Why do I keep returning to Poland?

July 3, 2018

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A preliminary question is, why do I go to RC classes and workshops on the first place. They are not pure fun (although they do have fun moments), and I am sometimes asked why I keep on doing something that I do not necessarily enjoy. Especially when that involves traveling to another country.
My answer is, I go to RC workshops because they are a space where I can think well about my life, and discharge patterns that have made me decide bad decisions in the past. This is also the case with the HFW workshops in Poland, which are led by Julian Weissglass.
But there are additional reasons, unique to these workshops, which I will hereby list, not necessarily in order of importance.
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I love being in Poland, a country whose struggles resemble those of Israel, a country that is within 4 hours flights from Israel, and its time only differs from ours in 1 hour. Poland is a country where I do not need to hide my being an Israeli Jew. I can can safely speak Hebrew or hold a Hebrew book in public places, and I will not get into trouble. People might actually be interested in a benign way.
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I love the international atmosphere in the HFW workshops in Poland, the cultural diversity. In the Zionist-Socialist home where I grew up, there were picture books about children from other countries, there were children’s magazines with tales from distant countries, including countries that are not predominantly white. I loved that as a boy, and I still do.
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I love that people from Asia, Africa and eastern Europe are central to the HFW workshops in Poland. At times, I feel central to these workshops too. That contradicts my “youngest in the family” distress. I love that the workshops are not dominated by USers and UKers. I sometimes read reports from workshops in the US, where the authors make a note that “there were also participants from the Canada, England and Israel” – as if we were some exotic supplement. In the HFW workshops in Poland, we are yet another group of interesting people.
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I love that I can learn about the struggles of people from different cultures first hand, and reflect on mine. Usually, in international settings, people try to hide these struggles in order to keep the national pride, or conversely, defame their countries in a patterned way. In the HFW workshops in Poland, people seem to be more rational with regards to these struggles.
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I love that I get to meet people I have known for so many years, some of whom have become my regular counselors. I love that I can meet new people who are experienced co-counselors, whom I can acquire as new regular counselors. At home, the only new people I get to meet are new in RC, and there is no telling how committed they are to the one-point-program.
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I love that I can witness and exerience what it is like to be around allies to Jews in an RC setting, one thing that I cannot witness and experience in Israel. I can watch what they do, and learn how to become an ally to people for whom I am in an oppressor role: women, people of the global majority, GLBTQ, young people. First hand experience is so much more helpful than reading the literature.
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I love that the workshops evolve from year to year. The evolution of language liberation is the most spectacular example, but there are other changes each year. This year, the workshop that I am to attend will be preceded by a one day workshop for men. That is new! I see these changes as a measure against stagnation. I have given Julian credits for that on several occasions.
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 I love the idea that people can heal from the hurts caused by wars.
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Hence, I keep returning.
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Variations in language liberation – Part II

November 20, 2017

[ not posted anywhere, 2046 words ]

Summary

In the first part of this article, I discussed the narrative for language oppression which we had figured it out in the RC community, and suggested that there are other narratives. Let us now look at the way in which language oppression operates on Hebrew speakers. Hebrew is ancient. It is the language of the bible. As such, it is quite highly respected by native speakers of other languages. Hebrew is believed to have been spoken by Jews alongside with other languages. Hence, multilingualism is a part of our heritage, we do not perceive multilingualism as an attack on our identity. In the 20th century, the Zionist revolution aimed to make Hebrew the native language of all Jews. In the process, Hebrew served to oppress some other languages that only some of the Jews had spoken. In that sense, it was the oppressor’s language. At the same time, like other small groups of native speakers, Hebrew speakers have been targeted by the language oppression of the English language,  the international language of the contemporary capitalistic world. These factors make Hebrew one of the languages that do not comply with the one-oppressive-language-one-oppressed-language narrative.

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In the first part of this article, I discussed the narrative for language oppression which we had figured it out in the RC community. I argued that language liberation work in RC can benefit from recognizing that language oppression can take several forms, that our next phase should be recognizing that language liberation can take various variations, and figuring out what they might be. In this concluding part, I will illustrate this argument by describing the case for Hebrew, my native language, for which I have first hand information. The following is not the only possible history of the Hebrew language, nor is it the “mainstream” or “standard” history. It is certainly not RC theory. This is just the information I have, and it is meant as an illustration to my argument that language oppression can take forms that are different than the one-oppressive-language-one-oppressed-language narrative.

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Hebrew is ancient

Hebrew exists for quite a long time. The land of Israel has been producing a lot of artifacts that have Hebrew scripts on them. Scientists date these pieces of stone and clay as far as 3000 years ago. Some of them are written in ancient alphabets, that predated the Hebrew alphabet that we currently use, which is less ancient than the language. When scientists map the signs on these pieces of stone and clay into the current Hebrew alphabet, contemporary Hebrew readers can read and understand them. They reveal a variety of human activities that took place in this part of the world: agriculture, commerce, family affairs, worship. We Israeli Jews are quite proud with the antiquity of our language. Whenever such an artifact is found and mapped, it is on the news headlines.

 Hebrew is believed to be the language in which the bible (aka the Old Testament) was created. This belief is shared by those who believe that the bible was given by God and those who believe that it is a human creation. The biblical Hebrew is not very different from modern Hebrew. In Israeli Jewish schools, the pupils start learning bible in class 2, right after they are assumed to have gained basic reading skills. The text books contain excerpts from the bible, with the ancient obsolete words interpreted on side notes. This is due to the fact that although the language has changed, the basics remained the same. Hence, full translation is not required. There have been many scholars in the wide world who have been learning it as part of their religious quest, mostly Protestant Christians. Being the language of the bible, Hebrew is treated with respect, although it only has 7 millions native speakers, most of whom live in a very limited part of the globe.

Once, in a workshop, I had chosen to speak English in some setting. A well intentioned co-counselor interfered and suggested that I should proudly speak my native language. I think that that co-counselor was trying to apply the one-oppressive-language-one-oppressed-language narrative on me, by suggesting that I’d take pride in my native language. That was not helpful.   

Background text pattern concept wordcloud illustration of of multilingualism

Background text pattern concept wordcloud illustration of of multilingualism

Jews and multilingualism

Jews have not been writing history up until the 19th century. In our tradition, it was not considered a useful thing to do. But Jews of past generations did leave written records of all sorts, and those records teach us a lot about their lives. Also, we can learn about their lives from what their non-Jewish neighbors wrote. We have reasons to believe that a significant part of every Jewish community was multilingual. These were typically the more privileged people of the community: the scholars and the rich. The vast majority among them were males.

 In Biblical times, the privileged people apparently spoke Aramaic, the international language of ancient Mesopotamia, while the common people spoke Hebrew. In the bible (Isaiah 36,11), the representatives of the king of Judea plea to an Assyrian field commander that sieged Jerusalem to speak Aramaic, which they understand, and not to speak Hebrew, which the “people on the wall” can understand. Later, in the times of the Talmud, the roles were were reversed: Aramaic became the common language, while Hebrew became the language of the religious practice and thought.

 In diaspora, Jewish communities existed in separation from the non-Jewish communities. Several dialects evolved in these separated communities, which were based on the local languages. Jewish Arabic evolved from Arabic, Ladino evolved from Spanish and Yiddish evolved from medieval western Germanic. These languages became the native languages of the newborns in these communities. The young males who depicted a gift for learning were taught Hebrew and Aramaic as part of their religious education. At times, the community paid for the education of the males whose families could not afford it. It was considered a good cause. And then there were the secular leaders of the community, who typically dealt with the non-Jewish communities, and therefore had to know the local language. Some outstanding religious leaders could speak the local language as well, judging by the tales that were told about them.

