WHY רודפי צדק?
Why we pursue justice for all
Rodfei Tsedek aims to revitalize the culture of solidarity central to Jewish society in so many parts of the world. European Jewish communities have been greatly diminished since World War II, and unfortunately in much of Europe a deep-seated prejudice against Jews can still be felt today. Yet these sorts of prejudices also faced Jews and Jewish communities in the USA, the UK and elsewhere a century or more ago.
"Privileges of the swimming pool are extended only to approved gentiles". This sign greeted Zachary Gallant's grandparents in the city of Baltimore in the 1940s. Earlier, across America, this sentiment had not been expressed as politely. "No N*****s, No Jews, No Dogs" was perhaps the most straightforward expression of the fact that our ancestors were not welcome in their new home.
The United States of America did not suddenly decide that Jews were welcome. Our ancestors worked in sweatshops; they were socially and politically segregated; they were left to die as hopeless refugees aboard ships crossing the Atlantic that weren't permitted to dock in America. It was the Jewish communities themselves who had to declare “this is where I belong” and make themselves an integral and integrated part of society. In so doing, Jews have been at the forefront of American and British movements of solidarity since the 1950s, if not earlier. The Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, for example, were more or less written in the board room of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism in Washington, DC.
Rodfei Tsedek seeks to build a similiar culture into Jewish communities in Europe, and in so doing seeks to strengthen movements of solidarity throughout the European continent.
Faith communities in Europe have been building a diverse, supportive network of aid to those most in need since 2015. Unfortunately, while individual Jews have been deeply involved, Jewish communities have been largely missing from this work. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which finally came to Europe in 2019 after over a century of Jewish humanitarian work around the world, commented on this missing Jewish presence in Europe on World Humanitarian Day 2020. Jews must be part of a contemporary European solidarity movement, just as they’ve been instrumental in such work from America to Morocco, but this begins from within.
A Culture of Solidarity is only as strong as those communities who feel themselves involved in it. Jewish communities in Europe have felt themselves excluded, and this sense of exclusion has created a fear inside the community of engaging externally, creating a positive feedback loop of isolation. These feelings are based in real, significant Jew-hatred and anti-Jewish prejudices in many European cultures, and in the historical traumas of pogroms and the holocaust. Nonetheless, these can only be overcome if both Jews and non-Jews are willing to meet one another again and to act as equal members in society. Through this, solidarity can be expressed toward Jews and Jews can be instrumental in expressing solidarity toward other repressed groups. This can only be achieved through confidence-building measures inside the Jewish community and trust-building measures between the Jewish community and broader European society. This is a service that Rodfei Tsedek provides.
(Image source: https://jewishmuseummd.pastperfectonline.com/photo/6CF95F97-5C99-4FC0-A5DC-947941437941)