Monday, December 19, 2011

Holiday greetings!

Jill and I want to wish you a joyful holiday as we experience our first Christmas as a married couple.  We are incredibly grateful for the miracle of love and how God has brought us and our family and friends together. Since meeting on Palm Sunday April 17th, 2011, we've had amazingly rich experiences: our whirlwind courtship, our mega wedding, our fabulous honeymoon in Hawaii (where we co-spoke on each of our books!) connecting with Anthony’s Quaker roots in Philadelphia, with Jill’s Missions Door colleagues in New York and with Anthony’s sister and her family in Princeton, where he grew up. We are greatly enriched by each other’s friends and spiritual traditions. It feels we are living out what Jesus said: “I have come to bring life, and bring it abundantly!”

Jill’s family—her Mom Donna and sister Jana and brother-in-law Dwight and their two sons Joey and Peter—came to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. We had a blast! We loved Anthony's idea of offering thanks for the various foods that our Native American brothers and sisters bestowed on us: corn, tomatoes, cactus, beans, squash, sweet potatoes, potatoes, pumpkin, wild rice, and of course, the greatest gift of all, chocolate!

The Advent season began with wonderful news. A couple with seven kids contacted us a few weeks ago, telling us that they were being evicted from their apartment due to the landlord going into foreclosure. Jill spent hours on the phone trying to help this family—we prayed—and our prayers were answered: they were accepted into the Family Promise! They entered the program on Dec. 4th--the very day they had to be out of their apartment and the day the network opened--after 3 years of organizing! Jill helped to recruit many of the 14 churches now part of the San Gabriel Valley network--the local expression of this nationwide program, whereby 2-4 homeless families are hosted by a congregation for a week, and are then rotated to the next congregation. Daily families seek jobs and housing at the Family Promise Resource Center. A full-time social worker works with them. We were blown away when 101 people came to the volunteer training Dec. 8th! We are thrilled to see such interest and how this family and others will now have a chance for a new life.

We are also grateful that the homeless survey we helped to conduct last summer has yielded good results. Twenty of the most at-risk homeless people in Pasadena have now been housed!

We are grateful that we have a warm and cozy home, and that it didn’t suffer much damage when winds up to 65 mph roared through our area on November 30. The shingles on our back roof were blown off, but they were old and needed to be replaced, and insurance will cover most of it. Anthony says: “It’s an ill wind that doesn’t blow somebody some good.”

During this unusually violent storm we offered Jill’s back house to a man who recently became homeless and was living in his car when the shelter where he was staying closed down.

Everywhere we turn, we see people who lack adequate shelter. That’s why we feel it’s important to revise Jill’s book on affordable housing. The need is huge, and churches are playing an important role to in realizing the goal of early Christians: "There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need." (Acts 4:34-35). Jill book will continue to encourage people to follow this example and do what it takes to “make housing happen” with the desperate need. At the Christian Community Development Association’s annual gathering this fall, Jill was humbled to learn that a young woman discovered her book in the office at Sojourner’s magazine and upon reading it decided to switch careers. She is now developing affordable housing for homeless youth in Minneapolis.

Jill published a feature article called “Seven Ways Home” in the December issue of Sojourners magazine. Anthony was very proud when Jim Wallis saw us both in an elevator and said, “Oh, you’re Jill Shook. You’re famous!” (You can read it online at

Anthony has continued to be involved in his various peacemaking efforts. This year he published a book called Quakers and the Interfaith Movement and has given talks at various churches and other venues. During the summer he gave a workshop at the national Quaker gathering, Friends General Conference. One of our goals as a married couple is to host a weekly discussion series in Feb 2012 to look at biblical underpinnings of peacemaking. We will consider alternatives to war in the Bible, and how the church has been on both sides of this issue, both supporting it and playing a significant role in ending it.

On Oct 7 Anthony was arrested at a rally in front of the Los Angeles Federal Building along with 14 other religious leaders on the 10th anniversary of the US invasion of Afghanistan, the longest war in US history. He and the other religious leaders spent the afternoon in jail. When asked about this experience, Anthony said: “I used to wonder why early Christians and early Quakers were so cheerful when they were taken to jail, or worse, for their beliefs. When I was taken to jail with my good friends, I had a taste of that joy that comes when we follow our conscience, no matter what.”

