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The following eight articles are from a discussion on the RC e-mail list for leaders of Jews.

Living a Life of Integrity

Given that capitalism and imperialism are still operating, how do we, as Jews, live a principled life, a life of integrity, outside of upward mobility, assimilation, and racism? How do we live a life that doesn’t just cave1 in response to discouragement about the yet-to-be-won battles? How do we do this both personally and as a people?

I recently asked Lotahn Raz2 in Israel to send me some articles on the social-justice protest movements there. Several of the authors questioned the movement leaders’ avoidance of “politics,” of anything about the Occupation or Palestinians, and how they were focusing only on “social” issues. Another questioned how people were focusing on the racism targeting Ethiopian Israelis while ignoring the racism aimed at Palestinians. Is it principled to raise one issue without the other?

Reading these articles got me thinking about what it means in the current period to live a life of integrity, not just within the protest movements but in all aspects of our lives.

Over the past year I have led workshops on racism for several U.S. Jewish social-justice organizations. Many of the young adults participating were raised in upper-middle-class families. They have struggled with how to think about themselves as Jews and what it means for them to live a principled life. Many have adopted policies (on GLBT3 issues, on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict) that seem to me incorrect. Perhaps they are responding to growing up privileged and are desperately yearning to find some way to be principled about something. We Jewish RCers need to discharge and think clearly about what living a principled life means in the present, so that we can offer leadership on this.

As I am aging I am bombarded by fear-mongering about retiring. Aging is made out to be4 so individualistic and lonely. How much money do I actually need to take care of myself as an elder? I’ve been trying not to collude with all the fear messages, which match the fears I was raised with as a Jewish girl, about saving as security for “old age.” What do I actually need for real security?

What have you been thinking about and discharging on in terms of living a principled life, particularly as a Jew? Where do you struggle in your personal life and in your leadership? What’s one thing you are doing to live in a principled way? What’s one thing our people can do to be principled in the present?

Cherie Brown
International Liberation
Reference Person for Jews
Silver Spring, Maryland, USA

1 “Cave” means collapse.
2 Lotahn Raz is an RC leader in Haifa, Israel.
3 Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender
4 “Made out to be” means presented as.

 Integrity Includes Organizing for Change

As I understand it, living with integrity means living according to what I believe is right—but not only as an individual, because I don’t think that will change society.

Were I to drop out,* move to the country, live on a small farm, and grow my own food, I might be living my personal life with integrity, but that would not contribute much to changing society. Alongside the way I live my individual personal life, I must engage in organizing with others to make change on a societal level—to end capitalism, racism, imperialism, the destruction of the environment.

The oppressive society has set things up such that by participating in the society, in whatever role, we are complicit with it. For example, I eat only organic food, compost organic wastes, recycle just about everything one can recycle here, and do my utmost to save water—reusing rinse water to flush the toilet and collecting the cold water from the shower until it heats up. But then I drive my car to work, because it is faster than public transportation. My salary is deposited directly into a large bank (Israel has no local credit unions). By law, my employer pays my taxes directly to the government. Even if I wanted to refuse to pay taxes that support the military and the Occupation, there is no legal (or even illegal) way to do it, as far as I know.

On the other hand, I have decided to teach RC as widely as I can and to use discharge and re-evaluation as best I can to reclaim my real self. I have been teaching fundamentals classes almost every year, for seventeen years. I work with Jewish early childhood educators and teach them about discharge and the importance of listening to and playing with children.

The greatest challenge is the Occupation. Ever since I have been in Israel (forty-one years), I have demonstrated against it. I vote for a joint Arab-Jewish party, the only party that consistently speaks against it. However, it is easy to forget that the Occupation exists at all. Life goes on, distant from it, unless one travels to the West Bank, knows people there, or is active in organizations opposing the Occupation. Israelis don’t know much about what is happening in the West Bank, and the media makes sure that is so. Just recently I learned that people’s health is terribly compromised there (and in Gaza it’s much worse). I discovered this only by reading a little-known book about the political economy of the Occupation.

So how do I do something to stop the Occupation, or at the very least not be complicit with what is beginning to look like a long, drawn-out destruction of the Palestinian people?

Naomi Raz
Jerusalem, Israel

* “Drop out” means stop participating in mainstream society.

