Social Justice Organizing | Reconstructionist Rabbinical College

ACADEMICS

Social Justice Organizing

ACADEMICS

Social Justice Organizing

Social justice organizing permeates the College’s academic and community life. Through coursework and supervised internships, we develop students with the practical skills and theological background to work effectively toward a more socially just, environmentally sustainable and spiritually fulfilling society.

RRC students learn about the systems of power and resources that dominate today’s world, and develop the skills to both participate in and help lead transformative change. In preparation for their rabbinates, they will be able to authentically integrate their passion for justice with Judaism; remain firmly grounded in Jewish tradition, text and history; and articulate their personal mission as rabbis.

Students are expected to cultivate the qualities of personal reflection, humility, compassion, courage and connection to the earth and all creation. They acquire skills in finance (e.g., reading budgets, fundraising), nonprofit administration, active listening, social entrepreneurship, community organizing and nonviolent action. 

“When I saw the announcement of the social justice organizing program at the College, I decided to go to rabbinical school! As an intern focused on social justice with a congregation, I’ve now witnessed a deeper integration of people’s religious and political lives than ever before.” 

— Alex Weissman ’17

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, ‘85

Rabbi Mordechai Liebling, ‘85, is uniquely qualified to teach and mentor spiritual leaders who can inspire and organize the pursuit of justice rooted in Jewish traditions, fueled by caring rather than rage. He supervises students doing internships in justice organizing and multifaith initiatives. Here he discusses the importance of rabbis who can speak the language of social justice to students.

“Through my organizing internship, I have learned that it is possible to be all the aspects of my developing rabbinic self — ritual leader, activist, and organizer — in one position. It has enhanced my sense of what is possible for me in the world and has strengthened my commitment to working for racial, economic, and gender justice be core to my rabbinic practice, whatever setting in which I may work.”

— Mackenzie Reynolds ‘19


Sample Courses, Internships and Workshops
 

Leadership for Social Justice

Rabbis lead in a variety of contexts and each individual must develop an approach that is appropriate to the context and authentic to the self. The teachings of transformational leadership are the bases of this class. Students develop clarity of their own personal mission; spiritual, emotional and social intelligence skills; the “soft arts” of organizing listening, empathy and thoughtfulness; and personal ecology. There is significant internal work on developing the ability to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” This course provides a basis for Advanced Leadership.

Advanced Leadership

Building on skills learned in Leadership for Social Justice, we address personal alignment; inspiring and helping others to align to work effectively for common goals; partnership-building; having difficult conversations; conflict resolution and negotiation; social identities; and examining our own racism.

Food Justice

Judaism has been deeply intertwined with the food production, consumption and distribution since its origins. Food is connected to nourishing our physical, emotional and spiritual lives. This course covers traditional Jewish teachings about food — from the Bible to eco-kashrut —and current issues regarding food justice and sustainability. It gives attention to how Jewish teachings inform our responses to these contemporary issues and how food can be a tool for organizing in the Jewish community.

Money in Our Lives and in Society

The Talmud teaches: “One who wishes to acquire wisdom should study the way money works, for there is no greater area of Torah study than this. It is like an ever flowing stream … ” Participants in this course examine various aspects of how money works in their own lives, in institutions that they may serve, in Jewish history and in the larger society. Materials include traditional Jewish sources and current economic and financial teachings for practical and theoretical lessons. There is an experiential component to the class.

Developing a Jewish Liberation Theology

In the style of a graduate school seminar, we explore creating a Jewish Theology of Liberation. Among other questions we ask are whose freedom/liberation are we concerned with? What would this theology hold us accountable for/to? What can we learn from other liberation theologies (e.g., Latin American, Black, Womanist, Queer, Eco-Feminist, etc.)? How does it fit into the continuum of Jewish theologies and in particular how does Reconstructionism relate to the questions we raise? How does this theology need to address our particular time? What would it inspire us to do?

Rabbi as Environmental Activist

The course addresses Jewish teachings about our relationship to the environment and our place in the ecology of the earth. We examine Jewish texts and tradition, as well as other spiritual approaches and scientific thinking. We give attention to the different types of activism needed to achieve a sustainable environment.

Social Justice and Multifaith Internship Supervision

This is a supervision class for students with internships in the social justice and multifaith programs. It is designed to help students get the most from their internships and to integrate their outside work with their academic experience.

Internships and Workshops

Social Justice Organizing internships reflect the wide array of issues, settings and activities that attract individual students. Some interns work with congregations to manage projects in which they are invested, and some work directly with community groups and advocacy organizations. Recent internships and workshops have included:

  • Disabilities Rights workshop
  • Organizing rabbis with Jews for Racial & Economic Justice
  • Providing Jewish content for Bend the Arc’s organizing campaigns
  • Working with Avodah fellows
  • Disseminating ideas about socially responsible economic development via Calvert Impact Capital