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Debating Peoplehood

In his July 5 op-ed, “Funding Peoplehood,” Misha Galperin stresses the need to invest in projects that strengthen Jewish identity. He also underscores how Jewish organizations must agree upon a clear, collective goal for advancing “the peoplehood agenda.” But what’s missing from this piece is a more expansive, values-based understanding of how Jewish peoplehood is expressed. Immersive Jewish service-learning programs are powerful instruments for repairing our world’s brokenness. As important, they enable American Jews to authentically connect with core tenets of Jewish tradition and Jewish experience. Look no further than “Care for the stranger, for you were once strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:21). Our community’s enduring struggle with our own oppression and marginality has instilled a communal ethic of righteousness and justice. We have a rich history of manifesting Jewish peoplehood in social movements — the labor movement, the Civil Rights Movement, and the women’s movement, to name a few. If we wish to ground “the peoplehood agenda” in meaning and intention, we must fully embrace the Jewish social justice values that clarify our collective purpose and anchor Jewish identity today.

RUTH W. MESSINGER

President

American Jewish World Service

New York, NY

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