Two traditional teachings about tikkun olam (repairing the world) inspire me. One is the kabbalistic idea that the world was shattered in the moment of creation and it is our job to rebuild it. The other comes from the Talmud. In this legal framework, tikkun olam is invoked to rectify systemic injustice. We learn that within every system there is inherent injustice and it is our role to notice who is suffering because of these laws and to change them. Together, these teachings have compelled me to act and guided me in pursuing justice, especially in light of the current political environment.

Since moving to Boston and starting rabbinical school at Hebrew College last year, I have become involved with two incredible groups working toward a more just world for immigrants in the United States. One is BIJAN (Boston Immigration Justice Accompaniment Network), which is providing support to asylum seekers in detention here in Boston. Inspired by our daily praise of God, who “lifts the fallen, heals the sick and frees the captive,” I am constantly reminded that no human being is illegal, or should be held captive.

I’ve also been working with Movimiento Cosecha, a group fighting for permanent protection, dignity and respect for all immigrants. It’s a mass movement led by immigrants all around the country, and I’m bringing together an Open Circle Social Action group in Boston to join the fight.

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Welcome the Immigrant,” which begins next week, will combine text studies and action. We’ll look at historical texts relating to immigration; we’ll talk about what it means to be Jews organizing to support immigrant rights; and we’ll figure out the best way to support today’s immigrant communities, given our skills and experience.

Open Circle Social Action, a new track of Open Circle Jewish Learning, sponsored by Hebrew College and Combined Jewish Philanthropies, brings together people in their 20s and 30s for Jewish learning, organizing and activism. My class and others will join together with local organizations fighting for justice and equality on a variety of fronts—immigration, civil rights, gender justice, the environment and more—to explore Jewish values and put them to action.

In addition to my class, my rabbinical school classmate, Shani Rosenbaum, is teaching a course on “The Torah of Reproductive Justice,” this winter. 

Both of our classes will ask questions like: How can we put Jewish values into action? What can Jewish texts teach us about doing justly today? How can advocacy and activism inform our study of Jewish texts? How can one person bring about healing and repair in these troubled times?

Through the years, we have learned that the most effective way to make change is through direct action. We need to be strong, be united and fight together to win. That’s what “Welcome the Immigrant,” and Open Circle Social Action classes in general, are all about. I look forward to connecting with other Jewish young adults in Greater Boston to learn, make a difference and strengthen our community and society.

I hope you will join me on this journey next week!

Frankie Sandmel is a second-year rabbinical student at Hebrew College, an educator and a community organizer. Before moving to Boston, Sandmel worked as program director for SVARA: A Traditionally Radical Yeshiva, where they coordinated queer-centered Talmud study. They also have taught at Jewish after-school programs focused on child-driven, pluralistic Jewish learning, and currently teach sixth grade at Dorshei Tzedek. When not teaching, organizing or studying, Sandmel enjoys baking, living communally and jumping in ponds.

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