Hebrew College and CJP to launch new social justice learning initiative

NEWTON CENTRE, MASS. — Hebrew College and Combined Jewish Philanthropies are launching a new social justice initiative to embolden young adults to make a difference. 

The program, Open Circle Social Action (OCSA), which launches this fall, will bring young adults together to learn about the importance of the practice of tikkun olam (repair the world), tzedek (justice), and tzedakah (charity) in Jewish tradition; to work with community organizers in local advocacy organizations to address pressing issues and injustices; and to make a difference through a meaningful social action activity related to specific causes. 

Open Circle Social Action, a track of Open Circle Jewish Learning, will feature two fall classes: “Welcome the Immigrant,” and “Dignity for All: LGBTQ+ Justice,” and two winter classes, including “The Torah of Reproductive Justice.” The courses, geared towards adults in their twenties and thirties, will meet in Boston-area neighborhoods including Cambridge and Jamaica Plain.  

“Open Circle Social Action will create programming for young adults who seek to engage in personally meaningful and socially responsible activity, who wish to deepen their knowledge of Jewish values, and who want to take action on issues they care about,” said Bernice Lerner, Dean of Adult Learning at Hebrew College. “We want to channel the sense of urgency felt among young Jews and empower them to seek and find insight and direction in ancient and contemporary Jewish sources of wisdom.” 

“When we consider the ways in which we can try to repair our broken world, grounding our work in the texts of our tradition both elevates the quality of the work we do and creates a sense of shared community, each doing our own part,” said Elyse Winick, Senior Director, Learning and Engagement at Combined Jewish Philanthropies. “OCSA will play an essential role in our community by giving a compelling context to the work for which we are all responsible.”

Open Circle Jewish Learning brings together small groups of curious, engaged learners with exceptional educators to dive into an array of compelling topics. The program offers small group conversations in living rooms, synagogues and community centers throughout the Greater Boston Area, where adults can find meaning and build connection. Besides social action, topics include Jewish mindfulness and mysticism, politics and history, arts and culture, and texts and traditions. Adult learners can also bring together a group of friends and create their own salon on any topic.

Open Circle Social Action course will consist of six sessions, featuring traditional and contemporary Jewish texts that focus on questions of power and justice as they relate to a particular contemporary issue, as well as on the history of Jewish social justice advocacy. Each course will also feature guests from local advocacy organizations, training in community organizing, and a guided service component in which participants engage in the thoughtfully-planned social action activity related to that cause. Full course descriptions are on the website. 

There will be a launch event on Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. at Aeronaut Brewing Co., 14 Tyler St, Somerville. All are welcome. Classes start October 9. 

Media Contact

Sydney Schwartz Gross, Marketing Specialist, Hebrew College 

617-559-8785 (office) | 646-483-0900 (mobile) | sgross@hebrewcollege.edu