For the past few weeks, Anthony has been working with various religious leaders in the LA area to have a sharing circle and worship opportunities at Occupy LA. Anthony believes that the nonviolent approach of Dr. Martin Luther King is needed at this time in order to turn America from a culture of greed to a culture of compassion and mutual accountability.

It feels as if America, and the world, is going through a time of rebirth, a process that is painful and messy as well as beautiful. (Kind of like a marriage!) We are feeling the drama of birth in other ways, too. Jill had planned to work on the revised version of her book throughout 2011, but due our meeting and wedding, we are now facing the pressure of a January deadline. Jill is deeply grateful for Anthony's many hours of help in editing and for his appreciation of the value and great need for this book at this time of the foreclosure crisis. It feels as if giving birth to a book is our first child!

During this time of Advent, we are seeing the rebirth of the One who was born to show us how to live and love with grace. We hope and pray that all of you will experience once again this amazing grace and have a truly blessed holiday!

Love, Anthony and Jill

PS. The picture below shows us when we gave a presentation together about our respective books at Honolulu Meeting. We plan to speak together at One Voice, Jill’s church, on Sunday, Dec 18, about how the birth of Jesus challenged the existing social order. You’ll be able to access this talk at Anthony’s blog at

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Where would you want your child to be born?

Jill and I are grateful to Paul Kim, pastor of One Voice church in Pasadena,  for inviting us to share this Christmas message.   I am also thankful to this church for being so hospitable and welcoming me into its community.

The question I posed for this congregation (and for you) to think about was:
"If you had a choice about where your child would be born, so your child could realize its potential and have a good life, what place would you choose?”
Most people would probably say, “I’d like my child to be born in a good, peaceful neighborhood, with good schools, so he or she will be safe and get a good education.”

The place were Jesus was born was not at all what you or I would necessarily choose. God had a different plan. God’s child was born in a country under foreign occupation, wracked by war and uprisings, in an impoverished village far from centers of power. His parents came from a town with such a bad reputation that when good-hearted Nathaniel was told Jesus came from Nazareth, he said: “Can anything good come from Nazareth?”

Nazareth was clearly not prime real estate It was in the northern part of what is today Israel. It was filled with many non-Jews, mostly Syrians, who had been conquered in a bloody war a hundred years before Jesus’ birth. Bethlehem was also war-torn and poor, a suburb of Jerusalem controlled by a ruthless Roman army. Today the inhabitants of Bethlehem are still under the control of a ruthless army; they can’t come or go without permission of the Israelis. That’s the kind of place that God chose for God’s son to be born into. Why would God want his child to be born in this kind of place under these circumstances?

The Bible teaches us that many great leaders were born in desperate circumstances. Moses was born a slave in Egypt, under conditions so oppressive his parents had to put him into a wicker basket and set him afloat on the Nile to prevent him from being killed by Pharaoh. David was born a humble shepherd during a time when the Israelites were at war with the Canaanites.

Why did God choose for the savior of the world to be born among poor and outcast? In every way Jesus, even at his birth, identifies with the marginalized. That is what gave him authority to speak truth to power on behalf of the powerless. And that is what gives you and I that authority. Jill would not be powerful in what she says at the city council if she didn’t know firsthand those who are being affected by the systemic issues and are not being heard or know how to speak to those who allocate the resources.

According to the Hebrew prophecies, a great Liberator would be born in Bethlehem to give folks the grace and power to speak, to free his people from oppression and to end war. Zech 9: 9-10 says,

Rejoice, O people of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.

I will remove the battle chariots from Israel
and the warhorses from Jerusalem.
I will destroy all the weapons used in battle,
and your king will bring peace to the nations.
His realm will stretch from sea to sea
and from the Euphrates River to the ends of the earth.

This was joyous news for the poor, but bad news for those who live by the sword. When King Herod heard rumors that a Messiah, a King of the Jews, was born in Bethlehem, he felt so threatened he sent his soldiers to kill all the babies. Fear and lust for power controlled him and led him to violence.

