Introduction to the Justice in the City Section

Geographical Borders and the Ethical and Political Boundaries of Responsibility

Justice in the city

How can we bring Rabbinic Judaism's idea of accompaniment into the modern city? Credit: "Life? Or Theater?" by Charlotte Salomon. Collection Jewish Historical Museum, Amsterdam.

What would happen if we took seriously the biblical idea that we are responsible for the well-being of everyone who has passed through our city, even if only momentarily? In our me-first society—structured as it is by the capitalist imperative to “look out for number one”—our notion of responsibility for others is painfully limited. In the pages that follow, Aryeh Cohen envisions a new social justice ethos rooted in Rabbinic Judaism’s idea of accompaniment—the idea that we must personally care for all the people who enter our shared, common space. And we are delighted to print responses and critiques from a variety of thinkers and activists.

This discussion implicitly challenges legal philosopher John Rawls’s conception of “justice as fairness” by introducing into Western legal thought the notion of justice as caring for other human beings. It is the obligation to care for others that may move our society beyond the individualism and materialism that have so often stymied the development of ethical consciousness and behavior in our economy and in daily life. Aryeh Cohen’s approach has many fascinating consequences.

(To return to the Winter 2013 Table of Contents, click here.)

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