This week a court in Germany ruled that circumcising boys for religious reasons is “bodily harm.” The ruling came as a result of a court case about medical complications following the circumcision of a four-year-old boy. The doctor was acquitted, but apparently the court felt like stirring up a shit-storm anyway. The ruling isn’t binding but it certainly sets a precedent.
No winter holiday lends itself to environmental discussions quite as well as Hanukkah: getting eight days’ use out of one day of oil (the miracle on which the celebration is based) inevitably leads to discussions of efficiency and conservation. Numerous Jewish organizations have recognized this connection, and organized a variety of “green Hanukkah” celebrations in recent years involving everything from CFLs to recycled menorahs.
The Hebrew phrase Tikkun olam translates as “repair the world,” and has come to represent the notion of “human responsibility for fixing what is wrong with the world” in the Jewish faith. The Helen Diller Family Foundation and The Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco borrowed this phrase for their awards program that recognizes Jewish teens in California for work that embodies Tikkun olam. This year’s winners, which each receive $36,000 for college, or for supporting their philanthropic work, have just been announced, and include young people working on issues ranging from the refugee crisis in Darfur to access to textbooks in Liberia to providing school supplies for disadvantaged youth in Los Angeles.
In a blog post this morning for CNN’s American Morning, the Progressive Jewish Alliance’s executive director Elissa Barrett uses the occasion of Passover and the traditional Seder meal (which happens tonight) to discuss the issue of urban food deserts. According to Barrett,
On Passover we trace our path from oppression to redemption, from suffering to opportunity. As we recall our wandering through the desert on the way to freedom, our minds turn to those who are suffering today, to those still wandering the desert. The Progressive Jewish Alliance seeks solutions to repair injustices in our cities here and now, calling attention to the reality that millions of Americans live – unnecessarily – in “food deserts.”
Despite its rich history and culture, when Westerners think of the Middle East, two things likely come to mind: oil production and religious conflict. A small group of bloggers and journalists from the region, and from Islamic, Jewish, and Christian faith backgrounds, are out to address those perceptions, as well as the real issues behind them, by gathering in Jordan on December 20-21. Responding specifically to the United Nations’ call for more reporting on environmental issues in the region, the bloggers will discuss a range of topics, including “…activism, design, urban health, religion, and clean technologies.