Glenn: I want to introduce you to a friend of mine who about three years ago we had dinner. He’s on the left. I’m on the right. He’s a Rabbi. I’m a Christian, and we’re not supposed to get along. But somehow or another we have found our way to each other. And his name is Rabbi Irwin Kula, and he is a Rabbi in New York City and speaks all over the country and is a good gauge on what’s happening around the country, I think, because you do speak all over. And you see that we’re no different. We’re really all alike, are we not?
Rabbi Kula: Yeah well, I mean, the average person in the world, across the world, wants, you know, their kids to be healthy, wants to, you know, flourish as human beings.
Glenn: Palestinians and the Jews want the same thing.
Rabbi Kula: We have a leadership problem.
Glenn: Yeah, the machinery above them, but all the Palestinians and all the Jews I have ever met in Israel all say the same thing, “I just want to live my life, and I want to take care of my kids. I want to have a good life.” And really, we all have that in common. I am, as you know, fearful that there is no leadership anywhere in the country that is really truly making the case for what Martin Luther King called, you know, peaceful resistance and peaceful loving reconciliation. People are wanting revenge. The hatred is growing, the anger. Everybody feels like they’re been pushed up against the wall.
Rabbi Kula: The fear.
Glenn: Right, fear of what’s coming next, what’s happening to your world, it’s completely changing. How do you make the case that peaceful, that love and peace are the strongest tools you can grab?
Rabbi Kula: I think you start with people’s own experiences. When you ask people in their own communities, do they take care of each other, where are the places where they’re flourishing as human beings, people will tell you the stories about their own lives. They’ll tell you the story about a neighbor who helped. They’ll tell you a story about someone who came and drove their mother and them to the hospital. You’ll hear the stories on the ground of people who are helping each other and who are obligated to each other. What we have done is we have sensationalized in the media bad stories. There are many more good stories in the day than bad stories.
Rabbi Kula: And we, and this is actually a conservative trope, what we’ve done is we’ve transferred and said our solutions are going to come from above. They’re not coming from above. Leadership has an interest in the status quo because the status quo gives you power if you’re a leader. We are only going to change things from the bottom up.
And you know what a living laboratory is? A living laboratory is not only every school, a living laboratory is every dining room. A living laboratory is every meeting room. A living laboratory is every park in this country. A living laboratory is every little place where people can act differently from one another, and if that sounds small, people don’t appreciate that we didn’t get here because of some massive big thing. We got here to 2014 with all the problems because of thousands and thousands and thousands of individual corrosive moments.
Now what we have to do is we need thousands and thousands and thousands of individual experiences between people that model exactly what we’re talking about. It’s not coming from above.
Glenn: Here’s, you know, people are afraid of losing their livelihood. They’re afraid, you know, I’m barely making it now, I don’t want to cause any trouble, and that’s what gets them to sit down and be quiet. How do you teach people know, no, it’s going to be okay, it’s going to be okay, even if you lose everything? Nobody wants to lose everything.
Rabbi Kula: One, people have to be in communities where they are taken care of, okay? You get the community you deserve. If you think you’re simply some radical individual who can do everything on your own, you know, kind of the liberal trope is we’re autonomous people who are self-made. There’s no such thing as autonomous people self-made who are completely on their own. We have mentors. We have friends. We have family. People need to belong to communities.
Communities is where we get the support to have the faith and the hope that we can get through anything that happens. And I’ve been to communities around this country, from mega-church communities to small, little communities. I was in a community in Dayton, Ohio, maybe there was 120 members of this church, small little community. When someone became unemployed, they helped each other. And that’s not an excuse.
Yes, I’m a little left of center, though less and less lately, but you know, in all honesty, less and less lately. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need unemployment insurance. It doesn’t mean that we don’t need help from the government. But we have to take responsibility.
Glenn: There’s things that the government can do, but it’s the last resort. It’s incumbent on us to be able to do it first. We should turn to each other.
Rabbi Kula: Right, and we all know that happiness points outwards. Flourishing points outwards. This isn’t a religious thing. This is now a scientific thing. If you want to be happy, here is the prescription for happiness, serve. Now, you don’t like the word serve because it’s too religious, and it makes you tense? And I’m not talking you. You know I’m talking to my liberal friends. You know, if you don’t like the word, take care of someone else.
We know one of the greatest ways out of depression, and I don’t mean medical where you really are depressed, and you need medication, the greatest way out of depression is to stand up and serve someone else who needs something. We know it. We know it scientifically. It’s not a religious thing anymore.
Glenn: I know. As an alcoholic, I know that to be true.