Caring During COVID

The Coronavirus outbreak, which has cost the lives of so many people, hs found people willing to pitch in and help out their neighbors in need. I would like to recommend some fine charities:

The Philadelphia Foundation, in conjunction with the United Way of Greater Philadelphia and Southern New jersey, has the PHL COVID-19, Fund, which provides grants and other resources to non-profits working in the community; their website is https://phlcovid19fund.org/covid-19/. 

the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia has organized the COVID-19 Emergence Fund, to address community needs during the pandemic. their web site for updates and donations is  https://jewishphilly.org/covid-19-updates/.

Philabundance, which prepares and distributes meals to needy families in the Philadelphia area; their web site is https://www.philabundance.org/.

HIAS, formerly known as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, which supports and advocates for immigrants seeking refuge in this country-a population vulnerable to infections diseases. Their site for Pennsylvania is https://hiaspa.org/.

Muslims Serve, which distributes food to the homeless. their site is muslimsserve.org.

Please look up these fine organizations, and look up similar organizations where you are.

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Notary New World

Due to the Coronavirus (thanks for nothing, donnie!) I am now beginning the work of doing my Notary Public business online, through the service DocVerify. (https://docverify.com/) Traditionally I came to see the client in person, see their ID, and sign off on the document. Now, it’s all online, and I have to have an online version of the document and put a virtual seal and signature on it.

It’s all new to me, and I’ll probably make mistakes; but I must be gentle with myself, since mistake-making is part of the learning process and the human condition in general. This is a challenge for me, and I believe I’ll rise to it.

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Vote By Mail

Yesterday, I received my mail-in ballot, made my vote, and mailed it to my county’s board of elections. It’s an alternative, in this pandemic crisis, of electing our public officials.  It’s especially crucial to vote during this pandemic, so that we can have leaders who will truly  lead, truly work to help us resolve this crisis, and not soak the public of tax money to line their own pockets (like SOME people lurking around the White House!).

For information about voting in PHiladelhia, you can contact the City Commissioners’ website, https://www.philadelphiavotes.com/.  For the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania (“Commonwealth,” meaning the common well-being of the community), go to https://www.votespa.com/Pages/default.aspx.  Let us come together to vote, so that we have officials worthy of us as a people. We deserve it.

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Torah Portion Emor

This past Shabbat, we studied the Torah portion Emor, Leviticus 21:1-24:23. This portion tells of the physical and moral standards of the Levites, the tribe dedicated to the priestly duties of the Israelite community, as in verses 21:1-4: “None shall defile himself for any [dead} person among his kin except for the relatives that are closest to him.: his mother, his father, his son, his daughter, and his brother; also for a virgin sister, close to him because she is not married, for her he may defile himself. But he shall not defile himself as a kinsman by marriage, and so profane himself.” (Coming in contact with blood relatives is identified as “profaning,” why?)
Further, in 21:5, “They shall not shave smooth any part of their heads, or cut the side-growth of their beards, or gashes in their flesh.” In 21:7, “They shall not marry a woman degraded by harlotry, nor shall they marry one divorced from her husband.” In 21:9, “When the daughter of a priest degrades herself through harlotry, it is her father whom she degrades; she shall be put to the fire.” (This is the emphasis on the behavior of the women related to the priest-wife or daughter, not on the male children of the priests.) The ban on shaving their heads or beards must have been a mark of distinction, a badge signifying a member of this special class of men. And, in a patriarchal society, the behavior of the wives and daughters of the priests is reflective of the control men had over women.
Strict moral and physical standards are placed upon the Levites: “He shall not go in where there is any dead body; he shall not go outside the sanctuary and profane the sanctuary of his God, for upon him is the distinction of the anointing oil of his God, Mine the LORD’s. He may marry only a woman who is a virgin. (21:12-13) “A widow a divorced woman, or a woman in “harlotry”, a priest could not marry.
Verses 21:17-32 says, “No man of your offspring throughout the ages who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of his God,” such as the blind, the lame, one with a limb too short or too long, or broken limb, or a dwarf, or affected with scurvy, or blind or with crushed testes or a number of other physical defects. What is the basis of this? It could be that, as the priests are to offer to God the finest animals and produce of the land, ones with no defects and blemishes, the priests themselves are offerings to God.

 

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COVID Countdown

We are in the midst of the Omer, the 49-day period between Pesach, the holiday celebrating the liberation of the Israelites from slavery, and Shavuot, the holiday celebrating the receiving of the Torah, The Kabbalists have held the Omer as the period of self-reflection and spiritual development, with the study of the Kabbalistic s’pherot as traits to develop, as a person and as a community (which are inseparable). The Omer is a period of great hope and anticipation, a countdown from liberation to revelation.

