The Race To End All Races

Question

Hi Rabbi, what does Judaism teach about protesting injustices in the world, such as racism, lack of religious freedoms and anti-Semitism? Thanks

3 months

Answers

  1. Judaism is “color blind.” In other words, Judaism is based on a set of fundamental beliefs of Monotheism and morality, and a person’s color plays absolutely no role. For example, the students at Yeshivas for men and women where I’ve taught came from nearly every country, color and cultural background.

    Unfortunately, we live in a quite imperfect world, where some people have biases based on race and religion. Despite progress we have seen in recent decades in viewing all people equally — social injustices unfortunately remain part of our imperfect world.

    To be as clear as can be: racial bias is antithesis to Judaism! Many verses (36!) in the Torah teach to treat a convert of any color with great respect. There is even an additional mitzvah to love a convert (Deut. 10:19).This is in addition to the well-known mitzvah to “love one’s neighbor as himself.” (Lev. 19:18)

    Besides the individual’s responsibility to treat everyone equally, governments carry the same responsibility. Authorities who are placed in control of a community — police, elected politicians and the local leadership — all have a mitzvah to maintain a safe, moral and just society. The Torah states, “You shall appoint judges and police officers in all your gates which God is giving you.” (Deut. 16:18) This mitzvah says to establish a justice system to provide a safe environment for the community. It is one of the seven universal Noahide laws.

    Non-violent demonstrations are a legitimate act of protest against what a people see as unjust behavior by the ruling authority. But they must remain non-violent. A number of years ago I recall a large demonstration by Sabbath observers against a new road that brought traffic through the heart of a Torah-observant neighborhood. It posed a danger to children who were accustomed to playing in the streets on the Sabbath, as well as breaking the long-accepted Sabbath status quo. When I asked my rabbi if it was permitted to join the protest demonstration, he told me it was not permitted since there were rabble-rousers who came from other neighborhoods to throw stones at the police and the cars, and my being seen in the company of these troublemakers was a desecration of the name of God.

    May we soon see the total elimination of any social injustice in the world!

    Best wishes from the AskTheRabbi.org Team