Historic Joint Signing for Sanctuary Support to Take Place at Genesis

An historic event is taking place at Genesis of Ann Arbor in the building shared by Temple Beth Emeth (TBE) and St. Clare of Assisi Episcopal Church (STC), 2309 Packard Street in Ann Arbor.

On Wednesday June 13, the president of TBE, the senior warden of STC, and the president of Genesis will come together to publicly sign a joint declaration of support for the nationwide Sanctuary movement.

An opening prayer by TBE Rabbi Josh Whinston and a closing prayer by Reverend James C Rhodenhiser Jr. will frame the event.

The event, which begins at 6:30, is co-sponsored by Genesis and Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary.Genesis is the corporation that was set up between the two congregations in 1976 to operate and maintain the building. The creation of Genesis became the first known instance in the country of two congregations of different faiths co-owning and operating the same building. At the event, they will officially sign the first joint declaration of support for the Sanctuary movement.

Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary is the interfaith coalition of congregations and individuals throughout Washtenaw County that came together to support immigrants and their families in the local community in response to harsh, unjust activities of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in the community.The event will be emceed by Mary Anne Perrone, a member of the leadership team of Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) and co-founder of WCS.

The achievement is the result of a year-long campaign led by the TBE-STC Joint Sanctuary Committee to educate both congregations about the urgency of supporting the movement.According to Shoshana Mandel, chair of the TBE Social Action Committee (SAC):

For the past year, SAC has been working on and then collaborating with STC to formulate a Sanctuary Motion and declaration of our commitment to the Sanctuary effort. We have hosted numerous educational events on this and related topics. And we have arrived! So many people have volunteered their time, effort, passion, and love for justice into this effort.

A reception hosted by a joint committee from Temple Beth Emeth, St. Clare, and Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary will follow the signing.

Please join us at this public event to witness and celebrate the historic signing and share the feast of solidarity and justice.

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Jarvis Arms the Homeless

Sit at Panera with friend, Jarvis. Jarvis is a staunch gun owner and the founder and chair of Committee to Arm the Homeless.

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He chooses his words carefully as he explains his group’s purpose: “As our homeless are undoubtedly the segment of our population most vulnerable to physical mayhem, we feel that it is incumbent upon us as a society to provide these individuals with firearms so they might protect themselves against the more insidious elements among us.”

”But arm the homeless?” I ask. “Do you think that’s realistic?”

“Please allow me to answer your question with a question,” he explains. He pauses momentarily and in the silence I overhear three women at the next table discussing literacy and problems in their community. A young man in the adjacent booth is commiserating with a friend about his inability to understand women. “My wife yelled at me this morning for peeing on the floor in the middle of the night. She said I missed the bowl completely. I said at least I didn’t get any on the rim.”

Jarvis looks intently at the point of my pen as he continues: “Do you think this is less realistic than allowing a nineteen-year old mental case to purchase a military-grade weapon in order to murder innocent high school students?”

In addition to being a gun owner, Jarvis is a hard-core left-wing hippie from the sixties. Back then, he was so aggressive he would pass you in the turn lane. Today he’s mellowed but he hasn’t lost his edge.  He draws an analogy: “Gun owners are like pot smokers. They won’t admit it. They’ll say, ‘Where is marijuana in the constitution?’ But the constitution is a made-up argument by the weapons industry to sell weapons. The issue is about human dignity and personal rights: the right to own a gun for my protection; to choose my own form of health care, to get high with the mood-enhancer of my choice.”

But even Jarvis knows there are limits to his freedom: “Don’t push drugs on kids, don’t drive when you’re smelling colors, and if you grow it for sale, you grow it organically for best medicinal purposes. And don’t let nineteen-year old mental cases purchase military-grade weapons.”

Jarvis excuses himself, adjourns to restroom. Passes woman by beverage station struggling to neatly seal iced tea cup lid over cup with one hand while holding young son’s hand with other.

Thousands March for Lives in Ann Arbor

I marched for my life with the young people on Saturday March 24 at Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School along with 4,000 others. The march was one of some eight hundred that were held around the country that day. Another 200,000 marched in D.C.

Together, they produced a paradigm shift in how the country views the issue of gun violence.

Like the others that day, the march in Ann Arbor was for all of us, of course. Who can be against fewer deaths by gun violence?

But the young people, mostly high school and college age, led by worker and full-time student Kennedy Dixon and a small committee, organized the event; promoted it through social media; raised funds for the event and a victims’ fund on GoFundMe; recruited support from city council members, principals, and the police; and were the main speakers.