Putting Relationships First

We young adults are forced to make many decisions, often without much support—decisions like where to live, how to make enough money, what to do for a living, who to be friends with, how to make those friends, and how to do revolutionary work. There is pressure to be getting a “good” job, living with a partner, getting ready to support a family, and even saving for retirement.

We seem to make most of these decisions based on what is available to us rather than on discharge and principle. Capitalism tries to push us into a box and distract us from really thinking about how we want to live our lives.

The main decision I have made is to continue to put my relationships first—to love family and old friends, and continue to work on these relationships as well as build new ones, specifically with working-class people of color. I hope that as I get closer to people and continue to discharge on my relationships, some of the other decisions will become clearer.

I am Indian-heritage, adopted by white parents and raised in a rural area. I come from a complicated class background. Both of my parents chose working-class jobs and a middle-class lifestyle. My mother is Protestant and was raised poor with some owning-class heritage. My father was raised upper-middle-class Jewish. I always thought that we were working class and didn’t have much money. At the same time, I thought that a middle-class life (owning a house, having middle-class friends, going to college) was the only option for me.

I now live in one of the poorest cities in the country. As I build closer relationships with working-class and raised-poor people of color, I see where I need to be honest about my class background and discharge all my confusion. Working on class confusion and oppression is important. As long as we stay confused about money and class, we will have a hard time living a principled life.

As others have said, in order to really take this on* we will have to face the places that feel like death. We will have to decide to end all the ways that distress affects our and others’ thinking, and resist any pull to go the easy route. We will have to keep our own re-emergence central and work on where we don’t trust others to be with us in the fight.


* “Take this on” means undertake this.

 Integrity and Young Adult Jews

The issue of integrity is a difficult one for young adults, especially these days. My group of younger USers is more targeted with addictions—to alcohol, sex, Facebook,1 porn,2 non-prescription drugs, medications, and so on—than ever before. We live in a world of seemingly infinite choice, even in the smallest decisions. This breeds opportunism, especially among those of us in the middle class. We conform, go after3 what “looks good,” and assimilate. I assume that for me this is a reaction to being targeted for destruction, both as a Jew and later as a Queer person. I struggle with it in almost every area of my life.

Like many left-wing4 young adult Jews (especially Queer ones), I chose a job right out of college that was considered downwardly mobile. I was raised middle class; my job was a working-class food-service job. In part I was attempting to alleviate my guilt about classism. I also wanted to retain some humanness at work—to be physically active, interact with people all day, and be in a pleasant space with lots of windows.

Two years later I took a part-time job in an office, while still working at the coffee shop. The new job did not seem attractive to me, but I took it because it would provide a good opportunity to discharge and because it paid better. I have feelings (and so do the middle-class folks in my life) that the office job is “better,” “the kind of thing I should be doing.” However, I don’t like it all that much.5 I’m also still wading through feelings that working at the coffee shop somehow makes me better than my peers, because I’m not living off of my privilege. (This, in itself, is a perverse kind of classism.) Meanwhile, I still get financial assistance from my parents!

Another massive issue of integrity facing young-adult Jews is that of Israel and Palestine. Many young Queer Jews get stuck in feeling like they can’t visibly support Israel in any way because of how bad they feel about racism. I feel terrified whenever I consider pointing out that supporting Israel is not the same as defending Israeli policies. In many Queer radical circles—especially among white folks who are trying to be allies in ending racism—I’ve found a vicious “Are you with us or against us?” mentality. The people are well intentioned, but without discharge they are easily distracted and derailed by unchallenged anti-Jewish oppression.

A further complication is that many discussions among younger people now take place on Facebook. Someone posts an inflammatory news article, and the comments in response can get quite nasty. I don’t want to engage at all, because I doubt that I can get my point across (and counsel everyone) in a hundred and fifty characters or less!


1 Facebook is a popular, free social-networking website on the Internet.
2 Pornography
3 “Go after” means pursue.
4 “Left-wing” means politically progressive.
5 “All that much” means very much.

Sharing RC, and More of My Thinking

I carry a deep sense of hopelessness about ever living a principled life as a white middle-class USer. I can do good things; I can bring my humanity and intelligence to every situation. However, on some basic level I’ve decided that a truly principled life of integrity is out of my reach. That’s sad and incorrect.

If I were to decide that a principled life was within my reach, what would that look like? I think I would have to face and challenge where I feel unable and unwilling to give up1 the privileges that go along with being a white middle-class USer.

