Taking a position that does not endear him to the larger American Jewish community is not something unknown to Rabbi Michael Lerner, founding editor of Tikkun. He's used to provoking the status quo and the heat that can generate. He's not used to having his home and family threatened, however, because of his controversial and courageous positions. That's happened for the third time after Lerner's home was vandalized following Tikkun's 25th Anniversary Celebration which included a presentation of the Tikkun Award to South African Justice Richard Goldstone, a person who also took a courageous stand that has proven deeply unpopular in his own community.
A Tikkun press release explained what happened next:
Only one day after Rabbi Lerner presented the Tikkun Award to South African Justice Richard Goldstone, at a celebration of Tikkun's 25th Anniversary attended by over 600 people at the University of California, Berkeley, Rabbi Lerner's home was again assaulted by extremist Zionist haters who plastered posters over his home once again. This is the 3rd assault on his home since Lerner announced the award to Justice Goldstone whose report on Israel's human rights violations during the Israeli assault on Gaza in Dec. 2008 and Jan.2009 was denounced by the State of Israel and by the AIPAC-dominated House of Representatives last year. You would not have known about the 2nd attack, which was reported to the police but not to the media because Lerner had been advised that not giving the attackers attention might make future attacks less likely. That strategy failed.
Each time the posters have sought to display Lerner as either a tool of an evil Goldstone trying to hurt Israel. The current posters were done more professionally than the previous ones, and present a picture of Nazi officers carrying away a Jew. Lerner's name is put on one of the Nazis and "Islamic extremists" is written on the other Nazi, and the innocent Jew is identified as the State of Israel. The perspective of the attackers is clear: "Rabbi Lerner is a Nazi assaulting Israel." That is why the police have labeled this a "hate crime."
What "freedom of the press" is there if an editor is subject to this kind of personal harrassment for expressing his views in his editorials and in the gatherings sponsored by the magazine? Anyone concerned about civil liberties should be concerned about this pattern of attacks on the private home of a magazine editor. And for those who believe that there is a new tone of civility in the Jewish world, well....it obviously has not impacted on right wing Zionist extremists. Please note, however, that we do not want to imply in any way that all Zionists are responsible directly or indirectly for this attack. The Zionist community in the U.S., while often demeaning Rabbi Lerner, has not shown any tendency toward violence or physical assaults on his person or property, and in our view would not likely do so. These have been the acts of a small group of extremists, and while the demeaning of Rabbi Lerner and Tikkun may have contributed to the climate in which these extremists believed they could get away with these assaults, there is no reason to believe, and we do not believe, that American Zionists as a whole either intended or approve of this kind of activity. And the Board of Rabbis of Northern California publicly critiqued the last attack on Rabbi Lerner's home as did other Jewish leaders.
Assaults on free speech are best met by encouraging more speech. The obvious goal of these attacks is to intimidate and silence Tikkun, and since Tikkun is the largest circulation liberal/progressive Jewish magazine on-line and in print in the entire world, silencing Tikkun would be a huge victory for these extremists. People can assure that Tikkun stays alive by subscribing to Tikkun at www.tikkun.org, joining Tikkun's interfaith education and social action organization The Network of Spiritual Progressives at www.spiritualprogressives.org, making a tax-deductible contribution to Tikkun (checks can be sent to Tikkun, 2342 Shattuck Ave #1200, Berkeley, Ca. 94704--our mailbox, not the actual address of the magazine's office), and/or creating a local study group to read and discuss Tikkun articles every week, every two weeks, or once a month. You can also read Tikkun-on-line by going to our new web magazine each week to read the latest articles. You can also support us by joining other organizations that seek peace and reconciliation between Israel and Palestine, including J. Street, Jewish Voices for Peace, Americans for Peace Now, The New Israel Fund and B'tselem.