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JST 509 - American Jews and Social Justice

This course explores the participation of American Jews in movements for social justice in this country from the mid nineteenth century to the present. Jews have been, and continue to be, disproportionately involved in movements for better working conditions, racial justice, gender equality, and immigrant rights, among others. Of course, not all Jews supported these causes; some were indifferent or opposed to them for a variety of reasons. Some Jewish activists were motivated by ethical principles or political views unrelated to their Jewishness, while others asserted that their activism was rooted in Jewish values and historical experience. This topic raises important questions about the balance between universalism and particularism in Judaism. Emphasis will be placed on the perspectives and contributions of individual Jewish activists, as discussed in their speeches and writings.