The Scene

The march, sponsored by Michigan Coalition to Prevent Gun Violence and March for Our Lives, energized me politically more even than the women’s march last year. There was a general feeling that this time was different.

I arrive a half hour earlier than the scheduled start time. A friend I marched with fifty years ago slaps me on my shoulder and says, “Hey, how ya doin’?” I speculate with a friend from my temple congregation on whether or not there will be a counter-demonstration.

A woman hurries past me while talking on her cell phone: “Hey, where are you parked?” A food stand advertises free hot dogs and Cokes.

I sign a petition for a cause that I support as the petitioner notes that her high school dress code is more regulated than gun laws. A little girl carries a sign saying, “Arms are for hugging.” Her younger brother lies in a wagon arms outstretched, holding a sign: “No Arms in School.”

The signs overall carried the same sense of optimism as signs I’ve seen at rallies past but they were unique to the occasion.

  • They were subtly intellectual: “Nyet.”
  • And they were straightforward: “Guns Are Dumb.”
  • They were logical: “Fewer guns. Fewer bullets. Fewer deaths.”
  • They reflected the existential fear that many of us feel: “Am I Next?”
  • They were religiously sarcastic: “Would Jesus Have an AR15?”
  • They were inspirational: “You can put a silencer on a gun but not on people.”
  • Many challenged the idea that prayer is an adequate political substitute for action: “Thoughts and prayers are not enough.”
  • Other signs had so many words I couldn’t read them in their entirety in the brief time the lettering faced in my direction.
  • None demanded that we abolish all guns or repeal the Second Amendment. That’s a phony fear tactic constructed by the weapons lobby that controls the NRA.

And I see the leadership of this issue being passed to a new generation. Like the young people of my generation who ended the war in Vietnam because we were the people dying over there and the politicians didn’t care, the young people are forcing the issue of death by gun violence onto the national agenda (along with outrageous college tuition costs, which were not raised at this event) and they won’t give up until they win, because they are the ones who are dying (and being priced out of college or saddled with debt). They are challenging the impotence of mass-murder apologists who justify the inevitability of massacres as collateral damage for “the price of freedom.” They are creating a movement that will be replenished year after year by new young people.

An older woman says to a young girl, “You’re the reason I’m here.”

I find a spot near the front so that I can see the speakers. I stand behind the chained-off area that is reserved for attendees who are disabled. Nice touch, I think. Throughout the event, a woman stands on stage signing for the hearing impaired.

The Pre-Rally Entertainment

Gemini was the pre-rally entertainment. Gemini, the duo starring Ann Arbor twins Sandor and Laszlo Slomovits, is a fixture in Ann Arbor so I feel compelled to state as confession that I had never before heard them perform in concert. I thought they were inspirational. They sang the folk standards that I sang during rallies from the sixties and seventies: “If I Had a Hammer,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” “Where I’m Bound,” “Down by the Riverside,” “Keep Your Eyes on the Prize,” “This Land Is Your Land” (the song that played at our wedding, on piano and flute, as Emily and I walked up the aisle together as newlyweds), and others.. I sang along again and was inspired.

A young girl played violin. Having assumed that the band members were all from my generation, I wondered what disease she had contracted that made her look so young. Then I heard someone behind me telling her friend that the girl was the daughter of one of the twins—she’s San’s daughter, Emily. She played beautifully and it meant so much to me to see two generations of activism connected by song. I cried when she solo’d the second verse of “If I Had a Hammer”; every time she played the violin after that, I cried some more.

And yet I was troubled. The young people organized the march. They led the march. They are the reason sanity is going to win on this issue. Where was the young local group that could rev up the young crowd with anthems from their generation—not as a replacement for Gemini but as a complement?

I kept that thought to myself until I found myself walking next to a man on the last leg of the march and he mentioned it and then another who overheard him agreed. Just a note to organizers: We older peace veterans are here to guide you and support you as much as we can because our organizing days aren’t over. But on this issue, you are the leaders. Create your own mythology.

The Rally

The young speakers and their older allies who held the stage were eloquent and inspirational. They quoted statistics on gun deaths and the cost to society like I once recited batting averages. They connected the dots by declaring that Sandy Hook and Columbine and Stoneman Douglas and Trayvon Martin and Philando Castile, and the other daily murders aren’t isolated events. They rejected the notion that if we can’t stop all gun deaths we can’t stop any.

