Rabbi Arthur Waskow, director of The Shalom Center and a key leader in the renewal of Judaism and progressive Jewish identity since the late 1960s, was born in Baltimore on this date in 1933. From 1963 until 1977 he was a senior analyst in Washington at the Institute for Policy Studies. Deeply involved in the nationwide movement against the Vietnam War, Waskow was arrested several times during this span for protesting against segregation, South African apartheid, the war, and the Soviet Union’s oppression of Jews. In 1968, following the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Waskow’s experience of walking through the military-occupied District of Columbia led to his writing The Freedom Seder, weaving together Jewish, Black and other liberation struggles, and also led to a profound religious awakening for him. Ever since, his explorations of Judaism as source of political conscience and interconnected human consciousness have inspired and instructed thousands of Jews through such books as Godwrestling (1978), Seasons of Our Joy (1982), and Down to Earth Judaism (1995). He founded The Shalom Center in Philadelphia in 1983 to lead American Jewish opposition to nuclear armaments and nuclear power. Its mission has since evolved to embrace environmental activism, the protection of human rights, the nurture of a creative, feminist Judaism, and peace-building among Jews, Muslims and Christians. Rabbi Waskow remains a highly creative, soulful activist who has been arrested nearly as often as he has been published, and whose skills as a writer, storyteller, organizational strategist, and holistic thinker have rightfully earned him a prophetic aura.
“One way of thinking about [my] cancer is that it is made up of cells that refuse to pause, to rest, to make Shabbat. Our society’s mania for Doing/ Making/ Speeding/ Never-Pausing is the society-wide equivalent of cancer, of refusing to make Shabbat. That is why I feel called so strongly to join in this call for a decision to refrain from Speeding-Up our poisoning of the Earth and each other. Meanwhile — the doctors say I should expect by the fifth week to be feeling more easily tired, and that my voice may hoarsen. So if my own voice for peace, for healing, for the Earth is less clear for the next month or so, let me implore you . . . to lift your own voices all the louder.” —Arthur Waskow