Good News for Jewish Justice

I mobilize American Jews to end poverty and support human rights in the developing world, and I want to know what they think and do. I found much to learn in the Pew Research Center’s new study about what American Jews believe. Clearly, this rich survey evokes many responses in me as someone who is deeply attached to the Jewish community, but, right now, I am focusing solely on the questions it helps me address as an organizer: Where are American Jews now?; and What can we build upon? For global justice work, what we learn from Pew is good news.

Most American Jews believe that Jewishness is rooted in their values. Sixty-nine percent report that “leading an ethical life” is essential to their sense of being Jewish, and fifty-six percent report that working for justice and equality is essential to what Jewishness means to them.

These statistics make powerful statements in their own right, and to me they make intuitive sense. American Jews have a rich history of involvement in movements for social justice, and I meet growing numbers of American Jews who want to act as “Jewish global citizens” in pursuing justice around the world.

As Pew notes, most American Jews are finding meaning as Jews outside of Jewish institutions. Therefore, we need to listen carefully to the innovative ways in which most Jews are experiencing Jewishness today. From the yearning I witness among American Jews to play a role as Jews in “repairing the world,” I believe that supporters of global justice are tapping into their deepest beliefs. Looking forward, all of us must find new, creative ways to do so. This is a time to listen, learn, connect, and act.

*Read more from “Pew and the Jews: ‘So What?’”, an RD special feature on the Pew survey. 

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RMessinger@ajws.org'

Ruth W. Messinger, president and executive director of American Jewish World Service (AJWS), was in public service in New York City for 20 years. In 1997 she became the first woman to secure the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor.