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Principles of Spiritual Activism

By Avi Abraham Weiss

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"Over the past thirty years, I have, alongside many colleagues, students and friends, been engaged in activism on behalf of the Jewish people. Beginning with the movements to free Soviet Jews and to defend the State of Israel, I have taken part in hundreds of demonstrations, marches, vigils, hunger strikes and acts of civil disobedience. In some of the more celebrated of these actions, I have publicly confronted such notorious Anti-Semites as David Duke and Louis Farrakhan, climbed over a fence and led supporters in a sit-in to protest the presence of a Carmelite convent at the Auschwitz death camp and carried a coffin to the official residence of New York City Mayor David Dinkins to protest his allowing police to stand back while Jews were being viciously attacked during the 1991 Crown Heights riots.
This book outlines the principles behind those actions. For me, the thread that binds together the myriad of diverse moral, political and tactical equations of activism is Torah. Torah thoughts pervade everything, weaving a tapestry throughout the activist experience. This means that every action is based on a series of principles that are deeply spiritual in nature.
Because my primary concern is with the Jewish community, the book has an overwhelmingly Jewish focus. But the principles expounded here are universal to activism and should be relevant to advocates of any just cause.
Perhaps the most fundamental principle in Judaism is that every person is created in the image of God. As God gives and cares, so do we, in the spirit of imitatio Dei, have the natural capacity to be giving and caring. In doing so, we reflect how God works through people. The challenge to activists is to ignite the divine sparks present in the human spirit and thereby impel people to good for others. The challenge is to be become spiritual activists."
(From Rabbi Avi Weiss' "The Introduction" To Principles of Jewish Survival.)

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