I was privileged to receive a review copy of Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz‘s first book, Jewish Ethics and Social Justice. Yanklowitz is the Founder and President of Uri L’Tzedek, the first and only Orthodox Jewish social justice organization and a columnist for a number of Jewish publications.
Jewish Ethics and Social Justice is an anthology of articles. They were written over the past few years and many have been published in various publications such as The Jewish Press ,The Jewish Week, Conversations, HaAretz, etc.
All the essays are deeply rooted in our every day life. Rabbi Yanklowitz writes about a variety of subjects such as child labor, the role of women in Judaism and in the world, vegetarianism, globalization, the Davos World Forum, life in prison, hotel workers, and so much more. He starts by presenting a topic, then explains what the Jewish tradition has to say about it – drawing from the Talmudic sages, Medieval commentators as well as contemporary Jewish leaders. He then brings his own conclusions on the topic and shows immediate and concrete implications in our post-modern society.
In addition, Rabbi Yanklowitz encourages us to act as a community and constantly reminds us of our collective responsibility as a unique people, making sense of our presence in the diaspora as “light to the nations”. Thus, he never shuns disturbing topics such as the Rubashkin scandal or money laundering among the Orthodox community.
Obviously, what appeals to me may not appeal to other people, but I found that most essays are thought-provoking, engaging and easy to read.
The 54-essay format is also a great idea because s it means the book could be used by reading groups – as well as individuals – on a weekly basis following the Torah reading cycle.
Those who are familiar with this blog know how important it is to me to stress the relevance of Judaism in our time and within our environment, what Rabbi Yanklowitz calls “Street Torah”. This is exactly what this book does. It challenges the reader and won’t leave you indifferent.