The slam poetry of high school senior Serena Varner was riveting as she recited the words off her cell phone. Remember the Parkland victims, yes, but why do we only get roused when white people are among the victims? She spoke about the intersections between racism and gun violence, between sexism and gun violence, between LGBTQ and gun violence, between domestic abuse and gun violence—“It always involves gun violence”—and recalled the names of black youth killed not at schools but in parks and at homes. ‘They all have to be part of the picture.”

Gretchen Ascher, a South Lyon East High School junior, stated the demands:

  • Digitize firearms data.
  • Background checks.
  • Ban all high-capacity magazines.
  • Repeal the Dickey Amendment.
  • Ban high-powered assault weapons, with buy-back.

Liana Treviño, a survivor of the recent Las Vegas shootings who lives in town, struggled to read her account for the first time.

Mary Voorhorst, 10th grade teacher, described the simulated shootings she witnessed as part of a gun-violence-prevention training, and the strategies that they learned to counter terrorist attacks. I recall air raid drills in the fifties where my classmates and I hid under our desks and covered the backs of our heads to protect ourselves—we were told—from an atomic blast, should we face one. Today’s fiction, including armed teachers, is more cynical and sophisticated. “Teachers are being told to fix society’s problems because legislators are not passing laws. We need to examine the Second Amendment in the present context.”

Jennifer Tang Cole, a social worker from Sandy Hook, argued that prevention requires education, not just a phone number. She promoted Sandy Hook Promise, a group funded by parents of kids who died there, to help family members identify warning signs in children. “Do not let your critics silence you,” she called out to the young people. “You are the heart of this movement. Call principals, superintendents, lawmakers. Demand programs.”

Ann Arbor State Rep. Yousef Rabhi charged, “We can do better as a nation,” then recited “We believe in a nation that” and filled in the blanks one repetition at a time as Martin dreamed his dream, and invited us to share his vision.

 

The young people hear their elders challenge their inexperience and label them as naïve. NRA President Wayne LaPierre belittles the surviving high schoolers of Stoneham Douglas as patsies to billionaire liberals and Hollywood elite.

Really?

But the young people don’t care. As Morgan, a freshman at University of Michigan whose last name I didn’t catch (and whose first name I may have not heard correctly), said to his generation’s detractors: “We don’t give a damn what you think.”

“We are winning this fight because we have an unspoiled sense of what is possible.” He called out recent victories, including laws passed in Rick Perry’s Florida and Dick’s Sporting Goods’ decision to stop selling assault-style weapons.

The NRA

And they are calling out the NRA as the biggest state-sponsored terrorist organization in our country’s history. Over and over.

  • A theme throughout the day was “Vote,” usually to vote out the NRA-bought politicians who have purchased the Republican Party.
  • Celeste Kampurwala, the local events leader for Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, noted that the NRA has been around for 147 years and her group six, and yet their membership has surpassed the NRA’s. She shared her own gun violence story, about a depressive father who died by gun suicide.
  • We were reminded that the Dickey Amendment, that rider added to the 1996 omnibus spending bill to prevent the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from researching gun violence, was courtesy of NRA.
  • Congresswoman Debbie Dingell bragged about her F rating with the NRA but announced that, because of the spending bill that Trump just signed, the CDC can now do research on gun violence. “Now we can get the data into the national health care system to track it.
  • A sign taunted, “Hey, NRA, Promote Art Not Artillery.”

“It’s not enough but it’s a good beginning,” Morgan shouted. “NRA, your time as a monopoly in the gun debate is over.”

In future rallies, I would like to see speakers include NRA members who are fed up with their organization’s leadership and are ready to challenge it from within. The United States lost its terrorist war in Vietnam when the military turned against it. There were over eight hundred underground newspapers during the Vietnam era that were published by GIs representing every branch of the military.

Antiwar veterans formed Vietnam Veterans Against the War and it became the group that broke the back of the war effort. Where is the alternative gun rights group to the NRA that will support the Second Amendment but with limitations, just like every other of the amendments has limitations? (Try crying “Fire” in a crowded theatre.) AIPAC had a stranglehold on what was deemed the Jewish position on Israel until J Street forced a more visionary position onto the table. Current and former members of the law enforcement and criminal justice communities formed Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP) to speak out about the failures of the war on drugs that they had helped to propagate.

The March

We march through the parking lot, down South Seventh, to West Stadium.  I observe that I have never marched through a school parking lot, between cars, but it is entirely appropriate now because schools are where so many of the murders take place. Look to see more anti-gun violence rallies and voter registration campaigns taking place at schools.

A young girl says to a woman who she does not appear to know, “The only thing we should be scared of in schools is tests.”

