Justice, Justice Shall Your Pursue
Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue:
Monday, June 25 - 7:00 pm
FREE - RSVP Requested
Light refreshments served
“A Jewish voice among progressives and a progressive voice among Jews”
Join author Ezra Nepon for a reading and discussion of this people's history of Progressive Jewish activism in the 1980s.
New Jewish Agenda was a national, multi-issue organization that practiced participatory grassroots democracy with over 45 local chapters and 5,000 members, organizing for peace and justice on local and global issues. (Read more about NJA below.)
We are thrilled to have former NJA leaders Rabbi Gerry Serotta and Reena Bernards joining the discussion.
New Jewish Agenda (sometimes called “Agenda”) maintained five primary campaigns through National Taskforces on Middle East Peace, Worldwide Nuclear Disarmament, Economic and Social Justice, Peace in Central America, and Jewish Feminism. Each taskforce coordinated work at the local and national level using organizing methods including national speaking tours, publications, newsletters, Internal Discussion Bulletins (NJA’s strategy for promoting dialogue about heated issues), national taskforce gatherings, and conferences. In a time before email, NJA taskforce members communicated through phone trees and hand-written letters, through mimeographed and photocopied mailings, and through face-to-face convening. Within many of the taskforces, and occasionally outside of the taskforces’ wide subject areas, NJA members often established more focused Working Groups, such as the AIDS Working Group within the Feminist Taskforce.
New Jewish Agenda also used specifically Jewish cultural symbols and gatherings in their organizing, a common strategy in our current political era. For example, NJA wrote and revised Jewish holy days and prayers to reflect Feminist, secular, and other non-traditional Jewish communities. They also used Jewish ritual in protest — for example, the Disarmament taskforce built a sukkah across the street from the White House. In 1984, New Jewish Agenda published a book with three Freedom Seders: The Rainbow Seder by Arthur Waskow focused on environmental and nuclear disarmament concerns, the Seder of the Children of Abraham by the Philadelphia NJA chapter used the Haggadah to shape a communal voice calling for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, and the Haggadah of Liberation written by the Seattle NJA Chapter/Kadima.
Though NJA members identified their activism as explicitly Jewish, they were met with mixed and often critical response from the larger Jewish community. Perhaps the most extreme example of this critical response was the November 1992 excommunication of NJA members performed by three Tewksbury, MA rabbis. A more mainstream example of NJA’s marginalization is the fact that NJA was not listed in the American Jewish Committee’s American Jewish Yearbook until 1986.