Justice in the City: An Argument from the Sources of Rabbinic Judaism

Justice in the City argues, based on the Rabbinic textual tradition, especially the Babylonian Talmud, and utilizing French Jewish philosopher Emmanuel Levinas’ framework of interpersonal ethics, that a just city should be a community of obligation. That is, in a community thus conceived, the privilege of citizenship is the assumption of the obligations of the city towards Others who are not always in view—workers, the poor, the homeless. These Others form a constitutive part of the city. The second part of the book is a close analysis of homelessness, labor and restorative justice from within the theory that was developed. This title will be useful for scholars and students in Jewish Studies, especially Rabbinic Literature and Jewish Thought, but also for those interested in contemporary urban issues.


“This is an extremely important, interesting and creative project. Nothing like it really exists. Here is someone who combines erudition in the classical literature of Judaism (especially the Babylonian Talmud) with his passion for social justice, both as an activist and as someone who thinks in highly sophisticated terms about the tradition of political philosophy and of social theory inspired by religious traditions.”

—Charlotte Fonrobert, Taube Center for Jewish Studies, Stanford University

“Our’s is an age that aches for justice – growing disparities of wealth, continuing marginalization of people by ethnicity, faith, gender and ability, propensity to use violence and power to impose control – these and other blights assault our ability to thrive as human beings on this planet. Fortunately, we have a consummate academic, passionate prophet, and wise sage in Aryeh Cohen, who musters the resources of Jewish tradition as tools for clearer analysis and effective engagement. This is a great book by a master scholar and community activist.”

—Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, American Jewish University