“The cross has been transformed into a harmless, non-offensive ornament that Christians wear around their necks. Rather than reminding us of the "cost of discipleship,” it has become a form of “cheap grace,” an easy way to salvation that doesn’t force us to confront the power of Christ’s message and mission.
Until we can see the cross and the lynching tree together, until we can identify Christ with a “recrucified” black body hanging from a lynching tree, there can be no genuine understanding of Christian identity in America and no deliverance from the brutal legacy of slavery and white supremacy.“ - James Cone, The Cross and the Lynching Tree
The University of Pennsylvania Libraries is partnering with the Princeton Geniza Project and the Library of the Jewish Theological Seminary to bring the Cairo Geniza to The Zooniverse community.
The purpose of phase I of Scribes of the Cairo Geniza is to sort Cairo Geniza fragments in order to prepare them for transcription in phase II (launching Spring 2018). In phase I, you will help us sort fragments into different categories based on their script types, whether they are written in Hebrew or Arabic scripts, whether they are written in formal or informal scripts, and whether they contain specific visual characteristics.
Ultimately, your help in phase I will improve the transcription process in phase II.
Please help us out! Sign up for an account on Zooniverse and start sorting fragments!
(Fans of @upennmanuscripts should be aware that we’re launching another Zooniverse project soon, so your new account can serve double duty! Watch this space!)
“Shalom Rav” (music by Jeff Klepper and Dan Freelander) featuring Caissie Levy and Ben Platt, accompanist Dana Haynes. Recorded by Larry Cameola on April 19, 2015 at “From Camp Ramah to Broadway” in the Feinberg Auditorium at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America, New York, NY.
In the fall of 2012, I taught a course at the Princeton Theological Seminary entitled “An Introduction to Rabbinic Literature.” I saw my mission as twofold. My stated goal was to familiarize my students with the intellectual and spiritual world of the Rabbis through the study of representative texts from each of the genres of rabbinic literature: Mishnah, Tosefta, the Talmuds, and the halakhic and aggadic midrashim.
However, my study of text had a subtext: to disabuse my Christian students of the pernicious stereotypes of rabbinic Judaism that, some would argue, were first fostered by the apostle Paul and that persist to this very day in many Christian circles. I speak in particular of the image of rabbinic Judaism as spiritless legalism, lacking in compassion for the sinner and offering no path to salvation.
I began addressing and combating this perception by presenting the rabbinic treatment of “an eye for an eye” (Exod. 21:24, Lev. 24:20, and, with slight variation, Num. 19:21). The Torah seems to be prescribinglex talionis, imposing the same injury on the assailant as he inflicted upon his victim. Through midrashic interpretation, however, our Sages posited that what was intended was monetary compensation rather than corporal retribution.
The Rabbis understood well that the law is not always just. They struggled to counteract the inequities that are sometimes its result, and they were not indifferent to the claims of compassion—because they recognized that law (halakhah) is revealed to us through Torah, which we received as a consequence of God’s love for us. Lawitself can be an expression of love when it is meant to guide us toward the good and the holy. As we read in the blessing before the Shema in the morning liturgy: “You have shown us a great love…you taught [our ancestors] live-giving laws; so too, show us favor and teach us.”
Paula Hyman was born in 1946, in Massachusetts, USA. Judaism was very important in her upbringing, and she remained committed to it for the entirety of her life. She received her Bachelor of the Arts from Radcliffe College in 1968. During high school and college, she spent many additional hours studying Hebrew and Jewish texts at the Hebrew Teachers College of Boston, and in 1966 received her Bachelor of Journalism from this school. In 1975, she earned her PhD from Columbia University. Her dissertation was “From Dreyfus to Vichy: The Remaking of French Jewry, 1906–1939,” and immediately established her place amongst Jewish historians.
In 1976, Hyman co-authored “The Jewish Woman in America,” the beginning of her commitment to bringing Jewish women’s narratives into historical narratives. She became the first woman to be the dean of the Seminary College of Jewish Studies in 1981, as well as teaching history at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. In 1986, she became the Lucy Moses Professor of Modern Jewish History at Yale, and in 2004 was elected the president of the American Academy for Jewish research. Also in 2004, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award in Historical Studies, awarded by the National Foundation for Jewish Culture. Hyman’s longstanding commitment to Jewish women’s voices and history has had a far-reaching impact and will continue to inspire many.