Such a bloody, ruthless act revealed the oppressive system that the Jews were living under. The theologian Walter Wink calls this "the domination system," and it's still with us. Whenever the domination system is threatened, it responds with violence: arrests, imprisonment, torture, and eventually the killing of innocent people. We see this around the world today with people rising up in Syria, Egypt, Tunisia. We even see it in our own country with the our police dressed in full riot gear, to clear out unarmed Occupiers exercising their Constitutional rights.

I felt personally connected to the story of the “slaughter of the innocents” when I went to Israel/Palestine in 2005 as part of the Compassionate Listening project. The intifada or uprising of 2000 had just ended. Over 1,400 Palestinian children and 125 Jewish children had been killed—an enormous number given the small size of this country. I met Jewish and Palestinian parents whose children had been killed during this period and it was heartbreaking to listen to them. One of them was a rabbi whose son was murdered by Arabs and found in a cave near his kibbutz. Another was a Palestinian mother whose 16-year-old son was shot in the head at point blank range by an Israeli soldier during a peaceful demonstration. I can't begin to describe the pain of these grieving families.

During this trip I went to Bethlehem to visit the Church of the Nativity, where Jesus was born and was appalled to see it riddled with bullet holes. Inside the church, I found a shrine dedicated to the “slaughter of the innocents." . This was not just a story that happened 2000 years ago. It's still happening today. While there I felt empty and sad. I grieved for the children who had been killed in Israel/Palestine. I prayed for all the children being killed by war, by terrorism, by drones, by airplanes. On average two children a day died in Afghanistan in 2010. Over 500 Palestinian children were killed during the Gaza massacre in 2009.

I have vowed to do everything in my power to end this senseless slaughter. Jill and I both believe there are biblical alternatives to war and violence. God chose to have his son born in the midst of an oppressive system to show us the way.

I had come to Israel/Palestine as part of a nonviolent conflict resolution group called the Compassionate Listening Project. This group was inspired by a Quaker named Gene Hoffman who was my mentor and friend. The idea of Compassionate Listening is to teach people listening skills in places where people have been traumatized by violence. People learn to listen to their “enemies” without judging, to listen from the heart, and this builds trust and hope. While I was in Bethlehem, we did Compassionate Listening training in a school, and nearly 100 Palestinians and Israeli Jews took part. This was very inspiring since Jews were not allowed to go to Bethlehem to talk with Palestinians at this time. It was illegal! But many Jews were willing to break the law in order to build bridges of understanding with their Palestinian neighbors. When so-called “enemies” come together and listen to each other’s stories from the heart, they can become friends.

A couple of years ago, I interviewed a Palestinian boy named Yousef Bashir who lived under Israeli occupation in Gaza. When Yousef was only 12, he was shot in the back by an Israeli soldier as he was walking out of his house. He was critically hurt and almost died. Because the hospitals in Gaza are short on crucial medical supplies, his father somehow managed to get him to a first-rate Jewish hospital where Yousef spent several months recovering. Up to this time, Yousef had never encountered a Jew who wasn’t armed and threatening. In the hospital he met kind Jewish doctors and nurses, and gradually overcame his prejudices and fears. He went on to become an ardent peace maker and even persuaded an Israeli soldier to accept a t-shirt for a camp called “The Seeds of Peace.” After hearing Yousef’s story, the soldier said he would like to become a counselor at this camp after finishing his obligatory military service. Yousef’s story, titled “The Power of Forgiveness,” is being published in a book for children in Russia and Chechnya showing that there are alternatives to violence. (See

Closer to home, Jill and I witnessed examples of what compassionate listening can accomplish when we traveled together this summer to places in our own country where there is poverty and violence. We went to the slums of Washington, DC, and Philadelphia and we saw Christians who had moved into these at-risk communities and listened, deeply listened, to what the community needs and what it has to offer. These Christians had partnered with their urban neighbors to help the community to rebuild itself. Jim Dickerson, this small church has been involved in rehabbing and selling 1000 homes to low income families with an extremely low foreclosure rate. In this work, I saw signs of hope, signs that Christ was being reborn.

