Saturday, August 18, 2012

How Can You Hire This Man?

A while back I was interviewing a candidate for a job opening at work.  She was the third interview in that day and I was running late so I pulled up her resume and joined the conversation already in progress.  I had highlighted two points on the document that I was excited to see how well she presented herself.  When it was my turn to ask a question I referenced one of my highlighted points.  She looked at me as if I was speaking a foreign language.  So I hit my second point and the same results.  I assumed I had the wrong candidate and apologized for the mistake and ask her name again.  It matched the name I was looking at.  Confused, I asked about the points I was hoping to learn about when she said, “You see my friend made my resume, he must have gotten that wrong.”  And that was when I checked out of the interview and moved on.

I was reminded of that story earlier this week when the GOP’s likely VP candidate, Paul Ryan, this fall was talking about the 2009 stimulus package that President Obama and the Democrats used to turn around the collapsing economy.  You see the intent of the stimulus was to save of create jobs.  On more than one occasion Ryan was asked about stimulus and whether he could be counted among the hypocrite GOP members who screamed on TV about how the stimulus was socialism that wouldn’t work.  He clearly said he never asked for stimulus money and that it would destroy the economy.  However that proved not true.  He did in fact asked for it at least 4 letters in which he said that he was hoping to create or save thousands of jobs.  So a lying hypocrite proved and he of course did what any good upstanding person would do, blamed his staff.  The problem, like the woman in the interview with me was that his name, like hers, was right there on the paper.  They owned it and the fact that Ryan, like the woman’s resume, lied means they should be treated the same, Ryan’s interview for his newly sought job should be over. 

Now it is unlikely that I would ever vote for a member of the modern Republican party for their strange obsession on social issues, but how can anyone help this man become the number 2 most powerful man in the world, when he so easily lied about something so easily checked.  He padded the resume and if you hire him then you simply are rewarding deceit.  And that would be stupid. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Diversity is a difficult thing to navigate...but we try.

America is a great country and we have moved forward a great deal in embracing our diversity.  But we do have a long way to go but let's not focus on the negative.  This is my response to something I read that did.

We, as a culture, have a long way to go, but we are better than many places in the world when it comes to our multicultural nature. We were created as a multicultural country with the sense that what being American meant would change with each group that came to add to the mix. The Melting Pot was not a theory that we would all become the same white Anglo-Saxon Protestant cookie cutter, but some tried to force that and still do. Instead of embracing the other we fear or ignore it. But as a country we evolve. The Stonewall riots were in 1969 and today we have gay marriage in places like Iowa. Selma was in 1965 and today we have a Black President. Yes there is hate in our country but yes there is a growing trend to undo the hate as we learn about others.

The bottom line is we must see those who are different from us as being part of the grand tapestry of what it means to be American. The killer at the Sikh Temple had a history of White Power movement involvement. I don't know his mind, but I can guess that he was striking out against what he saw as an attack on what he thought was his America. That is ignorance turned violent. And that ignorance is what we must combat. Tolerance is not the solution. I was tolerant of the 100 degree weather this summer but if I had a magic wand I would make it go away. Understanding should be the solution.

We often focus on the examples of hate.  Violence and vandalism at mosques, synagogues, and even churches. Radio screamers saying things that 20 years ago were barely whispered in polite company. With the ubiquity of the internet rhetoric is higher than it ever was and people are proud of their bigotry. But I look elsewhere as well. I look to a stormy night this week where Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Baha’i and others all gathered in support and memory of the victims of Sikh tragedy. I look at efforts like the Interfaith Hunger Initiative to feed the hungry of Marion County and Western Kenya through an effort led by a variety of clergy and lay people from various houses of worship. I saw a diversity of football fans and those who love the city welcome the country to our city in January for the premier sporting event of the year. We are stronger together but our diversity is not without complications. America is a human endeavor with human failings. However to focus on the failings is to focus on the worst of us. Let us also acknowledge that we are moving forward, sometimes it looks like it is glacial but in my lifetime I have seen a black man with an Arabic name get elected President beating one of the most powerful political machines (one I supported) in the primary and a war hero in the general election. We have a long way to go, but we have come a long way. Clich├ęs are good for bumper stickers. I am betting most of America is sick as I am of those damn things.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

