The Eastern Michigan University Jewish Studies department welcomed Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz as a guest lecturer to speak on Jewish ethics and social justice Tuesday evening in the Student Center ballroom.
Yanklowitz has been known to be a supporter of equal marriage rights for everyone in the LGBTQ community. Yanklowitz said that some people agree with his views but there are always some that will be against the changing times.
“In today’s society we have to open to new oral interpretations about controversial topics,” Yanklowitz said.
Yanklowitz is a modern Orthodox Rabbi. He travels the world as an activist, educator and motivational speaker. He is the author of six books and is the founder and president of Uri L’Tzedek, the Orthodox Jewish social justice organization.
The lecture was packed with about 75 people – both students and out of town guests – there to listen and meet Yanklowitz.
Yanklowitz came prepared with a packet of passages from the Torah, the passages were both in Hebrew and in English.
“I really liked his stories, he was interesting,” said Lara Bosnjak, a sophomore Criminology major.
The stories related to social justice and how Jewish tradition dictates actions of people in the Jewish faith. In the Jewish faith, it is believed that you are to help your family before a stranger, to help your state before your country and proximity, help those next to you before those thousands of miles away from you.
Yanklowitz challenged that by saying we as people should be more open to help all of those in need. Yes proximity comes into play, but that it should not limit those in the position to offer help.
One of the major points of the lecture was when the Rabbi brought up the idea of what it means to be Jewish. What Yanklowitz said was that Jewish means to stand-up and protest when people are not protesting and also to stand-up for the invisible people.
Yanklowitz continued to say that this is something that does not have to be specifically Jewish but can me adopted by all people. People who stand-up for those that cannot stand-up for themselves, Yanklowitz believes this is the way to becoming a social justice activist everywhere.
“I really enjoyed the lecture, I am Jewish and I thought the lecture was very relatable,” Shaina Wolinsky a freshman elementary education major said.
The Director of Jewish Studies at EMU, Martin Shichtman, was pleased both with the turn out and the student’s reaction to the lecture.
“He is regarded as one of the foremost voices for Jewish social justice I am glad the students seemed to enjoy him,” said Shichtman.