The Common Good

Supporting Churches and Synagogues for Social Justice

This spring, we saw an opportunity to join the efforts of Rev. Jim Wallis and Sojourners to stand up to the Tea Party leaders' denigration of people of faith who put social justice and the common good at the center of their vocation. When Glenn Beck urged his millions of viewers to "turn in their pastors" if their congregations promoted social justice, we at Jewish Funds for Justice decided enough was enough.

For 25 years, we have supported churches and synagogues as they work across lines of race and faith to promote the common good and bring social justice to their communities. This work brought universal health care to Massachusetts and more than 300 new green jobs to residents in Oakland, California -- and that's just the tip of the iceberg.

Glenn Beck, on the other hand, doesn't offer any solutions. He disdains social justice and the common good; in fact, he claims they're steps toward fascism. Earlier this summer, Mr. Beck addressed a column I wrote that asserted that "to put God first is to put humankind first, and to put humankind first is to put the common good first." Beck's response? "This leads to death camps. A Jew, of all people, should know that. This is exactly the kind of talk that led to the death camps in Germany."

In the wake of this direct attack, I was humbled by the outpouring of support we received. As a way to thank people for their support, and to lift up all the voices who stood with us, we took out a full two-page ad spread in last week's Forward.

It was signed by supporters of social justice and the common good: hundreds of rabbis, reverends, and people of good will who share our belief that we do not have the luxury of Beck's ignorance. At nearly 250 names, our ad could fit only a small portion of those who spoke out to reject the rhetoric of Glenn Beck. Rev. Wallis shared this sentiment with us:

Glenn Beck should join America's community of faith in a conversation about the common good and social justice instead of his destructive path of unfounded accusations and attacks. I applaud Simon Greer as CEO and President of Jewish Funds for Justice for providing a strong voice of honesty and reason against such divisiveness.

Beck said that a commitment to the common good led to the death camps of Nazi Germany. This language is not only irresponsible but dangerous. It's offensive to the memories of the 6 million people who were murdered in those camps. Beck clearly needs an education in what the Jewish and Christian traditions teach not to mention, specifically, the tenets of his own Mormon Church.

It was gratifying to receive support from such a broad spectrum of faith and social change leaders. We believe it sends an important message when we all stand together for our common beliefs, and we never let our friends face these kinds of attacks alone.

It's up to those of us who care about real solutions to build a powerful alternative to the Tea Party. We need a broad coalition that can forge innovative solutions to the most pressing problems facing our nation, one predicated on economic opportunity and dedicated to social justice. We at Jewish Funds for Justice are proud to do this work with a broad coalition of faith and social justice partners.

Simon Greer is president and CEO of Jewish Funds for Justice.

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