 The 18th century saw the rise of nationalism and of secularization in Europe. Nation states were formed in some parts of Europe, replacing the multi-ethnical empires. In some of states, Jews were allowed to live in the cities. Hence, more Jews had become speakers of the majority language, in addition to their own languages.

That well intentioned co-counselor, that I mentioned above, may have thought that multilingualism was forced upon us, as it apparently did upon all oppressed group of native speakers, according to the one-oppressive-language-one-oppressed-language narrative. That well intentioned co-counselor may have assumed that everyone needs to stick to one language as some form of defiance. That was not a rational assumption.    

 peace in different languages word cloud collage

 An oppressor language, an oppressed language

 Throughout the 19th century, Jews in Europe gradually learned that the majority groups of the European nations do not perceive them as part of the nation. By the middle of the 19th century, a minority among the Jews in Europe came up with the idea that they were a nation themselves, just like the nations that evolved around them. That led to the question – what is going to be their national language. Later, it led to the idea that the Jews need a nation state of their own. That idea was called Zionism. The Zionists started to work towards founding the state of Israel.

 The debate over the choice of the national language took place in the Jewish literary magazines in eastern Europe. Some said that the national language should be Yiddish, because that is the language that most Jews speak. Some said that it should be Hebrew, because the idea is to revive an old nation, so it makes sensne to revive the old language. And then there were those who argued, that a modern European language need to be used for higher education, so that the newly built nation will be modern and highly educated. The debate over language in higher education institutes was labeled at the time “the war of the languages“.

 This verbal war was eventually decided by an actual war, WW2, in which the vast majority of the Yiddish speakers were murdered by the Germans and their helpers. During WW2 and shortly afterwards, the Soviet authorities destroyed the Yiddish culture that was allowed to exist in the USSR before and during the war. The survivors found refuge in nation states that would have them. Some of them immigrated to the land of Israel, either because they were Zionists (as were my parents), or because they had nowhere else to go.

 Those were revolutionary times for the small Jewish community in the land of Israel. The outcomes of WW2 needed to be dealt with. There was the struggle to end the British rule. The War of Independence was fought and won. An independent state was declared. A huge influx of refugees from the Muslim countries came in, and required care. In revolutionary times, it often makes sense to cling to a simple model and overlook subtleties. Hence, there has been cases where state officials acted out oppressive attitudes towards the Yiddish speakers. Anti-Zionist activists, both ultra observant Jews and Marxists of all sorts, use each and every one of these cases to illustrate their accusation that Zionism and the state of Israel are inherently oppressive. They will not tell you, however, that Yiddish was perceived as the language of the oppressor by the newcomers from the Muslim countries. Jews from Muslim countries are not Yiddish speakers. For Jews from Muslim countries, Yiddish was the language that the European Jews, who now held power positions in the new state, spoke in their presence, excluding them from the conversation.

 Those revolutionary times are over and gone. The traditional Jewish languages are now allowed to exist in the state of Israel. They are learned in linguistics departments in universities and in fan clubs in the major urban centers. There are minor artistic scenes that operate in these languages: theatre, music, poetry. There are voices from conservative circles that condemns the flourishing cultural scene in Russian that has evolved since the 1990s, but there is no institutionalized attempt to oppress it.

 Hebrew currently continues to be an oppressed language as well. Like the native languages of other small groups of people, Hebrew speakers have been targeted by the language oppression of the English language,  the international language of the contemporary capitalistic world. Texts that are aimed to sell things are not translated to Hebrew, because it is not perceived as cost effective. Hebrew speakers who are not fluent in English can sometimes be looked down upon. Also, in some places across the globe, speaking Hebrew puts you in danger of being attacked.

Once, I attended a language liberation class in a workshop. At a mini-session, I mentioned the role of Yiddish in the history of my family. My co-counselor’s face lit up with joy. “Yeah!”, he called out, “what do you think about Yiddish?”. I know that co-counselor for a while, so I know that he has some sentiments towards Marxism. Hence, it felt like he had thought that he was offering me a session on my alleged oppressor distresses with regards to Yiddish. That was not helpful.

Conclusion

 In the first part of this article, I discussed the narrative for language oppression which we had figured it out in the RC community, the one-oppressive-language-one-oppressed-language narrative, and I suggested that there are other narratives. In this second part, I described  some factors make Hebrew one of the languages that do not comply with that narrative. Of course, there are other languages that do not comply with it as well.

 In revolutionary times, it often makes sense to cling to a simple model and overlook subtleties. I think that now, after having made some very impressive accomplishments with language liberation, it is time for us to look at the subtleties. I think that we should do that in order to broaden our understanding of language liberation, and help speakers of different languages come closer to one another.

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Variations in language liberation – Part I

November 20, 2017

[ not posted anywhere, 1108 words]

Summary

 The RC community’s work towards language liberation has produced some very impressive accomplishments. At its initial phase, the work was largely based on a narrative where there always is one oppressive language that oppresses one oppressed language. This paradigm served us well on the initial phase of language liberation, the revolutionary phase.

However, this narrative does not apply to each and every case of language oppression. I will hereby argue that language oppression can take several forms, and that therefore, our next phase should be recognizing that language liberation can take various variations, and figuring out what they might be. I will illustrate my argument by describing the case for several languages.

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Our accomplishments

I am very proud with the progress that we have made in understanding language oppression and eliminating it from our RC communities. Thanks to the powerful leadership of Xabi Odriozola Ezeitza, and the support of many others, much has changed in how interpretation works in workshops and in how people write to the lists. When I started RC, interpretation in workshops seemed like a purely technical matter, of enabling communication between a leader from the US and the local Hebrew speaking community. Nowadays, we are having “a minute for the interpreter” and “a minute of silence”. We are making sure, that all languages that are represented in a workshop are visible. We are aiming to let oppressed languages more visibility. Likewise, we aim to write posts in a language that is as accessible as possible, and we precede the text with a summary. Moreover, we have a theory that tells us how language oppression operates. This theory guides us how not to act out language oppression and how to interrupt it.

 I am even more proud of the fact, that we have developed this theory in-house, responding to  needs that we have had, due to our goal of uniting people from different parts of the world. It has not been a piece of theory which had existed in the wide world before RC, and which we have incorporated into our theory.

I would like us to consider a direction for pushing our language liberation work to a next phase.

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The narrative

Currently, there seems to be one narrative that we use to describe language oppression. According to this narrative, a group of people was inhabiting some territory, was living in peace and harmony, both within itself and with the environment. That group was speaking one language, the one that it had spoken since the beginning of mankind. Then came another group of people, from a distant place. This second group used a superior technology to take over the land and the resources, killed many people from the first group and subjugated most of the others. Most, because there have always been few who did not surrender. As part of the subjugation process, the second group (we started calling them “the oppressors”) used various brutal techniques to make the first group (we now call them “the oppressed”) abandon their language, and start speaking the language of the second  group instead. Let me name this the one-oppressive-language-one-oppressed-language narrative.

