Supreme Court deprived me of religious liberty today

In America’s founding document, the Declaration of Independence, the Founding Fathers stated that each of us was “endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Today, the United States Supreme Court issued a deeply flawed decision that deprives American women of all three inalienable rights—by forcing unwilling pregnant individuals to carry unwanted embryos to term, violating what should be the inviolable sovereignty of the body itself—while simultaneously depriving Jewish people of their religious liberty.

This is an activist Court, wantonly sullying America’s most cherished ideals. Here’s how Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh and Coney Barrett deprived me, today, of my right to freely exercise my Jewish religion:

According to thousands of years of Jewish understanding, a fetus is not yet a person (נפש)‎, though it holds the potential to become one. Instead, an embryo is a part of its mother’s body. Until 40 days after conception, Judaism considers the contents of the womb “like water” or “mere fluid.” Explicitly stated, abortion is not murder under Jewish law.

Jewish law actually requires that a fetus be surgically excised from the womb if a mother is imperiled during its delivery and the majority of the baby’s body is not yet delivered outside her body. There is Biblical, Talmudic, and rabbinic support for this position, though obviously individual Jews may hold different personal interpretations.

Here’s a good overview of this difficult topic from the Jewish perspective.

The highly partisan Supreme Court of 2022 is trampling on my First Amendment right to freely exercise my religion by forcing its distinctly Christian interpretation of their own poorly translated from the Hebrew and Aramaic Bible upon everyone in the U.S.A., regardless of the faith—or lack thereof—of each person affected by their decisions.

No state can be allowed to trample the religious liberty of its inhabitants. Isn’t that the promise of the U.S. Constitution? Are these justices actually so blinded by their personal faith that they’re rejecting its most basic protections? If so, these six are unfit for the job. If they’re dismantling the Constitution intentionally to promote their Christian faith, they are as traitorous as the January 6th seditionists and should be prosecuted accordingly.

I am an American, Jewish woman. I demand both personal sovereignty over my own body and freedom to practice my religion.

Happy Passover 2022

Tonight, my family celebrated our freedom with a Passover seder.

Every year at this time, Jews around the world thank God for being personally liberated from slavery. It’s a biblical story, but, according to Jewish teachings, that liberation still belongs to every one of us on an individual level, now, in this moment.

That’s the guidance offered to us by our religious tradition, and I deeply appreciate the reminder of the abundant blessings of my own daily life.

Without a doubt, in 2022, my family bowed our heads with specific thanks for the wisdom shown by my father-in-law way back in the 1970’s when he brought his wife, child, and mother-in-law out of bondage from the Soviet Union to the U.S.A.

He had no idea what to expect when he got there, but he trusted in the expansive nature of the big ideas in the “great works” of European literature that he’d read (illicitly, since they were illegal in Russia) to imply that something better existed outside the narrow intellectual constraints of 20th Century Soviet communism.

I daresay he’d say he was right to follow those instincts. I’m in total agreement.

Tonight, we prayed for those who live with less freedom than we are privileged to have. We thanked God for the exodus of DH, his parents, and his grandmother from the U.S.S.R., to the U.S.A., by way of a European refugee camp.

Parallels to today’s crisis in Ukraine are not lost on us. We bow our heads to those still suffering. We look at our beautiful children and acknowledge how easily they could have been born there instead of here; in servitude instead of free.

We are warm and safe and free to worship—or not—as we choose. What a wonder! What a privilege.

Table after meal with seder plate containing maror, vegetables, charoset, egg, etcGenerous sponsors in Europe and the U.S.A. helped bring my husband and his family forth from oppression to independence many years ago. The world must take similar steps to ease the way for Ukrainians fleeing Russian aggression today.

Moses said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go.” My father-in-law said something similar, via his actions, to Brezhnev.

Now, Ukrainian President Zelenskyy is saying the same to would-be Czar Putin, the killer of children, bomber of innocents. It behooves every lover of liberty, democracy, and personal freedom to support Ukraine in this effort.

Chag sameach! Happy Holiday!

Mail a greeting card in 2020 to uplift lonely holidays

Even if you don’t usually send Christmas cards or other holiday greetings, this year might deserve to be an exception. So many people are lonely and missing far-flung families due to the pandemic; getting a hand-written note in the mail may be the most human connection in a person’s day. That is well worth 55 ¢ in postage and a few minutes of your time.

greeting cards on desk blotter with pen and stampsI send cards sometimes; other years, I don’t get around to it.

I have written Hanukkah greetings, Christmas cards, acknowledgements of the Winter Solstice, and best wishes for happy New Years. I send the message I think the recipient would most appreciate; my religion* in no way dictates the blessing I offer a friend of a different persuasion.

My family hung the same red felt banners on the entry hall wall every year of my life. They went up early in December, empty canvasses, ready to receive holiday missives as they arrived. The oldest was made by my mother’s mother and features pockets and a waving Santa at the top; Mom had to craft another when I was little to accommodate the deluge of communiques that her sociability and dedication to friendship and public service inspired. Cards were pinned or stapled to that display.

In 2019, my mother died.

Somehow, that year also saw a huge reduction in the number of Christmas cards my widowed father received. In years past, every inch of these many yards of felt was hidden by the volume of cards and letters; last year, only one banner ended up even partially covered.

