Jew who criticizes Israel has no relevance. It doesn't mean our arguments are wrong, any more than if we were "self-loving."

Propaganda? What Propaganda?

Norman Finkelstein's visit to Edmonton last month raised a variety of reactions. This one, voiced in a Letter to the Editor in the Edmonton Journal, January 26, 2009, pretty much sums up the Zionist lobby's view.

'Anti-Israel propaganda'

I recently attended a lecture at the University of Alberta at the behest of concerned Jewish students looking for support to counter what they well knew would be an hour of anti-Israel propaganda. The guest speaker was Norman Finkelstein and his topic was "What We Can Learn from Gandhi: Resolving the Palestine-Israel Conflict."

As expected, his entire speech was a platform for the vilification of the Jewish state.

Why is our public funding of the university going towards lectures such as this on campus? Where was the administration? Faculty members? Where are the voices on and off campus to protest Finkelstein's visit? Their silence is deafening.

Shoshana Szlachter, regional director, B'nai Brith Canada - Alberta, Edmonton

The Journal did not cover Finkelstein's talk at all (nor did any of the other mainstream papers in the area). Many readers of the Journal may likely not even know who Finkelstein is. However, whenever someone cries "Anti-Israel Propaganda", it is expected by the Zionist lobby that everyone is going to jump and cry anti-Semitism. An academic who backs up what he says (and Finkelstein did) should not be silenced just because he isn't saying nice things about Israel. Saying that the U of A should not have let Finkelstein speak indicates that the person does not understand how a university works. Below is a response that adequately sums up the situation.

Re: " 'Anti-Israel propaganda,' " by Shoshana Szlachter, Letters, Jan. 26.

I, too, attended Dr. Norman Finkelstein's lecture on the Palestine-Israel conflict. His talk was calmly delivered, scholarly, well-researched, well-argued, and full of evidence -- usually quoted from Israeli or U.S. military sources -- that fully backed his claims. This makes it entirely appropriate for a university or any other audience. Those who dismiss his talk as "propaganda," without providing any counter-arguments or counter-evidence, simply demonstrate their own bankruptcy.

Dougal MacDonald, Edmonton

Sunday, February 22, 2009

American Radical

I so totally cannot wait until this movie is released.

Information from the producers:
American Radical is the probing, definitive documentary about American academic Norman Finkelstein. A devoted son of holocaust survivors, ardent critic of Israel and US Mid-East policy, and author of five notable books including, "The Holocaust Industry", Finkelstein has been steadfast at the center of many controversies, including his recent denial of tenure at DePaul University. Called a lunatic and disgusting self-hating Jew by some, and an inspirational revolutionary figure by others, Finkelstein is a deeply polarizing figure whose struggles arise from core questions about identity, individual freedom, nationhood, academic freedom and justice all at once.

Remembering the Children

The most innocent victims of war include children. In the latest military advance into Gaza by Israel, over 400 children were killed. These children were honoured on February 8 in cities around the world with a vigil. By candlelight, a list of the children's names were read.

Mothers Across the World for Gaza also took place in Edmonton. Some members of the local Jewish community found out about the event. It was communicated to them as though ti was going to be another big rally. After remaining silent on the Israel/Palestine issue over three major rallies and being the only major city in Edmonton not to have a pro-Israel event, a handful of Jewish people (mostly older folks joined the vigil.

I found out in advance that there was going to be a Jewish presence at the event (besides myself). I gave the organizer a call and put her in touch with the main person behind the Jewish community involvement. The two of them talked and supposedly worked out who was going to speak when.

Unfortunately, that did not happen. Members of the "counter-vigil" as they were calling it, were talking and giggling throughout the service. They brought with them a list of Israeli children who have died, not from this latest episode, but over time. When it came time for a moment of silence, they wanted to read the list first and then have a combined moment. Apparently, this was not the deal. The moment of silence happened anyways, and then the Israeli list was read.

I am totally in favour of remembering all children who have been killed in Israel/Palestine. However, this was not the proper time or place. If members of the local Arab community descended upon a Jewish-organized event of a similar type, likely the police would have been called and there would have been a major media hoopla. Actions such as this does little to foster good relations between the Arab and Jewish communities.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I wrote this song last year during Israel's previous siege on Gaza. It is about being Jewish and starting to critically examine what is going on in the Middle East. I had a choice to make, and I chose the side of peace. But not without a cost.


Been going through my mind, lately a lot
Have many questions about what I’ve been taught
Nothing’s as clear as it used to seem
As I stand idly by while humanity screams

I can’t sit on the fence anymore
When I have to choose between peace and war
And object to oppression where it arises
No matter what else it is disguised as

Something has to be done
Don’t know where to begin
Walls are meant to frame houses
Not trap people in

I’ve been told I should be ashamed,
I answer, “don’t do this in my name.”
I will acknowledge we’re of the same tribe
But in this case, I must step aside

I can’t sit on the fence anymore
When I have to choose between peace and war
And object to oppression where it arises
No matter what else it is disguised as

Something has to be done
Don’t know where to begin
Walls are meant to frame houses
Not trap people in

I cry for the children, the women, the men
Who face the same hardships again and again
Generations spent under a regime
Where freedom exists only in a dream

I can’t sit on the fence anymore
When I have to choose between peace and war
And object to oppression where it arises
No matter what else it is disguised as

Something has to be done
Don’t know where to begin
Walls are meant to frame houses
Not trap people in

We share the same blood
So I can’t understand
Why we have to keep killing
Over a piece of land
(We’re the sons and the daughters of Abraham)

I can’t sit on the fence anymore
When I have to choose between peace and war
And object to oppression where it arises
No matter what else it is disguised as

Something has to be done
Don’t know where to begin
Walls are meant to frame houses
Not trap people in

Not trap people in
Not trap people in
And it’s time to begin

© 2008 Paula E. Kirman

Friday, February 20, 2009

Israel/Palestine - What's a Jew to Do?

