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Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice

Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice

by Or N. Rose, Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, Margie Klein, Martha Ackelsberg, Rebecca Alpert

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Can the teachings of Judaism provide a sacred framework for repairing the world?

In this groundbreaking volume, leading rabbis, intellectuals, and activists explore the relationship between Judaism and social justice, drawing on ancient and modern sources of wisdom. The


Can the teachings of Judaism provide a sacred framework for repairing the world?

In this groundbreaking volume, leading rabbis, intellectuals, and activists explore the relationship between Judaism and social justice, drawing on ancient and modern sources of wisdom. The contributors argue that American Jewry must move beyond “mitzvah days” and other occasional service programs, and dedicate itself to systemic change in the United States, Israel, and throughout the world. These provocative essays concentrate on specific justice issues such as eradicating war, global warming, health care, gay rights and domestic violence, offering practical ways to transform theory into practice, and ideas into advocacy.

Rich and passionate, these expressions will inspire you to consider your obligations as a Jew, as an American and as a global citizen, while challenging you to take thoughtful and effective action in the world.


Martha Ackelsberg, PhD • Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, PhD • Diane Balser, PhD • Jeremy Benstein, PhD • Rabbi Phyllis Berman • Ellen Bernstein • Marla Brettschneider, PhD • Rabbi Sharon Brous • Aryeh Cohen, PhD • Stephen P. Cohen, PhD • Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, PhD • Aaron Dorfman • Jacob Feinspan • Rabbi Marla Feldman • Sandra M. Fox, LCSW • Julia Greenberg • Mark Hanis • Rabbi Jill Jacobs • Rabbi Jane Kanarek, PhD • Rabbi Elliot Rose Kukla • Joshua Seth Ladon • Arieh Lebowitz • Rabbi Michael Lerner, PhD • Shaul Magid, PhD • Rabbi Natan Margalit, PhD • Ruth Messinger • Jay Michaelson • Rabbi Micha Odenheimer • Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner • Judith Plaskow, PhD • Judith Rosenbaum, PhD • April Rosenblum • Adam Rubin, PhD • Danya Ruttenberg • Rabbi David Saperstein • Joel Schalit • Rabbi Sidney Schwarz, PhD • Martin I. Seltman, MD • Dara Silverman • Daniel Sokatch • Shana Starobin • Naomi Tucker • Abigail Uhrman • Rabbi Arthur Waskow, PhD • Rabbi Melissa Weintraub

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"A must-have book.... This anthology will probably play an important role in advancing the progressive agenda in ... American elections."
Association of Jewish Libraries

"An essential and engaging source to read, study, refer to and strengthen our resolve. Let all who care about justice or Judaism enter here."
Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, PhD, author, The Colors of Jews: Racial Politics and Radical Diasporism

“Unites the memory of yesterday with the promise of tomorrow. Addresses all of us, here and now.”
Rabbi Harold M. Schulweis, Valley Beth Shalom

“Rich and passionate, these expressions will inspire you to consider your obligations as a Jew, as an American and as a global citizen, while challenging you to take thoughtful and effective action in the world.”
Jewish Media Review

“A passion for justice infuses the articles, and the inspiration of Abraham Joshua Heschel shines through clearly.... Gives us hope for a reinvigorated Judaism in the twenty-first century, and a world that will come closer to redemption.”
Professor Susannah Heschel, author, Abraham Geiger and the Jewish Jesus

“Marvelous … inspires us to do more to bring about the changes that our world so desperately needs.”
Rabbi J. Rolando Matalon, Congregation B'nai Jeshurun, New York City

“Particularly noteworthy in exploring the role of social action and community organizing as a means of expressing one's Jewishness and Judaism.”
Jewish Book World

“Varied and interesting … represents the cutting edge of the Jewish prophetic tradition in our contemporary world. Read it and be inspired!”
Rabbi Arthur Green

“More than meets its mark.... [A] wonderful buffet of ideas, replete not just with tradition, but with innovative interpretations suited to a twenty-first century approach toward social action and reform. A must-have.”
Publishers Weekly

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Meet the Author

Rabbi Or N. Rose is an associate dean at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. He is the coauthor of God in All Moments: Mystical and Practical Spiritual Wisdom from Hasidic Masters and coeditor of Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice; Jewish Mysticism and the Spiritual Life: Classical Texts, Contemporary Reflections and Speaking Torah: Spiritual Teachings from around the Maggid's Table, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 (all Jewish Lights).

Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, PhD, has fostered Jewish thinking about social justice for over a decade as an editor at Tikkun and at Zeek: A Journal of Jewish Thought and Culture.

Margie Klein is a passionate activist and budding religious leader. Founder and director of Moishe House Boston: Kavod Jewish Social Justice House, she is a student at the Rabbinical School of Hebrew College. She is the founder of Project Democracy, a program that mobilized 97,000 students to vote in the 2004 election.

Martha Ackelsberg, PhD, is professor of government at Smith College where she
teaches applied democracy and women's studies. She is the author of Free Women
of Spain: Anarchism and the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women
, as well as
numerous articles on women's community activism; gender and public policy; and
women in Judaism.

Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, PhD, is assistant professor of religion and women's studies
at Temple University. She is the author of Like Bread on the Seder Plate: Jewish
Lesbians and the Transformation of Tradition
, and the coauthor of Exploring
Judaism: A Reconstructionist Approach.

Diane Balser, PhD, is the former executive director of Brit Tzedek v'Shalom
(www.btvshalom.org) and is currently co-chair of Brit Tzedek’s Advocacy and
Public Policy Committee. She is also a professor of women’s studies at Boston

Jeremy Benstein, PhD, a founder and associate director of the Heschel Center for Environmental Learning and Leadership, lectures frequently on environmental ethics, consumer culture and religion, and the environment. He has published numerous articles on Judaism, Israel and environmentalism, including regular contributions to the Jerusalem Report. He is the author of The Way Into Judaism and the Environment (Jewish Lights).

Rabbi Phyllis O. Berman is co-author, with Rabbi Waskow, of A Time for Every Purpose Under Heaven: The Jewish Life-Spiral as a Spiritual Path. Rabbi Berman is the program director of Elat Chayyim, a Jewish retreat center for healing, and coauthor of Tales of Tikkun: New Jewish Stories to Heal the Wounded World. Berman founded in 1978 and now directs the Riverside Language
Program, an intensive English-language school for adult immigrants and refugees from around the world. With her husband, Arthur Ocean Waskow, she lives in Philadelphia, and she shares four grown children, one son-in-law, and one daughter-in-law.

Ellen Bernstein is the founder of Shomrei Adamah—Keepers of the Earth, the first institution dedicated to cultivating the ecological thinking and practices integral to Jewish life. She is author of Ecology and the Jewish Spirit: Where Nature and the Sacred Meet and currently works as director of community building at the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

Ellen Bernstein is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Reading the Bible Ecologically
  • Prayer from an Ecological Perspective
  • Why Judaism Needs Ecology and Why the Environmental Movement Needs a Spiritual Approach
  • Creation Theology
  • Why (and How) to Start a Synagogue Garden or Farm!

Marla Brettschneider, PhD, is associate professor of political science and women's studies at the University of New Hampshire, where she also coordinates the queer studies program. She served as the executive director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) from 2002 to 2004. Her books include The Family Flamboyant: Race Politics, Queer Families, Jewish Lives; Democratic Theorizing from the Margins; and Cornerstones of Peace: Jewish Identity Politics and Democratic Theory.

Rabbi Sharon Brous is the founding rabbi of IKAR (www.ikar-la.org), a spiritual community dedicated to reanimating Jewish life through soulful religious practice that is rooted in a deep commitment to social justice. She has been noted as one of the leading rabbis in the country in Newsweek/Daily Beast and has been listed among the Forward's fifty most influential American Jews numerous times. She serves on the faculty of the Wexner Heritage Program, the Shalom Hartman Institute, and Reboot and sits on the board of Rabbis for Human Rights.

Aryeh Cohen, PhD, is associate professor of rabbinic literature at the American Jewish University in Los Angeles. He has taught at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Brandeis University. Cohen is the author of Rereading Talmud: Gender, Law and the Poetics of Sugyot, and coeditor of Beginning/Again: Towards a Hermeneutics of Jewish Texts. He is a founding member of Jews Against the War.

Stephen P. Cohen, PhD, is a leader in the practice and theory of unofficial diplomacy known as Track Two Diplomacy. Cohen founded the Institute for Middle East Peace and Development in 1979 and has served as its president ever since. He is the national scholar of the Israel Policy Forum and in the last few years has served as a visiting professor at Princeton University and Lehigh University.

Aaron Dorfman is the director of Jewish education at the American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Before joining AJWS, Aaron completed the Wexner Graduate Fellowship with a master's degree in public policy from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and a year of study at the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem.