Want to know more? Check out:
Gender and Assimilation in Modern Jewish History: The Roles and Representation of Women by Paula Hyman
The Jewish Woman in America by Paula Hyman, Charlotte Baum, and Sonya Michel
Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia by Paula Hyman and Deborah Dash Moore
Bella Abzug was born in New York, USA in 1920 to Russian Jewish immigrants. Her father died when she was 13, and though she was told it was not permitted for women to say the Kaddish, she went to the synagogue every week for a year and recited it anyway. Abzug went to Hunter College, and obtained a law degree from Columbia University in 1947, before going on to do post-graduate work at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. She became an attorney and took on civil rights cases in the South, and advocated for the Equal Rights Amendment and the end of the Vietnam war. In 1970, she ran against the 14-year incumbent of her district and won House Representative, with the slogan “The woman’s place is in the House - the House of Representatives.” She was a representative until 1976, and in 1971 co-founded the National Women’s Political Caucus. In the early 1990s, she also cofounded the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO), and became an influential figure in the UN through this group and her foundation of the Women’s Caucus. In 1994, she was admitted to the National Women’s Hall of Fame.
Want to know more? Check out:
Bella!: Ms. Abzug goes to Washington by Bella Abzug
Gender gap: Bella Abzug’s guide to political power for American women by Bella Abzug and Mim Kelber
Marilyn McCord Adams was born in the USA in 1943. She attended the University of Illinois, before moving on to receive her PhD from Cornell University and continued theological studies at the Princeton Theological Seminary. She then received her Doctor of Divinity degree from Oxford University, where she became the first American and the first woman to be a regius professor of divinity. She was first a distinguished professor of philosophy at many schools, and was ordained an Episcopalian priest in 1987. She was an active feminist theologist, focused on the problem of evil, and well-known for her strong support for same sex marriage.
Want to know more? Check out:
Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God by Marilyn McCord Adams
Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology by Marilyn McCord Adams
What's the conservative viewpoint on body modification? Tattoos, piercings, and surgery for trans people?
Jewish tradition teaches that when a human being mints a coin with a mold, all the coins are identical, but God coined every person out of the first human being and each one is unique. This simple text movingly articulates the Jewish approach to the body: We are each God’s own exquisite, beloved creation and should inhabit our bodies in a manner that celebrates this sacred relationship. Tattooing is prohibited explicitly by the Torah (Leviticus 19:28). However, to characterize the issue, especially to young people, in terms of “taboo” misses a crucial opportunity to convey Jewish affirmations of the fundamental dignity of the human being, of religious aspiration to achieve wholeness, and permission to take joy at being in the world. The Conservative position on tattooing states that while we discourage the practice, no sanctions are imposed. The person may be buried in a Jewish cemetery and participate fully in Jewish life and ritual. We live in a society of immense stress. Many, including—tragically—many young people, struggle to manage themselves with abuse of food, drugs, tobacco, alcohol, cutting…the list is troublingly long. We need to remind each other that we are indeed God’s “currency” in the world, unlike man-made coinage, in that we are of immeasurable value.
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, The Rabbinical Assembly, New York, NY
Body piercing is not prohibited, although legitimate concerns regarding tz’ni’ut and other traditional Jewish values should be taken into consideration and guide one’s choices. At all times a Jew should remember that we are created b’tzelem Elokim. We are called upon to incorporate this understanding into all our decisions.
Rabbi Alan Lucas, Temple Beth Shalom, Roslyn Heights, NY
On Sex Reassignment Surgery (let me know if there’s a better term):
In 2003, the Conservative movement deemed sexual reassignment surgery an essential component of gender transition. But many trans people never receive surgery, and so their transitions go unrecognized by the movement. Rabbi Leonard Sharzer, a bioethicist at the Jewish Theological Seminary, has written a Jewish legal opinion that counters the Conservative ruling, saying that Jewish law should consider trans Jews according to the gender they identify with regardless of surgical status. He plans to submit his opinion to the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards, the Conservative movement’s law-making body.
Journey to Liberation: The Legacy of Womanist Theology
In this film, filmmaker Anika Gibbons ‘13 takes a deeper look at the radical spirituality and scholarship within the lives of the founding mothers of Womanist theology and Womanist ethics. She focuses on their significance as African-American theology and history, and on the role played by Union in that founding.
