Jew­ish Ethics & Social Jus­tice: A Guide for the 21st Century

  • Review
By – April 23, 2012

As the founder of Uri L’Tzedek, the world’s first and only Ortho­dox social jus­tice move­ment, Rab­bi Shmu­ly Yan­klowitz in this book has col­lect­ed a series of pre­vi­ous­ly pub­lished arti­cles which exam­ine how… our tra­di­tion­al Jew­ish ethics trans­late into con­tem­po­rary Jew­ish social jus­tice respon­si­bil­i­ties.”

The basis of his argu­ment is that in Judaism reli­gious and social respon­si­bil­i­ties are inex­tri­ca­bly linked and can­not be dealt with sep­a­rate­ly, and he cites the Torah, the Tal­mud, and author­i­ties from Mai­monides to Lord Jonathan Sacks to make his point.

In lan­guage that is at once pas­sion­ate and direct, the author tack­les a num­ber of del­i­cate sub­jects head on and makes prac­ti­cal sug­ges­tions for deal­ing with them. Among the top­ics he dis­cuss­es are the right to health care; gen­der equal­i­ty; pro­tec­tion of the envi­ron­ment; busi­ness ethics; social­ly respon­si­ble invest­ments; the treat­ment of work­ers, espe­cial­ly those who are unseen,” such as hotel cham­ber­maids, and prison reform. His focus is pri­mar­i­ly on the Unit­ed States and he doesn’t hes­i­tate to men­tion names, includ­ing Jack Abramoff and Sholom Rubashkin, when appro­pri­ate.

While his writ­ing is pep­pered with a great many translit­er­at­ed Hebrew quo­ta­tions and ref­er­ences which are best under­stood by yeshi­va-trained read­ers, Rab­bi Shmuly’s mes­sage will sure­ly res­onate with any social­ly con­scious read­er and thus ful­fill his hope that this book will open up a con­ver­sa­tion about our respon­si­bil­i­ties as Jews to repair the world with more urgency, sophis­ti­ca­tion and passion.”


Read Shmu­ly’s Posts for the Vis­it­ing Scribe

Do We Pri­or­i­tize the Vul­ner­a­ble in Jus­tice? 

Peter L. Roth­holz head­ed his own Man­hat­tan-based pub­lic rela­tions agency and taught at the Busi­ness and Lib­er­al Arts (BALA) pro­gram at Queens Col­lege. He lives in East Hamp­ton, NY and San­ta Mon­i­ca, CA and is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to Jew­ish publications.

Discussion Questions