Forget soup kitchens — rabbis want real change


Rabbis have launched a cross-communal group to campaign for social justice in Britain. Around 30 ministers attended a meeting this month of the new organisation, called Tzelem, the Rabbinic Call for Social and Economic Justice in the UK.

“There is a real distinction to be made between social action and social justice,” said Danny Newman, co-founder of the group, with fellow Progressive rabbinic student Robin Ashworth Steen and the director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality, Edie Friedman.

“Social action is when a synagogue sets up a soup kitchen,” he said, “We are looking for more fundamental changes in the structure of society.”

Rabbi Alexandra Wright, of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, St Johns Wood, who supports the initiative, said: “There are a whole host of issues that rabbis are wound up about — poverty, welfare cuts, immigration and asylum, issues of mental health.”

“The pulpit is not for party politics,” she said, “but there is no doubt that what we speak about is often political, about what kind of society we want to build.”

One Orthodox rabbi attended the inaugural meeting, but Mr Newman said others had indicated they would have come if they had not been on the Chief Rabbi’s delegation to Israel.

“This is about asking for justice,” he said. “We are trying to bring a Jewish voice to what our tradition tells us about helping the poor and needy.”

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