Jacob Feinspan is a senior policy associate at the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and directs AJWS's advocacy programs on global HIV/AIDS, international debt cancellation, and Darfur in Washington, DC. In addition to representing AJWS on Capitol Hill, he coordinates the grassroots advocacy of thousands of AJWS supporters around the country.

Rabbi Marla Feldman is the director of social action for the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ) and Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). She has cofounded several grassroots organizations including the Detroit Coalition for Literacy. Her modern midrashim have been published in the Journal of Reform Judaism, as well as in several collections.

Sandra M. Fox, LCSW, is a licensed clinical social worker in private practice. She also serves as chair of the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Single-Payer Healthcare, is the organizer of Healthcare-NOW, and chair of the Single-Payer Health Care Task Force of the Pittsburgh Interfaith Impact Network.

Julia Greenberg is the director of grants at the American Jewish World Service. A graduate of Wesleyan University, she spearheaded the AJWS HIV/AIDS program in Africa.

Mark Hanis is the founder and executive director of the Genocide Intervention Network (www.genocideintervention.net), an organization created to empower citizens with the tools to prevent and stop genocide. He is a Draper Richards fellow and an Echoing Green fellow.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is executive director of T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights. . Widely acknowledged as one of the leading voices in Jewish social justice, Rabbi Jacobs is also the author of There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice through Jewish Law and Tradition and Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community (both Jewish Lights). She has been voted to the Forward newspaper's list of fifty influential Jews, to Newsweek's list of the fifty most influential rabbis in America and to the Jewish Week's list of "thirty-six under thirty-six."

Rabbi Jill Jacobs is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Social Justice in Judaism: Historical, Textual and Political Roots, and Their Meaning for Jews Today
  • Synagogue Social Justice That Works
  • In the Image: A Jewish Take on Human Rights
  • Torah in the Workplace: Ethical Business Practices for the Synagogue, School, Home and Business
  • A Jewish Approach to Combating Human Trafficking

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Rabbi Jane Kanarek, PhD, is assistant professor of rabbinics at Hebrew College, where she teaches Talmud and Jewish law. She received rabbinic ordination from The Jewish Theological Seminary of America, and a doctorate from the University of Chicago. Rabbi Kanarek is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship.

Rabbi Elliot Rose Kukla received his ordination at Hebrew Union College in 2006. Currently a fellow in clinical pastoral education at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center, he previously served as the rabbi of Danforth Jewish Circle. Kukla is the author of a number of articles on the intersections between Judaism and justice.

Joshua Seth Ladon is a master's student in Jewish philosophy at the Tel Aviv University as well as a Melamdim teaching fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute.

Arieh Lebowitz is the communications director at the Jewish Labor Committee and coeditor of Archives of the Holocaust, Volume 14: Robert F. Wagner Labor Archives, New York University—Records of the Jewish Labor Committee.

Rabbi Michael Lerner, PhD, is the editor of Tikkun (www.tikkun.org), rabbi of Beyt Tikkun synagogue in San Francisco and Berkeley, national chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives (www.spiritualprogressives.org), and author of many books, including Jewish Renewal and most recently The Left Hand of God: Healing America's Political and Spiritual Crisis.

Shaul Magid, PhD, is the Jay and Jeannie Schottenstein Professor of Modern Judaism and professor of religious studies at Indiana University Bloomington. He is the author of Hasidism on the Margin: Reconciliation, Antinomianism, and Messianism in Izbica/Radzin Hasidism and From Metaphysics to Midrash: Myth, History, and the Interpretation of Scripture in Lurianic Kabbala, which won the
American Academy of Religion Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the Textual Studies category.

Rabbi Natan Margalit, PhD, is the director of the Oraita Institute for Continuing Rabbinic Education of Hebrew College, and assistant professor of rabbinics at Hebrew College. His writings on rabbinic literature and on Judaism and the environment have appeared in several academic and popular journals.

Ruth Messinger is the president and executive director of the American Jewish World Service (AJWS). Prior to assuming this role in 1998, Messinger was in public service in New York City for twenty years, including having served as Manhattan borough president. In 1997, she became the first woman to secure the Democratic Party's nomination for mayor. Messinger is currently a visiting professor at Hunter College. For the past four years, Messinger has been named the fifty most influential Jews of the year by the Forward newspaper. She contributed to Who by Fire, Who by Water—Un'taneh Tokef (Jewish Lights).