We All Must Weep

This week a community wept.  A community so misunderstood and unknown that even in the well wishers I have seen online have referred to them as Hindus.   Of course there is evidence that this attacker may have been thinking he was attacking Muslims.  For many after 9-11 there was no interest in understanding anyone who they thought could possibly be linked to the terrorists.  Sikhs were just seen as another form of Islam and in that ignorance the first person killed in the attempt at some kind of revenge was a Sikh.  Here we are in an information overload era and we still know so little about our neighbors.  But just to be clear even if the people killed were Muslims there is never a place for revenge on a group for the sake of few members of it.  But when September 11th took place there was fear, anger and ignorance which too often led to hate and violence. 
However one of the byproducts of 9-11 was that Americans woke up to the fact that living among us are a large and growing population of American Muslims.  Practically in every community Muslims have a presence.  But before the horror, now more than 10 years ago, most Americans knew little of their faith, traditions and diversity.    However at the same time since then a large and vocal minority have smeared all Islam with lies and distortion of the sacred texts and used intimidation and violence and in some cases the power of government to attack Muslims.  So the current battle in our cultural landscape is between those who have discovered an understanding of Islam and can separate the terrorists who abuse Islamic law for their own gains and the vast majority of peaceful Muslims who practice the faith in peace. 
But, how much more ignorance can our country endure?  The death of those in Wisconsin can never be seen as anything but a tragedy.  I will not add to the pain by saying something good can come out of it.  But like 9-11, we all have an opportunity to stretch ourselves.  To better understand the wonderful tapestry of our national community and to seek out information and understanding of others.  You can do it by simply reading about other people, this is not a great way, but it is the easiest.  A step further could be attending a cultural community event like the several offered by Spirit and Place Festival which demands interfaith cooperation.   Join an interfaith group working on a community cause you feel is important, like fighting hunger through work with the Interfaith Hunger Initiative or Global Interfaith Partnership.  Or you may simply ask your co-worker, your neighbor or the guy you but your coffee from everyday that you pretend to have a friendship with, about their weekend.  You will be surprised what you find out.  It isn’t hard.  People do it every day.  But don’t do it like an explorer seeking out the exotic.  The thoughts, language and practices of a people may seem unusual, but remain mainstream religions are not immune to appearing odd.  For example there is a religious tradition where a large tree is cut down, brought into the home and decorated like the gaming floor of a casino.  Another invites friends and family over 8 days after a baby boy is born to witness the snipping off of the foreskin and then all have egg salad.  When you see your traditions apart from context they too seem weird.  I also caution you to not let that one individual be a representative of all of that particular faith.  Remember for every faith tradition there is a wide variety of practice and belief.  Learning about a person and his traditions is not the end of the journey but a beginning.  But each drop of knowledge you can consume will you’re your bucket of understanding. 
We are a great country.  We have overcome slavery, huge waves of immigration, discrimination against Germans, Catholics, Jews, Irish, Italians, Chinese, and Japanese and on and on.  We fear the unknown but America has always faced its fear directly and struck a blow against it.  We may always have to wage the fight, but this kind of fight is sacred.   It will be good for America, it will be good for your city, your neighborhood, your home.  And it will be good for your heart.
May the memory of those killed at the hands of hate be blessing for their families and may they find rest in the eternal and may their families find comfort from their community and their relationship with God.   

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


I spent the last few days in New Jersey with a couple hundred educators from various Jewish agencies around the country. The conference was the 3rd year of a reinvention of CAJE.    CAJE was the Coalition for the Advancement of Jewish Education who would put on the Conference for Alternative in Jewish Education every summer for over 30 years.  A few years ago that organization fell apart and like a phoenix NewCaje was born from what remained.  And like a phoenix, the ashes can still be seen in on the wings of the new incarnation.  A few people felt that despite that failure of CAJE as an organization there was still room for a yearly conference and an educators network to inspire new educators and reinvigorate older veterans.  I was skeptical and I was wrong.  In the last three days I have seen great things that give me hope about Jewish education.  I have seen veterans mentoring younger teachers.  I have seen inspiration shared from great scholars to a room full of people who's Hebrew school experience was based on that very person's textbooks.  I saw a young budding storyteller give an impromptu performance in a class led by two giants who once had me stand in front of a class to tell a story.  I saw a dedicated man with a simple idea of a house shaped box for tzedukah and a vision to end homelessness one nickle at a time.  I learned from 20 something researcher who shares the vision I have of a comprehensive sexuality education model that will work in Religious and Day Schools.  And I have seen people creating curriculum you don't have to spend a great deal of money on to use in your class, from social action, to the history of the labor movement, to the timeline of women in Judaism.  One of my pet peeves about the Old Caje model was that there were many things with fancy titles and unknown instructors and the chances of landing in a bad session were high.  I gave up on learning at CAJE and focused on networking in the past.  But in two days I have learned a great deal of how I can be a better Education Director, found new ideas to share with my teachers and made strong connections to people who will help me make my school better and me a better person.  It was a great conference and I am glad CAJE is back.  There were logistical problems, communication issues and the overall structure needs tweeking.  But that is for another time.  I think this was a success and for all my old CAJE friends who didn't come.  The food was incredible and if I say know it was good.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

And Now for What Really Matters

I was touching base with an old friend and she reminded me that each day brings opportunities to build a good memory.  Today I had one of those.  Noah was being a bit lazy this morning.  When it was time  to go he kept saying in the way only a teen can say "I am coming" while still staring at his computer screen.  I let him know that it was time to go, directly by turning the computer off for him.  This afternoon when Dianne called me he wanted to talk on the phone.  This is big for Noah, he speaks on the phone less than a Mafia Don in the 70s.  He apologized for being so wrapped up in his game he couldn't move.  He wants me to remind him that it is hard for him to pull away so he isn't going to turn the computer on in the mornings when we have to leave so early.  He hugged me and made sure I wasn't upset with him.  He was talkative and contrite, which is also unusual for him.  We eat dinner together virtually every night he is at our house and often says less than 20 words during the meal.  I really am glad my friend reminded me to stop and drink in the simple moments.  I was wonderful.

The Current Has Been Torn Away

Anyone who has paid attention to Donald Trump over the last three decades has been aware that he has the empathy of Joseph Stalin and the n...