Rabbi Haskel Lookstein Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun:
“I heartily endorse the Tav HaYosher of Uri L’Tzedek. I encourage the members of my own community to patronize establishments with the Tav HaYosher and Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun’s regularly updated list of kosher establishments in Manhattan will indicate which of them have the Tav. I feel certain that my teacher Rav Soloveitchik would have been in favor of this wonderful initiative which will ensure that the values of the Torah are actualized in the public sphere.”
Rav Shlomo Riskin, Chief Rabbi, Efrat:
“Uri L’Tzedek is a burgeoning Orthodox Social Action Group, paralleling B’Maagalei Zedek in Israel, which insist that Kashrut and Yashrut, ritual concern and ethical sensitivity, must go hand in hand. I am proud to say that one of the leaders of Uri L’Tzedek is a beloved student of mine Shmuly Yanklowitz, and in the classes that I give on Yoreh Deah to our Ohr Torah Stone semicha students, I constantly stress the biblical emphasis on compassion as a major source for the laws of kashrut (“Thou shalt not seethe a kid in its mother’s milk”, “For the soul is the blood of the animal”, etc.) as well as the teachings of Rav Kook in his Sefer Hazon regarding the moral ambiguity in eating meat.”
Michael Bloomberg, former Mayor of the City of New York:
“Uri L’Tzedek is an outstanding example of how a group of dedicated rabbis, educators, and activists can make a positive difference in the lives of those they are called to serve. Especially during these tough economic times, it is vital that organizations like this one continue to educate people about important social issues and train the next generation of leaders to address the challenges faced by their communities.”
To read the Mayor’s full letter to Uri L’Tzedek congratulating the organization on the expansion of the Tav HaYosher, click here.
Professor Alan Dershowitz:
“Uri L’Tzedek is a wonderful concept–using traditional Jewish sources to repair a world so desperately in need of repair. It will attract young Jews who are committed to social justice, and encourage them to perform their mitzvot within a Jewish context. It’s a win-win: for Judaism and for social justice.”
Rabbi Saul J. Berman:
“In the span of one year, Uri L’Tzedek has emerged as a powerful voice within the Jewish community for the pursuit of social justice. What distinguishes this organization from others who have been so engaged for decades, is, firstly, its deep rootedness in Jewish legal texts and thinking, as well as in the Prophetic tradition and Jewish Philosophical wisdom. The consequence of this distinctive text centeredness is that Uri L’Tzedek functions always as an educational resource, deepening the Jewish knowledge and Jewish identity of the participants, as they are motivated to act to further social justice.”
Rabbi Avi Weiss, Founder, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah; Founder, Yeshivat Maharat; Rabbi, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale:
“Uri L’Tzedek is the most impactful social activism organization today. It lives the message of the infinite value of every human being created in God’s image, and its work on behalf of the larger world reflects the model of kedusha the Torah mandates – that we live lives of holiness. One of the most important happenings in our community, Uri L’Tzedek deserves everyone’s support.”
Rabbi Chaim Brovender:
“There is no doubt that many Orthodox Jews have been remiss in applying Halachic principles to everyday events that concern the totality of the population. We owe a measure of thanks to R. Shmuly Yanklowitz and his organization Uri L’Tzedek for pushing us in the right direction.”
Rabbi Yuval Cherlo, Head of the Amit Petach Tikvah Hesder Yeshiva and the Tzohar organization
One of the most important messages of the prophets of Israel was that justice and law are the foundations of Israel. When Abraham was presented by God, he was defined as a righteous person that will direct his followers to keep in the way of God by doing justice and adhering to the law. Since then, the prophets returned on these principles and argue that these principles should be implemented as a condition to visit the Temple and bring sacrifices.
It is a privilege for business owners to get the “stamp of integrity” (Tav HaYosher) and thus to be kosher in every sense of kashrut – both kosher food, kosher behavior, and other related areas. It is a great mitzvah to encourage these business owners, to behave according to the way of Torah and fulfill all the responsibilities of a kosher business – between man and God and between man and his fellow man.
Rabbi Dr. Daniel Sperber, Professor of Talmud at Bar-Ilan University
The unparalleled vision of Uri L’Tzedek is vital to the continued vibrancy of Orthodox Judaism. By imbuing the ancient wisdom of Holy Torah into contemporary issues, Uri L’Tzedek leads the way in ensuring a dynamic role for Judaism to take on challenges that face the most susceptible in society. Uri L’Tzedek’s dedication to an egalitarian understanding of Judaism’s eternal ethical practices is inspiring. Rabbi Yanklowitz and Uri L’Tzedek have done a marvelous job in making the words of the Sages tangible to a new generation. I am honored to support this organization.
Rabbi Michael Melchior, Chief Rabbi of Norway, former member of Knesset
Our sages teach us (Yerushalmi, Pe’ah 1:1) Tzedakah and Gmilut Hassadim are equivalent in their weight to all the other commandments of the Torah. However, in the common conception and maybe in our daily practices, the commandments directly connected to our relationship with the Almighty seem to totally outweigh Tzedaka and Tzedek in our religious life. It is an honor for me to salute Uri L’Tzedek for taking upon itself with great commitment to bring us back to the true balance of religious, Jewish life. Through society where each individual will feel an obligation towards social justice, Uri L’Tzedek contribute to tikkun olam under the sovereignty of Shadai, bringing us closer to each other and thereby closer to G-d.
