Tikkun group fills spiritual void for vexed leftists

“We are in a spiritual crisis,” said Rabbi Michael Lerner, voicing his concerns about the state of the nation to students, faculty and local citizens last Tuesday. Lerner is national leader of Tikkun Community, an organization that connects people from many faiths and traditions to heal and transform the world, and he spoke on “Why America Needs a Spiritual Left, Not a Fundamentalist Right.”

Many gathered at the opening event of the new UM Tikkun chapter. Tikkun strives to combine leftist political perspective with spirituality and the fate of the environment, as well as explore Israel-Palestine and other national political issues under the Bush administration.

Based on his research on middle income workers, Lerner studied why they would vote for the “Republican Right” when their economic interests are seemingly more leftist.

“There is a double voice going on in people: the notion that we live in a materialistic and selfish world and a deep feeling of revulsion to it,” Lerner said. “Because the political right acknowledged the spiritual crisis, people voted for Bush.”

Lerner stated the need for the creation of a spiritual left that emphasizes ethical sensitivity instead of the current philosopy that seeks money and power.

“We must change leftist politics by not abandoning struggles for equality or simply adding biblical quotes to speeches,” Lerner said.

“The one thing that sticks out in my mind that the Rabbi said is that the political right answers the spiritual crisis that many Americans are experiencing in a way that the left fails to do,” John Redfield, fresman, said. “I think this is what gave Bush the extra edge in the election.”

After reading Lerner’s works, Dr. Ronald Newman, professor of English at UM and a political activist, was inspired to enrich undergraduate lives. Newman established the UM chapter of Tikkun on campus, stating that although the national leader of Tikkun is Jewish, its ideals of being charitable are basic to all religious faiths.

“I hope to have Muslim, Christian, Jewish, students of all faiths in UM’s Tikkun reaching out to form coalitions and make a difference,” Newman said. “By sponsoring letter-writing campaigns, study groups and debates, I want this group to be more than a book club.”

Professor Ranen Omer-Sherman, chair of the Middle East Issues Committee, shares Newman’s passion to enrich student’s lives by political action groups.

“Instead of licking their wounds and giving up UM as an apathetic campus, this is a way to become politically involved on campus in a growing national movement that avoids surrendering spiritual values to the right,” Omer-Sherman said.

For more information about Tikkun, visit the Rathskeller private room on Tuesday, March 1 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

Cecille Lucero can be contacted at c.lucero1@umiami.edu.