The recent violence in Gaza resulted in a number of rallies and events held in Edmonton. I was at many of them, and even participated a few times. The first rally for Gaza took place on January 4, and I sang the song "Walls", as I often do at these sorts of gatherings. I attended and photographed two other rallies, and filmed an educational seminar about the situation in Gaza, from a Palestinian perspective.

As well, in late January, Dr. Norman Finkelstein came to speak at the University of Alberta campus. He is a Jewish American academic who is highly critical of the Israeli government and policies towards the Palestinian people. He is also highly disliked amongst other Jewish people in particular, who view him as an anti-Semite or a self-hating Jew (which is ridiculous, because the man identifies publicly as being Jewish. He isn't anti-Semitic. Rather, his detractors are anti-semantic). There was a small backlash from the Jewish community, some of whom felt that he should not have been permitted to speak at the U of A. To some, being critical of Israel is akin to being anti-Jewish.

Being Jewish myself, I know how complicated the issue of Israel/Palestine can be. And I know that speaking out for the Palestinian people comes with a cost. I have been severely reprimanded by members of my family. I have concerns about some of my work arrangements, should those in the Jewish community find out and decide to take action. I've been called a traitor, a Jewish turncoat, told I should be ashamed of myself, and a few other choice things.

And yet I still speak out, participate, and sing. All because I think it is wrong for Israel to bomb the snot out of Gaza and in the process kill mostly innocent women and children. Because badly aimed rockets are being fired into Israel. Because the people are oppressed and are fighting back. The explanation I get, is that Hamas is using human shields, thus accounting for all of the deaths. Hamas is purposely firing rockets knowing Israel will fire back to those locations, where people are concentrated.

If this is true, and Israel knows the tactics that Hamas is up to - why play into it? Israel should have learned from the fiasco in Lebanon in 2006 that lots of dead women and children does not a victory make. A measured response does not involve trying to kill a mosquito with a sledgehammer, so to speak. Violence just begets more violence, and to say that Israel is correct in its actions is to basically justify murder. The human rights abuses committed by the IDF at checkpoints and the general entrapment of the people of in what is essentially a walled-off ghetto (sound familiar?) only breeds a culture of hate.

If saying these sorts of things makes me a bad Jew, then so be it. Part of my understanding of being Jewish is standing up for the rights of others and trying to make the world a better place (Tikkun Olam, as it is called in Hebrew). Too many Jews grow up being reared to have an unquestioning loyalty and patriotism towards Israel. How? Good old Jewish guilt. We are brainwashed into blind nationalism because of the Holocaust - Israel is our protection (and apparently gives us the right to treat other ethnic groups poorly). Israel is our homeland (even to those white-skinned Westerners who have never set foot in the Holy Land). "Hey - it says so in the Torah," cries the Jewish man who has not set foot in a Shul since his Bar Mitzvah and doesn't know Kiddush from Kaddish.

My Judaism is defined by who I am and the way I live my life, not by allegiance to a state. Zionism, to me, is a political ideology that sets Jewish interests above others. I believe in a two-state solution, with a strong and viable Israel and Palestine side by side. Critics of Hamas say that peace will not happen until extremism is eliminated. However, Israel is not immune to extremism either - I argue that bombing resulting in so many civilian casualties is quite extreme.

Criticism of Israel is not anti-Jewish. However, oppressing and trying to silence those dissenting voices, is. After all, arguing, debating, searching for meaning - these are all very Jewish things to do. However, this week, a concern was raised to me that my views on Israel may potentially polarize a faith community with which I am involved - one which is composed of people from different cultural and religious backgrounds. I strongly disagree. As reasonable, rational adults, we should be able to openly discuss our viewpoints and disagreements, without becoming hostile.

Shabbat shalom, salaam, and peace.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Interfaith Perspectives on Social Responsibility

I took in one of the free public lectures this afternoon on the University of Alberta campus as part of International Week. The session explored Christian and Muslim views on issues of social justice and poverty from a faith perspective, pointing to holy writings and modern interpretations on how to act responsibly towards the poor in our society. There was supposed to be a Jewish speaker, but unfortunately he was not available.

Both speakers did a good job explaining the views of their respective traditions, and answered questions on these topics. The bottom line seemed to be that we have a responsibility towards the poor through the giving of our time and money. There was also some discussion of the economic system in which we live, and how there are ways to work both inside of capitalism (such as in the areas of micro-loans) and in lifestyle choices that are more socialist (such as co-operative living). Governments have to make policy to force wealthy people to give to the poor when they will not out of their free will or religious views. In the Islamic tradition, one gives to the poor every year from one's excess wealth, while in Christianity there are many Scriptures that deal with providing for the poor and widows. Although there was no Jewish speaker, Judaism does put an emphasis on the giving of charity, and of fair treatment towards one's workers.

Religion provides us with an ethical framework by which to live our lives, and while there are many social activists who are not religious at all (and in some cases, are against any form of organized religion), the urge to combat poverty should lead us back to the framework and foundation of our faiths.