Sunday, February 09, 2014

You Shall Pursue Social Justice

Tzedek, tzedek tirdof – justice, justice you shall pursue
Image from Temple Beth Eloim, Wellesley MA

These familiar words have been long embraced by so many of us working for tikkun olam. So long, in fact, that we take for granted that everyone understands what our words mean. But in the case of “justice” – particularly the term “social justice” – I no longer think we can make that assumption.

Today, I hear people using “social justice” to describe any attempt to improve our society. But not every good deed, meaningful and worthy as it is, can be classified as social justice work. Suggesting that it is creates confusion at best; at worst, it marginalizes true social justice efforts.

An activity to meet the immediate needs of individuals – collecting and distributing food, donating clothing, building homes – is social action . It is vitally important work that is primarily intended to provide a temporary benefit. The work of social justice , on the other hand, seeks to effect long-term change in pursuit of creating and sustaining a just society – one in which we are all treated fairly and equally. It is painstaking work that forces us to examine how we have always done things and to accept a better approach.

-Abby J. Liebman,
President & CEO of  Mazon: a Jewish Response to Hunger
(Read her full reflection in Mazon News, Fall 2013)

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