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Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World Hardcover – September 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-1580233125 ISBN-10: 1580233120 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Jewish Lights; 1 edition (September 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580233120
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580233125
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.4 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,095,056 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Rabbi Schwarz affirms in his introduction that his book explores the relationship between Judaism, social justice, and the identity of American Jews. He chronicles the organized Jewish community and its public-affairs agenda from the end of World War II in 1945 through the early years of the twenty-first century. The term "organized Jewish community," he explains, refers to the institutions under the umbrella of the national Jewish federation system that engage in fundraising from the community and allocate money to support local and overseas Jewish needs, as well as projects in Israel. Schwarz divides the book into four parts. Part 1 probes the question, what is the purpose of Judaism? Part 2 offers an interpretation of the five books of Moses and seven rabbinic principles. Part 3 looks at how the Jewish community places itself in the American public arena, and part 4 chronicles new developments in the American Jewish community "that point in the direction of a Jewish renaissance." An engrossing commentary deserving to be read. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


"A thoughtful, important and timely book. Not only does it help to describe and explain today's exciting revival of social justice activism among Jews, it is quite likely going to accelerate that phenomenon.... Helps to redefine Judaism's moral center in a way that is both clear and compelling." -- Rabbi Rachel Cowan, executive director, Institute for Jewish Spirituality

"Provides a long awaited prophetic vision for the nexus between Jewish tradition, culture and commitment to social justice. Rich and nuanced ... combines an informative history of Jewish activism in the worlds of political and social action, and a persuasive reading of Jewish texts, arguing for their relevance as a source of guidance for Jews and for the world.... A must read." -- David Gordis, PhD, president and professor of rabbinics, Hebrew College, Boston

More About the Author

Rabbi Sid Schwarz has been a congregational rabbi, a social entrepreneur, an author and a political activist. He founded and led PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values for 21 years, an organization that is dedicated to inspiring, training and empowering Jewish youth to a life of leadership, activism and service. Dr. Schwarz previously served as the executive director of the Jewish Community Council of Greater Washington D.C. where he oversaw the public affairs and community relations work for the Jewish community. He is the founding rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, MD where he continues to teach and lead services. Dr. Schwarz holds a Ph.D. in Jewish history and is the author of over 100 articles and two groundbreaking books--Finding a Spiritual Home: How a New Generation of Jews Can Transform the American Synagogue (Jossey-Bass, 2000) and Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World (Jewish Lights, 2006).

In 2002 Sid was awarded the prestigious Covenant Award for his pioneering work in the field of Jewish education. In 2007 Sid was named by Newsweek one of the 50 most influential rabbis in North America. A frequent lecturer on Judaism, the American Jewish community, and contemporary Jewish affairs, Sid does consulting to Jewish organizations throughout North America.

Customer Reviews

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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Midwest Book Review on January 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Written by Rabbi Sidney Schwarz, Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World asks the questions: Why are Jews so often involved in causes central to justice, equality, human rights, and peace? Are they influenced by religion, history, sociology, or some other factor? Judaism and Justice examines the relationship between Judaism, social justice, and the Jewish identity of American Jews. From core values of the Rabbinic tradition, to the long history of Jewish struggles for civil rights, to the core and sometimes conflicting impulses to both survive (Exodus) and help the world become in accordance with a higher moral standard (Sinai), Judaism and Justice examines history with a keen account of missteps and falterings among Jews as well as their positive contributions to world history. Of especial interest is the chapter concerning Israel, and how the relationship of identification between American Jews and Israel has had to change in recent years, and is almost certainly not done changing. Highly recommended.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By KC-Nav on February 16, 2012
Format: Paperback
Comments on the book only:
1- Author never defines Social Justice. Perhaps in his world everybody is familiar with the term but if he's just writing for folks who "are in the know" he's wasting his time.
2-Has very little on where he gets his ideas. He presents few bibical citations and makes no mention of historic Jewish thought. How can a book involving zedickah not discuss the Rambam's hierarchy of giving.
3- the Exodus/Sinai stuff was worthless. Hint to author- If it takes more space to explain your concept than actually using your concept then you probably should not use it. News to rabbi, there is no dichotomy in the way a jew is supposed to act in the Exodus or Sinai mode. A Jew follows the teachings of the Torah, plain and simple.
4- Author is so liberal he mentioned few Orthodox groups. Chabad does a lot of work with the poor and with drug abusers. There are many others. A glaring omission. I wonder if this was ideological or just being lazy?
Comments on content:
1- The author seems to think the size and budget of an organization is proportional to the good it does. I would have liked to have known how many people the organizations helped to bring out of poverty or got off of drugs. The author seems to care more about process than the actual people who need help. for example, one of the charities he mentions is Mazon, which is dedicated to helping the hungry. Noble idea, lousy implementation. When I looked at a list of organizations they gave money to where I lived in NJ, many of the same ones that I gave to were on the list. The only difference between me writing a check to the Trenton Soup Kitchen (who do outstanding work by the way) and Mazon is that Mazon had a really high overhead.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Cohan on October 11, 2010
Format: Paperback
"Judaism and Justice" is a book that succeeds on different levels.