Lately I’ve been following the news about the COVID-19 crisis. I try to balance realizing the bad news with finding nuggets of hope-and form of treatment or vaccine against the virus; local home-grown efforts of manufacturing ventilators, gowns and masks; the valiant work of dedicated nurses, doctors, and other medical workers saving lives while risking (and often losing) their own; and people coming together and helping each other, supplying food to neighbors and calling them to see if they’re okay. You need to hear both-the bad news along with hope, to help you make informed decisions, and to keep you going through the situation.

There have been many fine state governors addressing the pandemic-Wolf of Pennsylvania, Cuomo of New York, Murphy of New Jersey, Pritzker of Illinois- and we must do our own part in demanding that all officials at all levels of government work to deal with the crisis; our voices, and our votes, are our weapons of choice. (The Primary election day in Pennsylvania is June 2, and the general election is November 3. Please get out there and vote.)

Our conscious decisions, such as to weak masks outside and self-quarantine if we’re not feeling well, are part of what has helped us through the pandemic, and will help us defeat the COVID-19, along with trump and his lackeys who have betrayed us; likewise, our self-loving, self-respecting self-assessment throughout the Omer period leads us to greater spiritual fulfillment.

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The Mason Missile-The COVID-19 Chronicles, May 7, 2020

Greetings! I hope we continue to stay safe in this crisis.

May First was May Day, AKA International Worker’s Day, a day honoring working men and women throughout the world. It has been celebrated all over the world, except in the United States, due to the Cold war and the association of May Day to the Stalinist regime in Moscow. (Of course, people in power will associate any challenge to their regime with Communism, thus having an excuse for repressions.)

This year, amidst the COVID-19 crisis our nation faces (no thanks to trump’s willful incompetence), May Day takes a special meaning to workers. Due to the Corona-virus, workers had to be put out of work through no fault of their own, and are trying to attain Unemployment benefits through their states. Congress has allocated trillions of dollars for small business relief, but that money has would up in the hands of multi-million dollar corporations, including the ones with the “trump” name on them.

Workers who have been particularly hard hit have been those at Amazon and Whole Foods, “essential” businesses that need to stay open. On May Day, workers in those two companies-along with workers at Target, Walmart, Instacart, FedEx, and Shipt went out on strike over their managements’ failure and refusal to provide safety measures to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, while these same companies have made enormous profits. (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/884w3a/amazon-instacart-target-whole-foods-fedex-workers-explain-why-theyre-striking-may-day)

Christian Smalls, a worker in the Amazon distribution center in Staten Island, led a walkout at the facility over COVID-19 safety, and he urged company leadership to sanitize the building and seriously deal with the pandemic among employees. For this, Smalls was fired and subjected to a company-sponsored slander campaign. (https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/5dm8bx/leaked-amazon-memo-details-plan-to-smear-fired-warehouse-organizer-hes-not-smart-or-articulate) That has always been a tactic of corporations, to smear workers who stand up for themselves.

Amazon is a particularly serious example of profiteering during the pandemic, since people can’t go to stores and go have to order their goods online. Amazon’s CEO Jeff Bezos, already the richest human being on the planet worth $113 BILLION, and now, with the pandemic, his profits have risen, and he has thus added $24 BILLION to his bank account. With the trillions of dollars of stimulus from the federal government-call it the “rich man’s welfare,” as it is-corporate leaders are feeling confident again of a recovery for their own selves, still engaging in stock buybacks, which take stocks out of the market and thus raise (artificially) their value, thus raising the profits from them. (https://fortune.com/2020/04/14/jeff-bezos-net-worth-2020-billionaires-amzn-amazon-stock/)

State governments are not necessarily the friend of workers. In Iowa, the state government has ordered furloughed workers to resume work, with no regard for the continuing presence of the CIVD-19, or else lose forever their unemployment benefits. (https://www.businessinsider.com/iowa-tells-workers-return-to-work-or-lose-unemployment-benefits-2020-4?fbclid=IwAR1_Mr0j4_0M6GlmOYk5iBjOC8Cx6nI0Ej0Avcq64Yi8lsAGTMLSriQ3qeI) Wisconsin Chief Justice Patience D. Roggensack was hearing a case around Governor Tony Evers’s stay-at-home order related to the JBS Packerland meat-packing plant in Brown Country, which had close to 800 COVID cases; the learned chief justice’s comment was, “These were due to the meatpacking, though, that’s where Brown County got the flare. It wasn’t the regular folks in Brown County.” (https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/05/07/meatpacking-workers-wisconsin-coronavirus/) Does this mean that the meat workers were NOT part of the community, that they were alien, from another planet perhaps?