 Of course, this has really happened in a lot of places, and it is tragic. But there have also been other scenarios in which oppression through language took place. Some of them were not all that brutal. Some scenarios happened between groups who originally lived nearby, so there was no invasion from a distant place. Some scenarios happened between groups whose languages were not all that different, from a linguistic point of view. For example, we know that there were people who moved from the land where they were born to the center of an empire, in a quest for opportunities. In the process, they assimilated into the language of the empire. Their children no longer spoke the old language. Their grand-children no longer understood any of it. In this example, accepting language oppression and colluding with it were a part of the upward mobility process. Just because no violence was involved, it does not mean that there no language oppression took place, or that no distress recordings were formed.

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Different variations

I think that it is time for us to make space for the stories of the people, whose history with language oppression took different paths, and whose struggle for language liberation might have different variations.

 Hoch Deutsch had become the Standard German language. How has that affected the relationships between the speakers of the various West Germanic languages (including those which are referred to as “dialects”)?

 Modern Standard Hindi written in the Devanagari script had become an official language of the government of India. People in south India struggled to prevent it from becoming the sole working language of the Union Government. How has the multilingual situation in India affected the relationships between the speakers of the various languages of the various states of the Indian union?

 The language of Moscow had become the Standard Russian language, and then it became the most widespread second language in the territories that were occupied by the Russian empire. How has that affected the relationships between the people who were affected by the process, both people who speak the various original forms of Russian, people who speak languages that are linguistically close to Russian (e.g. Ukrainian, Belarusian) and people who speak languages that are linguistically remote (e.g. Kazakh, Latvian)?

What distress recordings were formed for the different groups of speakers?

Who is in an oppressor role and who is in an oppressed role?

What does this tell us about language liberation?

How do we interrupt language oppression for these people and contradict it?

These questions can also be asked for Hebrew, my native language, which does not follow the one-oppressive-language-one-oppressed-language narrative either. I will describe the situation for Hebrew in part II of this article.

Conclusion

 In revolutionary times, it often makes sense to cling to a simple model and overlook subtleties. One needs to speak loud and clear in order to be heard, in order to raise awareness and change the way people think. When the work towards language liberation began, it made sense to cling to the one-oppressive-language-one-oppressed-language narrative in order to persuade people to look at their patterns with regards to language, both in the oppressor role and the oppressed role.

 I think that now, after having made some very impressive accomplishments, it is time for us to look at the subtleties. I think that we need to do this, in order to broaden our understanding of language liberation, and help speakers of different languages come closer to one another.

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Awkward addresses

July 31, 2017

[3121 words, not published elsewhere]

Several weeks ago, my partner and I watched the new US made film called “Get out”, by Jordan Peele. I liked the brilliant way, in which the film maker had mixed two genres in it: a horror film and a social satire. The story was about a young adult African-American man, who traveled with his white girlfriend to meet her parents in their rural mansion. The girlfriend and her family were “progressive”, so it is as if the man’s skin color should not have been an issue. Yet, as soon as the two got to the mansion, our protagonist began to be addressed with comments about his constituency. While those comments were not overtly racist, they were quite awkward, and made him uncomfortable. Then, the parents’ friends came over. They all looked quite “progressive” too. Some worse addresses were being made at our protagonist. Eventually, the horror part of the film began.

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As we walked out of the cinema, I thought that perhaps it is about time that I’d recount the awkward addresses that I have noticed as an Israeli Jew in RC Healing from War (HFW) workshops in Poland. They were both direct and indirect addresses, both ones where I was addressed and ones which I witnessed. None of them was overtly Anti-Semitic. Some might say that there was absolutely nothing Anti-Semitic about them. Still, they included a specific attention to my country and to my people, which felt awkward and unpleasant. They all took place in situations that were not intended to be about my country or my people. At the earlier incidents, it took me days to understand why I felt awkward. At the more recent incidents, I understood what was going on and I said some things, and yet, it took me a few days to come up with an idea of what I really should have done in order to interrupt the oppression effectively.

Now, I am aware that some of you have exchanged the notions of “good” and “bad” with the notions of “natives” and “settlers”, and think that whenever “settlers” feel uncomfortable with something that was said in their presence, they should actually be thankful for the opportunity to discharge whatever restimulation that made them feel uncomfortable. I am a Jew. We Jews are “natives” nowhere and “settlers” everywhere. So if you have that perspective about “settlers”, you can conclude by now that I am just being defensive instead of doing the work that I need to do. There is really no need for you to read further in order to conclude this. You may want to stop reading right here, and I wish you a pleasant day.

Otherwise, you might want to think what you would have done in such situations, either as the addressee or as a witness.

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I’d like to hear what you think of the conflict!

Let me start with an incident that happened on my first Healing from War workshop in Poland, which was preceded by a visit to the Auschwitz and Birkenau museum. We got to the hotel in Oswiecim, and on the following morning, the whole group mounted the minibus that was rented to take the group to the museum. I was sitting on the third bench, chatting with the person who sat by my side. Then, a US Jew who sat on the first bench turned over and called out: “So, Yohai! I’d like to hear what you think of the conflict!” It was quite clear that she was not referring to conflict between the Germans and the Jews during the 1940’s. After having lifted my jaw from the floor, I managed to ask her why would she like to hear that. She did not answer. The visit went on.

A few days later, at the workshop in Warsaw, I was having a mini-session during class with a European Jew. He went first as a client, and discharged his frustration with people who accuse him of things that Israel does. “Just because I am a Jew, it does not mean that I am an Israeli”, he cried out. I listened to him, smiling, trying to function above my restimulation. The thought in my head was, “So you think it is ok to make this kind of accusations at Israelis, but not to diaspora Jews?” In retrospect, I think I should have told him not to bring this hurt to a session with an Israeli Jew, but rather to a session with an ally to Jews.

On my second workshop abroad, I wound up in a long three-way with two men: a US Jew and a UK Jew. I was thinking, “I’m with two men, this must be a great opportunity to discharge some of the distresses that are related to my relationship with my female partner “. I chose to go first, I chose the US Jew as my counselor, and I went on with my session. At some point I said, that I could do something that I thought was not helpful, but that would feel like a compromise. To that, my counselor responded with the sentence: “Israelis are no so good with compromises, eh!?” I thought I saw anger in his facial expression. I stopped talking for a moment, re-assessing my situation. “You seem to have some feelings with regards to Israel”, I said eventually. The man did not say a thing. So, I decided to continue my session with the UK Jew, proceeding where I had stopped. I did not refer to what had just happened in the rest of my session. When it was his turn to client, he picked the UK Jew as his counselor, and at some point disclosed again some hard feelings towards Israel. There did not seem to be a point in interrupting him. Several years afterwards, I met the man again in an international workshop, and he reached out to me in an over-friendly manner. I responded politely, and did not remind him of the incident. But I have not forgotten.

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And then was that UK Jew who, during introductions, answered the question “what is one thing that you would like us to know about you” with “I have been working towards peace in Israel and Palestine”. Of course, that is a viable answer to the question, but it still felt awkward to me. Let me clarify: I am completely in favor of the Two States for Two People solution, and I am truly sorry for all what the Palestinians have gone through since they started their war against the Jews in this part of the world. However, when a Jew makes that statement during introductions, this has little to do with the Palestinians. It is a way of saying “I am a good Jew, I am a civilized Jew, I am not like those savages from the East”. Later, towards the end of the workshop, that UK Jew approached me during lunch, and said that she plans to visit “your country” (she would not say its name), and that she would like to have sessions with members of the local community. “Sure”, I mumbled, “why not”.

There is a part in the film “Get Out”, towards the end of the first third, where the African American protagonist meets a few persons of his constituency in the mansion. These are the house keeper, the gardener, and a young man who accompanies one of the guests, an elder white woman. When he tries to address them as his people, he realizes that they speak and act as if they were whites. Towards the end of the film, he learns why. I will not spoil the film for you by telling you why. Let me just hint, by reminding you that this is a horror movie.