It is at once an inspiring call to service and social justice, an account of the history and evolution of Jewish organizational life in America, and a prescription for mainstream organizations.

Schwarz works from the framework of what he calls the Exodus and Sinai impulses of Jews. The Exodus impulse (i.e., AIPAC) refers to the Jewish impulse to rally together in the face of threats, while the Sinai impulse refers to Jews' marching orders to come to the aid of the poor and oppressed.

He makes the case that the largest Jewish organizations have drifted toward the Exodus pole, while young Jewish adults are leaning toward the Sinai pole. (As a Federation employee, I can tell you there is actually plenty of Sinai Judaism in our work.)

Schwarz cites both the explosive growth of progressive Jewish organizations in America, along with survey data showing that Jews regard a "commitment to social equality" as the most important part of their Jewish identity.

To me, though, the most valuable aspect of the book is its passionate emphasis and elaboration on the Prophetic tradition, a tradition that is in turn firmly rooted in Torah.

If the mark of a good book is one in which I've highlighted a section on virtually half the pages, then "Judiasm and Justice" is indeed a good book
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Michael Brochstein on October 9, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Rabbi Schwarz has done an excellent job explaining the origins of the connection between Judaism and social justice, reviewing the history of it (mainly in the US, mostly in the last ~100 years) and in analyzing where the (American) Jewish community is today in regards to it. He mostly focuses on the American Jewish community and the US scene. His framing of the Jewish community's two poles (Sinai and Exodus) is an excellent way to discuss this topic and its history

I disagree with another reviewer who refers to the elephant in the room when referring to Israel and its behavior in the West Bank and Gaza and that Rabbi Schwarz does not discuss it in this book. This is a fair topic for a book but I don't see that it must be in this book. The lack of coverage of this topic does not IMO take away from the this book or diminish its value.
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5 of 13 people found the following review helpful By T. Hopkins on December 30, 2006
Format: Hardcover
I am giving this book five stars because I think it terribly important that Jews be reminded of their moral bearings and because we desperately need people like Rabbi Schwarz, rather than the usual mean, narcissistic lineup, to be speaking for the American Jewish community. Peace in the Middle East, and peace between the West and Arab and Islamic worlds, require it.

This book cleared up two big mysteries for me. Most people raised in a Christian tradition, as I was, wonder how Jews can see themselves as a light unto nations, as having a superior sense of right and wrong, as having a calling to raise the morality of the world. We look at the Old Testament and see behavior that is barbaric by the standards of today, and we remember that Jesus had powerful objections against Judaism. I saw an answer in this book: Judaism kept developing and it is the writings in the Talmud, the rabbinic wisdom that poured forth for hundreds of years after the time of Christ, that lifted and defined the Judaistic concept of morality. In chapter 8 where Schwarz articulates several of the core values of Judaism, he relies principally on the Talmud, not the Torah.

The second mystery for me was the drive that the Jews have to preserve their religion and culture and not be swallowed up in the world, to not assimilate, to not disappear as a distinct people. Rabbi Schwarz points out that Jews hear a calling to be "a nation apart". I was especially interested in his discussion of Jews in America, how they can be a part but also apart... that America is a cultural mosaic rather than a melting pot. That is an extraordinarily important observation as it points to how the Israelis might be able to make peace with the Palestinians - by sharing the land while maintaining social and family separation.
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