Tikkun Magazine



Moving from Text Study to Activism

The Soul of Jewish Social JusticeThe Soul of Jewish Social Justice

Shmuly Yanklowitz
Urim Publications, 2014

Orthodox Rabbi Yanklowitz makes a powerful case for the centrality of social justice in Judaism and challenges Jews to become faith-based activists in the work of tikkun olam, here conceived not as doing a few acts of charity but as challenging the selfishness and materialism of contemporary society. “I feel compelled to work for justice from within Orthodoxy,” he writes. “In a community that is oftentimes so dedicated to text study and yet also sadly passive in social systemic change beyond the parochial, it is my conviction that our sense of duty for laws of ritual must apply with equal force to laws and ethics of kavod ha-briot (honoring all people), tzelem Elokim (serving with the consciousness that all people are created in the image of God), and v’ahavta l’re’echa kamocha (loving another like oneself).” Yanklowitz goes on to address many of the most significant social issues of our time, including education, health, ethical consumption, the health risks of eating meat, animal welfare, gun control, torture, prisons, immigration, gambling, sexual abuse, business ethics, discrimination against Muslims, the demonization of sharia law, overpopulation, and the failure of our society to use its resources to eliminate global hunger and poverty. In each area, Yanklowitz shows that “the purpose of the Torah and the Jewish tradition is to inspire leadership for the creation of a more just and holy world.” Give Yanklowitz’s book as a gift to every rabbi you know, but also to every clergyperson and religious activist—this enlightening and powerful book is certain to make a huge impact on anyone who reads it. And it will give secularists and militant atheists a new respect for the powerful ethical vision that Judaism can sustain when it’s not being appropriated for nationalist or fear-mongering purposes.

 

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