At the invitation of Jo Ellen Green Kaiser, the editor who published my piece in Zeek, I attended a talk and author event yesterday in the mezzanine meeting room of a Gold Coast apartment building on Chicago's Near North Side.
The location was somewhat ironic, as the occasion was the publication of Righteous Indignation: A Jewish Call for Justice, which, according to Publishers Weekly, "seek[s] to provide a set of intellectual and spiritual resources to encourage a sophisticated conversation about Judaism, social justice and environmental responsibility." Ms. Kaiser (whose parents hosted the event), Rabbi Or Rose and Margie Klein edited the book and solicited the contributions, which show Judaism's contemporary, left-leaning edge as being committed to both the social justice and spiritual aspects of the concept of Tikkun Olam, or repairing the world.
Today's young, progressive Jews are adamant that world-healing happens in increments, through very specific, very hard work; they believe they, and we all, have the tools and the will to make significant progress against prevailing inequity and injustice; and they believe that the practice of Judaism, in all its various forms, by all its diverse adherents, has an important role to play in that work.
I probably heard the phrase "grass-roots coalition" at least 50 times, but aside from that, the event was inspiring. I had to admit that, whether or not I shared these peoples' views (and I did roughly half the time), I admired their moxie, their organizational smarts and the ideas represented in the few pages I had the chance to read in their book (example: did you know that the phrase Tikkun ha-Olam first appeared in the Mishnah, circa 200 C.E.? And did you know that it had primarily to do with maintaining an almost karmic balance among diverse alliances, interests and relationships within society?).
This is an important book, because it shows the direction being taken by the next generation of Jewish leaders. They're young and smart, and they're not inclined to whine and hand-wring in advance of this election. They're already planning a reprease of "Operation Bubbie," in which they'll be taking elderly voters to the polls in the swing state of Florida during the November election.
The book addresses the pressing issues of our imbalanced world from a progressive Jewish perspective. Can't be all bad.