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Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof

100 Years of Los Angeles Jewish Change Makers

"ABOLISH CH[ILD] SLAVERY!!" in English and Yiddish ("(ני)דער מיט (קינד)ער שקלאפער(ײ)", "Nider mit Kinder Schklawerii") , probably taken during May 1, 1909 labor parade in New York City. George Grantham Bain Collection (Library of Congress).

Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof. What does this mean? Rabbis and Jewish sages throughout the centuries have deliberated over the meaning of the Deuteronomy phrase “tzedek, tzedek, tirdof,” or “justice, justice, you shall pursue.” For many Jews, the phrase is a call to action - a call to strive for the social betterment of our world. This commitment to justice is traceable across Jewish history, religion, and culture throughout the world.

The Los Angeles Jewish community is no exception. Los Angeles Jews have engaged in “tzedek” since the city’s founding, participating in social movements, creating coalitions, and pursuing innovative ideas to address social injustice. This exhibit honors the many Jewish contributions to social issues and movements, highlighting Los Angeles-based Jewish individuals and organizations who have lit sparks of social change - people who have started movements, changed the way an issue was addressed, and fostered deep and lasting social transformations. Their work has catalyzed policy shifts in hunger and health; advocated for representation and equity; developed coalitions across communities; and implemented innovative solutions to long-standing problems.

The mandate for justice is so core to the Jewish ethos that an exhaustive list of Jewish Change Makers in Los Angeles is impossible. This exhibit does not pretend to account for the breadth of Los Angeles Jewish individuals and groups who have sparked or contributed to positive social change, nor the breadth of issues that Los Angeles Jews have influenced. The range of stories presented here provides a glimpse into the many ways “tzedek” has shaped the city we love for the better.