Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Rabbi Michael Lerner, a powerful voice for peace and justice

February 11, 2009 -- Rabbi Michael Lerner, a powerful voice for peace and justice....

Tikkun magazine editor Rabbi Michael Lerner, a powerful voice for peace and justice, has informed me that he has been diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. Rabbi Lerner had never smoked. Doctors believe the cancer is at "stage one" and may be treated successfully with surgery.

The following was received from Rabbi Lerner today:

Dear Sir;

In late January the results of a biopsy showed that I have a relatively rare form of lung cancer (I've never smoked). The doctors believe that this cancer may be "stage one" and hence could be treated through surgery, and I might be able to avoid chemotherapy or radiation treatment. So even though it is cancer, it is not necessarily a death sentence! We'll know more after the operation to remove part of my lung takes place, and then they get the results of the next biopsy.

I'll post updated information in the "Rabbi Lerner" section of, so you can go there if you want to know how I'm doing . . .

People have started to ask if they can help me in some way. Well, yes, there IS something you can do that would be very helpful.

The first thing you can do is to pray for me, or if prayer is not your thing, you can use meditation, song, poetry, words, or actions to communicates to the universe your desire to support my recovery!

The next thing you can do is to support me in my efforts to make this health challenge an opportunity for deep inner growth, opening up higher levels of understanding not only through my head but also through my heart, so that I can be more fully aligned with the struggles and suffering on this planet, and more fully able to contribute at the deepest levels to the healing that is so badly needed everywhere, including in myself. Let me explain how you could give me that support.

My doctors believe that the stress levels in my life are too high, in part because of being over-stretched as rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue, editor of Tikkun magazine, and chair of the Network of Spiritual Progressives. So, I think I need to ask your help in reducing the amount of work and worry I have in keeping the network alive.

The solution is to get much more help in running the Network of Spiritual Progressives (NSP). Those tasks have fallen largely on my shoulders, particularly after the growing financial crisis and consequent reduction in funds from memberships forced us to reduce the NSP's staff size to one (me). I can't do this without much more help from you.

I'd be delighted if you decided to help me renew and rebuild the NSP with your ideas and energy.

I'm particularly excited about anything you'd be willing to do to exert leadership in your own sphere (e.g. in your professional community, church, synagogue, mosque, or ashram) that doesn't require time and involvement from the tiny staff at Tikkun/NSP or from me. Too often I get letters saying, "Rabbi Lerner, why don't you do x, y, or z?" The ideas are often terrific, but my capacities are limited. But anything YOU can do-please do it! Make it happen-you hereby have my permission (the only restriction: that you do it in a kind, gentle, generous, loving, and compassionate way) . . .

We refuse to accept global capitalism as the ultimate and only possible economic arrangement, but we also reject bureaucratic socialist solutions. Instead we insist on the possibility of building a new global economy that seeks to promote our New Bottom Line. For that reason, we also question "solutions" to the current economic crisis that assume the current economic system to be unchangeable and only seek to bolster and rebuild it. We are not advocates for repair of a system based on values that privilege materialism, selfishness, and the interests of the powerful, whether that system calls itself capitalism, socialism, democracy, or some kind of religious society. What counts for us is this simple question: when it comes down to the decisions being made on a day-to-day basis, how much do the values of the New Bottom Line determine the outcome? There is enough for everyone on this planet, and we can build an economic reality that shares what we have and also preserves the planet from needless exploitation to create unnecessary consumer goods. It's a real tragedy that the Obama administration isn't using this moment to do just that, rather than what it is trying--to give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a system that is morally and economically flawed (and to do so by trying to accommodate the very forces within the Republican Party and the Clintonite "free marketeers" whose worldview brought us this mess in the first place). But of course the issues go way beyond the mistakes of the moment--to a need for a fundamental challenge to rethink the assumptions of our economic life that have encouraged the "looking out for number one" consciousness so deeply ingrained in the thinking of elites and ordinary citizens around the world, a way of thinking that paralyzes and demoralizes us as individuals and that has led to policies that are quite literally destroying the life-support systems of the planet.

Come to our national conference April 29-May 2 in Washington, D.C. It's about Supporting Obama to BE the Obama we Voted For (not the Obama who is seeking to double our forces in Afghanistan, has an economic recovery program that does little for the homeowners who have lost their homes or will soon do so and which gives hundreds of billions to the banks and financial institutions, and who has surrounded himself with the same kind of Center-Right advisors that seem more inclined to follow the ideological leadership of the neo-cons than to respond to the peace, environmental and social-justice-inclined movements that made Obama's candidacy a reality). It will be an important event, if you are there to help us make it so. If the operation goes well, I should be able to be there, even though in a greatly reduced role. I want to meet face-to-face with people who could help take over the NSP and reduce my load within it.

Love and blessings,


Rabbi Michael Lerner


Our thoughts and prayers go out to this truly remarkable rabbi, a "teacher" in every sense of the word.