Dr. Michelle Friedman, Chair, Department of Pastoral Counseling, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah:
“I am honored to put down a few thoughts about Uri L’Tzedek and how it’s impacting not only the Orthodox world, but the wider Jewish and non-Jewish worlds as well. First, to start with the more observant community, Orthodox Jews historically have been extraordinarily responsive to the social, economic, medical, justice and other basic needs of their own Orthodox community. And while I do believe that charity starts at home, our increasingly interconnected global community reminds us every day how critical the needs of other marginalized communities are. Other Jewish denominations, especially the Reform movement, have long been involved in social justice. As religious Jews, we have an obligation to teach and to carry out Torah values as they impact all peoples in need. Uri L’Tzedek fills a unique niche in connecting high level Torah scholarship to global human needs via educative programs and direct service. I am so proud of the sensitive and creative path that Uri L’Tzedek has taken in pursuing this highly visible agenda.”
Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, Founding President, CLAL: National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, and Founding President, Jewish Life Network (Retired):
“In a broken world which needs healing and compassion especially for the weak and the oppressed, God seeks to reach out, help, and comfort (Psalm 146:7-9; Isaiah 57:15). But God operates primarily through human agents. This Divine concern is the mission and work of Uri L’Tzedek. Its’ Tav HaYosher works to ensure that those who prepare and serve kosher food are treated with justice and respect. Uri L’Tzedek has spoken out for humane treatment of animals, thus imitating God whose ‘rachamim (mother love) is over all God’s creatures’ (Psalm 145:9). Uri L’Tzedek upholds the covenantal triangular bond between Hashem and humans and humans with each other. This restores the wholeness of the Torah in which the power of ritual/service of Hashem inspires ethical/service of humans and vice versa. Thus, Uri L’Tzedek and its’ activists offer living witness to religious faith in action. In the process, Uri L’Tzedek restores credibility to Orthodoxy and is a Kiddush Hashem – a sanctification of God’s name. It fulfills the mandate that ‘you shall love the Lord your God” means that “the name of God becomes beloved because of your actions.'”
Dr. Moses Pava, Dean and Alvin Einbender Professor of Business Ethics, Sy Syms School of Business, Yeshiva University:
“Uri L’Tzedek’s continued emphasis on social justice represents a step-forward for all of us and is particularly exciting for those of in the Modern Orthodox world. Uri L’Tzedek’s concern with business ethics is both timely and necessary. Our tradition has always focused on our actions and responsibilities, not only in the Synagogue, but also in the workplace.”
Rabbi Menachem Schrader, Founding Director, Orthodox Union’s JLIC, and Director, Alisa Flatow Program at Nishmat:
“Social Justice is the essence of Judaism. In Genesis 18:19, God explains why Abraham was chosen to found the holy nation: ‘For I have known him because he will command his children and household following him, and they will preserve the way of God to do charity and justice.’ Throughout the Torah, we are reminded that we were slaves in Egypt in order that we forever treat the unfortunate charitably, justly, and respectfully. We all should thank Shmuly Yanklowitz for founding an organization that places this crucial priority at the epicenter of our attention.”
Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo, Dean, David Cardozo Academy, Beth Midrash shel Avraham Avinu, Jerusalem:
“Justice is the Torah’s stake in human history. It is not an added attribute but of its very essence. What a tragedy that we forgot and started to consume kosher food and simultaneously left God’s most basic demand for justice out of our restaurants and social gatherings! It is such an honor and delight that Shmuly Yanklowitz, a former student of the David Cardozo Academy , and Uri L´Tzedek woke us up and challenged our priorities and put God’s honor once more at the center of our lives. May they know only success!”
Rabbi Asher Lopatin, Former President, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah:
“What is so exciting about the work that Uri L’Tzedek is doing is that it is propelled by a love of Judaism and tradition. It is not a rebellion against Torah or mitzvot, but it is a commentary and a critical interpretation which any observant and committed Jew needs to follow closely if they want to be true to what we as Jews stand for. I wish them well in continuing to inspire us how to apply halacha in a meaningful way to today’s most pressing issues.”
Ruth W. Messinger, President of the American Jewish World Service:
“In the 21st century, the entire Jewish community must engage as global citizens to defend the most vulnerable – both overseas and in our own communities. Uri L’Tzedek is challenging and inspiring the Orthodox community to learn, develop leaders and effect change on the most pressing moral issues of our time.
The Tav HaYosher (Ethical Seal) is a powerful and innovative approach which allows multiple Jewish communities to stand with workers in a meaningful way.”
Rabbi Sid Schwarz, Founder/President, PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values:
“For over 20 years, our work at PANIM has been focused on inspiring the next generation of Jewish leaders to frame an approach to Jewish life that was deeply committed to Jewish values and to social responsibility. It would be hard to find a development more gratifying to our own raison d’etre than the establishment of Uri L’Tzedek.
The Jewish community’s diversity needs to be a source of strength and not of divisiveness. Uri L’Tzedek brings the important voice of Orthodox Jewry to the table of social justice issues that needs to be addressed by the American Jewish community. Their leadership on the Agriprocessor kosher meat plant in Postville, IA was exemplary and served as a wake-up call on the need for an ethical basis for kashrut.