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The blood and the wall

The above anecdotes may imply that only diaspora Jews address Israeli Jews in an awkward manner. Of course, some non-Jews do that as well. But there is a difference. When diaspora Jews make such addresses, it is intentioned, and it feels like they are making them in an attempt to make some sort of a statement. They may even consider them as “directions” that they are offering to their sisters and brothers from the East. Some non-Jews, on the other hand, deliver their stuff in a rather innocent manner, with no apparent intention or agenda. They really do not know what might be awkward with the things they say or do. It may be quite acceptable to say or do them in their culture.

In Healing from War workshops, we have groups where we are sharing our stories about war. I have found these groups very useful for learning how people from other countries and other nations were affected by war. There are so many differences, so many nuances. I was once put in such a group, which included two women from Russia. One of them, an elder, was appointed the leader of the group. The other was a young adult woman, with a mixed heritage: her father was Ukrainian and her mother was a Jew. The leader went first, and she chose me as her counselor. She started telling the story of her family during World War 2, which included a sibling who had some Jewish blood, and another sibling, who might have also had some Jewish blood too, because he was very good with numbers. At that point, she may have spotted something in my eyes, because she stopped and said that perhaps she needed to pick a non-Jewish counselor for her war story. I was very anxious to prove that I can listen to any war story (or rather, my distresses were anxious), so I promised her that it was alright. Only later, it occurred to me that what restimulated me was not her war story, it was the term “Jewish blood”. The history of Jewish lives among Christians includes sad chapters, in which the Jews were accused of using the blood of Christian children for their services. Those accusations were often followed by mass killings of Jews. Then, under the 3rd Reich, the idea that humans have different types of blood was central to the German efforts to isolate the Jews and murder them. Nevertheless, when I started to learn Russian and to acquaint myself with the cultures of the nations that lived under the Russian empire, I learned that it is quite acceptable in these cultures to speak about people having this or that kind of blood: a Ukrainian blood, a Georgian blood, a Jewish blood. I have come to think, that it is our responsibility as Jews to tell our allies the story of the blood libels, which makes it hard on us to hear about blood in conjunction with an ethnicity.

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One other awkward incidence took place in a topic table for people who lived under communism and their allies. It was called by a leader who grew up in East Germany. People from other states that were part of the Warsaw Pact attended, and two allies: a leader from the UK and me. Good questions were proposed for mini-sessions, people shared their personal stories from that period in history, and then came the time for a closing circle. The question for the closing circle was “what do you take with you from this table”. When it was the UKer’s turn to speak, she exclaimed enthusiastically that she is taking the hope, that just like the Berlin wall has fallen down, so will “the wall in Palestine”. To me, that felt awkward. Do not get me wrong, I want to see the separation wall removed, with Jews and Palestinians living in peace and harmony, just like the Germans from the West and from the East do. The awkward part was that that exclamation took place in a topic table on a totally different subject. It showed me, that some people are so preoccupied with the bad things that can be attributed to the Jews, to the point where they can hardly think well about appropriate times and places to bring them up. Whenever the distress is restimulated, they act out. I do not think that the exclamation was intended for me. Nevertheless, I do not think that the UK leader had stopped to think if it makes sense to make that comment in my presence, which is something we learn to do in fundamentals class. I froze in silence.

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Creativity

Over the years, having been addressed in these awkward ways and having taken sessions on it, I have increased my capability to stand up for myself and my people. I no longer freeze in silence when they happen. According to our theory, it is the job of our allies to stand up for us, but alas, not many of them have developed that skill. I’d assume that this is especially true when other types of oppression are operating, such as classism.

I remember a HFW workshop in Poland, where I was in a support group with a woman from the UK and four people from Greece, three women and a man. The man was a big working class man, the kind of men we want so badly to see in the RC community. He hardly spoke English, so interpretation was set up. The concluding meeting of the support group was about to be over. Next on schedule was Farewells. At the end of the closing circle, the man took out his mobile phone and started showing us pictures of the artistic wood work that he had been doing at home. He had mentioned that hobby several times before. He started the slides application, and soon enough, he showed us a picture of an elder woman in traditional clothing, who was leaning over a boy. The boy was lying on his back with his eyes closed. I assumed that these were Jesus and Mary in some scene from the New Testament. But the man said something in Greek, which was then translated for us: this was actually a Palestinian mother mourning her dead child.

I looked around to see if anyone might say anything. No, no one seemed to notice that anything unusual had happened. So I asked the translator to say to the man, that it is interesting to see that the dead Palestinian children get so much more artistic attention worldwide than any other dead children. She did say something to him in Greek, to which he did not respond. Thinking back, perhaps I needed to rephrase my statement as a question, perhaps I should have asked him why he thought this was. Perhaps I subconsciously presumed that once I had spoken up, the others would follow, taking it from there. Realizing that nothing is going to happen next, I said goodbye and left the room. As I got to the porch, the woman from the UK came out after me. “I want to remind you that you have allies here”, she said. “Oh, yeah?”, I replied, “then why didn’t any of them speak up?”

This did not end there. During farewells, at the end of the closing circle of the workshop, the leader of the workshop called forward his long-time assistant, a Polish RC leader who organized many of the HFW workshops in Poland. After applauds and appreciations, the Greek man announced that he has got something for the Polish leader. He stepped forward and handed the Polish leader a package. The Polish leader unfolded the package and put it on display: it was a wood work depicting the notorious gate of Auschwitz, with the writing in German: “Arbeit macht frei”. I have had personal connections with several Poles, so I happen to know that few things offend them more than the association of their country and their culture with the death camps. Hence, I could find some consolation in finding out that this man was making awkward addresses towards people from other nations too, not only towards Israeli Jews.

This is the second time in this post that I mention the Germans. I would like to add that never have I witnessed any awkward address coming from any of the German co-counselors. Not even the slightest hint of it. A good number of Germans have been attending the HFW workshops in Poland every year, and no awkward addresses whatsoever. Hence, it should not come as a surprise that often, when Israeli Jews look for support, they turn to their German co-counsellors. It reminds me of one other US film that deals with the oppression of the African-Americans, and that is Tarantino’s “Django Unchained”. In that film, a German man is the one white person who acts as an ally to the African-American man who fled slavery.

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Everyone loves a happy ending

Films usually go on from an hour and a half to two hours. Jordan Peele’s “Get out” is of 104 minutes. That is hardly enough time to look at how awkward addresses affect the person that has to deal with them, either as the addressee or as a witness. In the film, these addresses are used to build tension, to convey to the audience that things are not going well, and that they are going to get worse. In my life, the incidents that I listed here happened over nine years, ever since I have started attending the HFW workshops in Poland. To me, they convey that things are getting better. I have moved forward from the point where I feel awkward and do not know why, to the point where I know exactly why, and then to the point where I am able to speak up for myself and for my people. It is my goal to be more effective in doing that. I wish to lose the distresses that make me speak up in a hostile tone, and also the ones that make me give up after the first attempt does not produce good results.

I would like to stress that these incidents are not representative of what is happening in these workshops. They are the exceptions, not the rule. The general atmosphere in these workshops is benign and a lot of good thinking is being put into making these workshops a safe place for everyone. And they are indeed relatively safe. That is why I keep attending them a year after year. Yet, I’d assume that these incidents will keep on happening from time to time, and it would be helpful for everyone to be prepared to handle them better. Let this be a happy ending to this post, which included some anecdotes which were not so happy.

