“We Are Jewish and We Want to Help You”: Righteous Cross-Group Solidarity Toward Muslim Refugees in Vienna
Abstract: Building on Jeffrey Alexander’s theory of the civil sphere, this chapter focuses on the work of Shalom Alaikum—Jewish Aid for Refugees, an NGO formed in Vienna in the wake of the so-called refugee crisis in 2015. Shalom Alaikum exemplifies a special case of the “righteous” in international migration because their work is influenced not only by cleavages in the Austrian civil discourse in general, but also by conflicts within the Jewish community, with its reservations about potential antisemitism among Muslim refugees. By examining the case of this NGO in its social and cultural environment, we shed light on the cultural codes and patterns employed in constructing cross-group solidarity with refugees. Jewishness appears to be an important symbolic marker for the group, informing and legitimizing its work, drawing on the memory of the Holocaust and the experience of being a vulnerable minority in the Austrian diaspora.
Abstract: Jewish social justice education is an active and growing field of practice, encompassing a diverse range of agendas and practices: teaching Jewish texts and values around issues of refugees, human rights and environmental justice; organising members of the Jewish community to oppose the occupation of the Palestinian territories and support the Israeli Left; advancing gender equality and LGBT+ inclusion within the community through informal education and training; engaging Jewish students in volunteer service-learning projects to alleviate poverty in the developing world; building inter-faith coalitions to work on local agendas such as housing, crime and healthcare; encouraging a culture of charitable giving and volunteering among Jewish young people; and mobilising Jews in the national and international political arenas around issues such as gun violence, climate change, immigration, hate crime and antisemitism. Yet Jewish social justice education remains an under-researched and under-theorised phenomenon. This theoretical lacuna has practical implications for the thousands of educators and activists across the world who are attempting to achieve social justice ends through the medium of Jewish education but have no well thought-out rationale as to what this might mean and, consequently, cannot know if it has any chance of success. This thesis explores possible theoretical foundations for Jewish social justice education by creating a hermeneutical dialogue between Freirean critical pedagogy, Catholic models of social justice education, Jewish social justice literature and interviews with thinkers and practitioners who consider themselves to be part of the Jewish social justice education enterprise. After drawing out and analysing the philosophical, political and educational themes that emerge from this dialogue, I propose three possible directions a coherent normative theory of Jewish social justice education could take: ‘Jewish politics in a renewed public sphere’, ‘Jewish education for relational community building’ and ‘Jewish critical pedagogy for cultural emancipation’.