Report Back on National Conference on Judaism and Social Justice

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JCUA, 5/27/2005

On April 10-11, 2005, the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs hosted Tzedek Yalin Bah/Justice Shall Dwell There: A National Conference on Judaism and Social Justice.

This conference was intended as the first step in launching a national Jewish social justice movement that will:

  • Build and strengthen connections among Jews involved in social justice work in different areasof the country and in various types of institutions.
  • Enable more effective communication among Jewish social justice groups and activists in orderfor people around the country to share strategies, achievements and challenges.
  • Create a forum for ongoing collaboration on national initiatives such as legislative campaigns.
  • Develop a plan to provide technical assistance, upon request, to local Jewish social justiceinitiatives.
  • Increase the visibility, both inside and outside of the Jewish community, of Jewish socialjustice work.
  • Broaden the pool of funding for Jewish social justice work.

The conference began this process by offering a forum for Jewish social justice activists to meet oneanother, share best practices and challenges, brainstorm about possible joint projects, and begin taking concrete steps to initiate some of these collaborations.

The conference drew approximately 250 participants from more than seventy-five organizations andmore than fifteen metropolitan areas. Approximately 150 participants came from outside of the Chicago area. Attendees included staff and active members of Jewish social justice organizations, Jewish staff members of secular social justice organizations, rabbis and synagogue lay leadership,day school teachers and students, and others.

When asked about their motivations for attending the conference, more than half (60) of the 110 people who answered the question mentioned networking, meeting other activists orcommunity building.

Other goals mentioned include*:

  • Learning what other groups are doing/best practices/gaining new ideas (37)
  • Building a Jewish social justice movement/network (10)
  • Understanding more about the relationship between Judaism and social justice (9)
  • Gaining organizing skills (9)
  • Learning more about synagogue organizing/strengthening synagogue social justice involvement(7)
  • Gaining motivation/enthusiasm (3)
  • Learning how to work in coalition with other communities (3)
  • Promoting ones own organization (3)
  • Learning more about specific social justice issues (labor, separation of church and state,housing) (3)
  • Strengthening lay leadership (2)
  • Learning how, personally, to become more involved in social justice (2)
  • Catching up with friends (1)
  • Gaining fundraising skills (1)
  • Learning how to do more effective advocacy (1)
  • Learning how to develop educational programs/curricula (1)
  • Learning more about Chicago issues (1)

*Please note that many people mentioned more than one goal.

When asked to select from a list the topics in which they were most interested, participants chose*:

  • Organizing skills 61
  • Fundraising skills 48
  • Organizational skills 39
  • Housing issues 44
  • Jewish study on social justice 87
  • Civil liberties issues 53
  • Labor issues 43
  • Collaboration with other communities 79
  • Collaboration with other Jewish organizations 67
  • Negotiating diversity within the Jewish community 63
  • Educating young Jews about social justice 65
  • Synagogue organizing 51
  • Youth organizing 32
  • Other 13

* Please note that most people checked more than one box

The conference combined:

  • Workshops that highlighted best practices or focused on a specific issue within theworld of Judaism and social justice
  • Open space technology, which enables conference participants to set the agenda and to talk about the issues important to them
  • Presentations by well-known social justice leaders


The seventeen workshops covered a range of topics, both practical and theoretical and focused both on specifically Jewish issues and on general social justice issues.

For more information on workshops, keynote speeches, and outcomes of the conference, check out the attached PDF!


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