Urging Jews to address hunger and poverty through direct action and political advocacy, Rabbi Laurence Malinger will participate in an interfaith discussion about the issue during this week’s Global Understanding Convention at Monmouth University in West Long Branch.
The poverty panel is one of 50 sessions being offered between April 7 and 11. The GUC event, now in its 13th year, is organized by the Institute of Global Understanding at Monmouth University.
The rabbi, who will make his debut appearance at the convention, said he plans to share concrete examples of how religious principles about poverty can be made into practical solutions.
“We are inspired by our Jewish tradition that teaches that each community must establish a public fund to provide food for the hungry,” said Malinger, senior rabbi of Temple Shalom of Aberdeen. “This is one of our most important responsibilities on earth.”
The panel is scheduled for Friday, April 11, 11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m., at the university’s Club 109. All events are free, he added, and reservations are not required.
Malinger’s scheduled fellow panelists for Friday’s session include: Uma Swaminathan, an East Brunswick-based Hindu adviser to the Monmouth Center for World Religion and Ethical Thought; the Rev. Elizabeth Congdon, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Trenton, a multi-ethnic Christian congregation whose members speak more than 15 different languages; and Yousef Addallah, New York metropolitan area zone manager for Islamic Relief USA.
In a phone interview, Malinger said the charitable concepts of tzedaka are grounded in both scripture and the commentaries.
He said the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism urges communities to establish job banks for out-of-work individuals. Malinger also recommended that congregations and individuals join with the American Jewish World Service, which works to reduce hunger and poverty in communities around the world.
When President Obama signed the U.S. Farm Bill early this year, Malinger said, that alone brought about reforms “enabling our aid to reach at least half a million more people worldwide.”
The bottom line, he said, is for people to urge their elected officials to support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as the food stamp program. “We call on Congress to pass HR 2384, the Food Security Improvement Act of 2013, which would increase benefits for all SNAP recipients and help ensure that families are able to put food on the table every day of the month. SNAP feeds those who are hungry, and this program should be a priority for all Americans,” Malinger said.
The convention also offers other sessions of special interest to Jewish audiences, said Joe Ritacco of Holmdel, a panel moderator, member of the GUC planning committee, and an MCWRET board member. He cited two films in particular.
A Bottle in the Gaza Sea, being shown Tuesday, April 8, at 7:25 p.m. in the Monmouth University Pollak Theater, traces the story of a Palestinian youth in Gaza and a Jewish girl in Jerusalem who engage in an e-mail correspondence. Following the film, Professor Marina Vujnovic will lead a discussion.
At a screening of My So-Called Enemy on Thursday, April 10, 8-9:45 a.m. in the H.R. Young Auditorium, director Lisa Gossels will take part in a discussion. Ritacco and Saliba Sarsar — a professor of political science and associate vice president for global initiatives at the university —will cohost the event.
In a phone interview, Gossels told NJJN that her documentary film follows six young Israeli and Palestinian women for seven years, starting in their teens and progressing into their 20s. Each year they spend 10 days in the United States, living together in the same house under the auspices of a Denver-based women’s leadership program called Building Bridges for Peace. While most of the film takes place in Israel and the Palestinian territories, an early segment is set in Bridgeton, NJ.
In the course of the film, Gossels said, the women undergo what the director called “transformative experiences,” getting to know each other as human beings, but then having to return to the divisive political and cultural realities of life in the Middle East.
For more information on the Global Understanding Convention, visit monmouth.edu/guc.