A man shouts, “Arm the Homeless.” He identifies himself as Jarvis Stone, from the Committee to Arm the Homeless. “Who else is more susceptible to random violence than the homeless?”

A woman speaks admiringly to a friend about the Las Vegas survivor who addressed the crowd:  “She had to go through a lot of grief, trauma, to speak in front of such a crowd. She had so much courage.”

On West Stadium, we head right and are met by joyous drivers heading in the other direction, waving upraised fists and honking support. We turn right at Ann Arbor-Saline and march back toward where we began. I suspect few marchers made it back to the beginning as their waiting cars in the parking lot to our right proved too strong an attraction.

“The young people showed that they can organize an event and start a movement,” one man tells a friend as he heads to his car. “They’ve got the passion. The facts are on their side. Now the hard work begins. Patience.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is That a “Thing”

I got another phone call from someone who said, “Based on what studies have shown about you, you would be interested in ….” I spaced out what studies showed that I would be interested in—seniors health something; I was thinking, “Oh, no, not again.”

Is this a “thing” now, unsolicited phone callers telling you that studies showed you liked something and reading from scripts but unprepared to answer questions?

I hesitated for a long time, not sure how to respond. The silence got awkward. He started his script as if I had said, “Sure, go ahead. Can’t wait.”

Finally my mouth started to move. I spoke slowly. At times, the seconds between words were louder than the words themselves. He stopped talking.

I said, “Based on whose studies does it show that I would be interested?”

He hung up on me before I could finish my question.

“Ken Wachsberger’s Puns” Released as Ebook on Smashwords

 

Friends,

I’m happy to announce that the ebook version of my new book, Ken Wachsberger’s Puns and Word Plays for the Job Seeker, is available as an ebook as of today, March 7, and I want you to have a copy of it as my gift.

It is available from Smashwords, the writer-friendly platform of choice for independent writers who want to publish electronically. It is also available at Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple.

Its usual price will be $2.99. But for you, it’s free, in ebook or pdf format, during the entire month of March. Simply place your order using the following coupon: HM65Z.

I hope you enjoy it. It’s a funny book if the reviews can be believed, and you know you can use the laughs.

Who’d ’a Thought?

I didn’t expect to write a book about puns. The topic wasn’t on my radar of ideas that could be turned into books one day.

  • All of my previous books—histories, memoirs, textbooks—require long periods of concentration to finish.
  • Puns can be read, I’m told, in twenty minutes.

 

  • My previous books are an antidote to TV watching.
  • Puns can be read during commercials of an hour-long TV show.

 

  • The “Am-I-good-enough-to-write-a-book?” phase for some books lasts longer than it took me to write this book.

But a pun came to me one night: “You’ll never get rich being a member of the loyal opposition, but you’ll earn a dissent living.” I woke up laughing and wrote it down. The next day, I posted it on Facebook and launched a pun war that evolved into this book.

 Trajectories Collide

Meanwhile, on a different trajectory, my father, who died in 2011, was approaching what would have been his one-hundredth birthday, which is this April 15, 2018.

When the two trajectories intersected, I remembered that my dad was one of the legendary dinner-table punsters, and so his birthday became my deadline to publish the book. The copyright date is his birthday and the release date, today, is my folks’ anniversary.

I’m grateful for the artistic support and inspiration from Tom Petiet, legendary Ann Arbor artist and actor.

So

  • Get your free copy here or from one of the booksellers I mentioned above, using the code HM65Z. Or,
  • If you still prefer feeling the pages of a book as you read it, you can purchase softcover copies here.

If you can be so inspired, please post on honest review wherever you purchase the book.

Thanks if you’ve read this far.

Peace,

Ken

Emily’s Reflections on 2017 and Wishes for a Happy New Year 2018

As the year 2017 ends and we prepare for the new year, Emily has more profundity to share than me so I’m pleased to give her this guest blog post:

* * *

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Wow! I can’t believe that 2017 is almost over. The older I get the faster time goes, it seems. While I celebrate two New Years each year I see that there are certainly differences between the two although they certainly overlap in some ways. The Jewish New Year in the Fall is about the spiritual. In other words, what can I examine about myself that is keeping me apart from the divine and to work on those pieces of my life to be a better human being.

The New Year that we will usher in tonight is also important to me. First, it is based on the calendar of which my paycheck is based. You bet I take that seriously. But it is also the New Year that allows me to look at my earthly life of the past year; where I’ve been (both figuratively and literally), look at what I have in life and to feel gratitude for it, and look to the future to those places where I’d like to go (again, both figuratively and literally). Of course, my future is predicated upon my plans aligning with G-d’s plans but looking forward is one wish I always hope to have.