Happy 96th (!!!) Birthday to my beautiful opera singer aunt, Margaret Tynes! She was born in Saluda, Virginia on September 11, 1919 just as race riots broke out in cities all over the United States - the “Red Summer of 1919”. She was the eighth of ten children born to Rev. Joseph W. Tynes and his wife, educator Lucy Rich Tynes. Rev. Tynes held a divinity degree from Virginia Union University at a time when most Black men were lucky to have a high school education and subsequently served as vice-president of Virginia Theological Seminary and College. He was also an an accomplished poet. Aunt Margaret had a phenomenal international career as a singer in opera, jazz and theater for over fifty years. A graduate of North Carolina A&T State University (BA 1939) and Columbia University (MA 1944), she is a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority. She starred as Harry Belafonte’s leading lady off-Broadway in a show he produced called “Sing Man, Sing!” She also recorded a jazz suite called “A Drum is a Woman” with Duke Ellington and made several appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. In 1961, she gained international acclaim as Salomé at the Spoleto Festival of the Two Worlds in Italy, where she lived for more than forty years. This picture was taken by the invaluable Carl Van Vechten on September 29, 1959. Photo: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Rare Christian INTP here! I am a skilled theologian and apologist who prides herself in being an intellectual Christian who knows that reason and religion ARE compatible. However, the sheer lack of religious NTs is depressing sometimes. Any advice?
Allow me to illustrate why many people who think as Rationals tend to may not find the visible stamp of Christianity all too alluring:
I would like to direct your attention to this document, Doctrine in the Church of England: The Report of the Commission on Christian Doctrine Appointed by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York in 1922. I have included a screenshot of the applicable paragraph below.
Yes, it has been recognized by “educated Christians” and scholars since nineteen-freaking-twenty-two that the two (conflicting when read literally, mind you) creation narratives of the Bible share a close literary resemblance to mythological structure – even more specifically related to older Mesopotamian creation myths – in its use of dramatic narrative devices and resemblance to oral traditions. You can find books and papers published by respected academics on the matter. I can get you started with this essay, entitled “The Narrative Form of Genesis 1: Cosmogonic, Yes; Scientific, No”, published by Conrad Hyers, PhD (in Theology and Philosophy of Religion from Princeton Theological Seminary) as an abridgment of portions of his book on the subject, The Meaning of Creation: Genesis and Modern Science.
Welcome to the intersection of reason and religion!
How do you explain the new kind of Civil Rights Movement that's happening right now with #blacklivesmatter?
It isn’t a new kind of anything. It fits into the template of nonviolent resistance. But this time around there is a sickening twist.
I’ll tell you a story:
Gandhi was probably the first person to realize that a war for independence could be won in newspapers instead of on battlefields. That is, Gandhi realized that if you could show the body of imperialism what the hands had to do in order to feed it then that body would recoil in a spasm of self-consciousness.
To this end, Gandhi led peaceful protestors into the brutality and murder by which British colonialism sustained itself in India. He did this on such a scale and with so singleminded a purpose that it was covered by Western journalism. The reporting that carried this violence from the extremity of the British Empire into its heartland held a mirror up to the ogre’s face. And India, which had not been conquered on the order of some English popular referendum but instead by the rapacity and avarice of the British aristocracy, came to be seen for what it was: a victim of one of the greatest feats of greed ever carried out.
On April 9th, 1950 Martin Luther King heard a black preacher named Mordecai Johnson (then the president of Howard University) speak in Philadelphia. Johnson had spent some time in India and spoke at length about the philosophical underpinnings of Gandhi’s method.
To Gandhi, nonviolence was a matchless weapon. This is because it is founded on a concept called satyagraha. This word means something like ‘truth-force’ or ‘the persuasive power of love’ in Sanskrit. Nonviolent resistance could never be defeated because it was founded on love for one’s enemies. This love is the source of a protester’s refusal to physically attack his or her adversary. In Gandhi’s hands, and with the help of the international press, it had just been used to win the independence of 390 million people.
King later said that this talk was so “electrifying that I left the meeting and went out and purchased half a dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works.” King was then still a student at Crozer Theological Seminary, just south of Philadelphia. That Sunday in 1950 was the beginning of nonviolent resistance in the American Civil Rights movement.
In reading about Gandhi’s philosophy and the strategy for Indian independence that it generated, Martin Luther King came to several realizations:
Nonviolent resistance refuses to participate in evil, but not in the same way that pacifism refuses. If pacifism simply refuses to participate in evil, nonviolent resistance is a passionate and relentless intervention in the lives of those who do participate in evil. In this way, King saw that the basic tension in any racial struggle was not between the races but instead within in the hearts of those who oppress. A tension between the basic desire of all human beings to be good and the racist conditioning by which life in America blunts this desire and bends their actions, instead, towards evil. King, like Gandhi before him, realized that nonviolent resistance was a way of untwisting the hearts of those who did this evil. Both saw nonviolent resistance as a kind of therapy that the oppressed performed on the oppressor:
Imagine the unarmed crowd approaching the colonial police.
The police draw their clubs and by their violent intent reveal the evil in their hearts.
The unarmed crowd is beaten bloody.
And in the pools of spilled blood the oppressors see themselves reflected, not as they are told they are, but as they really are.
And this realization is carried to the four corners of the Earth by the journalists whom Gandhi invited to observe.