Many people today are being kicked out of their homes due to foreclosures, or are finding it impossible to afford a home because of our unjust economic system, where the rich get bailouts and the poor get sold out. Many young people have taken to the streets to protest the economic injustices of Wall Street. As you know, I was part of a religious group that got arrested to protest the war in Afghanistan and also went to Occupy LA to be in solidarity with the protesters. It was amazing to see hundreds of people living in tents around our City Hall. Some of them had come from Skid Row where they were already living on the streets. It was the first time in my life I have seen middle class and poor people living together in tents. What drew them together was the hunger and thirst for justice. I felt as if I was witnessing the rebirth of hope, the rebirth of the Christ spirit.

What about here in Pasadena? Where is Christ being reborn here? How can we be part of this rebirth? Jill can tell you more about this than I can. I am grateful that many of you in this church are helping with programs like Family Promise and are doing what you can to help families like Theresa's family whose children will be living in a church instead of on the street this Christmas. Jill and I are inviting you to join us in a discussion group focusing on justice and peace from a biblical perspective, and discover together the meaning of peace in ourselves, our community and world today.

We’d like to end with a beautiful song about the birth of the Prince of Peace by the great Quaker African-American activist mystic teacher Howard Thurman, who taught at my Alma mater, Boston University. Here's what Howard Thurman says about the message of Christmas:
"When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the kings and princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock, The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among others, To make music in the heart."

What did the angels mean by “Peace on earth?”

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”--Luke 2:14, King James version.

This Christmas I was asked to speak about the birth of the one who has been called the “Prince of Peace.” As many of you know, my wife Jill and I met at a peace parade in Pasadena that took place on Palm Sunday, and we are both peacemakers at heart. In fact, we affirmed at our wedding that “the Prince of Peace brought us together for purpose larger than either of us can imagine.”

Peacemaking is at the heart of the Gospel. When Jesus made his triumphant march in Jerusalem on a donkey, he was fulfilling a prophesy by Zachariah which said that the Messiah would come and end all war. Just before his death, Jesus told his disciples, “My peace I leave you, not as the world gives you peace” (John 12:27).

Today we are hear to celebrate the birth of this Prince of Peace. But what Jesus mean by peace? How does the peace of Jesus differ from the “world's” notion of peace?

When the angels announced the birth of the Savior by proclaiming “Peace on earth,” they were expressing a vision of peace and of society that was totally at odds with the views of the Roman empire, and of many people today. The Roman word for peace, PAX, is related to the word “pact,” a peace treaty. For the empire, peace is simply about the cessation of war. As the Roman historian Tacitus said, “The Romans create desolation and call it peace.” The same could be said for every empire, including our own. The Hebrew word for peace SHALOM is much deeper and richer than this imperial notion of a peace treaty. Shalom comes from the root meaning wholeness and implies health, well-being, and social harmony. Peace is usually coupled with justice. In the Beatitudes Jesus says: “Blessed are the shalom-makers” and also “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after justice.” In the Bible, shalom and justice go hand-in-hand.

So when the angels announce that the birth of Jesus will bring “shalom,” it means a world of justice, peace, and reconciliation.

There are basically two aspects of peace—inward and outward. Inner peace means more than just feeling good. You can feel good and still not have true inner peace. Many Germans felt peaceful inwardly during the Nazi period. They were going to church, doing their jobs, and being “good Germans.” But they weren’t at peace with God.

To be truly peaceful inwardly means living in harmony with God’s will. The Italian poet Dante said it beautifully: “En su voluntad esta nuestra paz.” “In Your Will, O God, is our peace.” When we live in harmony with God’s will, we are living a life of love, service, and joy. We aren’t thinking about ourselves. We aren’t resentful or angry. We feel a sense of “rightness,” of being where we are supposed to be, doing what we are supposed to be doing, with people we love.

In the Beatitudes, Jesus talks about this inward peace when he says: “Blessed are the pure in heart for they will see God.” Those who are pure in heart are free from mixed motives, from the kind of selfishness that leads to conflict and war.

