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"Rabbi works to attract younger Jews by integrating social justice into traditional Judaism"
By MYRON LOVE Rabbi Sid Schwarz says that he has always had a passion for human rights and social justice, values which, he says, appeal more to younger Jews than traditional Jewish practices.

As a rabbi (Reconstruc-tionist), Schwarz has long striven to demonstrate to younger Jews that their values and traditional Jewish values are not incompatible. To that end, he has been involved in several outreach programs such as PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values, which he founded and led for 21 years, the Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI) (through Clal: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership which was co-founded by Eli Weisel and Rabbi Yitz Greenberg)) where he directs a program that trains rabbis to be visionary spiritual leaders, and the Rene Cassin Fellowship Program, a year-long fellowship on Judaism and human rights for young professionals with hubs in New York, London and Jerusalem.

Schwartz will be speaking about his outreach efforts March 14 and 15 at Limmuds. His topics will include “Jewish Megatrends: Charting the Course of the American Jewish Future”, “God, Prayer and Ritual for the Jewish Skeptic” and “Can Social Justice Save the Jewish Soul?”
The latter presentation is built around his book, “Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World”, which explores the tension between the commitment of Jews to universal values and the Jewish communal tendency to emphasize a more parochial set of priorities. Reconciling this tension is key to help Judaism become a source of inspiration to Jews and, simultaneously, a source of healing to the world, he says.
The “skeptic” workshop is intended to help Jews “access some of the treasured concepts and practices of Judaism without assuming a conventional belief in God. The workshop speaks to Jews regardless of denominational affiliation and has particular appeal to Jews who have been distant from all forms of Jewish practice”.

As to the future of North American Jewry, Schwarz notes the North American Jewish community is “riddled with doubts about the viability of the institutions that well served the Jewish community of the 20th century. Synagogues, federations and Jewish membership organizations have yet to figure out how to meet the changing interests and needs of the next generation,” he notes.
“Our legacy institutions – the synagogues and federations – are in significant decline while younger Jews are coalescing around communities that emphasize human rights and social justice,” he says. “Our legacy institutions can reach out to these younger groups with resources and leadership experience. In order to bring younger Jews back into the community, we have to make the case that human rights and social justice are part of the central core of Judaism.”
Schwarz was attracted to the rabbinate, he says, by his love of Judaism and believe in a Jewish future. Raised in an Orthodox home in New York, he was ordained in 1980 as a Conservative rabbi. He is the founding rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland. He is a recipient of the prestigious Covenant Award for his pioneering work in the field of Jewish education and was named by Newsweek as one of the 50 most influential rabbis in North America.

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