Jimmy Taber

Jimmy Taber

Jimmy Taber is the New Israel Fund's associate director in New York. Previously, he worked in Israel for the Joint Distribution Committee's Center for International Migration and Integration, managing Israel's Assisted Voluntary Return and Reintegration Program for asylum seekers and migrant workers. Prior to his work at the JDC, Jimmy received his MA and MBA from Brandeis University's Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership. Jimmy can be reached at jamesetaber@gmail.com.

Matot-Masei

As a Jewish social justice activist, the collective trauma of the Holocaust has deeply impacted my approach to social change. Every injustice throughout the world that resembles, in some fashion, European Jewry’s persecution during World War II takes on a deeply personal character. There is no issue in which this is more salient than genocide. In 2006, I took on the Jewish community’s call of “never again” in response to the ongoing genocide in Darfur as a personal vow.

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Kedoshim

Peter Tosh’s revolutionary lyrics in his 1977 song “Equal Rights” challenge some of the core assumptions of social justice activism. Critical of the tendency of his era’s dominant activist culture to subsume demands for justice within an overarching movement for peace, Tosh boldly asserts that justice represents a more pressing need, and even goes so far as to dismiss the desire for peace entirely. By presenting peace and justice in opposition to one another, Tosh rejects the common understanding that these two concepts encompass complementary and linked goals. For Tosh, the achievement of peace between people—whether in war zones like Vietnam or in racially and politically charged neighborhoods in the United States—will not stop the underlying inequality and injustice perpetuated by legal, social and cultural systems on a structural level.

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Shmini

At times, I find that my fellow social justice activists are tired. Tired from the barrage of need they face daily. Tired from the uphill battle against intractable social problems. Tired from the wearing down of their expectations that sustainable change is possible. Eventually, their emotional capacity for social justice work becomes exhausted. Sometimes it seems that the more they commit to fighting for social justice, the more vulnerable they are to being consumed by an overwhelming feeling of helplessness.

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Vayeshev

Over and over in the Torah, widows are singled out as a group meriting special protection by God. Along with the stranger and the orphan, the widow is recognized as an especially vulnerable member of society. Tamar’s story, as told in Parashat Vayeshev, can help us understand why the Torah focuses specifically on the widow, and why it is so critical to protect the rights of this vulnerable population.

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Vayera

This week, in Parashat Vayera, Avimelech, king of Gerar, faces a grave threat to himself and his household. Avraham enters the town and repeats his prior ill-fated decision to present Sarah as his sister instead of his wife upon arriving in a foreign land. Unaware that Sarah is married, Avimelech takes her for himself. To Avimelech’s great surprise, God confronts him in a dream, threatening to kill him unless he returns Sarah to Avraham. Following an animated exchange Avimelech concedes, but only after God once again threatens death and this time extends the potential sentence to “all that is yours.” Avimelech returns Sarah to Avraham and he and the women of his household are healed from the infertility that had been inflicted upon them as punishment for seizing Sarah.

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Nitzavim

When I was eighteen, my grandfather enlisted me in a signature-gathering campaign. We advocated for the addition of an amendment to Oregon’s state constitution that would declare health care a fundamental right. Working alongside him, I found myself captivated by his tireless insistence that we each have the responsibility to care for the vulnerable. “We all know someone who lacks affordable and accessible healthcare,” he repeated over and over. “These are our family, friends and neighbors who are suffering.” This message became all the more real to me when, in the midst of the campaign, my grandfather was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

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Korach

“…and we argued passionately but always rested assured that our arguments were indeed ‘for the sake of heaven.’”

These words, used to close the graduation ceremony for my cohort from Brandeis University’s Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program, struck me as especially thought provoking. The quote references a passage in Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Ancestors, which reads: “Any dispute for the sake of heaven will have enduring value, but any dispute not for the sake of heaven will not have enduring value.”

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Shmot

I often imagine the day my two-year-old daughter will turn to me and ask the simple question, “How can people hurt each other?” It may happen at a demonstration surrounded by signs calling for justice. It could be around our Shabbat table as talk inevitably turns to the activism of our friends. Maybe she will ask as my wife and I try to make sense of a world that all too often seems senseless. Regardless, I know this day will come, and I will be forced to explain how, despite my deep belief that people are good, we are able to treat each other as if we are not.

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Matot

As a Jewish social justice activist, the collective trauma of the Holocaust has deeply impacted my approach to social change. Every injustice throughout the world that resembles, in some fashion, European Jewry’s persecution during World War II takes on a deeply personal character. There is no issue in which this is more salient than genocide. In 2006, I took on the Jewish community’s call of “never again” in response to the ongoing genocide in Darfur as a personal vow.

Read More

Nitzavim-Vayelech

When I was eighteen, my grandfather enlisted me in a signature-gathering campaign. We advocated for the addition of an amendment to Oregon’s state constitution that would declare health care a fundamental right. Working alongside him, I found myself captivated by his tireless insistence that we each have the responsibility to care for the vulnerable. “We …Read More

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