JVCW 1003: Jewish Public Policy
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Class Description and Goals So, what is Jewish public policy? It is an amalgamation of two terms: Jewish & public policy. Let’s start with the latter. Academic definitions of public policy often tend to be so broad that they include everything or so overly dense that it’s unclear what is even being included. For example, Thomas Dye defines public policy as “anything a government chooses to do or not to do.” William Jenkins, however, defined it this way, “a set of interrelated decisions taken by a political actor or group of actors concerning the selection of goals and the means of achieving them within a specified situation where those decisions should, in principle, be within the power of those actors to achieve.” That’s a mouthful. I hope we figure out a clearer understanding, but for the time being let’s think of public policy as an “analysis of how organizations and governments make decisions.” So, what happens when you append the word Jewish to this term? Meaning, what is Jewish public policy? Similar questions have been asked about Jewish philosophy. Does this mean how Judaism approaches philosophy? Maybe it’s any philosophy that is expressed by a Jew? Or is it how philosophy approaches Judaism. In terms of Jewish public policy, we will pose three distinct definitions, each of which will be a foundation of this course. ¶Three approaches to Jewish public policy: ¶A. The Jewish Approach to Public Policy Issues: In this definition, Jewish public policy presents Jewish perspectives on major public policy issues. For instance, education, labor laws, societal governance are all issues that are discussed in the secular world. One approach to Jewish public policy would be to ask, what is the idealized Jewish approach to any of these issues. ¶B. How Public Policy Affects Jews: Major trends in secular public policy can have serious consequences for the Jewish community. In the United States, issues of religious freedom or education, for instance, can have serious implications for the Jewish community. Within this approach, Jewish public policy asks what policies the Jewish community should advocate for and how they should respond to policy regulations in this area. ¶C. How Should Jews Run Their Own Communities and Institutions: A final area covered by the term Jewish public policy are the ways in which Jewish organizations, communities, and governments should be run. What are the principles and strategies which guide the Jewish community internally. This would include the principles of a Jewish state, a Jewish university, or a Jewish community. Whereas our second topic dealt with the Jewish community vis-a-vis the public policies of the non-Jewish world, this section considers public policy regarding the internal governance of the Jewish world.
Bashevkin, D. (2022, Fall). Syllabus: JVCW 1003: Jewish Public Policy. Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University.
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