Tikun Olam


“The day is short, the task is great, the master is insistent. It is not your duty to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it….”
Pirkei Avot, 2:21

I’ve been writing Tikun Olam, one of the earliest progressive Jewish blogs, since February, 2003.  It focuses on exposing the excesses of the Israeli national security state.

richard silverstein

credit: Erika Schultz/Seattle Times

I wrote chapter for the essay collections, A Time to Speak Out (Verso, 2009) and Israel and Palestine: Alternate Perspectives on Statehood (Rowman & Littlefield, 2016).  I currently contribute regularly to Middle East Eye. Recent pieces have been published at The Nation and Jacobin Magazine. In the past, I’ve contributed to Truthout, Alternet, Haaretz, Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, Comment Is Free and Al Jazeera English, the Seattle Times, and Tikkun Magazine.  The NY Times featured my reporting about the Shamai Leibowitz FBI tapes on its front page. Support Tikun Olam

I  earned a BA and BHL from Jewish Theological Seminary and Columbia University, an MA in Comparative Literature from UCLA, and studied for a PhD at UC Berkeley. I spent an undergraduate and graduate year studying Hebrew literature at the Hebrew University where I learned from Dan Pagis, Gershon Shaked and Dan Miron.  I co-founded the Bay Area Jewish Music Festival.

Born and raised in the Hudson River Valley, my father’s family’s roots go back to Peekskill, NY in the 1920s. I’ve always had an abiding affection for the River and the Hudson Highlands. In 1969, I crewed for a week on Pete Seeger’s sloop, Clearwater.

I have been interested in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since 1967 and have worked all my adult life to promote dialogue and mutual recognition. I am a progressive (critical) Zionist. I support Israeli withdrawal to pre-67 borders, the sharing of Jerusalem, a Law of Return that applies equally to Jews and Palestinian refugees seeking to immigrate, and an internationally-guaranteed peace agreement with the Palestinians.

I have an online photo gallery.

Before having our kids, I hiked the Cascades.  I have always loved folk and traditional music including world music.  My wife, three children and dog live in a Craftsman home (1906) near the western shores of Lake Washington.

Favorite Yiddishisms: “Sleep faster, we need the pillows!”  “We Jews are so happy…our enemies should only be so happy!”

Tikun Olam is a Mishnaic term meaning “repair [or mend] the world.”

Unlike some religious traditions, Judaism comprehends evil as something inherently human. In the Zohar, it is this evil or impurity which causes the sacred keylim (“vessels”) to break. Performance of mitzvot (“commandments”) are the means to repair the vessels and so transmute evil into good.

A Kabbalist would have no problem understanding that hatred and violence between Israels and Palestinians are evils that pollute the world. Likewise, I’d like to think such a Kabbalist might look favorably on efforts like this blog to repair this battered region with acts of gemilut chesed (“lovingkindness”).

Speaking engagements: I am available to give talks, lectures, and workshops.

Support Tikun Olam: This blog is a no-profit enterprise done for love and passion. I gratefully accept donations from those who find value in what I do (see Paypal link above).

Advertise: Under certain circumstances, I will accept advertising.  Be in touch if you wish to explore this option.

Promotion: Help boost Tikun Olam’s readership by promoting posts via social networking sites. Friends of this site generate a substantial amount of site traffic, which promotes the idea of Israeli-Palestinian peace. Click on the icons accompanying each post to submit it to whichever site you belong to.

Tell your friends about this site.  Send them links to posts.  Link to my posts at other sites you visit and raise the “still small voice” of peace.

Subscribe: I encourage you to subscribe to this blog and receive regular notices of new posts. You may subscribe to specific categories by registering at this site and then subscribing.

Story Tips: Ideas, tips and stories from readers are a critical source for this blog. Please include a link and any other documenting information you can provide (stories based on rumors or thinly-sourced material are problematic). And PLEASE make sure you’ve verified the accuracy of your story and that the information is up to date.  I will publish no stories from anonymous sources who don’t provide any way to contact them or verify their identities.

E-Mail: E mail sent to me may be quoted in posts unless the author specifically requests that a message be considered private. If it seems obvious to me that a message is meant to be private I will consider it such, but don’t assume I know your intentions unless you state them. The more abusive an e mail is the less likely I may be to honor any demand for privacy.

Pro-Israel: a note about the term ‘pro-Israel’ as used in this blog. I consider myself a supporter of Israel though not necessarily of the policies of the State. However, this term has been hijacked by the Israel Lobby. I’ve found it difficult to come up with an all-round phrase to characterize those who are right-wing regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. So if you read the term “pro-Israel” with an adjective like “nationalist,” “extremist,” “right-wing,” etc. please know that it’s not support for Israel that I’m disparaging, but a particular type of right-wing perspective on Israeli-Palestinian politics.

Disclaimer: This blog is not affiliated with Rabbi Michael Lerner’s Tikkun Magazine.