Why do the work of social justice Jewishly?

Categories: JCUA Project and Campaign Endorsements, Jewish Education, Organizing Fellowship


This past week JCUA launched its Organizing Fellowship with its first cohort of Fellows from five different universities around the Chicagoland area. During the coming year we will be exploring what it means to take action on local issues of racial and economic justice through a Jewish lens, and learning the skills of community organizing to shift systems of power. During our first workshop, JCUA Fellows grappled with the question of why they are motivated to do social justice work Jewishly. What stake do they have in the intersection of Judaism and social justice? Where do they see themselves, as Jews, in this fight? Here are some of their answers…

Sam, DePaul University

“Growing up in a supportive and loving community that used Jewish values to speak out against injustice…taught me that we must learn from the history of Jewish marginalization and be allies to communities who experience systemic and institutionalized oppression today. The same lessons and values of compassion and community that my Havurah taught me, has helped me recognize my privilege as a white, middle class person and the responsibility I have to use that privilege to be a fierce ally and advocate.”

Lian, Loyola University

“I’m hoping that having a Jewish connection to social justice can give me a more solid direction when it comes to addressing our society’s structural injustices. When I pass Judaism on to the next generation, having an intentional social justice foundation will help them connect more strongly to the world around them, and ultimately give them more direction when trying to address the world’s issues.”

Adam, Northwestern University

“I believe that the values I have been taught my whole life based on Jewish texts and traditions emphasize the same values that motivate people to fight for others. I think there is an eternal responsibility for Jews to speak up against any and every form of oppression, as survivors of one of the worst mass genocides in history. This is why I feel like the current fight against institutionalized racism, and the systemic oppression of minorities is something that all Jews should be motivated to fight against.”

Hannah, Northwestern University

“I want to do social justice Jewishly because I feel as though for many people, Judaism and activism do not go hand in hand, and I want to prove them wrong. I think this is a unique opportunity to be a face of Judaism in a crowd with a complicated relationship to Judaism, and I want to take up that opportunity. I have spent my life with all kinds of Jews, and because of this experience I believe I am equipped to communicate social justice ideas to Jews who may not have been involved in that world otherwise.”

Emma, UIC

“For me, doing social justice work Jewishly makes sense – to participate in work that I care about and have been educated around in my higher education, through a lens which embodies part of who I am. In fact, I find it part of my responsibility as a feminist and a Chicagoan to enact change in my communities through the resources and access which I have available to me, including the Jewish community and network.” – Emma, UIC

Haley, Columbia

“I think a lot about those in power, and how we as individuals can work for change without being a form of official power. As Jewish people we can relate to those who are oppressed because we understand what it is like…I want to remind myself that the goal isn’t to fully fix the system because that just isn’t realistic, but to create goals that feel attainable and also challenging.”

Rebecca, Loyola University

“I feel passionate that everyone should have the opportunity to be safe, healthy, and educated. I hope to stand by these ideals even when it seems remote, or impossible. Judaism certainly has taught me to defy the odds. In this political climate that is one of the biggest parts of my Jewish social justice work.”