February 17, 2009; New York, NY—In time for Passover, American Jewish World Service (AJWS) and AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps have launched the Exodus and Revolution Sourcebook, a comprehensive teaching guide to Exodus and Revolution, Michael Walzer’s book on the Exodus narrative and its enduring impact on Jewish contemporary life and global politics.
Both AJWS, an international development organization, and AVODAH, an organization that engages young people in direct work on poverty in the United States, seek to encourage American Jews to think critically about global issues and actively participate in the pursuit of justice internationally and in their communities. Thus, AJWS and AVODAH jointly produced the Sourcebook for rabbis and educators seeking an interactive and enlightening tool to teach Walzer’s concepts during the Passover season.
As Walzer explains in Exodus and Revolution, the liberation of the Israelites from Egypt stands at the core of the biblical conception of justice. The Exodus narrative articulates a vision of justice which prioritizes liberation from oppression, a covenanted community and an unending aspiration for a better future. It has served as the basis of millions of efforts towards justice from social and political revolutions in Latin America to Russia, and it stands at the center of AJWS’s and AVODAH’s work to empower the disenfranchised throughout the world.
“To read the story of the Exodus in the light of politics and justice is to understand that the Jewish textual tradition is not now, nor was it ever, concerned exclusively with ritual observance or devotional prayer,” says AJWS Rabbi in Residence and Director of Jewish Communal Relations Brent Chaim Spodek. “In line with this tradition, the Exodus and Revolution Sourcebook invites people to uncover and reflect on Judaism’s fundamental building blocks and apply those ideas to modern day challenges.”
The Sourcebook helps users introduce students to the complexities of this Jewish narrative and the movements that have drawn inspiration from it. It asks students to explore what this liberation narrative means to them and how it can inform their social justice work.
The idea for the Sourcebook came from a spring 2008 course—led by the AJWS/AVODAH Alumni Partnership together with Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, in New York— that invited thinkers and activists from innovative Jewish institutions (Encounter, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Just Congregations, Mechon Hadar, MyJewishLearning.com and Uri l’Tzedek) to discuss the implications of the Exodus narrative in the weeks leading up to Passover. Over the course of six weeks, nearly 100 people studied the Exodus story using Walzer’s book. That series of classes, and the conversations that emerged from it, form the basis of the Sourcebook.
The Sourcebook includes introductory essays, lesson plans and source sheets for each of the six chapters of Exodus and Revolution. The material is adaptable for various class sizes, as well as sermons and Passover seders (the holiday meal). For a copy of the Sourcebook, visit: https://ajws.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/From-Liberation-to-Freedom-Source-Book.pdf.
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David L. Marcus