Community Blog Winter Seminar 2020:
Economic Justice

By Hebrew College
leah-penniman

Behind many of the headlines that vie for our attention every day are deep and complex questions of economic justice. These questions touch our lives in countless ways, from the broadest public policy debates to the most intimate family discussions and matters of personal choice. What constitutes socially responsible investing? What is the proper role of inheritance in an economy with widening social inequity? What are the ethical issues raised by the gig economy? What is appropriate and inappropriate philanthropy? What does fairness demand regarding reparations for African Americans?

These topics are complex and often entail competing value claims; there are no obvious answers. They beg the questions: What can we do about economic injustice? What should we do? What do we owe each other? What might Judaism have to say about these timeless questions, in a way that speaks meaningfully to our own time?

“Jewish tradition has wisdom around what a just economy should look like, but Judaism doesn’t speak in a single voice. This seminar is a way of trying to respond to real questions that the society is grappling with and understanding that Jewish tradition has something to teach us in a nuanced way about these issues,” said Rabbinical School Dean Rabbi Dan Judson, who studies the historical intersection of Judaism and economics. “For example, this is the first time in history that Uber has existed, but it’s not the first time in history that Jewish tradition has thought about some of the value struggles inherent in a ‘gig’ economy.”

Hebrew College students, faculty, and alumni will wrestle with these issues at this year’s Winter Seminar entitled, “What Do We Owe Each Other: Jewish Conversations on Equality and the Challenges of a Just Society,” which will be held the last week in January. Community members are invited to four public lectures.

  •  “Ownership, Access, and the Question of Belonging: Towards a Just Land Ethic in America,” a conversation with Leah Penniman (pictured above), co-director and farm manager of Soul Fire Farm: January 27, 2 pm, Hebrew College.
  • “Tainted Money: Jewish Philanthropy in a Troubled Time,” a conversation with Len Fishman, former CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife, the largest nonprofit provider of senior housing and healthcare in New England, and Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, Director of Spiritual Care at Hebrew SeniorLife: January 28, 9:15 am, Hebrew College.
  •  “Investing for Equity,” a conversation with Aliana Pineiro, Impact Director for the Boston Impact Initiative Fund: January 28, 1:15 pm, Hebrew College.
  • “Income Inequality and the Problem of Inheritance,” a discussion with Chuck Collins, author of Born on Third BaseMolly Schulman of Resource Generation, and Rabbi Shoshana Meira Friedman, Rab`14, Hebrew College Director of Professional Development: January 28, 7:15 pm, Hebrew College.

Examining Land Ethics

Join us for a discussion with Leah Penniman, co-director and farm manager of Soul Fire Farm,  a community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. The organization raises and distributes life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid. With deep reverence for the land and wisdom of our ancestors, they work to reclaim our collective right to belong to the earth and to have agency in the food system. They bring diverse communities together on this healing land to share skills on sustainable agriculture, natural building, spiritual activism, health, and environmental justice.

Penniman is a farmer, educator, author, and food sovereignty activist. She is co-founder, co-director, program manager of Soul Fire Farm, in Grafton, New York. She co-founded Soul Fire Farm in 2011 with the mission of ending racism and injustice in the food system and reclaiming the inherent right to belong to the earth and to have agency in the food system as Black and Brown people. The work of Penniman and Soul Fire Farm has been recognized by the Soros Racial Justice Fellowship, the Fulbright Program, the Presidential Award for Science Teaching, the New York State Health Emerging Innovator Awards, and the Andrew Goodman Foundation, among others. Penniman has also worked as a science teacher at University Park Campus School, Tech Valley High School, and Darrow School, and was founding director of the Harriet Tubman Democratic High School. Penniman lives on the farm with her partner, Jonah Vitale-Wolff, and their two children, Neshima and Emet Vitale-Penniman.

Tainted Money

Join Len Fishman, former CEO of Hebrew SeniorLife, the largest nonprofit provider of senior housing and healthcare in New England, and Rabbi Sara Paasche-Orlow, Director of Spiritual Care at Hebrew SeniorLife will be discussing the difficult question of whether Jewish institutions should accept money from donors who might be “tainted” in the eyes of the Jewish community.  Either because of political activity or illicit behavior or business practices that are problematic, a number of well-known philanthropists have come under scrutiny and many organizations are grappling with the difficult question of what to do with money that comes from these donors. Our guests from Hebrew SeniorLife will reflect on the dilemmas that have occurred in their own development work for Hebrew SeniorLife, as well as engage the community in a conversation about appropriate values guiding such decisions.

Investing for Equity

Judaism has venerable ethical and legal traditions around dealing with financial questions of support for individuals and organizations in need.  How much should one give to people on the street asking for money? How much should we give to Jewish causes?  How much of one’s income should be earmarked for charity? Join us for a conversation with Impact Director for Boston Impact Initiative Fund Aliana Pineiro. Pineiro works with impact investors, social enterprises, and non-profit organizations to effectively measure and manage their impact.

Originally from Boston, Pineiro began her career in asset management, spending five years at ClearBridge Investments in New York. Pineiro is interested in how impact evaluation can make impact investing more just and equitable. She was an impact evaluator for organizations operating in Latin America, including three years as the director of evaluation at RUNA, a social enterprise in the Ecuadorian Amazon. Most recently, Pinerio worked as a researcher at the Global Impact Investing Network publishing practitioner-oriented research for impact investors around the world.

The Problem of Inheritance 

As economic inequality widens, economic mobility from one generation to the next has shrunk. Fewer Americans are able to move up the economic ladder than at any point in the past century. Join us for a panel with Chuck Collins, author of Born on Third Base; Molly Schulman of Resource Generation; and Rabbinical & Cantorial School of Hebrew College Director of Professional Development Rabbi Shoshana Friedman who will grapple with questions about inequality and the racial wealth divide, the tax code, and inheritance, and ask what economic proscriptions might be in place to deal with this issue.

Chuck Collins, an expert on U.S. inequality and the racial wealth divide, is director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he co-edits Inequality.org. He is author of the popular book, Born on Third Base: A One Percenter Makes the Case for Tackling Inequality, Bringing Wealth Home, and Committing to the Common GoodIs Inequality in America Irreversible? and Bill Gates Sr. of Wealth and Our Commonwealth, a case for taxing inherited fortunes. He is co-founder of Wealth for the Common Good, a network of business leaders, high-income households and partners working together to promote shared prosperity and fair taxation. This network merged in 2015 with the Patriotic Millionaires.

Molly Schulman is a leader in the Resource Generation Boston chapter for a year. She has participated in both an anti-racist white praxis group and a virtual high net wealth praxis group, currently facilitates a Jewish praxis group, has attended three national Resource Generation conferences, and currently organizes Boston constituents to increase their giving to social justice. Apart from her work with Resource Generation, Molly serves on JOIN for Justice’s board, sings in a cover band, facilitates a monthly Rosh Chodesh gathering, and is a member of the Chordata Capital fellowship. She is thrilled to share her passion for wealth redistribution, her grounding in Jewish resistance, and commitment to building compassionate cross-class relationships to the panel.


All four events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit hebrewcollege.edu/events or contact Laurena Rosenberg at lrosenberg@hebrewcollege.edu.

 

 

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