 

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Jordan Peele

“Censored Voices”, or “Veterans’ talk: the archived tapes”

July 2, 2017
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[Posted to the RC jews list on June 20th 2017, 725 words]
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Dear sisters and brothers,
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I have read Billy Yalowitz’s post from June 12th titled “a Jewish support group about the Occupation”, discussing a film called “Censored Voices”.  From his description of the film’s contents, I quickly understood that the post refered to a film that I had watched with my partner at Tel-Aviv’s documentary films festival in 2015, where its Hebrew title was “Siakh Lokhamim: HaSlilim Hagnuzim”, which I would translate into “Veterans’ talk: the archived tapes”. I googled the Hebrew title of the film, and found out that the English title was indeed “Censored Voices”. I also noticed that the film was an Israeli-German co-production.
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The difference of the title might tell you a bit about the difference between the message that the authors of the film wanted to convey to the Israeli audience, as opposed to the message that they wanted to convey to audiences abroad, in Germany and elsewhere, especially those audiences who might be glad to view Israel portrayed as a state that enforces censorship, in addition to all its other “sins”.
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Then, I searched the web for an English document that tells the story of the veteran’s talk from 1967, that came out as a book on that same year. I thought that  such a document could be helpful in giving you a better idea of what the veteran’s talk was all about. But I could not find any. I could only find web pages that discussed the film. I could not even find an approved translation for the Hebrew titles of the book, or of the film. So, I asked a native English speaker at work what English name would best convey the meaning of the Hebrew name. That is how I came up with  “Veterans’ talk: the archived tapes”.
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It is actually quite an interesting story. There were several activists from the Socialist-Zionist section of the Israeli society (the then novice novelist Amos Oz was one of them), who launched an initiative to encourage veterans to tell their war stories. From what I understood, that part of their work was not very different from the work that veterans do in RC. Then, the talks were edited into a book. The book went through the army’s censorship, as would any book that deals with Israel’s wars. Some parts were forbidden from coming out. Then, the remaining parts were published, by a non-profit publishing house.
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It immediately ignited a huge controversy in the Israeli public sphere, and a lot of interest in the Israeli academic world. The nationalists claimed that portraying Israeli soldiers as “soft” will serve “the enemy”. The anti-Zionists claimed that portraying Israeli soldiers as “progressive” is a bunch of evil Zionist propaganda. But the Socialist-Zionist section of the Israeli society has shrunk over the past 50 years, and so, the public interest in the veteran’s talk from 1967 diminished accordingly. Still, much of the discourse has found its way to the Hebrew web.
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Why have I not found any relevant document in any other language? Perhaps no one thought that it would make sense to translate any of it to other languages. Perhaps my search was not thorough enough. But as the film came out, it surely made a lot of sense to promote it in English. As much as I can remember, the film presented quite a balanced view of the various aspects of the story. Still, people may decide which aspect they wish to see (and take to sessions), according to their idea of who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed in the Jewish-Palestinian conflict.
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So, if you are a Hebrew speaker, or if you know someone who would read Hebrew for you without reducing what is being read to her/his political agenda, I would  like to recommend that you learn some more about the veterans’ talk (the initiative, the book, the film), about the people who were interviewed for the book and for the film, about their backgrounds, and their motivations. Then, you can order the film and watch it in class, as Billy Yalowitz had recommended.
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P.S.
After having posted the above, a native English speaker has sent me a link to an entry from Amazon web site, that shows that the book has been published in English too, under the title “The seventh day”.

Re-thinking Shabbat in RC workshops

May 18, 2017

[Posted to the RC jews list on May 11th 2017, 764 words]

Summary:

I would like to initiate a discussion about Shabbat celebration in RC workshops: what are good reasons to celebrate it, and how can it be celebrated in a way that is benign for everyone. Here are some questions I would like to present:

  1. Who really needs a contradiction to assimilation patterns?
  2. Are there any manifestations of US-centrism in the Shabbat celebration routines?
  3. Should we not offer alternatives to people who would rather do something else?
  4. Should we not allow discharge time after Shabbat celebration?

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Text:

Assimilation and US-Centrism

When I had started attending RC workshops in Israel, I noticed that there were two activities that were not following the routine of an RC class: creativity and Shabbat. But while the idea behind creativity was presented, the idea behind Shabbat was not. Only when I subscribed to the RC lists, I learned that Shabbat celebrations were meant to contradict the assimilation patterns of the Jews, and that Harvey really loved them.

There are two groups of Jews whose Jewishness is anything but hidden. Orthodox Jews wear things that show their Jewishness, and Israeli Jews have a Hebrew accent. Moreover, in international RC workshops, Israeli Jews carry name tags that say “Israel”. Why is it assumed that people from these two groups have assimilation patterns that need a contradiction?

I realize that assimilation patterns are a struggle for US Jews who are not Orthodox. I am happy to lend a hand to our brothers from the US with their struggles. However, I think that these patterns need to be named as THEIR struggles. I think that the unspoken assumption that whatever is true for USers must true for everyone is at the core of the US-Centrism.

What do you think?

Alternatives

One other thing that I have noticed was that no alternatives are offered to people who prioritize other work over Jews liberation, or to people who are not yet ready to face their distresses in that area – either their oppressor patterns or their internalized oppression patterns.

While other paths of liberation work are offered within topic groups or support groups, where one can choose what liberation work one wants to take on, the only alternative to attending RC Shabbat is to withdraw, to go somewhere else and spend some time in isolation until it is time for the next activity. I think that this is not helpful.

Once, in a workshop in Israel, I ran into a new Israeli co-counselor, who insisted on not attending an RC Shabbat, to the point where he decided to spend that time alone in his room. The guy had a big issue with his upbringing as an Orthodox Jew, and did not want to be part of anything religious. I told him that there is hardly anything religious in RC Shabbat celebrations, but that did not help much.

Can we be more creative about this? Does anyone have an idea?

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Timing

Distress recordings related to religion are not the only distresses that are restimulated during RC Shabbat celebrations. There may be distresses from the education system (e.g. Sunday schools), distresses that are related to the “perfect family” model, distresses related to food, distresses related to politics (Shabbat in Israel has always been a political issue). And yet, no significant discharge time is offered afterwards. Usually, RC Shabbat celebration happens just before Friday’s dinner. Often, there is a request to finish up quickly, so that the kitchen staff of the venue can go home. Is there no way to allow some significant discharge time after RC Shabbat?

It is true that the tradition is to light Shabbat candles shortly before sunset. But that tradition is not observed in RC Shabbat celebrations anyway. Furthermore, I believe that a rabbinical solution can be found for lighting candles shortly before sunset, that will still leave some discharge time before dinner.

What do you think?

Conclusion

Further to the many sessions that I have had over this topic, I would like to stress that I am not saying that Shabbat celebrations in RC workshops are counter-productive. I’d assume that in the early days, when Jews in RC were mostly non-Orthodox US-ers, the routine was quite benign for most of them. Nor am I proposing any reforms that need to happen as soon as possible. We should not succumb to our urgency patterns by rushing into quick solutions.

I am merely suggesting that as a community that seeks rationality, we would want to come up with rational reasons for Shabbat celebrations, in addition to the fact that Harvey really loved them, and with rational routine for Shabbat celebrations, one that will make sure that they are benign for everyone.

 

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All oppressions are equally important, but.