In his epistle, James explains that wars are caused by our selfish desires. “You want what you don't have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can't get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don't have what you want because you don't ask God for it.” (James 4:2)

James goes on to say we don’t know how to pray for what is truly good for us, like wisdom. To learn how to pray rightly, we need to take time to be still and listen to our hearts, to what Quakers call the Inward Light. When we take time to be in holy silence, and let go of our desires and agenda, we allow space for the Christ child, the spirit of compassion, to be reborn in our hearts. This leads to what Paul calls “the peace that passeth understanding.” This spirit of peace is beautifully conveyed in the song, “Silent night.” I love the words: “All is calm. All is bright.” That’s what inner peace feels like.

Peace is more than a good feeling, however. As Pastor Paul Kim explained last week, Jesus commands us to be ethical. And he gave us two ethical commands that relate to peace: LOVE YOUR ENEMY and PRAY FOR THOSE WHO WRONG YOU.

If we follow these two commandments, it would seem we couldn't possibly go to war. In fact, we have no choice but to pursue peace actively.

These commandments seem clear, though by no means easy to follow, but many Christians have felt differently about applying them. Augustine made the argument that some wars are just, and thereby opened the door for endless “defensive” wars. Other Christians like Reinhold Niebuhr argued these commandments are intended for individuals, not for nations. According to these so-called Christian realists, Jesus’ commandments regarding peace are impossible to follow in this fallen world. They are simply ideals to be aspired to.

This is not the way early Christians interpreted these commandments, however. Until the time of Constantine in 300 AD, most Christians refused to serve in the Roman army. They refused to light incense at the altar of Caesar or the war gods. And they paid a heavy price for not pledging allegiance to the Roman empire. Many went to prison, or worse, were tortured and killed. One of my favorite stories is about St Martin, the patron saint of pacifists.

While Martin was still a soldier in the Roman army and deployed in Gaul (modern day France), he experienced the vision that became the most-repeated story about his life. One day as he was approaching the gates of the city of Amiens he met a scantily clad beggar. He impulsively cut his own military cloak in half and shared it with the beggar. That night, Martin dreamed of Jesus wearing the half-cloak he had given away. He heard Jesus say to the angels: "Here is Martin, the Roman soldier who is not baptized; he has clad me." (Sulpicius, ch 2).

After having a conversion experience and being baptised, Martin determined that his faith prohibited him from fighting, saying, "I am a soldier of Christ. I cannot fight." He was charged with cowardice and jailed, but in response to the charge, he volunteered to go unarmed to the front of the troops. His superiors planned to take him up on the offer, but before they could, the invaders sued for peace, the battle never occurred, and Martin was released from military service.[5]

As you know, I went to jail along with 14 others who oppose the endless “defensive” wars we are fighting throughout the world. When I was arrested, I had a taste of what it was like when early Christians and early Quakers went to prison cheerfully, singing hymns of praise to God. When I was handcuffed and taken to jail, surrounded by a cloud of witnesses, I felt a sense of joy, of peace, because I was following my conscience, no matter what.

There are many ways to create peace or shalom. We create shalom when we visit the sick, help the needy, comfort the afflicted, and work for justice. I hope that each of you finds your own way to bring peace and reconciliation to your family, to your community, and to the world. This is how we can best celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace.

I'd like to end with a beautiful song by the great Quaker African-American activist mystic teacher Howard Thurman, who taught at my alma mater, Boston Univesity. Here is how Thurman sums up the message of Christmas:

"When the song of the angels is stilled, When the star in the sky is gone, When the kings and princes are home, When the shepherds are back with their flock, The work of Christmas begins: To find the lost, To heal the broken, To feed the hungry, To release the prisoner, To rebuild the nations, To bring peace among others, To make music in the heart."

Sunday, December 11, 2011


Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (, on whose board of directors I serve, issued the following statement condemning the police raid on Occupy LA. The Jewish Journal published an excellent account of what happened from an interreligious viewpoint. See

Ever since 9/11, when Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace ("ICUJP") was founded, we have called on religious communities to "stop blessing war and violence" and have urged our elected officials to seek peaceful solutions to conflict at home and abroad.