Jay Michaelson has taught Kabbalah, mindfulness, and embodied spiritual practice at Yale University, City College, Elat Chayyim, the Skirball Center, and the Wexner Summer Institute, among other institutions. Chief editor of Zeek: A Jewish Journal of Thought and Culture, he is a regular contributor to the Forward, the Jerusalem Post, Slate and other publications. He holds a JD from Yale and an MA in religious studies from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he is currently a doctoral candidate.

Rabbi Micha Odenheimer is the founding director of Tevel b'Tzedek, a new Israeli-based nonprofit whose first project is a work-study program on poverty, environment, and globalization for Israeli and Diaspora Jews based in Kathmandu, Nepal. A contributing editor to Eretz Acheret, his articles have been published widely in newspapers and magazines in the United States and Israel.

Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner is the founding director of Just Congregations. As a congregational
rabbi at Temple Israel in Boston, he developed the award-winning "Ohel Tzedek / Tent of Justice" social action initiative. He is a leader in the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization, and serves on the Task Force on Congregation-Based Community Organizing of the Jewish Funds for Justice.

Judith Plaskow, PhD, is a Jewish feminist theologian and professor of religious studies at Manhattan College. In addition to co-founding the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, she has written and edited several significant books in the field, including one of the first feminist dissertations in religious studies, Sex, Sin, and Grace: Women's Experience and the Theologies of Reinhold Niebuhr and Paul Tillich. Plaskow also wrote the first full-length Jewish feminist theology, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. Her most recent
work is a collection of essays, The Coming of Lilith: Essays on Feminism, Judaism, and Sexual Ethics, 1972–2003. Plaskow is past president of the American Academy of Religion.

Judith Rosenbaum, PhD, is director of education at the Jewish Women's Archive and co-curator of the online exhibit Jewish Women and the Feminist Revolution. Rosenbaum earned a BA summa cum laude in history from Yale University and a PhD in American civilization, with a specialty in women’s history, from Brown University.

April Rosenblum, a native of Philadelphia, is the author of the widely distributed pamphlet "The Past Didn't Go Anywhere: Making Resistance to Anti-Semitism Part of All of Our Movements." She has also written for Bridges, New Voices, and Afn Shvel, the journal of the League for Yiddish.

Adam Rubin, PhD, is an assistant professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, California. He is a founding member of Jews Against the War. He is currently writing a book on the Jewish community in Palestine during the period of the British Mandate tentatively titled the People of the Book: Sacred Texts, Hebrew Culture, and the Making of a Jewish Nation in Palestine, 1924–1948.

Danya Ruttenberg is author of the forthcoming Surprised by God: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Religion and editor of the anthology Yentl's Revenge: The Next Wave of Jewish Feminism. She is a contributing editor to Lilith magazine and Women in Judaism: A Multidisciplinary Journal. Ruttenberg will receive rabbinic ordination from the American Jewish University.

Rabbi David Saperstein has served as the director of the Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism for over thirty years. He co-chairs the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty and serves on the boards of numerous national organizations, including the NAACP and People for the American Way. In 1999, Saperstein was elected as the first chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.

Joel Schalit is an Israeli-American writer and editor. The former co-director of the world's longest-running online periodical, Bad Subjects, he also served as the managing editor of Tikkun. The author of Israel vs. Utopia and the memoir Jerusalem Calling, he is also the editor of The Anti-Capitalism Reader.

Rabbi Sidney Schwarz is a social entrepreneur, an author and a political activist. He founded and led PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values for twenty-one years. He is also the founding rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland, where he continues to teach and lead services. Currently, he serves as a senior fellow at Clal—The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership where he is involved in a program that trains rabbis to be visionary spiritual leaders. He is the author of Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future; Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue and Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World.

Rabbi Sidney Schwarz is available to speak on the following topics:

Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future
Tribal vs. Covenantal Identity: Jews and the American Public Square
Finding a Spiritual Home: Redefining the Religious Enterprise
Reaching the Jewish Community of the 21st Century: Educating for Jewish Citizenship
Between Conscience and Solidarity
Can Social Justice Save the Jewish Soul?
Click here to contact the author.

Martin I. Seltman, MD, is Family Practice department chair at the Western Pennsylvania Hospital, residency director at the Forbes Family Practice, and a member of Physicians for Social Responsibility, Physicians for a National Health Program, and the Western Pennsylvania Coalition for Single-Payer Healthcare.