May 4, 2017

Summary:

In fundamentals classes, we are saying that no oppressed constituency is favored over the others, and that all oppressions must end. However, looking at the way that our community acts, one may come to the conclusion that different types of oppressions are being treated differently. That, in turn, restimulates early recording from young persons’ oppression, of incidents where adults in power positions did not live up to their declarations. Would it not be more useful to be honest about our priorities?

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Text:

“We need to address this oppression first”

Through my years in RC, I have heard many times and read many times that no oppression is more important than another, and that in order for one oppression to end, we must end all oppressions. I have also read that it cannot be rational that one person’s re-emergence will come at the expense of another’s.

Yet, I began to notice that ending some particular instances of oppression is prioritized higher than ending some other instances. I can recall one case, in which this was declared openly. It was argued, that there is one type of oppression is always brought up whenever people are trying to figure out how to end other oppressions, and thus, it was decided that this oppression will be addressed first and foremost.

At the time, it made sense to me. As a technical support person, I am trained to deal first with the one problem that impedes me from dealing with an entire situation, a situation that consists of multiple problems. Now that I think of it, I am asking myself, why did this particular oppression always come up when people were trying to think about ending other types of oppression? Could it be that this instance of oppression has had better advocates than other instances?

Years went by, and I started to notice that there is more than one preferred instance of oppression, that actually there is a continuum. Some instances of oppression are really popular, some are a bit less appealing, and some are really dull. Unlike in the case of the oppression referred to above, other prioritizations have not been stated openly. However, they manifest themselves in various ways.

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“What is your earliest memory of a disagreement?”

It sometimes happens that one person verbally attacks the constituency that another person identifies with. Now, let us suppose that the latter person is a co-counselor, and that that person brings up the incidence in a session, or reports to an RC list about the outcomes of that session. If the attacked constituency is a favored one, the co-counselor is likely to hear that this attack is heinous, that it needs to be overtly condemned and opposed. But if the attacked constituency is not so favored, then it is likely that the attack will be referred to as “a disagreement”. It is also likely that the co-counselor will be reminded that “we should not let disagreements stop us from being close to each other and from supporting each other”.

Another interesting aspect of such an incident is when the attacking person is in RC too. If the attacker is identified with a dull constituency, it is likely that a team will form to think what to do about the attacker, some steps will eventually be taken, and they will be quite visible. However, if the attacker is identified with a popular constituency, in most cases nothing will happen. In some cases, the attacking person will be contacted privately and notified that some people got defensive over what was said, and perhaps the attacking person would like to get some one way time on that undesirable defensiveness.

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“You said that it hurts you, but surely you meant that it restimulates you”

It sometimes happens that a person uses a language that has a painful meaning for people from some other constituency. It could be a language, which was used to oppress people from that constituency over some historical period. Perhaps that language is still being used nowadays. The person who used that language might be unaware of that.

Now, suppose that a co-counselor from that constituency brings up the incidence in a session, or reports to an RC list about the outcomes of that session. If the constituency in question is a favored one, the co-counselor is likely to hear that this is not ok. Perhaps there would be an initiative to update the RC guidelines, so that in the future, we will no longer say X, but will say Y instead.

But if the constituency is not that favored, the co-counselor is likely to hear that this was not a hurt, but rather a restimulation. Then, the co-counselor might be encouraged to discharge the distress that was restimulated. If the person who used that language identifies with a favored group, then it is also likely that the person who got hurt will be told to be thankful for the incident, because the incident had pointed out a distress that the co-counselor has not discharged yet.

Actually, I think that every hurt is also a restimulation, that the latter contains the former. Hence, the sentence “You said that it hurts you, but surely you meant that it restimulates you” has some truth in it. It is like saying “You said that you are in Rome, but surely you meant that you are in Italy”. Rome is indeed in Italy, so a person who is in Rome is undoubtedly in Italy as well. Yet, this sentence conveys one other message, in addition to the obvious one. It is very subtly saying that the hurt is a private thing, not something that the community needs to address. So, let the co-counselor please take it to some place where we do not see it.

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What makes a favored constituency?

I once thought that the prioritization is meant to make the blend of people in RC more similar to the blend of people in the wide world. However, there are several nations with large populations, which are under-represented in the RC community, and no one seems to worry about it. It could have also been argued, that the oppression of non-privileged constituencies should be prioritized above the oppression of privileged onstituencies. However, I can think of several non-privileged groups whose oppression is not favored.

Could it be that a struggle of some constituency for liberation is favored whenever this constituency has gifted leaders, ones who are better advocates for its cause? If some really “attractive” leader belongs to a constituency, then the constituency could become favored, so that the leader can feel more comfortable in the RC community and will not leave it. I have put the word “attractive” within quotes, because I refer to the wide world definition of “attraction”. In the benign reality, we are all equally attractive.

Another explanation that I thought of has to do with the spirit of a generation. The leaders of the RC community are mostly in their 70s now, and they made their first steps into adulthood during the 1960s. This period in the West was characterized by rebellion against white adults of the owning class and of the middle class. Could it be that a favored oppression is one that can be used to support the case against those white adults from the West, one that helps to prove that the spirit of the 1960s still lives?

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Conclusion

My dear co-counselor N-, with whom I co-counseled on these questions, argued the exact description of the double-standards is not that important. What is important is that I should speak up against them. But that does not work for me, at least not yet. I need to know what exactly it is that I speak against. Furthermore, I do think that speaking against things is helpful only when one comes up with a rational proposition of how to do things differently, and for that, I need a clear description of what is really happening.

One thing I would propose, though, is that we would be open and honest about our priorities. If we don’t, some of us will constantly be held back by restimulations of early distress recording from young persons’ oppression, of incidents where adults in power positions said some things and did the opposite. I know I will.

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[Uploaded to my blog, 1393 words]

How RC Shabbat leaves me restimulated

November 9, 2016

Summary:

In the following text, I share my personal history with Shabbat, and proceed to review the struggles I am having with regards to RC Shabbat. Since I had joined RC and started attending workshops, I have had difficulties with the RC Shabbat celebrations. In the many forms that I have seen them organized, they have always been leaving me restimulated. For the past several years, I have endorsed a policy of discharging about RC Shabbat whenever I was in a workshop, starting from Friday after lunch. It has not helped to alleviate the restimulation, but it has helped me remember what I have been struggling with, and that these are restimulations, not the reality. I decided to share some of what I have figured up, in the hope that others might find it helpful too. I do not propose any “solutions”, or any ways in which RC Shabbat is celebrated should change. Much more discharge is required for that.

Text:

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Shabbat in Israel

In Raanana, the town where I live, almost all the shops close down on Friday afternoons, and remain closed until Saturday nights, one hour after Shabbat exits. The exceptions are two shopping malls in the outskirts of town, where some shops, cafes and cinemas remain open. The public transportation does not work during these times, so people who do not have a car and cannot afford a taxi ride are not able use these facilities.

On Friday evening, men and their sons are striding the main streets on their way to the synagogues, dressed in black and white, looking very stern. On Saturday, towards midday, families can be seen returning from the synagogues. During the long hot Israeli summer, they are often the only people seen on the streets. I have attended services in synagogues several times, mainly for Bar-Mitzvah celebrations of boys in my family. The services were very serious, disciplined. Personal expression is allowed to some extent, but only within well-defined limits.