The privilege I feel most desperate not to give up is the access I have to RC resource, especially as a parent. Unlike the majority of U.S. parents (not to mention parents outside of the United States), I have many hours of paid childcare each week. What I do with this time is mostly RC-related: Co-Counseling sessions, projects in my Region,2 preparing to lead a workshop. I can’t imagine doing these things without the free time and disposable income that I have access to.

At the same time, I feel that I have done a poor job of sharing the resource of RC (the most precious resource on the planet). I have let fear, humiliation, and disappointment get in the way of bringing it to the many people I know. Leading a principled life will mean more than sharing widely the tools of RC, but doing that seems like a good next step. I could spend less of my childcare time on my own sessions and RC projects and more of it on reaching new people—especially raised-poor and working-class people and people of the global majority.

I care deeply about ending racism, classism, and imperialism. I can start by sharing more of my thinking. My goal is to play a significant role in the complete transformation of society, but most of my contacts don’t know this. I was asked to be a speaker on a panel entitled “Challenges Facing American Jews in the 21st Century.” I refused a number of times—I couldn’t bear to face the feelings of fear and humiliation. But it’s a good thing that I accepted in the end, because it now looks like a great opportunity to stretch myself toward a more principled life.

Julie Fox-Rubin
Basalt, Colorado, USA

1 “Give up” means relinquish.
2 A Region is a subdivision of the International RC Community, usually consisting of several Areas (local RC Communities).

 I Can Continue to Do the Right Thing

I did not grow up with people I felt proud of. My mother taught me how to shoplift, and my father made my siblings and me feel profoundly stupid.

My parents were Holocaust survivors. They met in the Lodz ghetto.1 My mother and her sisters were sent to Auschwitz2 from there. Then my mother and her only surviving sister were sent to a work camp where they stayed until the end of the war. My father and his whole family survived in the ghetto until the end of the war by collaborating with the Germans.

The idea of living a principled life is one that I would have only heard of in RC. I cry as I share this with you. I have figured out a lot on my own, including what living a principled life means for me. Mostly I have accomplished this through doing good work in the world. I have organized vigils against anti-Jewish oppression; done hundreds of anti-oppression workshops; and counselled, supported, and taught hundreds of college students. I have stood up against racism in ways that were unpopular. Through all of this I have fought survivor and collaborator patterns that have told me to never trust anyone, to think of myself first, to support those in power, and that I am completely alone in the world and that no one will fight for or think about me.

When I read Cherie’s question,3 my first thought was that I am not principled enough to respond, that I am too concerned about my own security. However, feeling bad about myself is not useful to me or to anyone else. With much discharge, I can tell4 that there is no present threat to me. This opens up a vast array of ways that I can be principled—not just respond to the pull to be useful to others to secure my survival. I can continue to do the right thing, every day, as opportunities are constantly offered to me both in my work and as I walk around in the world.

I can make sure that the decisions I make take into account the greater good and what is good for others around me. I can ensure that all my students have equal opportunities, especially those of the global majority and those who are working class or poor. I can ensure that our faculty represents our students in race, class, and gender  and that our non-unionized staff are treated fairly and with dignity.

It is particularly important that I never benefit at someone else’s expense. There is more than enough of everything! I take this into sessions regularly.

Thanks for giving me the opportunity to think about this.

Felice Markowicz
Toronto, Ontario, Canada

1 The Lodz Ghetto was a ghetto for Jews, created by the Nazis in Poland during World War  II.
2 Auschwitz was a network of concentration and extermination camps in Poland, built and  operated by the Nazis during World War II.
3 See article above, "Living a Life of Integrity", by Cherie Brown.
4 “Tell” means perceive.

Contradicting the Oppressor Role

This year, for the first time in my adult life, my husband, Gary, and I are earning a more than adequate living working as music teachers in New Zealand. I am also in a situation in which I am considered an expert in my field. I feel tempted to want to be paid more money, not because we need it but because it makes me feel more important. I am contradicting this by sticking to the hourly rate that our music trust pays all our tutors and by doing some volunteer work.

Gary and I recently went to Samoa to teach ukulele and guitar to young people there. We paid our own airfares and didn’t charge anything for our services. I’ve also been teaching one day a week in a local school in the poorest area of our city where the students are mostly people of colour. This school has been badly affected by the earthquakes that have hit our city over the last two years. I’ve had to resist the idea that if I don’t charge a lot for what I’m doing, I don’t look important enough.

