“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

— Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


Founded in August 2008, the Swig Program in Jewish Studies and Social Justice is the only program in existence that formally links these two fields. Swig Prgram in Jewish Studies smallWe offer a minor in Jewish Studies and Social Justice (JSSJ), an annual Social Justice Lecture, Social Justice Passover Seder, and study-abroad courses, and intermittent films, presentations, and workshops.

The program’s ethos is built upon the following four ideas, each of which is rooted in Jewish Studies:

  • Activism – each of us has a role in the process of activism, actively shaping the world as it is into the world as it can be. 
  • Intersectionality – all forms of marginalization and oppression are inter-linked. 
  • Social Identity – each of us has multiple social identities, whether a reflection of our age, citizenship, ethnicity, gender, nationality, physical ability, physical appearance, religion, sexual orientation, socio-economic standing, race, or something else entirely. Some identities are acquired, others inborn.
  • Social In/justice – our social identities have a great deal of meaning for us and others. At times they give us access to opportunities. At other times they deny us entry to jobs, homes, and even food. The world in which we live currently functions as if our identities are real. Most of us live as if there is a specific definition to community X or Y, despite the fact that identities are not static but are constantly shifting.

Rabbi Heschel with MLK and Rabbi Eisendrath
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel (r), Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (l) and Rabbi Maurice M. Eisendrath (center, carrying a Torah) during the Selma to Montgomery, Alabama march for voting rights in 1965. [© Image courtesy of Union for Reform Judaism]
Aung San Suu Kyi speaking to a crowd in Yangoon
Aung San Suu Kyi speaking to a crowd in Yangoon, the capital of Myanmar/Burma in 2011. [Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, Htoo Tay Zar]
Rainbow umbrella with Magen David symbol
A rainbow symbol — representing pride and diversity in terms of non-confirming gendered, sexed, and sexualized social identities — merged with a Magen David, sometimes referred to as a “Jewish star." [© Image courtesy of Keshet]
Abolish child slavery protest 1909
A protest for improved workers’ rights in New York City (circa May 1, 1909). The banner lying across the front side of both women, written in Yiddish (l) and English (r), says, “Abolish Child Slavery!” [© Image courtesy of George Grantham Bain Collection, Library of Congress]
Ugandan Abayudaya Jew
A member of the Ugandan Abayudaya Jews, Samson Wamani. [© Image courtesy of Robert Sobol]
Woman with etrog and  lulav
Kim Carter Martinez engaged in a ritual performed on the Jewish holiday Sukkot holding an etrog (right) and lulav (left). Visit myjewishlearning.com for more on this holiday and the meaning of these ritual objects. [© Image courtesy of Dawn Kepler]