Forward-Looking Faith I

Gershom Gorenberg

My friend Aryeh Cohen has written a fascinating piece at Religion Dispatches on a convergence of traditional-leaning Jews and progressives. On the one hand,

…what really stands out is the new, though cautious, embrace of social justice goals by the institutions of the Conservative and (to a much smaller extent) the Orthodox movements. Spurred on by the exposure of the unjust treatment of workers and the abuse of animals at the Agriprocessors meatpacking plant in Postville, Iowa, the Conservative movement launched the so-called heksher tzedek. This is a kosher seal of approval which guaranteed that the product under supervision was manufactured ethically—that workers’ rights were being respected and that animals were not being abused.

An Orthodox group called Uri L’tzedek (“Awaken to Justice”) organized shortly afterward to the same end. …

And on the other,

…On a Sunday morning in the Los Angeles Jewish Community Center, twenty people gather around a table to study Jewish texts. The texts are out of the classical canon: the Bible, of course, but also the third-century Mishnah and its sixth-century commentary, the Babylonian Talmud, and the medieval jurist Maimonides. As people introduce themselves, it becomes clear pretty soon that most of the people in this room have not had positive Jewish educational experiences. Though some of the members of the group are more learned, most people describe their very elementary Jewish backgrounds in caustic and negative terms. Yet, these people voluntarily showed up on a Sunday morning to study Jewish texts for two hours.

This study session was not sponsored by a Jewish outreach or missionary organization, but, rather by the Progressive Jewish Alliance. The goal of the text study was to incorporate traditional Jewish perspectives into the training that the participants were getting as part of the PJA’s restorative justice project JCJP (Jewish Community Justice Project). After four two-hour sessions, the members of this group were excitedly employing a new conceptual vocabulary with which to think about restorative justice. This was not your grandfather’s liberal organization….

Read the whole thing here, and return to South Jerusalem to comment.