Culture, Israel, Justice, Politics, Sex & Gender

Justice and Jewish Thought

Jewschool: Progressive Jews and Judaism. It says so in the tile bar. Sounds simple, right? But, how do we build a rich and self-consciously progressive Judaism and Jewish community?
For me, a small set of contemporary Jewish thinkers have been instrumental in providing the food for thought I needed to begin to sketch out my own vision for what that could look like. People like Art Green, Jonathan and Daniel Boyarin, Judith Plaskow, Art Waskow, Rachel Adler, Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz and many others. I’m a pretty voracious reader, but I got the bulk of my progressive Jewish education in one fell swoop when I decided to facilitate a progressive Jewish reading group in DC.
Some friends back at school had put together a student forum in Radical Jewish Thought. Since I’d graduated and moved away, I could not take the class, so I thought, “why not just run it out my living room?” That experience turned out to be a powerful catalyst. It solidified a young progressive community in DC, opened my mind about the possibilities (and challenges) of progressive Jews and Judaism, and ultimately encouraged me to pursue graduate studies in religion. Different versions of that course have since been run by Jews United for Justice in DC and Moishe House Boston: The Kavod Jewish Social Justice House , and now, this little student forum is about to hit the big time.
This fall AJWS and Avodah are coordinating a version of the Radical Jewish Thought course/reading group in NYC.  It’s really a pretty incredible syllabus of articles by some really thoughtful people writing on Judaism and Jewish identity in relation to progressive/radical politics. It is also going to be a great opportunity to meet in small local groups for really stimulating conversation.  I’ve been consulting with AJWS on this, and I’m really excited by the possibility of small groups of folks all over the city working together to think through the possibilities of living a meaningful and socially engaged Jewish life.
The AJWS syllabus tends more towards questions of Jew (identity and politics) than Judaism (God, Halacha, revelation). But, if it’s a success, I could see them offering a second version that highlights those questions (or of course, you can take this course back to its DIY roots and put together your own reading group. I bet lots of Jewschool folks would be happy to post suggestions for that list in the comments).
If you are in the New York, you should definitely check this out. Official info with registration instructions after the jump.
The radical Jewish revolution is at hand!!  ; )

The AJWS-AVODAH Partnership is proud to announce the NY launch of Justice and Jewish Thought, a city-wide study group that will meet this fall in small groups of ten on a weekly basis from September through December, 2009. The groups will engage with a challenging curriculum that explores how various oppressions, such as race, class, gender, sexual identity, and anti-semitism, intersect with and affect our identities as Jews, our Jewish practices, and our work for social justice. Readings will include works by Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, Judith Plaskow, Paul Kivel, April Rosenblum, and others.
The AJWS-AVODAH Partnership offered the program in collaboration with Jews United for Justice this past spring in DC and is excited to be offering an updated version of the curriculum this fall in NY.**
** Previously, various iterations of the curriculum and program have also been offered to members of JUFJ exclusively as well as at Wesleyan University and in the Boston community through the leadership of the Moishe House / Kavod Jewish Social Justice House. The fall curriculum is informed by the accumulated feedback on these different initiatives.
What makes this a city-wide program?
Given the enthusiasm with which past participants have described their experience (see below), the AJWS-AVODAH Partnership will offer this year’s curriculum to multiple NY-based cohorts simultaneously. The twelve-week series will also be bookended by an opening launch event and a closing (siyum) program for all 50-80 participants. With several groups meeting simultaneously, participants will have the opportunity to choose between a variety of times / locations (eg Upper West Side, Park Slope, Crown Heights, etc).
What is the schedule / time commitment?
Tuesday, September 15 – Opening event (evening)
Weeks of Sept 21st through December 7th – Twelve participant-led discussions
Week of December 14th – Siyum (closing event)
Registrants will be asked to identify their preference in terms of times / locations and will be assigned the group that best suits their schedule.
What will be expected of participants?
·     Participants will make a good faith commitment to attend as many sessions as possible;
·     Participants will read +/- 30-40 pages per week;
·     Participants will commit to facilitating at least one of the weekly conversations.
How to register: Visit A limited number of spaces are available for volunteers to take on official leadership roles. If you’d like to apply to be a participant leader, contact Audrey at [email protected].
What past participants have said:
·     I loved that I had a place, a community, an open, honest, friendly, warm and accepting home to head to every week.
·     It was a perfect supplement to everything else I have going in my life—work, social relationships, service, etc.—and it was a wonderful thing to count on and come to every week.
·     With the class, my mind was opened to new ideas about Judaism, and new ideas about how to take our opinions and translate them into actions.
·     The class energized, inspired and nurtured me, my Jewish identity, my social justice efforts and all of the places those three things connect and collide. It also created a space, background, community, language and content to bring various aspects of my identity, Judaism and social justice consciousness together to strengthen each other. I’m sad it’s over!

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