PANIM has had the pleasure of having Uri L’Tzedek leaders, Shmuly Yanklowitz and Ari Hart. on the staff of its summer programs. These future rabbis are now walking the talk of what they taught our teen participants. Their efforts are sure to bring honor to the Jewish community and greater justice into the world.”
Rabbi David Rosenn, Founder and Executive Director, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps; Executive Director of the Hebrew Free Loan Society:
“Uri L’Tzedek is rounding out the Jewish community’s sense of what it means to be a religious person committed to living according to the Torah in the modern world. Through a rigorous insistence on finding ways to not only learn but also to fulfill God’s commandments to seek justice, the members and leadership of Uri L’Tzedek are making a real difference on issues and shifting in positive ways people’s sense of the priorities of the observant Jewish community. Among the Jewish organizations working for social change, Uri L’Tzedek is both a valued partner and an impressive pace-setter.”
Nina Bruder, Executive Director, Bikkurim: An Incubator for New Jewish Ideas:
“Uri L’Tzedek is a steadily growing force in the social justice activist world. They have burst onto the scene with energy, commitment, vision, professionalism, and passion for social change and tzedek. They reach deeply into the Orthodox community and simultaneously recognize the broader world as partners in pursing fairness and justice. I have been impressed by their accomplishments given how new the organization is.”
Rabbi Marc D. Angel, Director, The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals:
“The Torah tradition teaches us not only to be excellent Jews, but to be excellent human beings. Uri L’Tzedek is a vital, dynamic effort to remind all Jews that we have responsibilities to the community at large – Jewish and non-Jewish. By fostering the Torah ideals of social justice, the leaders and supporters of Uri L’Tzedek enable our community to be more fully religious.”
Rabbi Michael Balinsky, Executive Vice President, Chicago Board of Rabbis:
“Uri L’Tzedek is serving as a model for the orthodox community in areas of social justice work. While they work from a broad vision, they understand that their efforts must impact directly in the communities where they live. They also know that a serious engagement with the sacred texts from our tradition must shape their work. Uri L’Tzedek challenges the Orthodox community to involve itself with concerns outside the comfort zone, while remaining fiercely loyal to the traditions and practices of the Orthodox community.”
Dyonna Ginsburg, Director, B’maaglei Tzedek:
“It has been a privilege to track Uri L’Tzedek’s rapid success and growth from afar, as well as to serve – in whatever small or large way – as a source of inspiration and guidance for their cutting-edge work. There is a growing international movement of young Jews who are committed to both halacha and social justice, to shifting the public discourse to include issues of Tzedek alongside those of Tzedaka, and to creating a more just world informed by deeply-rooted Jewish values. Uri L’Tzedek plays a crucial role in this growing movement.
Having limited my own food intake to the 350 Tav Chevrati certified restaurants throughout Israel, ironically, I used to feel somewhat relieved when traveling to the United States, able to choose from a plethora of kosher options without having to worry about issues of workers’ rights. Now, with the recent launch of the Tav HaYosher, I no longer have this “luxury.” Thank you Uri L’Tzedek for enabling me to exercise my duty as a Jewish-ethical consumer no matter where I go. I only hope the Tav HaYosher catches on as quickly as the Tav Chevrati – for the sake of humanity, the Jewish People, and my own palate!”
Rabbi Aryeh Klapper, Dean, Center for Modern Torah Leadership, and Rosh Beit Midrash, Summer Beit Midrash Program:
“Uri L’Tzedek makes it possible for young people to believe that Orthodox identity and halakhic commitment can deepen concern for the dignity of all human beings and generate a sense of responsibility for improving the ethical tone of society. This is an enormous Kiddush Hashem in its own right, and has the potential to lead to many more. One need not anticipate agreeing with the organization on every issue to wish it every success and offer it full support toward fulfilling that potential.”
Rabbi Brad Hirschfield, President, CLAL-The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership:
“Uri L’Tzedek’s work brings to life the deepest and most eternal values in Jewish tradition. Shattering the false dichotomies between ritual and ethical, particular and universal, spiritual and worldly, the work of Uri L’Tzedek invites each of us to create a more decent world for all human beings, in the name of Torah and the Jewish people. It is truly a Kiddush Hashem.”
Dr. Jonathan D. Sarna, Joseph H. & Belle R. Braun Professor of American Jewish History, Brandeis University:
“Uri L’Tzedek carries forward one of the finest traditions of American Orthodoxy. In the second half of the nineteenth century, Sabato Morais of Philadelphia, the foremost American Sephardic rabbi of his day, was famous for his social conscience. “May the day never dawn,” he thundered in 1890, “when the disciples of prophets and sages to whose keeping practical religion has been entrusted. . . may not denounce social iniquities.” Uri L’Tzedek takes up where Morais left off. Its focus on yosher and its practical program to uphold labor law and promote the ethical treatment of working people is, at once, a kiddush hashem and a timely echo of Morais’ great teachings.”
