By Rabbi Dr. Ron Kronish
as published in the Huffington Post on 21/7/13
“One of the most central tenets of Judaism is to pursue justice . We are reminded of this over and over again in the Bible, especially in the book of Deuteronomy, which we Jews began reading in our synagogues in Israel and around the world in recent weeks, and in the prophetic readings from Isaiah, which we read as supplementary to our Torah text for the next seven weeks, and on the morning of Yom Kippur. Indeed, ours is a religion which emphasizes social justice, both in our foundational texts and in our liturgy.
It is for this reason that I was honored to participate in a unique seminar on “Justice and Society” with 25 judges, law professors, lawyers and educators, at the world-renowned Aspen Institute in scenic Aspen, Colorado this past week. It was an amazing experience, one of the intellectual and spiritual highlights of my adult life.
At the closing evening of the seminar, one of the participants referred to our group as a “beloved community.” Indeed, we bonded as a group — not only through our carefully and thoughtfully facilitated discussions, but also in our coffee breaks, our meals, our hiking together, and our strolls around the awe-inspiring grounds of the Aspen Meadows campus in the heart of the Rocky Mountains. This was an extraordinary group of caring and committed intellectuals and practitioners who genuinely and actively listened deeply to each other, but also spoke personally, professionally and passionately about fundamental issues involved with creating a just society which were clearly of central importance to all of us.
What is justice? Is the law always just? Is the law always moral? What happens when our morality dictates to our conscience to be civilly disobedient to an unjust law, as in the famous examples of Rev. Martin Luther King and Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, or Mahatma Gandhi — some of the great reigious leaders of the twentieth century, who were motivated by deeply held religious views of justice, based on their sacred texts and moral world-view.
And, what about economic justice? About the cruel inequalities between rich and poor in so many Western liberal democracies? Why should the top one percent of American or Israeli society live in such affluence and abundance when there are so many disenfranchised poor people in these societies? What should be done to tax the rich more fairly so that distributive justice becomes a reality and not just a philosophical idea?”
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