The Swig JSSJ Program sponsors four annual events—(fall) Human Rights Lecture and Speaker Series on Diversity of Jewish Identities, and (spring) Social Justice Lecture and Social Justice Passover Seder —as well as study abroad courses, film screenings, presentations, and workshops, focusing on Holocaust and Genocide as well as Israel/Palestine, among other topics.
Each year, the Swig JSSJ Program brings to USF a human rights activist renowned for turning thought into positive and just action. Each speaker addresses one topic, such as genocide prevention, prison reform, police reform, or civil rights.
This annual lecture brings a prominent Jewish figure to San Francisco to turn the abstraction of “social justice” into a tangible issue with a clear call to action. Past topics have included interfaith activism, gender rights in Israel, conflict transformation in Israel/Palestine, workers’ rights in the U.S., and prison justice reform.
What makes someone a Jew? And how are Jewish identities constructed relative to other social identities? In this series, a broad range of Jewish speakers—e.g., African American Jews, Chinese Jews, Indian Jews, Arab Jews, Ugandan Jews, Transgender Jews, Intersex Jews, Queer Jews—challenge the stereotype that Jews are uniformly white, Ashkenazi, heterosexual, able-bodied males.
The traditional Passover Seder is rooted in one of the world’s most important stories about freedom. Each year, using the framework of this important Jewish ritual, we highlight a marginalized group that, along with all of us, is in need of liberation. Topics have included ending genocide in the Congo and Sudan, alleviating poverty in Haiti, immigration justice, racial justice, environmental justice, and freedom for those identifying as queer.
In October 2017, we celebrated the Jewish harvest holiday of Sukkot with eight days and nights of guest speakers, performances, and shared meals inside our campus sukkah (a temporary structure described in the Torah), built immediately adjacent to St. Ignatius Church. A Jewish holiday that also signals the biblical exodus, our campus sukkah served as a social justice nexus, generating a multitude of conversations around faith, identity, race, environmentalism, and immigration, with each event featuring a theme related to “Open Doors.”
“Never Again” means preventing—and even ending—genocide for any collective. Through studying the Holocaust alongside other genocides, such as Armenia, Cambodia, Congo, Bosnia, Rwanda, and the Sudan, we look at patterns across 20th and 21st century settings to learn what role we can play in ending these identity-based atrocities. On-campus events include one of the most popular courses in the College of Arts & Sciences, “Holocaust and Genocide” (taught by JSSJ faculty member Rabbi Lee Bycel), as well as talks, film screenings, and other programs.
We study Israel/Palestine through the lens of social justice, looking at less examined cultural, political, and religious aspects of this region as well as roles we can play in ending the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict. We also offer courses in Arabic and Hebrew, such as our Hebrew San Francisco—Ulpan program, the longest running intensive Hebrew language summer course in the U.S.