The current situation pushes me to be fearful about the future. It isn’t certain that there will be enough food and water to go around. Many people are starving in the present and don’t have access to water and shelter. I feel like I have to save enough money to carry my husband and me through if the work dries up or we’re unable to work. The reality is that we will probably never retire from teaching music and I will probably always be able to find a way to be paid for my many skills.

Spending time in communities where people sleep on bare floors and only have enough to sustain them day by day is a good start for discharging about the waste, greed, and fear that keep us in the oppressor role.

Nikki Berry
Christchurch, Aotearoa/New Zealand 

 We Must Be a Force for Change

On page 289 of The Rest of Our Lives, Harvey Jackins talks about the “qualities of a good leader.” The first qualities he mentions are integrity and honesty. He goes on to talk about caring. The next quality is that leaders be able to want everything to be right, even at the cost of their own comfort.

When speaking of RC leadership, Harvey would over and over again stress courage, integrity, and doing the right thing. He would ask, “Where do you lie?” “Where do you lack courage?” Those were hard questions. Sessions on those questions felt intolerable to me. Now, many years later, after working on early material,1 having more than twenty Intensives,2 and leading more honestly and boldy, I might be able to client with him as he asks those questions.

Harvey put a lot of counseling resource into me and other Jewish women leaders. He did this because of his personal caring for us, because of our love for him, because of our leadership and liberation referencing, and because we were Jewish women. He thought the world3 of Jewish women. He would say, “The world is not right if a Jewish woman does not feel loved.” He had the highest expectations of us. He saw us as a group that would set things right in the world (based in part on the Jewish women he had known during his political-activist days).

He would often challenge my opportunistic patterns, or patterns of deception, hiding, or lack of honesty. I will always remember those sessions (not with great comfort). In my last session with him before he died, he gave me the direction to tell the truth about all things that matter. I still discharge on and struggle with that. I think about it almost every day. When and where and how do I take the stands I need to take?

I fight actively in my mind against what the oppressive society has done to the Jewish people—and to me, personally. There were several reasons for the Holocaust. What stands out to me is that it was a systematic attempt to destroy a people whose culture, and experience of oppression, had led them to fight for intelligence and revolutionary change. Harvey saw that in me. He saw me as a potential revolutionary female. That is what we agreed I would aspire to. I cry now as I write this, trying to fight feelings of disappointment in myself. I understand that they need to be fought.

I was born during World War II and was fortunate to have connections with working-class and religious Jews with integrity. It was also a time in which my relatives were being killed. My family felt fortunate to be alive. The clear “deal” made with the Jewish people was that those of us who lived could stay alive if we accommodated to the needs of an oppressive society. Those who did not accommodate would face attacks, isolation, and perhaps death.

I have worked on my fears of being killed and my patterns of hiding myself. I’ve uncovered my strengths as a Jewish woman and my deepest struggles. I try to look at where I am principled and where I still compromise in women’s liberation. I try to be honest about my struggles and where it is hard to tell the truth. I have tried to decide, on a daily basis, not to hide myself in any way, especially around people of the global majority (even if I show racism, which I then need to take responsibility for). I have tried to find ways to speak in my synagogue about Palestinians—to not shy away from the subject and to really listen to people I disagree with and be generous with my counseling resource. I discharge feelings of annihilation when I move toward closeness and connection with people instead of “escaping.” I can feel the minute-by-minute pull to escape. My counselors need to hold me so I will stay and shake. In my Co-Counseling leadership, I try to give an honest picture of myself—where I have been hurt as a woman, where I have been a victim of sexism, where I compete, where I want to be the most beautiful girl on the planet, and so on.

The challenge to live with integrity cuts through pseudoreality in a fundamental way. It counters how the oppressive society and its distresses have tried to prevent us from leading meaningful lives, from teaching and spreading RC in its fullness, from facing the hardest things we have to face.

We need to make sure that individually, and as a people, we intend to be a force for change.

Diane Balser
International Liberation
Reference Person for Women
Jamaica Plain, Massachusetts, USA

1 “Material” means distress.
2 An Intensive is twenty hours of one-way Re-evaluation Counseling, for a fee, at Re-evaluation Counseling Community Resources, in Seattle, Washington, USA.
3 “Thought the world” means thought very highly.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00