Archive for : Change.org

Fasting and Serving on Tisha B’Av

Tisha B’Av (the 9th of the month of Av, which started this Monday night) nearly ties with Yom Kippur as the Jewish calendar’s most solemn holiday. The day commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem (which led to the exile of the Jewish people from Israel) – two calamities that happened more than 650 years apart, but on the same calendar day. Over the centuries, many other sad historical events have been linked to the Tisha B’Av, adding layers of meaning to the already packed day.

Like Yom Kippur, Jews observing Tisha B’Av fast for 25 hours, from sunset onerev (the night before) Tisha B’Av until nightfall the following day. And like Yom Kippur, they refrain from other everyday activities like bathing, wearing leather shoes, and applying makeup or lotions. The Book of Lamentations (“Eicha” in Hebrew) is read out loud on Tisha B’av and often followed by singing a series of sad liturgical songs. Many observers remove their shoes and sit on the floor in dimly lit rooms for the reading.

But while mourning and fasting are certainly the primary focuses of Tisha B’Av, the holiday also holds within it opportunities for service. Jewish tradition believes that ending suffering and injustice is as important as bowing one’s head in sadness, or even as refraining from eating. Here are two ideas to add service and social action to your holiday custom (or the one you hope to start this year!), and meanwhile bring some comfort and healing to the sorrowful day.

*Note, each of the following opportunities take into account that many people will be fasting for the holiday, and not quite feeling up to hands-on service opportunities.

  • Change.org: Learn more about modern-day slavery and sign one (or more!) of this organization’s petitions to stop it, particularly in the developing world.
  • WITNESS Make a donation to WITNESS – a non-profit founded by musician Peter Gabriel that empowers people around the world to film and use human rights videos to promote justice.

For more information and perspective on Tisha B’Av, check out the great collection of readings andinteractive texts at our friend-partner site, On 1 Foot.

Shabbat Service: Jacob’s Disguise and Claiming Rights for Uganda’s LGBTI Community

Shabbat Service is a weekly bit of Torah-inspired do-gooding, brought to you by Repair the World and our grantee-partner American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Read on to see how these ancient stories can apply today. Seem far fetched? Check it out:

The story: This week’s parsha (Torah portion), Toldot, includes a story filled with family strife, disguises, and deception. As this week’s dvar tzedek co-author, Lisa Exler writes, “At his mother Rebecca’s urging, Jacob covers his arms and neck with animal skin, disguising himself as his hairier brother Esau in order to fool their aging, blind father into giving Jacob the blessing of the first born.”

The “takeaway”: Exler writes that Jacob had the choice of whether or not to disguise his identity – and whether or not he made the right choice is up for debate. But “for many people around the world today, especially those who identify as LGBTI, disguising their true identities is not a choice, or a means to an end…but a necessity.” Sadly, when they reveal their true selves, like at the recent LGBTI Pride Parade in Uganda (the country’s first), they become more vulnerable to violence, discrimination, and oppression. The situation is dire: LGBTI people’s lives are literally at risk – just for being who they are. Most recently, a highly controversial anti-homosexuality bill was introduced in the Ugandan parliament. And yet for any change to happen, they and their allies must collectively stand up and stand out.

The “to-do”: Support the work of organizations in Uganda and abroad (like AJWS) that are working to create a safe, welcoming community for the country’s LGBTI citizens. And help put pressure on companies and governments around the world to lend their support.

Read the full Torah commentary, on which this excerpt is based, over at AJWS’ website. And for more great texts, commentary and Jewish learning resources on social justice, check out the On 1 Foot database.

Fasting and Serving on Tisha B’Av

Tisha B’Av (the 9th of the month of Av, which starts this Saturday night) nearly ties with Yom Kippur as the Jewish calendar’s most solemn holiday. The day commemorates the destruction of the First and Second Temples in Jerusalem (which led to the exile of the Jewish people from Israel) – two calamities that happened more than 650 years apart, but on the same calendar day. Over the centuries, many other sad historical events have been linked to the Tisha B’Av, adding layers of meaning to the already packed day.

Like Yom Kippur, Jews observing Tisha B’Av fast for 25 hours, from sunset onerev (the night before) Tisha B’Av until nightfall the following day. And like Yom Kippur, they refrain from other everyday activities like bathing, wearing leather shoes, and applying makeup or lotions. The Book of Lamentations (“Eicha” in Hebrew) is read out loud on Tisha B’av and often followed by singing a series of sad liturgical songs. Many observers remove their shoes and sit on the floor in dimly lit rooms for the reading.

But while mourning and fasting are certainly the primary focuses of Tisha B’Av, the holiday also holds within it opportunities for service. Jewish tradition believes that ending suffering and injustice is as important as bowing one’s head in sadness, or even as refraining from eating. Here are three ideas to add service and social action to your holiday custom (or the one you hope to start this year!), and meanwhile bring some comfort and healing to the sorrowful day.

*Note, each of the following opportunities take into account that many people will be fasting for the holiday, and not quite feeling up to hands-on service opportunities.

  • Change.org: Learn more about modern-day slavery and sign one (or more!) of this organization’s petitions to stop it, particularly in the developing world.
  • Agahozo-Shalom Organize a Race4Rwanda in your neighborhood and raise money for Repair the World grantee-partner, Agahozo-Shalom Youth Village.
  • WITNESS Make a donation to WITNESS – a non-profit founded by musician Peter Gabriel that empowers people around the world to film and use human rights videos to promote justice.

For more information and perspective on Tisha B’Av, check out the great collection of readings and interactive texts at our friend-partner site, On 1 Foot.