Dr. Adam Zachary Newton, University Professor and Stanton Chair in Literature and Humanities, Yeshiva University:
“Our tradition–but not only our tradition, our lived experience–enjoins us to be rodfei tzedek, not just rodfei shalom. But what does it mean to “pursue justice?” Maybe an answer lies in altering the terms of the equation: that is, justice is that which pursues us. It chases and runs after us; it haunts and compels. Or, in the suggestive name of this extraordinarily commendable enterprise in social action, to be pursued by justice is to awaken to its summons, to respond to its call. It is, certainly, a kavod to commend Uri L’Tzedek in public. But to the extent that this marvelous group of ethically driven young men and women is justified by the work it has so far done, and, iy”h, has yet to do, it fully commends itself and garners all the honor and merit it deserves. As a new and sophisticated public face for halachic practice and communal life, Uri L’Tzedek models religiosity, humanity, kavod habriyot v’abur acher for us in their most enlivened senses. The Tav Ha’Yosher (“ethical seal”) thus identifies Uri L’Tzedek not only in matters of kashrut, but on the broad and variegated plane of “Jewish Action,” generally. One can’t help but be impressed, and instructed, by them and the fruit of their labors.”
Rabbi Nathaniel Helfgot – Rabbi, Netivot Shalom (Teaneck, NJ); Chair, Departments of Bible and Jewish Thought, and Director, Continuing Rabbinic Education, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah:
“Our tradition teaches us that gadol talmud, shemeivee ledei maaseh – ‘great is study of Torah for it leads to action.’ Uri L’Tzedek is a glowing and growing example of the power and resonance of that maxim. The young committed Jewish young men and women, many of them students at YCT Rabbinical School, have internalized the profound message of Torah as transformative of persons and society. We strive to be a mamlekhet kohanim and goy kadosh and Uri L’Tzedek is acting as a powerful catalyst for the Jewish people to achieve its most noble goals. At the basis of halakhic Jewish ethics is the notion of imitatio dei – following in God’s footsteps. God is described as Zadik veyashar hu and we too need to work to ensure a Jewish and general society full of tzedek and Yosher.”
Rabbi Yaakov Love, Former Chair, Department of Halakha, Yeshivat Chovevei Torah:
“Uri L’Tzedek, in their efforts for workers and in other areas of social justice bring bein adam l’chavero laws to their proper place, on a par with those bein adam laMakom. Those involved in Uri L’Tzedek also represent the or la’amim, the mamlechet kohanim. May HaK’b”H grant you all growth in your avoda and success in all your endeavors.”
Rabbi Francis Nataf, Educational Director, David Cardozo Academy:
“Uri L’Tzedek has emerged as an important initiative to highlight and teach the important role of social justice in the normative Jewish tradition. I am hopeful that others will follow their lead and work with them in this worthy project. As the Orthodox Jewish community grows in strength and numbers, it is critical that we use our influence to benfit all those who could benefit from it. Moreover, social justice projects, such as the ones sponsored by Uri L’Tzedek, can provide an energizing experiential component that will only enrich the traditional Jewish studies curriculum.”
Rabbi Adam Mintz – Faculty, Yeshivat Maharat; Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim:
“Uri L’Tzedek has emerged as a leading voice in the arena of social activism within the Jewish community. Kehilat Rayim Ahuvim has been fortunate to learn from Shmuly and to participate in a number of their important initiatives. The integration of Torah values and social activism is a model for the entire Jewish community and I look forward to working together with Shmuly and the members of Uri L’Tzedek for many years to come.”
Dr. Meesh Hammer-Kossoy, Instructor of Talmud, Director of Social Justice Track and Director of Admissions, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies:
“A student of mine tells the tragic joke: ‘There are two types of Jews: those who do social justice and those who speak Hebrew.’ Uri L’Tzedek is doing the sacred work of reclaiming the Torah of ‘the Right and the Good’ for the entire Jewish People, and of making mitzvot ben adam lehavero as essential to who we are as observant Jews as Shabbat and Kashrut. It is a source of healing and kiddush Hashem for the Orthodox community. May you grow from strength to strength!”
Rabba Sara Hurwitz, President and co-Founder of Yeshivat Maharat; Rabbinic Staff, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale:
“Kabbalists teach that we have a duty to repair that which is broken in the world. Uri L’Tzedek brings to the forefront of our minds and hearts some of that brokenness, and has provided us with a vehicle through which each of us can participate in fixing our world. Thank you for helping each one of us do our share in tikkun olam so that we can all benefit from a more just and spiritually meaningful existence.”
Jacob Feinspan, Executive Director, Jews United for Justice (JUFJ):
“Uri L’Tzedek is a proud and powerful opportunity for Orthodox Jews to engage in the struggle for social justice. In doing so, Uri L’Tzedek is not only helping to unmask and address prejudice and injustice in our society, but it is similarly breaking down stereotypes inside the Jewish community of what it means to be an observant Jew. Jews United for Justice is thrilled to have such an innovative and dynamic new partner as we work to make history’s long arc bend towards justice.”
Rabbi Charles Sheer, Director, Department of Studies in Jewish Pastoral Care, Healthcare Chaplaincy
“I am honored to add my voice in support of Uri L’Tzedek. Its mission combines study and action on behalf of causes that are vital to our society as Jews and Americans. This dynamic and thoughtful organization properly focuses upon justice as a core element in Judaism.
When God chose Abraham, He did not disclose the justification for this divine election. Only later, in B’reishit does Abraham demonstrate qualities that serve as retroactive justification for his selection. In that chapter, he challenges God to justify His treatment of Sodom and Gomorrah. He dares remind God that even He, so to speak, cannot suspend justice in His treatment of humanity. Abraham posits that justice is the ultimate value and all action – whether divine or human – must accord with “mishpat (justice).”