Torn black felt heart pinned to garment to signify grief and k'riah

I don’t believe that people were intentionally ignoring my dad in the absence of Mom, though her enthusiasm** for Christmas did put that of other, mere mortals to shame. I received fewer cards last year, too. The dentist and the auto body shop we used only once historically sent pre-printed cards, untouched by even a secretary’s hand. A lot of that has stopped. I suppose it’s a sign of the growing reliance on electronic communication, and I don’t miss impersonal mailings from businesses too much.

Dad’s passing comment about getting so few cards, however, was like a punch in the gut to me. It was already such a hard year for him; I grieved again to see him feeling forgotten. What a dreadful time for the world to decide to save a tree and skip a mailed paper greeting!

I’m going to be sending at least a few cards this year, myself. I’m prioritizing older relatives, and those who live alone. Even if you never send cards, hate to write, or don’t celebrate any of the winter holidays, this may be a year to reach out in the spirit of warmth, light, and joy—just because.

There’s no real deadline, either, in case you’re worried about the already overburdened postal system. Send Warm Winter Wishes in January, if that feels more appropriate. After the happiest of holidays, that month can be a real let-down. After a grim, lonely season you believe should have been festive? January could be gruesome.

Our shared humanity is reason enough. Care for others is the animating gift of all societies. Winter is dark and feels too long in the good years; 2020 has not been a particularly good year for most. Pandemic winter is an enemy to us all, but a terrorizing monster to the isolated and the lonely.

Reach out, if you’ve got a few minutes, an envelope, a stamp. You’ll be making the world just that little bit better for someone else. I’m willing to bet it will brighten your day, too.

I might even argue that the very definition of faith makes the fear of someone else’s difference a rather fundamental failing of it…

** Mom liked to say that Christmas was the reason the rest of the year exists. She called herself Mother Christmas, and Dad had a song commissioned for her about that by a talented musician friend. My parents’ over-the-top outdoor decorations were so spectacular, their house was featured in a television public service announcement in the 1990’s. Mom had a unique holiday outfit for every day between Thanksgiving and Epiphany, reckoning the arrival of the Wise Men was the true end of the Christmas season.

I wouldn’t turn back the clock to more paper spam either. This is not an argument that we return to physical documents for conducting most business.

That said, I do notice, enjoy, and appreciate the personalized greetings sent by some institutions, such as my son’s school and my former personal trainer who takes the time to hand write all of his cards.

Evangelical Christians trample my religious freedom by applying their convictions to all in the abortion debate

The abortion debate in America is a contentious one that I have no interest in rehashing here. While I have many thoughts and opinions on the issue, most of them fall outside of the kind of rational discussion I prefer to instigate on my little site dedicated to the wonderful as opposed to the profane.

Something I cannot ignore of late are the actions of multiple states—tellingly, states which tend to be poorer than the U.S. average with a markedly less educated populace—as they defy the moderate will of the majority of American citizens and the affirmed constitutional right of individual Americans to follow their own faiths and consciences with regard to abortion procedures.

Activists at the extreme of both sides pervert this complex and morally fraught issue by ignoring subtleties and braying out absolutes and ultimatums. I reject those dangerous simplifications from both the right and left. Most Americans believe that some abortions should be safe and legal. Less than half of Americans support either a total ban or the complete freedom to terminate any pregnancy.

In particular, as a Jewish woman, I find it offensive that conservative Christians are promoting their religious beliefs in the political arena with a total disregard for the separation of church and state.

This separation, of course, is another freedom guaranteed to each of us by the Constitution.

The actors on these Supreme Court defying laws like to portray themselves as sole legitimate arbiters of God’s will. Upon signing the most restrictive anti-abortion bill in America, Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama issued a statement that she did so because “every life is a sacred gift from God.” Of course, with no exceptions in the Alabama bill for survivors of horrific crimes against girls no matter how young or women whether competent to consent or not who become pregnant, it’s obvious that Governor Ivey feels some lives are more sacred than others, and that it is her place to judge such matters.

Jewish law argues that a mother’s life must be saved at the expense of a fetus if the parent is in danger and the process of childbirth has not yet begun. “[T]he life of those already living comes before the life of those yet to be born.”Jewish law also recognizes the mental health of the mother as a vital factor in making the decision to terminate a pregnancy. Other faiths advise their adherents differently.

It is evangelizing pure and simple for this kind of dictatorial Christian to attempt to subvert my religion with her own when it comes to my family’s medical decision making.

There are suppositions about the moment that “life” begins, but no definitive answers from science yet to trump matters of faith and belief. We may someday know when the spark of animation—or the soul—enters the bundle of cells that grow into living flesh. We do not know now beyond a general range of viability dates for human babies.

From my perspective, it would be wise for people who value unborn lives above those of living women to invest heavily in the technological leap of gestating fetuses outside the womb. If it were possible to “harvest” unwanted pregnancies and nurture them elsewhere, some of the moral quandaries would change if not diminish. Certainly at that point those with the most extreme viewpoints on the subject of abortion could offer to save every unwanted child and assume the costs—financial, social, and emotional—thereof.

https://theawarenesscenter.blogspot.com/2011/02/incest-pregnancy-abortion-and-halacha.html