Faith in Public Life
For centuries, the Jewish prophetic tradition has challenged our people to hold ourselves and our leaders accountable for creating a just society and alleviating suffering. As Jews integrated into the social and political fabric of the United States, this prophetic call has often influenced our participation in American public life. Indeed, our history in this country has generated myriad expressions of how Jewish identity and citizenship can be fused: Some, such as prayers for the government, carry explicitly religious valence. Others, such as secular Jewish organizations that advocate, lobby and organize, reflect a commitment to reifying Judaism’s ethical underpinnings.
Following last year’s historically divisive election season, one which surfaced hateful speech and anti-democratic tendencies, and which revealed deep fissures in our nation, the depth of what we are facing as a democracy cannot be underestimated. Many members of our community have been asking what is BJ’s role in the current political landscape—generally, as a faith institution and specifically, as a Jewish congregation with a longstanding legacy of political action.
Urgent questions tug at our hearts: What is the role of faith in public life and social movements, historically and today? How can religious values help America live up to its core ideals of justice, equality and freedom? At this political moment, how might religion in general–and Judaism specifically–help reknit the social fabric of our country?
Faith in Public Life
This coming fall, we are launching a new initiative that will examine these questions through study, conversation and action. In addition, we will consider the role of religion in Israeli politics and the influence of Jewish law and tradition on Israeli civil society. A lecture series will probe this topic through historical and sociological perspectives, while other elements will provide hands-on ways to learn, grow, and act. This initiative is not about advancing one political viewpoint; instead Faith in Public Life seeks to amplify the Jewish call to work for a just and redeemed world, to create and explore pathways towards that vision, and to affirm our commitment to being a religious institution working for change in the public sphere.