50 Faces of Justice
To all of this week’s Faces of Justice, social justice is the central dimension of Jewish life – not an extra activity or an afterthought. And, more importantly, it is because of these leaders that our Reform synagogues consider social justice and activism to be a core part of synagogue life.
Check back next Friday for the final installment of our 50 Faces of Justice!
Evely Laser Shlensky, a former chair of the Commission on Social Action and a life-long Jewish activist, grew up in a home steeped in Jewish life. From an early age, she learned from her father that “Judaism is not our religion, it’s our way of life.” Evely recalls that her father’s main motivation to make money in his business was to support his “tzedakah habit.”
Mark Buchbinder has been committed to fighting for civil rights and social justice since he moved to South Florida at age 11. Moving from New York City, he was shocked to find himself living in segregation, and remembers marching on labor union lines with his parents. While his youth was spent fighting for basic civil rights, the continual fight to ensure equal opportunity for all has become a defining theme of his life.
“Social justice, in short, is required by our religious texts and is inseparable from our religious mission. There is no such thing as a morality that is selectively indignant – that looks within but fails to look without. And Judaism without ethics, both personal and societal, is a contradiction in terms.” These are the written words of Rabbi Eric Yoffie, past president of the Union for Reform Judaism, in a 2011 op-ed titled “Judaism is always tikkun olam – and more.”
When Becca Nagorsky was visiting her childhood home during the year in which she was an Eisendrath Legislative Assistant, she stumbled upon a speech she had written as a 10th grade participant in a L’Taken Social Justice Seminar. She presented these remarks to the staff of her Member of Congress, urging their boss’s support of welfare reform and, as she reflects back on the two weekends she spent with the RAC staff in high school, she remembers how much she learned from the LAs and filing away the position as a goal for after she graduated college.
Rabbi Israel “Si” Dresner is seemingly your typical retired clergyman. Not being a celebrity, his towering legacy of civil rights activism and ongoing advocacy to pursue justice in social and public policy is not known to many. Those who have worked with Rabbi Dresner, learned from him and spoken with him know full well the kind of passionate devotion with which he has pursued tikkun olam throughout his career.