Dara Silverman is the executive director of Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ) (www.jfrej.org). Prior to her work at JFREJ, Silverman worked with United for a Fair Economy, and the Ruckus Society. Silverman co-founded Tekiah: A Jewish Call to Action in Boston and coauthored the Love and Justice in Times of War Haggadah.

Daniel Sokatch is the executive director of Progressive Jewish Alliance (www. pjalliance.org), a California-based Jewish social justice organization. He was trained as an attorney and holds a master's degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Shana Starobin trained as a grassroots organizer with Green Corps and has since worked on several environmental campaigns throughout the country. A graduate of Harvard University and the Dorot Fellowship Program in Israel, Starobin is currently a candidate for a joint master's degree in environmental management and public policy at Duke University.

Naomi Tucker is the co-founder and executive director of Shalom Bayit (Bay Area Jewish Women Working to End Domestic Violence). She is past chair of the Jewish Women's Caucus of the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence and currently serves as a national consultant on faith-based approaches to ending violence in the home.

Abigail Uhrman is a doctoral student in education and Jewish studies at New York University and a graduate of the University of California at Los Angeles. She serves as a language specialist at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan.

Rabbi Arthur O. Waskow is recognized as one of the leading thinkers of the Jewish renewal movement. He has been at the forefront of creating Jewish renewal theory, practice and institutions. He founded and directs The Shalom Center, and is a Pathfinder of ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal, an international network. He is founder and editor of the journal New Menorah, and helped found the Fabrangen Cheder and the National Havurah Committee. His previous books include Godwrestling; Godwrestling—Round 2: Ancient Wisdom, Future Paths, which was named "Best Religion Book of the Year"; The Freedom Seder; Seasons of Our Joy; Freedom Journeys: The Tale of Exodus and Wilderness across Millennia; Torah of the Earth: Exploring 4,000 Years of Ecology in Jewish Thought, Vol. 1: Biblical Israel and Rabbinic Judaism; Torah of the Earth: Exploring 4,000 Years of Ecology in Jewish Thought, Vol. 2: Zionism and Eco-Judaism; and Down-to-Earth Judaism. He is the co-editor of Trees, Earth, Torah: A Tu B'Shvat Anthology (Jewish Publication Society).

He and his wife, Phyllis Berman, who is also a leader of Jewish renewal, often join to speak, teach new forms of prayer and lead retreats and workshops in many Jewish and interreligious settings. Together they wrote Tales of Tikkun: New Jewish Stories to Heal the Wounded World.

Waskow lives in the Philadelphia area. He has two grown children of his own, is "associate parent" for two others and has one son-in-law and one daughter-in-law.
Rabbi Arthur O. Waskow is available to speak on the following topics:

  • Freedom Journeys across Millennia
  • Jewish Wisdom on the Earth and Human Earthlings
  • Praying with Our Legs: Social Action Rooted in Spiritual Commitment
  • Transformative Judaism
  • The Flow of Jewish Time

Click here to contact the author.

Rabbi Melissa Weintraub is the co-founder and co-director of Encounter (www.encounterprograms.org), an organization that provides Jewish diaspora leaders with exposure to Palestinian life. A graduate of Harvard University, The Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Wexner Graduate Fellowship, Weintraub has published several articles on human dignity, war ethics, and human rights.

Rabbi Elliott N. Dorff, PhD, is the author of many important books, including The Way Into Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award, and The Jewish Approach to Repairing the World (Tikkun Olam): A Brief Introduction for Christians. An active voice in contemporary interfaith dialogue, he is Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the American Jewish University (formerly the University of Judaism), and chair of the Academy of Judaic, Christian and Muslim Studies.

Rabbi Elliot N. Dorff, PhD, is available to speak on the following topics:

• Jewish Medical Ethics

• Conservative Judaism

• Jewish and American Law

• Finding God in Prayer

• A Jewish Approach to Poverty

Dr. David Ellenson is president of Hebrew Union College–Jewish Institute of Religion. Dr. Ellenson was ordained as a rabbi at HUC JIR and received his PhD from Columbia University. His book After Emancipation: Jewish Religious Responses to Modernity won the National Jewish Book Award. His most recent book, Pledges of Jewish Allegiance: Conversion, Law, and Policymaking in Nineteenth- and Twentieth-Century Orthodox Responsa, was coauthored with Daniel Gordis.

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