Attended a Lecture…

Heard several inspiring contributors to this recent collection. Editor Or Rose, Associate Dean of Hebrew College, introduced the larger activist project with co-founder Margie Klein. Rose noted that the language of Torah to protect the stranger, the widow, and the orphan, forms today’s lingo of “at-risk populations.” One goal of Righteous Indignation is to influence the role of religious talk in political discourse, opening space for “progressive religious voices.”

Mark Hanis of the Genocide Information Network spoke of his Jewish identity deriving from growing up in Equador’s only synagogue populated by survivors and their descendants. He then demonstrated how voters, based on their zip code, can call 1-800-GENOCIDE and connect immediately with their representatives offices while given the current talking point appropriate to that decision maker.


Sid Schwartz of Panim reviewed elements of his recent book Judaism and Justice, a theory and history of Jewish social justice activism. Schwartz offered a good summary of Sinai Jews who focus on the universal justice theme and Exodus Jews who are more concerned who communal survival and suggests the need for them to speak and organize without mutual hostility.

Jacob Feinspan described the creation of his contribution with an American Jewish World Service colleague. He noted that when the subject of Judaism arose in his interactions with activists from the economically developing world, Moses is the most often mentioned point of connection. Feinspan believes that a Jewish social justice movement should assist such activists to achieve their “Let My People Go” moment, a moment that is simultaneously most unlikely (due to their lack of power) yet most necessary to manifest a lasting, just resolution. At the end the man behind progressiveandreligious.org mentioned his project to develop this movement nationally.

While I am excited to see broader efforts to create a viable alternative to the religious right’s takeover over the morals vote, I’m displeased by the tendency to repackage New Deal solutions in religious garb (the Social Gospel). Even the Great Society tackled poverty differently from what liberal Democrats now defend — categorical, nationally standardized entitlements. But I would recommend still visiting www.righteousindignation.info and the May 4-6 conference in Boston.

Related, from First Things, the article Theology, Politics, and Abraham Joshua Heschel by David Novak (subscribers only). Novak and Jon Levinson, who also publishes at First Things, are brilliant Jewish scholars of Judaism who take a contrarian position toward “Tikkun Olam Judaism” (my phrase). Novak stresses here that Heschel’s activism came from the depths of his theology, not a theology added to his politics. The core of this theology was the Divine-human encounter, a mutual search and need, a love affair. I still quite identify from 2 readings of the essay how Novak finds his teacher Heschel’s theology misused by liberal activists today. The best I can ascertain is that activism begins to look very different when one’s priority is exploring and promoting the Divine-human encounter and not trying to get a good Democrat elected.

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