We believe that Occupy LA had a right to protest peacefully and should not have been evicted. In a time in which we often hear laments that no one cares and no one gets involved, the Occupy LA movement should be commended for getting involved and peacefully protesting a government that has become completely beholden to the interests of the rich, the military, banks, and corporations. Their involvement also inspired others to get involved, which should be celebrated as well.

Since the Occupy LA encampment was endorsed the Los Angeles City Council and its goals has the support of the majority of California voters, we feel Mayor had no legal authority to unilaterally order the LAPD to shut it down.

As religious leaders who personally observed the police crackdown have testified, protesters at Occupy LA were peacefully exercising their constitutional rights when 1400 police in riot gear descended upon them, arrested almost 300 and brutally dispersed the rest. Although the police allegedly did not use the outrageous and illegal level of violence evident in other such crackdowns, observers described the behavior of the LAPD as "violent" and "brutal," leading to abuses and injuries, which have been ignored.

This police overreaction could have been avoided. Religious leaders had made an agreement with the police department that they would be given an opportunity to meet with the protesters prior to arrests to help defuse tension. According to reliable sources, only 50 protesters had planned to commit civil disobedience. The rest were willing to disperse when requested to do so. These religious mediators were deliberately taken aside and deceptively told they were being briefed while police initiated their raid without observation. This betrayal of trust by law enforcement violates deeply held democratic values.

ICUJP also regrets that the local media, including the Los Angeles Times, betrayed the ideals of a Free Press, by failing to unflinchingly report what actually happened during the police raid on Occupy LA. A free society depends on a free press independently exposing government abuse rather than uncritically republishing the official story.

The Mayor and others have boasted that this police action was peaceful, compared with the pepper spraying and other violent behavior that has taken place throughout the United States. We also object to the use of excessive bail and jail time to intimidate the protesters.

We believe City should not only permit, but encourage its citizens to exercise their right to protest peacefully if we are to preserve our democracy.

Finally, we condemn the growing use of paramilitary tactics to suppress the exercise of First Amendment rights, including freedom of peaceful and non-violent assembly, here in the United States. A democracy cannot survive if it treats protesters as if they are "the enemy." We are appalled that the Department of Homeland Security has been advising mayors throughout the country on how to suppress the Occupy movement, thereby equating American citizens exercising their constitutional rights with terrorists.

We fully concur with former Seattle police chief Norm Stamper who has severely criticized the police for adopting a militaristic approach to dealing with demonstrators. Stamper urges the police and elected officials to remember "they are dealing with fellow Americans" and notes that the Occupy protesters are raising "issues that are vital to the entire country, and certainly to the middle class and those who have been marginalized, especially by poverty or by discrimination."

We are committed to Speaking Truth to Power. ICUJP calls for an independent People's Tribunal to fully investigate the events surrounding the raid on Occupy LA and to publicly expose the whole truth.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Remembering Dora Stein.....

A year ago I went caroling with members of Santa Monica Meeting to shut-ins, and we ended up at the apartment of Dora Stein, a beloved member of our meeting who passed away last month at age 84. I  was also asked to give a "eulogy" at Dora's memorial, so I am including it along with pictures we took last year when we went caroling... I realize how precious such moments are, and how caring for Dora brought us together as Friends....and brought us together to the One whose birth we celebrate this season.

It is a great honor to be asked to give a eulogy about Dora Stein, a beloved member of our Meeting. During her final years she suffered from constant health problems, and needed lots of care. Many of us visited her, took her to the hospital and to doctor’s appointments, took her to the bank and shopping, and performed other needed services. It was not always easy to be her caregiver, but I am grateful I had the opportunity to know and love this amazing woman. During one of her emotional outbursts in the hospital this past year, Dora referred to me as her son. When I heard this, I felt it was a great honor. Dora was born the same year as my mother, and she was like my mother in many ways: a gifted storyteller, a lover of people, and a colorful character you couldn’t help loving even if at times she drove you crazy.