Kol ha-kavod to Uri L’Tzedek for reminding us of this Abrahamic virtue.”
Rabbi Aaron Frank – Head of School of Kinneret Day Schoo:
“Uri L’Tzedek provides a vision of Torah and action that is so desperately needed for our times. As many feel the gap in the Orthodox world between religious practice and involvement in the broader world, Uri L’Tzedek stands uniquely to fill that gap with their commitment and passion to both of these core values. Through its work, both in our high school and our small kehila, Uri L’Tzedek has inspired people of all ages to identify what matters to them and provides support to make their vision into reality. Its leaders are examples of action and are helping us all to reach higher. We are blessed to have them as leaders and role models in our Modern Orthodox community and beyond.”
Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, Director of Organizational Development, CLAL: The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leaders:
“Since its inception, Uri L’Tzedek has consistently contributed a powerful and uniquely traditional Jewish voice to some of the most pressing social justice issues of our time. Its influence is deeply felt among those who receive aid and comfort through its efforts, as well as among members of the community it represents. Already, its programs and educational initiatives have effected tremendous change by creating opportunities for halachically observant Jews to act in the name of tzedek as citizens of the broader world. I applaud Uri L’Tzedek for working to restore tikkun olam, an eternal imperative upon every Jew, to its rightful position of priority in Orthodox thinking and practice.”
Rav David Bigman, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivat Maale Gilboa
Uri L’Tzedek is a vital organization that helps realize the Torah’s values of helping the most vulnerable in society. One of the crucial missions of Orthodox Jewry today is to create a community dedicated to social justice alongside our commitment to Talmud Torah and all Mitzvot Ben Adam L’Makom. The Tav HaYosher, which gives certification to kosher restaurants that treat their employees according to Torah’s ethical values, is at the forefront of shaping such a community. May their holy message only spread and their activism only find success in transforming the world.
Rabbi Alan Brill, Cooperman/Ross Endowed Professor in honor of Sister Rose Thering, Seton Hall University
Uri L’Tzedek provides a needed Orthodox voice to the Jewish quest for justice and social action. It has the potential to bring the community forward toward a greater sense of responsibility for their actions. I have worked with Shmuly in his written statements and applaud their goal in restoring the virtues of tzedek, mishpat, hesed, and rahamim to the Orthodox community. May they go from strength to strength and remain ever true to the vision for social justice through activism.
Rabbi Benny Lau -Director of the Center for Judaism and Society & Director of the Institute for Social Justice at Beit Morasha of Jerusalem
“It gives me great satisfaction to see the crucial education and activism that Uri L’Tzedek is leading in America. It is only through our commitments to tzedek v’mishpat that we can fulfill the mitzvot of the Torah and the prophesies of our revered prophets. Uri L’Tzedek will undoubtedly change the world and Clal Yisrael through their leadership development, education, and activism. B’hatzlakha!”
Rabbi Jeffrey S. Fox, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivat Maharat
It is not easy to wake a sleeping giant and that is what Uri L’Tzedek is doing. Our tradition is filled with a fierce commitment to the values of justice – emerging from the words of the Torah and flowing through rabbinic literature to our own time. The Orthodox world must reclaim these core values as part of what it means to be a member of our community. Uri L’Tzedek seeks to remind us of the central nature of the commandments that legislate relationships among human beings. A commitment to Halakha demands a commitment to the values being taught by Uri L’Tzedek.
Rabbi Steven Exler, Rabbi, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
“As a Jewish people, we must be ever challenged to be ever more vigilant in the observance of the Torah’s values of fairness and justice. Uri L’Tzedek is accomplishing the mission its name embodies, truly awakening the Orthodox and broader Jewish world to a renewed passion for social justice at the local and global level. Its work with college students is essential for creating a robust commitment to tzedek in the next generation. I am privileged to have been involved in and watched Uri L’Tzedek as it grows and professionalizes its work while remaining accessible, flexible, and creative. May we all look for ways to involve ourselves and our communities in its initiatives, strengthening the Tav HaYosher and working with ULT on the projects that our communities need.”
Rabbi Yosef Kanefsky, Rabbi of B’nai David-Judea
Jewish law has always demanded that we develop concentric circles of concern when we look out at the world around us. The idea that our first responsibility is to those closest to us, was never intended to diminish or minimize our obligations to the society that lies in the circles beyond. At a time when so many in our community lack even the spiritual language with which to describe this work of social justice, Uri L’Tzedek has shown all of us how it is done. Under the leadership of Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz, it has blazed a path that we can all follow.
Rabbi David Wolkenfeld, Anshe Sholom B’nai Israel (Chicago, IL):
In my capacity as a rabbi and Jewish educator on a college campus, I have been impressed by the consistent success of Uri L’Tzedek in inspiring my students to care about the Torah’s social message of tzedek u’mishpat, to appreciate how Orthodox Judaism is capable of self-reflection and renewal, and to see themselves as Jewish leaders capable of shaping the values and ethics of the Jewish community and impacting the broader world. Uri L’Tzedek educators have come to my campus and engaged Jewish students in Torah study that is highly relevant and personally meaningful. Uri L’Tzedek shabbatonnim have attracted students from my campus from a broad range of religious backgrounds and introduced them to Jewish religious activism. Uri L’Tzedek has partnered with students within my community to bring our campus kosher dining hall under the supervision of the Tav HaYosher and, in so doing, are introducing a socially responsible Orthodoxy to the entire university community.
