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In Concert or in Conflict?
Our American Economic Ethic
and Jewish Values
David Saperstein & Barry Freundel
December 2003


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Learn about the Scholars

How do we define Jewish economic justice, and how should our definitions play out in the context of political action? This three-part course analyzes how Jewish values relate to economic policy-making. In the first session, Rabbi David Saperstein, a reform Rabbi and activist leader of the reform movement's Religious Action Center in Washington D.C. will discuss modalities of economic justice. Then, in the second session, Rabbi Barry Freundel, an orthodox rabbi, political conservative, and long-time debate partner of Rabbi Saperstein, will present an ethics of money based on Jewish texts. In the final session, the two will debate the question: is Jewish economic justice more compatible with a politically conservative or a politically liberal position?


This mini-course includes three, 1-hour presentations, which were recorded in December 2003. Each session is accompanied by a set of materials. The sessions are as follows:

Session Presenter and Title


David Saperstein

Part 1: Jewish Roots of Economic Justice


Barry Freundel

Part 2: Jewish Roots of Economic Justice


David Saperstein and Barry Freundel

The Jewish Tradition's View of Economic Justice:
A Debate as to Whether it Supports
a Liberal or Conservative Approach

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Scholars' Bios

Rabbi David Saperstein is the Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism. Described in a recent profile in the Washington Post as the “quintessential religious lobbyist on Capitol Hill,” he represents the national Reform Jewish Movement to Congress and the administration. Over his 28 year tenure as director of the Center, Rabbi Saperstein has headed several religious coalitions and currently serves on the boards of numerous national organizations including the NAACP and People For the American Way, and co-chairs the Coalition to Preserve Religious Liberty, comprised of over 60 national religious denominations and educational organizations opposing school prayer amendments and legislation. In 1999, Rabbi Saperstein was elected as the first Chair of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom created by a unanimous vote of Congress. Also an attorney, Rabbi Saperstein teaches seminars in both First Amendment Church-State Law and in Jewish Law at Georgetown University Law School. A prolific writer and speaker, Rabbi Saperstein has appeared on a number of television news and talk shows including Nightline, Oprah, Lehrer News Hour and ABC’s Sunday Morning. His articles have appeared in the Washington Post and the New York Times and his latest book is Jewish Dimensions of Social Justice: Tough Moral Choices of Our Time (link to Amazon.com).

Rabbi Saperstein is married to Ellen Weiss, senior editor of the national news desk at National Public Radio. They have two sons, Daniel and Ari.

Rabbi Barry Freundel leads Congregation Kesher Israel in Washington, D.C. and is the Assistant Professor of Rabbinics at Baltimore Hebrew University. Rabbi Freundel earned his BA from Yeshiva University and a BS from the Erna Michael College of Hebraic Studies MS. He received rabbinic ordination from the Bernard Revel Graduate School Rabbinic Ordination, RIETS, Yeshiva University. He has written Contemporary Orthodox Judaism's Response to Modernity published by KTAV 2003 (link to Amazon.com).

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