Temple Israel will welcome Rabbi Jill Jacobs, executive director of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, a human rights and social justice advocacy organization based in New York City, for a special Shabbat service and Torah Study on February 15-16.
Rabbi Jacobs, who has written extensively about the intersection of Judaism and social justice, including two books, ”There Shall Be No Needy: Pursuing Social Justice Through Jewish Law & Tradition” and “Where Justice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Justice in Your Jewish Community,” believes that human rights and social justice are important cornerstones of Judaism.
“When we talk about Jewish law, halacha, to be a Jew is not just about certain rituals, but how we act in the world,” Rabbi Jacobs said. “Jews have been victims of human rights abuses over the years and God told the Israelites after they left Egypt, because of the experience you had, here’s how you treat other people.”
Rabbi Aryeh Azriel, who invited Rabbi Jacobs to speak at Temple Israel, agrees, saying that the struggle for human rights is inherent in Judaism.
“I think Judaism has built in it the defense of human rights,” Rabbi Azriel said. “From a religious point of view, we talk about God’s image that exists in every human being, but this doesn’t guarantee human rights. Sometimes the religious community assumes theologically or religiously that all of us have to be treated equally, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen. It’s a fantasy. We should be very vigorous about fighting for and talking about human rights. Especially us, Jewish people. Our human rights were trampled so many times in our history.”
Rabbi Jacobs will give the D’var during the Friday evening service and lead the Torah Study Saturday morning before services. Through her topics–”Judaism in Public: Why and How to Bring Jewish Texts, Laws and Values into American Public Discourse” and “When the Water Runs Out: Allocating Scarce Resources in a Desperate World”–Rabbi Jacobs hopes to explain how lessons from Judaism can teach us how we as a community can tackle many of the tough social issues facing us.
“We have thousands of years of Jewish wisdom that we can draw from,” Rabbi Jacobs said. “We have experience with economics, social science, morality … Since the economic crisis, we’ve had a scarcity mentality, where if someone wins, somebody else loses. These are very difficult issues. What if you really do have a scarcity of water? Of land? How do you balance those different needs? Human rights is not only about what’s important right now, but also what can be important in the future.”
In addition to taking part in the Friday evening services, Rabbi Jacobs will also be on hand immediately following services to discuss T’ruah, formerly known as Rabbis for Human Rights-North America.
“By having a human rights group like T’ruah, it helps us become more aware of the violations that from time to time we do, whether intentionally or unintentionally,” Rabbi Azriel said. “They have provided good information about violations of human rights, both in Israel and the United States, and they have alerted us about human rights violations in many other parts of the world.”
For those who would like to talk further with Rabbi Jacobs, you can attend Shabbat dinner with her and the Temple Israel clergy. The cost is $12 per person and you must contact Temple Israel to RSVP by Monday, February 11.
And on Saturday, Rabbi Jacobs will join a Social Justice Committee meeting at 1:30 p.m. to discuss the research that has been done in the aftermath of Temple Israel’s roundtable conversation on violence. The meeting is open for anyone to attend.
While she is in Omaha, Rabbi Jacobs will also be speaking at the Kripke Center Symposium at Creighton University on Friday, February 15, where the topic is “The Bible, the Economy & the Poor.” More information can be found by visiting the Creighton website.