Uri L’Tzedek has been a wonderful and valued addition to the Jewish community. Raising a thoughtful moral voice to many issues which define our daily behaviors, as Jews and as members of a larger society, Uri L’Tzedek has reminded us that our Tradition is not silent on ethical behaviors any more than it is on our ritual ones.
The ethical standards espoused by Uri L’Tzedek are built on a firm halachic framework. Whether in areas of kashrut, business, or the environment, the mandate to align our communal practices with that framework represents a clarion call to all of us to never be cavalier about our responsibilities or dismissive of the needs of those deserving of our care. It is sad that we need this advocacy, but it is welcome indeed that we have such caring and careful advocates.
We look forward to the day, may it come soon, when we no longer need this voice and this advocacy. Until then, all of us should applaud the important leadership of Uri L’Tzedek.
Rabbi Jonathan Klein, Executive Director, CLUE-LA
“A Jewish community without Uri L’Tzedek would be a ship without a moral compass guiding it to matters of justice, meandering in the sea and getting significantly off track. Uri L’Tzedek ensures that the Jewish people, particularly the Orthodox world, embraces Halakhah as the transformative, purpose-driven frame for justice that Gd, the n’vi’im, and Chazal intended Jewish law to be. Uri L’Tzedek adds an authentic universal voice to a world in which particularism and identity politics remain relevant to the survival of culture. Thank Gd for Uri L’Tzedek! Our people are safe as long as they continue their vitally important work of addressing societal ills within a halakhic context and among the halakhic community.”
Abby Liebman, President of MAZON: A Jewish Response To Hunger
“MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger applauds Uri L’Tzedek for its work in raising the consciousness of the Jewish community on a broad range of food-related issues. People who are so poor as to be hungry need social justice as well as food, allowing them to live lives of self-reliance and dignity. Uri L’Tzedek is at the forefront of the struggle. We at MAZON say yasher koach!”
“Uri L’Tzedek is an important organization which has not only become a powerful voice for social justice in the Orthodox community and beyond, but has also become an important link for activist minded Jews back to the core texts of their tradition. Uri L’Tzedek has pushed Orthodox Jews to look beyond the borders of its own community to seek people for whom a just social order has not been found.The Tav HaYosher is an incredible step taken by Uri L’Tzedek to demonstrate that our Torah’s values and concerns in restaurants and food establishments extend beyond just kashrut and shabbat observance, but equally values the rights and treatment of those that work in these places.I have no doubt that Orthodox Rabbis and laypeople are thinking far more about ethics and justice as a result of the important work of Uri L’Tzedek.”
Rabbi Akiva Herzfeld
“With a passion for pursuing the highest ideals of the Torah’s universal ethics, the young leaders of the Uri L’Tzedek organization have already made a great impact on the Jewish community, encouraging small groups and established organizations to think carefully about how to move along the path of light and righteousness that is outlined in the Torah. The Torah’s 613 commandments detail higher directives toward holiness that should guide every aspect of our lives. Through its educational endeavors and public actions, Uri L’Tzedek is shining a light on the mitzvot that can guide Jewish individuals, the Jewish community, and all of humanity toward creating a more ethical, just, and compassionate world.”
“As Orthodox Jews, we need to be exceedingly careful to keep every aspect of the Torah. This means that we must be especially punctilious in how we treat our employees and all those who provide services to us in our life. Just like we are careful that the food that goes into our mouths is Kosher, so too we must be careful that the person who is bringing us our food and preparing our food is treated in a manner that is fully consistent with Halakhah. Boruch Hashem, Uri L’Tzedek is at the forefront of our community in reminding us of this matter.”
“ULT has demonstrated remarkable creativity and initiative advancing what is arguably Judaism’s central value, social justice. Through the passion and innovation of its leadership and its volunteers, ULT is gradually transforming the values hierarchy in the North American Jewish community for the betterment of the world. It is my hope that more people will take note of ULT’s programs and use them as a model for improving Jewish life and general society.”
Rabbi Ross Singer
On the Shabbat before Tisha B’av, Shabbat Chazon, we read the first Chapter of Isaiah. Every year I am awed and moved by the prophet’s proclamation that without an ethical base, out ritual devotion is meaningless. In that same passage Isaiah challenges us to:
17 Learn to do well; seek justice, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.
Thank goodness we have an orthodox organization that has put at the top of its agenda relief of oppression and justice. For with these we bring meaning and sanctity to our ritual observance.
Rabbi Uri Topolosky
“I have tremendous respect for Uri L’Tzedek and the passion its leaders bring to the conversation of social justice. It is inspiring to see an organization committed to both the black fire and white fire of our Torah – creating greater access to the joy and beauty of our tradition.”
“Zion will be redeemed with justice.” Justice is where all redemption undoubtedly begins. Yet if it is to be more than just a catching slogan or a capitulation to the political correctness of the moment, this passion for justice must be enlightened through deep and self-critical learning in Torah as well as all of the secular disciplines that promise to aid us in comprehending our shared human condition. Justice calls on us to transcend the sound-bite culture and to join courage with awesome humility. I am proud to support Uri L’Tzedek in its quest to promote, extend, and embody the commitment to justice throughout our community. This is a quest we should all be partners in.