And I am reminded of the words of Elizabeth Watson, a Friend who wrote a beautiful book about grieving called “Guests in my House.” Elizabeth wrote:

“This we owe to our beloved dead, whether young or old: to wipe from our memories all that was less than their best, and to carry them in our hearts at their wisest, most compassionate, most creative moments.”

Today we are here to remember Dora at her best, and to be thankful for what she gave of herself to us.

Dora loved this Meeting and she never ceased to express her gratitude to all of you. She never married, and she was not close to her siblings, so this Meeting was her family. I know that if she were here, she would want to thank each one of you for the care and love you have showed her. Especially deserving of thanks are those who served on Dora’s care committee: Donna and Fred Buell, Sue Richter, Nancy Fuller, Diane Manning, and Celia Carroll. Many others in this Meeting also deserve thanks for visiting her in the hospital, for helping with this memorial meeting, and for other acts of kindess.

This week Dora would have celebrated her 84th birthday. She was in Boston on Dec. 2, 1927. Her parents Samuel and Rachel Fisher Stein were Jewish and were born in Poland. She had three sisters: Rose, Annette and Ida. She attended Simmons College, and took occupational therapy training at LA City College. She worked as an editor for Sunset magazine and had many other free-lance jobs

She was the adopted grandmother of Dahlins: Bob, Suzy, and Lucas.

She loved parties, gardening, and her neighborhood.

And she loved being a Quaker.

I’m sure all of us have stories to share about Dora, so I will limit myself to only one. This story meant so much to me I posted it on my blog, and I will remember it for the rest of my life. I hope you will remember it whenever you are tempted to feel sorry for yourself.

In January of 2010, Dora had to go to ICU for an extended stay. Her lungs were ailing, and she had to be placed on a breathing tube. This was a huge stresser for Dora since she loved to talk, and for several weeks she couldn’t communicate except through writing. She wrote constantly, filling up page after page with her careful scrawl, trying to share her thoughts and feelings.

One afternoon, she shared words I will never forget. First, she wrote: “Jesus Christ is my teacher. I am trying to follow his example.”

Then she wrote: “I am the luckiest woman in the world.”

Then she wrote these words: “I am luckiest woman in the world because I have friends.”

I was staggered. What could Dora possibly mean? Here she was, a tiny woman, lying in a bed of pain, on the verge of dying, unable to speak, yet she said she was the luckiest woman in the world. What could she possibly mean?

At that moment, I felt I had a glimpse of Dora’s heart, and it was beautiful. Money and success didn’t matter to Dora. What mattered above all else was friendship. Dora was a true Friend.

I’d like to close with the words of William Penn. Written while Penn was in prison, these words beautifully describe the kind of friendship that never dies, the kind of friendship that Dora valued and embodied:
“They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.

Death cannot kill what never dies.

Nor can spirits ever be divided, that love and live in the same divine principle, the root and record of their friendship.

If absence be not death, neither is theirs.

Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.

For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.

In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.

This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.”


Stan Searl, clerk of our Meeting, wrote this amazing poem that captures the essence of Dora and her relationship to our Meeting:

Why couldn't you be reasonable like me and all these other Quakers?
Why couldn't you be rational
And full of perspicacity and even common sense?

Why couldn't you have a real job
And an income
And be good,
To love your neighbors and be like us these perfect Quakers?

To me,
Knowing you is like
Feeling myself in the midst of a rock and roll song
Where the beat goes on beneath everything
Thumping and bumping
As we drum our hearts together,
Beating onto our bodies
Pushing ourselves,
Singing and dancing
With the drums echoing
On our skins
Look at me,
I am here
And alive just the same as you.

After all,
As Quakers together
We don't know what we're doing either
Leading with our noses
And smelling our way together
As you interrupted our precious silent worship once again,
Insistent and determined
And so angry that you threatened to blow up our carefully scrupled
edifice of calm

Challenging us to be present to the Divine in the midst of such intense anger.

I must admit that I never understood your righteous, Jewish anger
As you limped into our worship with your inner truth.

