Presidents Lead Rabbinical Students’ Delegation to El Salvador

NEW YORK, January 2, 2007— How do rabbinical students understand the relationship between Jewish texts and social justice? With expert guidance from Hebrew Union College President David Ellenson and American Jewish World Service President Ruth Messinger, a unique program will bring together a group of rabbinical students from all denominations and nine institutions who will go to El Salvador to study the connection between social justice and Judaism.

As part of the fourth annual American Jewish World Service Rabbinical Students’ Delegation, 15 women and 10 men from nine seminaries and institutes across the country will spend a week, from January 2 to 11, in the rural town of Cuidad Romero, in southeastern El Salvador. They will work side-by-side with local community members at a sustainable agriculture organization, as well as study and pray together.

Throughout the week, this group of future Jewish leaders will explore and debate the philosophy and practice of Judaism’s response to social justice with two authorities on the subject, Ellenson and Messinger.

Ellenson, in addition to being president of Hebrew Union College, is internationally renowned for his research and publications in the areas of Jewish religious thought, ethics, and modern Jewish history. He is a leader in developing a framework for how Judaism can be made relevant and practiced in the modern world.

Through daily formal and informal discussions, Ellenson will contribute his distinctive philosophy from years of scholarly research and teaching about the interplay between Jewish religious tradition and modern society. He will help the students explore the integration of social justice into their Jewish identity and develop the skills for transmitting these values.

Messinger, president of AJWS since 1998, will offer her expertise and experience of life-long leadership and commitment to social justice. Messinger has made AJWS a model of how—through grants, service and advocacy—Jews can promote and support global justice based in Jewish values.

“The Rabbinical Students’ Delegation will be a week of intensive and transformative work in El Salvador for 25 future rabbis, one in which they will be challenged to reflect on who they are, what they believe, and how they will exercise the Jewish responsibility to help heal the world,” said Messinger.

The rabbinic students are from institutions ranging from non-denominational to Orthodox: Academy for Jewish Religion, Drisha Institute for Jewish Education, Hebrew College,
Hebrew Union College in New York and Los Angeles, International Institute of Secular Humanistic Judaism, Jewish Theological Seminary, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah, and the University of Judaism.

The program, now in its fourth year, has 75 alumni, many now in pulpits across the United States. AJWS instituted the program in 2002 as way to promote the obligation in Judaism to repair the world. Each year demand for the program continues to increase. Ellenson’s participation is a testament to a growing commitment to social justice in rabbinical education.

“The combined experiences of living, working and studying in the developing world will instill a life-long dedication to social justice in the next generation of religious leaders,” said Messinger.

Learn more about AJWS Service Delegations.  

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