There are around 60 Orthodox synagogues in Raanana, a town of 70,000 inhabitants. I Googled and found out that according to informal estimations, 30% of the inhabitants are practicing Orthodox Jews. But since they are very well organized, their political power is far beyond their number. That power works to make sure, that the town’s streets will look during Shabbat the way that they do. In cities where Orthodox Jews constitute a bigger portion of the population (e.g. Jerusalem), some streets are closed for car traffic during Shabbat. In cities where they constitute a smaller portion (e.g. Tel Aviv), many more business places remain open in Shabbat.

I hope that none of what I have written above is perceived as disrespectful to Orthodox Jews. I have written it in order to establish, that Shabbat in Israel is a pretty stern matter, and that it is also a very political matter.

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Shabbat in my childhood

I grew up in Ashkelon, a town in the south of Israel, some 5-10 km north of Gaza. When I was in kindergarten, we were having a Shabbat activity on every Friday – just before our caretakers would come at noon to take us home (it was called “Kabbalat Shabbat”). This activity consisted of singing Shabbat songs, moving around the room, and sharing a cake that one of the young persons would bring. We would take turns in that. I liked this activity, except for the cake part, which I could not enjoy because I am allergic to Gluten. But as an adult, I now think that even if I had not liked this activity, there would be no other alternative. Going to play outside during Shabbat activity was not an option.

There were no Shabbat dinners in my family. My parents were secular, my father identified as a socialist, and my older sisters had other things to do on Friday night, which was the only night of the week in which they could stay up late, because there was no school the next day. We did have a shared Shabbat lunch on the next day, though.

Once, when I was in class 3, the teacher in a language lesson asked us to share about Shabbat dinners in our families. I raised my hand and said that we did not have any. Several days afterwards, my mother came to me and said that she heard from another mother about what I had said, and that the other mother was quite shocked. My mother seemed quite upset too. That left me with the message, that our family is not exactly the model of a successful Jewish family, and that perhaps sharing about my family in school was not a good idea.

The shutdown of commerce and entertainment facilities in Ashkelon of my youth was even more complete that it is in Raanana today. I am not sure if that was because of the political power of the Orthodox community in Ashkelon back then, or because people had less money to spend. I recall, that it infuriated me that I cannot go buy myself ice-cream if I wanted to. Or, at a later age, go to the movies. Ironically, one thing I could do on Saturday mornings was to go to the morning’s prayer in the small Orthodox synagogue that was opened in our apartment building, and serviced mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union. They were happy to have me there, and were kind to me. I do not remember how long I kept on going, probably several weeks.

There was also a liberal synagogue in the bordering neighborhood. It was bigger and nicer, and I remember visiting it several times too. That was the only liberal synagogue in Ashkelon, as opposed to many Orthodox ones. When I was in 7th grade, I participated in the activities of that liberal synagogue for the younger generation. When I was in high school, my father used his connections and got me a job as a leader of such activities.

The Rabbi of this synagogue was a newcomer from the US, as were the other active members of the synagogue. The structured activities took place in Hebrew with an English accent, and there was a lot of English spoken in the un-structured activities. Other than the services themselves, other activities included a lot of singing, dancing, playing indoor games. As an adult, I learned that similar activities are taking place in Jewish Community Centers across the English speaking world, especially in the US.

I hope that none of what I have written above is understood as disrespectful to liberal Jews. I have written it in order to establish, that liberal Judaism is a very small thing in Israel (as it is in the Jewish communities in France and the former Soviet Union as well), and that its Shabbat traditions is associated in my mind with the US culture.

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Shabbat in RC

Since I had joined RC and started attending workshops, I learned that RC Shabbat is a meeting where people sing, dance, play games, and optionally, share some personal experiences. It is organized differently each time, with a lot of space to personal expression and creativity. Then, everyone rushes to Friday’s dinner. Sometimes there is a reminder to rush to dinner, so that the kitchen staff can go home.

Co-counselors who might prioritize other kinds of RC work over RC Shabbat are not offered with alternatives. Once, in a workshop in Israel, I ran into an Israeli counselor, who insisted on not attending an RC Shabbat, to the point where he decided to spend that time alone in his room. I regret to admit, that I have not offered to stay there with him. I surrendered to my middle class patterns, and rushed to do what everyone else was doing.

As I understand, the rationale behind conducting Shabbat in RC workshops is to contradict assimilation patterns, and get Jews to show themselves as Jews. I have lived all my life in Israel, and my Israeli accent pretty much turns me in as an Israeli Jew. So that rationale does not apply to me. I am happy to participate in activities that are held on the behalf of other people, but only as long as they are identified as such. Lamentably, RC Shabbat is not identified as something I can do to push forward the re-emergence of diaspora Jews. It is presented as something that is meant for me. I am to pretend that I think so too, or insinuations will be made, that I have a problem with my Jewishness. Having middle class patterns, it is challenging for me to resist the pull to pretend.

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Ways in which RC Shabbat leaves me restimulated

RC Shabbat looks much like Shabbat in the US, where liberal forms of Jewishness constitute the majority of Jewish life. It does not look like Shabbat in Israel at all. I think that some form of US-Centrism made it look as if this is what Shabbat is about everywhere. That restimulates the US-Centrism that has been acted out on me, a non-USer.

RC Shabbat is tailored to serve the re-emergence of diaspora Jews, who might benefit from a contradiction to their assimilation patterns. Since the majority of the diaspora Jews in RC are from the western world, this restimulates hurts from incidents where I have been targeted with superiority patterns of the people from the west towards people from the east. People who have attended Healing From War (HFW) workshops in Poland have learned a bit about those patterns. I consider Israel as “east” for that purpose.

RC Shabbat is imposed on co-counselors – Jews or non-Jews – who might have prioritized other topics over Jews liberation. For me, that restimulates some distresses that are related to young persons’ oppression. RC Shabbat often includes tutoring of simple songs and dances, a practice that is common in kindergartens and elementary schools. For me, that restimulates some more distresses that are related to young persons’ oppression.

Sometimes, RC Shabbat includes invitations for people to tell about how Shabbat is celebrated in their families, or in their families of origin. For me, that restimulates distresses that are related to difficulties with families and the inability to comply with the “perfect family” model.

And then there is the Challah, which brings up materials with regards to my Gluten Allergy.

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Conclusion

For the past several years, I have endorsed a policy of discharging about RC Shabbat whenever I am in a workshop, starting from Friday after lunch. It has not helped to alleviate the restimulation, but it has helped me remember what I have been struggling with, and that these are restimulations, not the reality. This post summarizes what I have come up with.

Although these are my personal struggles, I decided to share them, thinking that others might have similar struggles, and thinking that those who do not have them may be able to think of contradictions that actually bring discharge (saying “I am a proud Jew” has been tried numerous times, and has not brought any).

I do not propose any “solutions”, or any ways in which RC Shabbat is celebrated should change. I think that much more discharge is required before any of us can come up with a new elegant paradigm for RC Shabbat, one that has something for everyone: Jews and allies, USers and non-USers, people from western countries and people from eastern countries, people with different family backgrounds, everyone.

[1916 words]

Classism and fundamentalism

June 1, 2016

Summary:

Classism and fundamentalism are two oppressive forces in our societies. In some societies they work together, which might make it hard to see that they are two, not one. In other societies they work in opposite directions, and pose the sole *effective* challenge to one another. Each one confines the damages resulting from the other.

Text:

There has been a lot of discussions in RC about classism. That oppressive force in our societies, that thrives to take global resources from many people, and hand it over to few. That thrives to make many people work hard, and then channels the value of their work to few. That in its contemporary form, commonly known as Capitalism, thrives to sell many people things that they do not really need, yet another way to take the value of their work, and to keep them numb and obedient. A lot has been written about the terrible atrocities that have resulted from this oppressive force, and much more will be written, probably.