Reflecting upon your intense presence in our worshipping community,
I dream of you
Sitting on your couch in your tiny Montana Street apartment,
Looking up at your visitors
As you became an illuminated painting,

As if the Inner Light had entered you
And spewed out its Truth into Santa Monica and flowed right into the
Pacific Ocean itself.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Occupy movement to occupy foreclosed homes!

I was thrilled to learn that the Occupy movement is trying to address the problem of foreclosure with "Occupy Our Homes Day" (Dec 6). We need to remind our fellow Americans that the banks (with the complicity of the government, who deregulated them) caused the housing bubble and crash, and now want to profit from the misery they caused. Peter Kuhn's analysis is spot on!

I urge you to watch the award-winning film "Inside Job" and  "Maxed Out," which you can watch for free at I also recommend "The One Percent," a psychologically insightful documentary about the super-rich by Jame Johnson, heir to the Johnson and Johnson family fortune.  See

I am glad that the OWS movement is taking on the banksters and their crimes. Locally, they helped prevent the eviction of Rose Gudiel, who was the victim of a predatory bank called OneWest. Jill and I have been trying to help a woman with 7 kids who was recently evicted from her home due to foreclosure. We can and must control the corrupt banking system and expose their lies. Si, se puede!


For Immediate Release Contact: Peter Kuhns (213) 272-1141

December 1, 2011

“Occupy Our Homes” Day, Tuesday, Dec. 6, to Launch National Campaign

Actions in LA and Other Cities Spotlight How Wall Street Crashed the Economy, Drove Families from Homes, and Ripped Off Communities

Supporters Will “Reclaim” Vacant Houses and Engage in “Home Defense” to Keep Families in Foreclosed Homes

Communities in LA and across America will take direct action on Tuesday, Dec. 6, to challenge Wall Street profiteering that has created a housing crisis for millions of families.

Actions will include “reclaiming” houses that banks are leaving vacant and “home defense” to stop banks from foreclosing and profiting further from the economic crash they created.

Other cities where direct action will be taken include New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, Atlanta, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Portland (OR), and many more.

Homeowners and renters facing foreclosure-related evictions will be backed locally by the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and a national network of organizations such as The New Bottom Line and its local affiliates; ReFund California; New York Communities for Change; Occupy Wall Street; Take Back the Land; and SOUL (Chicago).

These actions build on a number of recent successes in community resistance to foreclosures and evictions.

The national Occupy Our Homes campaign challenges a deliberate Wall Street strategy that has made billions for those at the top while devastating the 99%:

· Banks created a housing bubble, deliberately designing predatory loans with balloon payments, variable rates, and other features that would yield short-term profits while preying on families least able to pay.

· They knew that many of these loans could not be repaid, but they didn’t care because they planned to package and re-sell the mortgages to investors who then were left holding the bag.

· The economy crashed as a result of this bank-created house of cards, putting tens of millions of Americans out of work. Unemployment is overwhelmingly the primary cause of foreclosures, not over-extended consumers.

· More than 6 million Americans have lost their homes, often through illegal foreclosures, and another 5 million are at risk. Many homeowners were told that if they stopped making payments, they could qualify for a lower rate. When they did so, the banks put them in default and initiated foreclosure.

· The 99% bailed out Wall Street, while Wall Street bailed on our communities, taking our money for outrageous executive salaries and bonuses and massive profits. We gave Wall Street $700 billion in taxpayer money through TARP, and another $7.7 trillion in nearly interest-free loans of taxpayer money through the Federal Reserve. Bank profits in the third quarter of 2011 were more than $35 billion – higher than they were before the crash.

· The bank-induced crash devastated home values and life savings for all homeowners.

· Yet, the banks claim that they should be able to collect mortgage payments based on the value of homes before the crash they caused, rather than current value. At least one in four homeowners is now “underwater” – meaning the bank wants them to make payments on a higher mortgage than what the house is worth.

· Wall Street is draining hundreds of billions of dollars from communities by demanding artificially inflated mortgage payments -- money that is needed to support local jobs and small businesses and get the economy working again for the 99%.

Please contact us if you would like to be kept informed as Occupy Our Homes actions unfold.