The meat-packing industry has particularly shown itself to be abusing to its workers, many of who are immigrants and of color; trump, who has not utilized the Defense Production Act to order manufacturers to turn out masks and ventilators, has invoked the act to order meat-processing workers back to their job sites, which have been hotbeds for the COVID. The Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was found to have 853 workers test positive for the virus. Tyson shut down its pork processing plant in Waterloo, Iowa due to the pandemic. (https://kstp.com/coronavirus/tyson-foods-suspends-operations-largest-pork-plant-amid-iowa-outbreak/5707704/) (https://kstp.com/coronavirus/smithfield-tyson-react-to-trump-executive-order-keeping-meat-packing-facilities-open/5714501/) trump’s order would demand these workers risk their lives from the virus-for what? The profits of the board of directors over the next quarter, which none of the workers will benefit from?

Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced plans to end the stay-at-home order in his state; over a phone call with legislators, he admitted that would be a health threat to people in his state: “Listen, the fact of the matter is pretty much every scientific and medical report shows that whenever you have a reopening—whether you want to call it a reopening of businesses or of just a reopening of society—in the aftermath of something like this, it actually will lead to an increase and spread. It’s almost ipso facto,” knowing full well the danger to the public was real. (https://www.thedailybeast.com/texas-governor-greg-abbott-admits-dangers-of-reopening-state-on-private-call-with-lawmakers/?via=twitter_page) (https://www.rawstory.com/2020/05/texas-governor-slammed-after-being-caught-on-hot-mic-admitting-his-reopen-order-will-worsen-the-pandemic/)

The COVID-19 crisis has laid bare many of the ills of American society-inaccessibility to healthcare; government focused on aiding the already- rich and powerful at the expense, and to the detriment, of working and low-income people; racial disparities in health care; and class privilege flaunted brazenly in our faces, as when Mike Pence strolled through the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota without a face mask, as is policy in the clinic to do, and stating afterwards that he has gotten regular tests, while regular people have to line up for hours, if they’re lucky, to get one; does he think that the rules we follow don’t apply to him? (https://www.cnn.com/2020/04/28/politics/mike-pence-mayo-clinic-mask/index.html)

Our vote is our weapon, and we must use it to restore our government for working and low-income people. We deserve, and must attain, leaders who will operate the government for the benefit of all, not just for a gang of con artists, pseudo-science cranks, upper-class twits, and Wall Street gamblers. In Pennsylvania, the primary election is June 2, and the general election is November 3. PLEASE, for the sake of the nation, for the sake of your communities, for the sake of future generations, get out there and VOTE!

Stay safe, stay strong, and stay together-Bye!

 

World Press Freedom Day

On May 3, we have commemorated World Press Freedom Day, a day where we honor the importance of a fair and free news media as an asset to democracy, holding governments and other powerful institutions accountable to the public. The news media has been vilified by authoritarian regimes as their enemy, and rightly so; despotism thrives best out of the public’s scrutiny. An engaged voting public needs to know what THE HELL its government, corporations,  and powerful individuals and up to.

THIS is why trump has howled about the news media as “the enemy of the people-” a cry common among authoritarian regimes. (The enemy of HIS people, HIS lackeys, HIS deluded thugs, not the rest of the American people.) He wants to be free to gouge the American taxpayer of as much money as he can-him and his brood of vipers, like Don jr., Eric, Jared, and Ivanka-since he can’t make his money any other way, in spite of the business-whiz myth he developed about himself. The regular commercial media, independent presses, have been great at showing his for the fraud, racist, bully, tax-cheater, misogynist,  and ignoramus he is. (And the same goes for his family, pence, and his ministers, as well as the evangelical cheerleaders who foist him upon their disciples while they con more money from their pockets.)

The COVID-19 crisis has, through the medium of the news media, exposed trump as he and his gang are. Let’s continue to di the work of resisting them, staring with educating yourself on the issues with the help of a free, fair, not-to-be-intimidated news media. The workers in the media deserve it, and so do WE the American people.

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E-Notary Services

As of this month, I have signed on as an Electronic Notary for Pennsylvania. I can now remotely notarize your deeds, wills, mortgages, and other documents. That’s important is this era of social distancing-may is, please Lord, come soon to an end. Please cal me for your notary needs.