Rabbi Yerachmiel Shapiro
Before I make the Hamotzi and break bread, I wash my hands. The mitzvah of “negel vasser” purifies my hands and prepares me for a holy act. Yes, eating is a holy act. In Judaism, the old saying “you are what you eat” applies equally to our body and soul. To eat in holiness, I must know that the food was prepared in a fair and just environment. This is just one of the reasons I am so grateful to Uri L’Tzedek. When I eat at an establishment that bears the Tav HaYosher, I know that there is no blemish on my holy act.
Contemporary society, with its powerful globalizing forces and high-tech communications, is often remiss in assessing, re-evaluating, and adhering to core values and ideals. Uri L’Tzedek plays a crucial role in creating a forum and crafting a space to reinforce those values for which we stand, by educating, empowering, and inspiring members of our community. I have had the distinct opportunity to work together with Uri L’Tzedek to raise awareness among a group of adolescents who were inspired not just to talk about, but to act upon those values and make a meaningful difference in their world. The moral compass of our youth should continue to be directed by the education and enthusiasm of groups like Uri L’Tzedek.
Rabbi Hyim Shafner
The Torah is more than a book of law, it paints for us a life of holiness, ethical conduct and love of god and people. As the Ramba”n writes, we must take care not to be a minuval birishut hatorah, a person who is disgusting while seemingly keeping to much of the letter of the law. Though Derech Eretz is the foundation for Torah, it is often hard to define and codify, and thus easy to fool ourselvs into believing we are being as ethical as the Torah wishes when we might not be. This is where Uri L’Tzedek comes in. Though we judge all meritoriously, just as we must take care to be sure our food is kosher, that even someone we trust, that even we ourselves, have not rationalized something not completely kosher as kosher, a forti ori this is so when it comes to treating others, especially those who work for us and under us ethically. My berachot to Uri L’Tzedek in all of their holy work of making the world a place of yashar and tov.
Rabbi Saul Strosberg
“How can any committed Orthodox Jew not support Uri L’Tzedek? Isn’t Tzedek part of our faith’s mission statement? Kol HaKavod to Uri L’Tzedek for all of the educational and proactive work that you do in the Jewish community. May you continue to serve as an inspiration to all!”
Rabbi Barry Gelman
Uri L’Tzedek is so important because it reminds us that in every encounter with human beings and indeed all of God’s creatures we are also encountering God. That reality brings with it awesome duty to protect the dignity of all. Their focus prompts us to rethink all of our relationships and to rework our assumptions of how we interact with others. Uri L’Tzedek works like a Shofar, awakening us to our responsibilities.
Rabbi Yehuda Sarna, University Chaplain, Educator, Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus, The Edgar M. Bronfman Center for Jewish Life at NYU
The NYU Jewish community has been privileged to work with Uri L’Tzedek from the start, hosting shabbatonim and providing student interns for their inspiring mission. I have found Uri L’Tzedek’s message particularly resonant to young Jews, Orthodox and non-Orthodox alike. The fusing of ancient teaching with an up-to-date understanding of the social and economic reality is of critical importance to the generation of tomorrow.
Rabbi Yonatan Cohen
Our tradition teaches that God had “singled Abraham out” so that Abraham would instruct his descendents “to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is just and right.” The Torah is very clear; the way of G-d is good, and doing good is G-dly. Each and every time we confront the world with deeds that are just and righteous, each and every time we reject a stance of indifference and impartiality, by assuming personal and/or communal religious responsibility for the world that surrounds us, we enter into the path of G-d, into the presence of the Holy One. The important work of Uri L’Tzedek boldly invites each of us to to walk in this path, as heirs to Abraham and as contemporary Jewish leaders.
Rabbi Avidan Freedman, Judaic Studies Faculty, Hartman Institute High School Program
Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik, in his ‘Five Addresses’, relates to the possibility that a certain mitzvah can become ‘orphaned’- neglected and ignored, until a savior comes along and redeems it. It is not merely an orphaned mitzvah that Uri L’Tzedek’s work has begun to redeem, but an orphaned axiom. The orthodox movement’s lack of focus on issues of tzedek chevrati has been an unfortunate accident of recent history, and Uri L’Tzedek’s projects and initiatives provide a sorely needed corrective, returning matters of tzedek umishpat to center stage, where they rightfully belong. Chizku Ve’Imtzu!
Rabbi Martin Rosenfeld, Founder and President, Civil Divorce/Civil Get
“One of my most memorable teachers of Jewish Ethics was the late Rabbi Dr. Walter Wurzburger. I recall Dr. Wurzburger being asked, after a lecture, if he found any truth in the charge that traditional Jews are less ethical than others. Dr. Wurzburger dismissed this comment as a canard. But he then said: “This misses the whole point. Jews should be more ethical and moral than others. This striving for ethical perfection is our challenge.” I believe Rabbi Shmuly Yanlowitz through Uri L’Tzedek has created a vehicle by which we are all reminded of our need to develop ethical perfection in what we say and what we do. The value of such an effort is of inestimable worth.”
Rabbi Rosen, Former Chief Rabbi of Ireland, Current Director of the American Jewish Committee’s Department of Interreligious Affairs
It is my honor to be associated with the holy work of Uri L’Tzedek which is nothing less than a “kiddush haShem” in our world.
