The inaugural Tikkun Olam Institute’s final day on Friday 17 June began at the Alpert JCC with a bagel breakfast and Rabbi Drew opening up with a text-based study on local vs. distant giving. Entitled “Prioritizing Proximity: Giving To Those Who Are Closer To You”, Rabbi Drew led a discussion based off of sources on the topic, helping frame discussions regarding giving money overseas versus more locally.
Next up was Carie Rael speaking about education funding. She argued that current California tuitions are cost prohibitive for low income students and urged attendees to lobby their legislators and university administrators to reduce fees. She invited students to join her organization, We! Alternative Voices for an Alternative Future.
Amanda Gelb and Asher Levy, of Uri L’Tzedek, discussed food and ethical eating. They emphasized Judaism as a food-centric religion and challenged students to consider what mattered more, ritual or ethical kashrut. They discussed the importance of eating locally, the work of Michael Pollan, how ethical eating ties into labor issues, and sparked a heated debate about the essence of waste when Levy posed this question, “Is there such a thing as wasteful consumption and if so, are Americans particularly guilty of it?” This was such an exciting question, Rabbi Kaplan was taking notes!
The day concluded with a round table discussion on impressions of the inaugural TOI. Eve Selfridge said, “I enjoyed the different topics presented. I could pick and choose. The events were all day so the schedule was friendly.” Jacob Goldberg joked that, like most Jews, he was motivated to come to the event “out of guilt,” but added that he was glad he came because having attended a religious school, he feels well-versed in Torah but appreciates learning about the practical application of his religious knowledge. Carie Rael said that it was “nice to be around humanitarian-minded people with a Jewish perspective.” Nitzan Harel, student at CSULB, said that, though she is not very religious, she wanted to “learn about social justice” and that she would like to see TOI become a monthly event that moves to different locations around southern California. Hopefully, future TOI participants can look back at this inaugural event as the start of a southern California tradition.