Nonviolent resistance works by forcing the oppressor–whether he is a single colonial policeman or the most distant beneficiary of the British Empire–to see themselves as they really are.
King realized that American society was similarly twisted and ignorant of itself. American society thought itself good but night after night found itself throwing ropes over the branches of pecan trees, found itself refusing to see the oppression and savagery by which it had come to be, found itself in a three hundred and fifty year moral sleepwalk, and King realized that American society could be brought to self-consciousness, could finally find itself, by forcing the evil at its heart into broad daylight while television cameras watched.
In this sense King’s project of national therapy was the opposite of Black Power. King sought to absolve every white heart with black blood. Malcolm X would happily have left America to stew in its richly deserved national guilt so long as black bodies were immune from attack. It’s not hard to feel Malcolm’s rage and it was not easy for King to explain himself to the militant wing of black liberation. It is difficult to claim that the Black answer to three hundred and fifty years of exploitation, rape, and murder should be a willingness–and even the desire–to have your jaw broken by a riot police.
In the end, both leaders were assassinated. The Civil Rights Movement hit its high water mark and ran its course, without Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. And America settled into forty years of self-satisfied eulogy for one of them, backsliding all the while.
We are in the middle of a new campaign of nonviolent resistance. This campaign has no leader, no organizing committee, no controls, no satyagraha and no participants except the police and their victims.
I say that Oscar Grant, Aiyana Jones, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, Ezell Ford, Marlene Pinnock, Eric Garner, Sam DuBose, Alton Sterling, Philando Castille and every other person whose death and brutalization was captured by a camera for all to see are these participants. I say that each has been unwillingly drafted into a national demonstration of the contempt with which black bodies can be treated in America.
I say that the ubiquitous presence of cameras has done this.
These cameras record the nonviolence of black people and the lethal force with which this is met by police.
Black life in America is lived so wholly on the edge of a knife that the most trivial interaction between a black person and the police has mortal consequences.
I say that videos of these mortal consequences are drilling into the twisted American heart just as the televised brutality of Birmingham did in 1963. The manifest innocence and nonviolence of those brutalized and killed by police on camera are forcing the American heart to face itself, again.
And though this new campaign drills into the same old heart and sparks the same self-consciousness that Martin Luther King sought to kindle there, it bears a critical difference from hierarchical campaigns for civil rights. The new campaign is emergent: It is generated by the friction of circumstance and not by the labor of an organization.
This means that the present campaign of nonviolent resistance cannot be stopped.
Martin Luther King could be shot and America could fall asleep when he ceased to breathe. But these police murders will continue to occur as a matter of circumstance and as matters of circumstance they will continue to be recorded by cameras.
Whatever activism is bred on the outrage, or handwringing, or excuses that these recordings produce, this activism is secondary to the campaign. The campaign and its draft of circumstance will continue to select innocent and unresisting black people to join in death those whose murders have been recorded. This is quite unlike the extraordinary situations that Gandhi and Martin Luther King created, the situations by which the oppressor was forced to see his own face and forced to feel the evil in his own heart when his police beat defenceless crowds.
The new campaign is not created because the new campaign, like racism itself, is happening everywhere and at all times.
I say America is now a society that–from this angle–can no longer avoid the mirror.
But when considering whether marijuana legalization and the recent bipartisan initiatives represent genuine progress- and by that I mean truly transformational change- I think we should ask ourselves:
Have we as a nation changed our minds about the dignity and value of those people whose lives have been destroyed by the drug war, or have we simply changed our minds about marijuana?
If legalization is motivated primarily by our changing views of the drug- the growing consensus in the medical community that marijuana is actually less harmful than alcohol or tobacco- but our views about them, those who have been targeted en masse for minor drug crimes, hasn’t really changed. Then we haven’t made much progress from a racial justice perspective.
Similarly, we’ve got to ask ourselves whether the primary engine driving the new bipartisan enthusiasm for criminal justice reform. Whether that enthusiasm has been driven primarily by a new awakening to the value of the lives in communities that have been destroyed, or is this enthusiasm driven primarily by concerns about the cost of this massive prison state and a reluctance to raise taxes on a predominantly white middle class?
Truly transformative change will come when and only when we change rules laws and practices because we have opened our hearts and our minds for the better- regarding the dignity and value of all people of all colors, no matter who they are, where they came from, or what they may have done.
By doing the right thing for the wrong reasons we save lives today only to lose them tomorrow. For what we know, what we certainly ought to know by now, is that systems of racial and social control adapt and morph over time. Adapting to the needs and constraints of the time
Michelle Alexander, “On The New Jim Crow, at Union Theological Seminary” (source: x)