It’s been quite a year! First and most importantly, I was granted one more year of health and well-being. Although I’ve been eating way too much and exercising way too little during the holiday season, I look forward to getting back on track in 2018 and am grateful for the opportunity to do so. Next, I can never truly express the gratitude I have for my family! Ken has been my partner for over 40 years (of which 38+ have been married years). He is a wonderful man in so many years and I look forward to another year to continue our “happily ever after” story together.

Both David and Carrie are the best of children (albeit they are most certainly adults). They are living their own adventures and I love hearing about their lives. I am truly blessed that, as adults, they still want both Ken and me to be part of those lives. I have many other family members (both by blood and chosen) and friends who are wonderful human beings. We may not always agree politically but they are all terrific people and I am so lucky that they are in my life. This past year we made new friends, both when we traveled to Spain and Las Vegas, and here at home in Ann Arbor. They are all great people and I look forward to seeing them again, in what I hope won’t be too far in the future.

I am grateful for having steady employment. I’ve met a lot of terrific people during my experience at the State of Michigan and I’ve learned a lot in 2017. I truly believe that the Children’s Trust Fund where I work plays an important role to strengthen our families so that all children can grow up to their full potential. I’ve been there 9.5 years and I’m always amazed at the fantastic child maltreatment prevention work being accomplished across the state.

On the hobby front, I continued my singing and am honored to perform with the Ann Arbor Comic Opera Guild. Our next play, Apple Blossom, will be coming up in three weeks in Ann Arbor (so, locals, please think about coming and look for the ads). My voice teacher Lynda has a special place in my life and she has helped me to be a better soprano and person.

I live in a great city. It is no mystery why Ann Arbor gets high ratings year after year in a variety of polls. OK, so January and February aren’t the best, but, hey, where is there perfect weather all year round? Michigan in summer is perfection and one of the most beautiful states I’ve seen. To behold the Straits of Mackinac is like seeing one of the world’s greatest wonders. In this lovely city of Ann Arbor I have a nice home and neighbors. On days like these past couple of weeks, in the sub-zero temperature range, I feel intense gratitude for having a warm home, hot showers, electricity for lights and watching Law and Order reruns, and having healthy food on my table.

I look to 2018 with optimism. There will be the usual irritants closer to home and situations around the world that will be upsetting but I truly believe that we will all be OK. To get the new year started, we are sharing the evening with friends who will come over for a celebratory dinner of appetizers, cream sauce-seafood enchiladas and spinach-cheese enchiladas, Mexican rice, frijoles, and chocolate mousse. Oh, there will be lots to drink, too, both leaded and unleaded varieties. We’ll watch the ball drop in Times Square (like so many others do) and I’ll use tomorrow to get psyched up for Tuesday’s return to work.

I know this was a long narrative, but it really comes together to wish you and yours a wonderful and happy New Year celebration, and only good things in your lives in the coming year, 2018! Enjoy!

Sanctuary Action in Ann Arbor: First Joint TBE-STC Event

The Temple Beth Emeth and Saint Clare Episcopal Church Joint Sanctuary Committee is pleased to invite members of the two congregations and the community to an evening discussion on “What Is Sanctuary?” with Mary Anne Perrone:

 

 

When: Wednesday, November 29

Where: 2309 Packard, Ann Arbor

Time: 5:30-8:00 p.m.

It is Mary Anne’s fourth presentation at the address, her first at a co-sponsored event. The evening will begin with food and fellowship from 5:30 to 6:30, followed by the presentation. The event, which will take place in the Social Hall, is free and open to the public; donations will be accepted.

Mary Anne is a member of the leadership team of Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights (WICIR) and co-founder of Washtenaw Congregational Sanctuary (WCS). She has been at the forefront of the movement to educate the community about immigrant rights and the growing nationwide sanctuary movement.

Members of TBE and St. Clare, feeling the urgency to become actively involved, are exploring possible ways to respond jointly including what it would mean if they were to declare their shared building a sanctuary congregation. If they declare, the arrangement would possibly be the first interfaith sanctuary congregation in the country.

  • What is the sanctuary movement and why now?
  • What does it mean to be a sanctuary congregation?
  • What role should TBE-STC play in the sanctuary movement?

Don’t miss this event.

For more information, to volunteer to help, and to RSVP for the dinner, please contact Shoshana Mandel Warner at shoshie@umich.edu.