Sign Up for Jubilee Shabbat Today
It’s not too late to plan a Jubilee Shabbat event in your synagogue, community, or even for your home and family. This year’s Jubilee Shabbat weekend is taking place May 18-19, and it is co-sponsored by the Religious Action Center, American Jewish World Service, Tikkun, the Shalom Center and Rabbis for Human Rights-North America (RHR-NA). The weekend is just one opportunity to set aside time to pray, reflect, study, and act around issues of global inequality and poverty.
Each week we set aside time to rest during Shabbat. But the Jubilee, which represents the seventh Sabbath cycle, reminds us to not only rest, but also to envision what it would mean to take time on Shabbat to make our local and global community relationships more whole. One way to do this has been to support the cancellation of third-world debts. The Religious Action Center has partnered with the Jubilee USA Network for over a decade to support the cancellation of unjust debt in the developing world to help eradicate poverty. The inspiration for debt cancellation and a modern Jubilee, and the successful debt relief of over $100 billion dollars over the past decade, was inspired by the parsha Behar-Bechokotai in Leviticus.
The Leviticus passage called for every 50th year to be a “jubilee year,” during which all land was to be returned to its original owner, slaves were to be freed and liberty to be proclaimed throughout the land. In contemporary times, the jubilee concept means that instead of third-world governments paying back debts to banks in the developed world — debts that they have paid many times already — money and resources would go towards hospitals or schools.
What lessons does parsha Behar-Bechokotai give us in these current times of economic crisis and increasing inequality across the United States and the rest of the world? How can we engage with principles dictated in the Torah and collectively act towards justice today and tomorrow? These are some of the questions that we must ask ourselves as Jewish communities working for a more just world.
You can incorporate Jubilee Shabbat into your weekend in many ways — whether it is a special Shabbat service, a Jubilee-focused d’var, a synagogue-wide or family Havdalah service, or Torah study group. The Jubilee Shabbat homepage has some resources to help you in your planning!
Each action, large and small, connects you to a long line of Jewish communities acting for social justice — and to the global Jubilee movement made up of diverse communities in the United States and across Africa, Latin America and Asia.
Jeremy Weyl is the Outreach & Congregations Fellow at Jubilee USA.