Social (Justice) Party with the RAC

Hi my name is: __________ and the social justice issue I feel passionately about is:  _______________

That’s how things got started at “Tzedek in the Sukkah,” a Sukkot/Social Justice bagel brunch hosted by The Religious Action Center.

In the first hour or so of the event, more than 50 people stopped by the front lawn of the RAC to have some bagels, cream cheese, tomatoes, lox, apples, grapes, and juice.  The attendants — from what we could tell — fell into one of three categories:  1) True social justice people, 2) Friends of the event’s organizer, Julia Moss (e.g. Stephen), or 3) Both (e.g. Jodi).

During the opening activity, Jodi wrote down and discussed wage theft as a critical social justice issue. As a volunteer for Jews United for Justice, Jodi has participated in their wage theft campaign and knows a lot about the topic.

Meanwhile, Stephen learned a decent amount about some lesser-known social justice issues, most memorably, mountain top destruction.  The gal who discussed this issue — one Susan Paykin, a legislative assistant at the RAC — explained that the tops of mountains in the Appalachia, and especially West Virginia, are being blown up by large coal companies to extract extra deposits of coal.  Not only does this blemish the region’s natural beauty, she said, but it threatens the cleanliness of local water supplies.

As a group, we decorated the RAC’s Sukkah by writing down the name of somebody who had fought for social justice.  Julia and other RAC staffers then strung these names together and hung them from the Sukkah. Stephen went with James Q. Wilson primarily because his brain froze he happened to be reading one of his books at the time.  (But in fairness, Stephen argues, Wilson’s done a lot for promoting individual liberty and this is greatest social justice you can give a person.)

Julia stayed closer to home and wrote down the name of Elissa Froman, a civil rights activist who, among other things, founded the Jewish Progressive Political Association at George Washington University.  “Elissa was the first person to ever introduce me to Jewish social justice when I was in college at GW,” Julia told GTJ.  “She inspired me to approach my Judaism not just as a religion, but as my motivation to be an active member of the world.”

It is this type of approach that has led Julia to organize events such as the Sukkot/Social Justice bagel brunch. “Sukkot is an incredible holiday linked to several social justice issues that the Religious Action Center advocates for including hunger, food justice, and fair housing. Our goal for the event was to not only engage people in a meaningful Jewish experience by having them brunch in our sukkah, but to also challenge them to consider what issues they feel passionately about and identify who has inspired them to actively pursue tikkun olam,” she said.

All in all, a good time at the RAC.  It made for a nice late breakfast, and we were able to talk with some existing friends (Jon M., Micha W., Carine W., Briana L, Eva M.D., Joshua N., and, of course, Julia M. herself) and meet some new people as well.  Plus, as an added bonus, it meant missing the abominable first quarter of the Redskins game.

For more pictures, go to the RAC’s Facebook Fan Page.