On Psalm 68 v. 2 “Let the Lord arise and scatter His enemies and may those that hate Him flee before Him” the midrash declares that “this is one of five times (in the book of Psalms) that David call on God to arise. But we do not find that God responds to him! When does God arise? (It says in Psalm 12 v 6) “for the plunder of the poor and the cry of the indigent, now will I arise, says the Lord….”.
Chazal are telling us here that even the Divinely elected cannot assume that God is automatically on their side. When is God on your side? When you are on His! (perhaps someone informed George Washington of this midrash as he is reputed to have given this response to the question.) But when are we really on the Divine side? When we care for the needy and the indigent, the marginalized and the vulnerable. Then we fulfil the mitzvah of emulating the Divine Attributes (as expressed in TB Sotah 14a.)
Uri L’Tzedek reminds us that to be authentic bnei Torah we have to be on “God’s side”, pursuing justice and behaving with compassion for all. May its work continue michayil el chayil.
Rabbi David Kasher
“Uri L’Tzedek is uniquely positioned to reacquaint the Jewish Social Justice movement with its spiritual foundations. Of course, one major contribution that Uri L’Tzedek has already been providing is an attempt to reinvigorate the traditional community around Social Justice, an area that is often overlooked in the Orthodox community, in the midst of our passion for the more ritualistic aspects of Torah and Mitzvot. But that exchange goes both ways, and Uri L’Tzedek also offers outward, to the broader community, a view of Social Justice work that is deeply imbued with a divine charge. Not only is religion compatible with Social Justice, but more: a profound relationship with God is precisely the force that can move us to call for justice in our society.”
“The centrality of social justice in the system of Jewish values traces back to the very origins of Sinai and was developed by many of the prophets. Unfortunately, as we were bounced from exile to exile we, understandably, focused our energies inward – on both our physical and spiritual survival. The early stages of our redemption in the past century, the relative safety with which Jews live in the world (cerainly as compared to previous generations), brings with it the opportunity to redeem those parts of the Torah which did not receive proper expression. Kol Hakavod to Uri L’Tzedek for being a major force – in such a short period – in that redemption. The Orthodox community is proud to have you as a voice of social justice.”
David I. Bernstein, Ph.D., Dean, Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies
Uri L’Tzedek is about taking religious Jewish life and making sure that we apply it in the broadest context as well. It is important not only for the impact they have when helping to address social justice issues; it is just as important for us as individuals as well, to ensure that our religious compass remains intact. I support their work, and have encouraged Pardes students to do so as well.
Rabbi Yoni Rosensweig, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivat HaMivtar
“R’ Chaim of Brisk was once asked how one might define succinctly the role of a spiritual leader. While today many spiritual leaders would define the role as related to learning or teaching Torah, this was not R’ Chaim’s answer. He answered that such a role is primarily in place in order to protect the weaker elements in society from exploitation and abuse. Any organization which commits itself to this goal, and makes a difference for people everywhere on a day-to-day basis, becomes a shining beacon in the fullest sense for what true leadership is.”
Frederick M. Lawrence, President, Brandeis University
“Uri L’Tzedek offers a model in action of what can be accomplished by individuals committed to social justice and dedicated to improving the lives of others. The call to social justice is one that resonates with Brandeis University and educational leaders across the spectrum of American society. As with Uri L’Tzedek, the heart of a Brandeis education is to instill in young men and women a commitment to a just society and to bettering the lives of those among us who are less fortunate.”
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director and Counsel, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism
“It is an immense source of pride to see Uri L’Tzedek emerge within the Orthodox community, and quickly rise to such prominence, leading, educating and training traditional Jews to act on the confluence of Halacha and social justice. Uri L’Tzedek’s remarkable Tav HaYosher program raises the standards of Jewish eating; throughout the Jewish community, Jewish organizations and families are rethinking what kosher means by including fair trade practices to otherwise ritually kosher foods. May we all continue to go from strength to strength.”
Rabbi Leo Dee, Radlett United Synagogue, London, UK
“I’m constantly amazed by Jews who tell me they’re not religious because they don’t go to shul regularly. I often find out that these are the people who are raising significant funds for charity, helping out in the local care home, or driving social action in their local community. So I tell them – “You ARE religious!”. Rabbi Shmuly – you and your organisation are increasing the religious observance of so many Jews. Kol HaKavod!.”
Rabbi Zev Farber, Founder of Aitzim: The Atlanta Institute of Torah and Zionism
The prophet Amos ridicules the Israelites for what he considers their hypocritical behavior – keeping the Sabbath and holidays only to open up their stores the next day and cheat their customers. The prophet Jeremiah accuses the Judahites of robbing their fellows and then going to the Temple with their earnings to sacrifice to God, imagining they can still win God’s favor. The great Second Temple sage Hillel stated that the core principle of the Torah is to avoid doing to others what one does not want done to oneself. Rabbi Akiva said it was loving one’s fellow as one loves oneself. Throughout Jewish history there has been a prophetic voice – a rabbinic voice – calling out for justice and proper treatment of one’s fellow human. In our generation that divine voice still calls, and one of its leading representatives is Uri L’Tzedek, with its many important social justice initiatives. May this organization go from strength to strength.