Much less attention is given to fundamentalism, yet another oppressive force in our societies. Fundamentalism thrives to make all humans behave in ways, that a few people had decided are appropriate. These few people will often argue, that this one single way to behave is the one that God wants. Or the one that nature dictates. Or the one that the forefathers used to have, which inevitably makes it right. According to them, men should go to holy wars, women should stay at home and have children, GLBTQ people should be “reformed”, etc. Interestingly, the people who lead fundamentalist forces do not always get rich. Actually, some of them even take pride in the humble lives that they lead.

To the best of my understanding, classism and fundamentalism work together in societies that are mainly Christian Protestant. The texts that I read, the films that I see, the co-counseling sessions that I have with people who live in these societies, all of them make me think, that classism and fundamentalism work in the same direction in these societies. Moreover, they are often carried out by the very same people.
This might be why people from these societies, who are the majority among the contributors to this RC list, only see one oppressive force in our societies. Some of them, whose societies have imperialistic patterns attached to them, might also use the term “society”, in singular, rather than “societies”, in plural. As if what is true for the society in which they live must be true for all humans worldwide: one oppressive force only is operating.

But, there are other societies, in which classism and fundamentalism work in opposite directions. Classism, that wants everyone as both workers and as customers, will undermine the attempts of fundamentalism to keep people away from workplaces and markets. Fundamentalism, that views some methods of exploitation as contradicting the behaviors that fundamentalists favor (according to God, according to law of nature, etc), will fight against them with all their power. In these societies, classism and fundamentalism are the only powers that pose a real challenge to one another.
Hence, when asked what are the liberating forces in our societies, my first thoughts were about classism and fundamentalism. While it would be ridiculous to call them “liberating forces”, they are actually the only forces that *effectively* diminish the harmful effects of one another. Other forces may have *symbolical* effects, but they are too weak to actually make a difference.

Classism and fundamentalism are both oppressive and destructive forces, but I think that we might want to sort out all the details before we set out to end one of them without ending the other one at the very same time. Otherwise, if we end one of them, the other might take over. This had happened in some societies throughout human history.
I would like to stress again, that I’m not saying that either classism or fundamentalism is benign, or that either one should be kept intact. There is absolutely no need to remind me of the atrocities that resulted from either one, or spell out what Harvey said about either one (although, actually, there might be some good bit of irony in discussing fundamentalism with excerpts from what *he* had said, or from what was written in *his* book!).
When humans discharge all of their distresses, both classism and fundamentalism will cease to exist, and there will no longer be any need for liberating forces (or “liberating forces”). Let’s all keep on working so that it happens soon!

I’d like to conclude with thanking the four co-counselors who counseled me on writing this text and on sending it to this list (two USAers, two Europeans).

Girolamo Savonarola 1452-1498

The Italian religious reformer Girolamo Savonarola (1452-1498) became dictator of Florence in the 1490s and instituted there, in the middle of the Renaissance, a reign of purity and asceticism.

Selective oppressor patterns vs universal oppressor patterns‏

November 3, 2015

Summary

In a world wide blog that I read, I have recently encountered a distinction between two types of oppressor patterns: universal and selective. I think that this distinction can be useful in interrupting manifestations of oppressor patterns in the wide world. I am not sure about what we could do with it within RC, but I hope that through discussion and discharge we might find some good uses to it.

Text

[1]

An Israeli historian whose blog I read, Danny Orbach, has recently come up with a distinction, which I think could be useful for refining our theory of oppression. Hence, I thought I’d share that distinction here. In a post that he had published on September 2015, Orbach described situations where persons act out oppressor patterns, and when it is brought to their attention, they defend themselves by saying that some of their best friends are from the oppressed group: They cannot be racist, because some of their best friends are POGM. How can you call them homophobes, when some of their best friends are LGBTQ. It is ridiculous to talk about their anti-Semitism, with all the Jewish friends that they have.

The author concluded, that these people act out their oppressor selectively, and they are indeed different than other people, who act them universally. It might be required to interrupt these manifestations of oppressor patterns differently. I will hereby illustrate this with an example.

[2]

Let us suppose that two persons, Alice and Bob, have oppressor patterns with regards to Wygelians. Alice does not have Wygelian friends at all. Alice does her best to avoid the company of Wygelians. When Alice is engaged in a conversation and someone mentions the Wygelians, Alice immediately takes a one way session: The Wygelians need to be monitored, says Alice. They need to be confined, they need to be eliminated, blah-blah. It might be that Alice is a part of a group that harass Wygelians violently. Perhaps Alice is a member of  two groups: one is legal and the other illegal. In the texts that these groups produce, references to Wygelians are made in singular: the Wygelian is evil, the Wygelian inherently distorted, the Wygelian is our enemy, etc. The Wygelians are all one, there are no subtleties, there are no exceptions. Alice is a universal anti-Wygelian, and is proud to say it out loud.

Things are different with Bob. Bob has nothing against Wygelians as individuals. Bob has close friends who are Wygelians. Bob loves them dearly and genuinely. But that can happen only because these friends are not visibly Wygelians. They lead the same lifestyle that Bob does, they walk and talk and dress like Bob. Their identity only comes out sometimes in conversations, conversations that Bob really loves. They could not be Bob’s friends otherwise. Bob does not approve of the Wygelian culture in its mainstream manifestations. Bob does not think that Wygelian art is good enough to be called art. Bob does not think much of the Wygelian clubs. Bob does not want Wygelian temples built anywhere nearby. Bob thinks that Wygelian parades are completely unnecessary. Bob especially detests the Wygelian liberation movements: Bob thinks that these movements make a lot of fuss over nothing, just because they enjoy giving everyone a hard time. But Bob does not identify as “anti Wygelian”, and does not like to be called that. Bob claims to be different than Alice, and there is an evidence to that: Bob does have Wygelian friends. And indeed, Bob’s anti-Wygelianism is different. Bob is a selective anti-Wygelian.

[3]

The author further argues, that while manifestations of universal anti-Wygelianism should be forbidden by law and handled with legal measures, manifestations of selective anti-Wygelianism should not. That is because sometimes it makes sense to challenge some actions and attitudes of Wygelians, and it is impossible to find a legal definition that would differentiate such challenging from an acting out of a selective anti-Wygelianism. When some person challenges such an action or an attitude, we may want to argue with that challenge, we may want to denounce it as an anti-Wygelianism, but we do not want to press charges against that person, because that will severely interfere with the free exchange of ideas between people, and we do not want that, as a society.

[4]

While I think that this distinction is useful in interrupting manifestations of oppressor patterns in the wide world, I’m not sure about what we could do with it within RC. People with universal oppressor patterns do not seem to show up in RC introductory lectures (at least not in those that I have attended or led). People with selective oppressor patterns usually leave RC after they are being called names too many times (names like Racist, Sexist, Homophobe, Anti-Semite, Islamophobe, etc).

Still, I thought that it would make sense to describe that distinction on this RC list, in the hope that it would enhance our understanding of all oppressions, and that a discussion of that distinction might lead us to some guidelines for counseling people on their selective oppressor patterns. It might turn out more productive than calling them names.

With love,

Yohai from Israel

* Wygelian is an RC invented term for any of the many constituencies, e.g., women, POGM, LGBTQ. Please refer to the description provided in the Guidelines for the Re-evaluation Counseling Communities for a fuller description

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ZOFIA KOSSAK