Transformative Teshuvah

A guide for your Jewish justice practice 365 days a year from the Avodah Institute for Social Change

Introduction by Sarra Alpert, Director, Avodah Institute for Social Change, Elul 5782 (August 2022)

At Avodah, we believe that a commitment to justice is essential to Jewish life, with our justice values being integral to our individual and communal self-reflection. How are we doing at building a world grounded in equity, accountability and lovingkindness? Where are we falling short? What issues are we turning away from? What needs to change? How can we do better? Since the High Holidays provide a time to ask exactly those questions, we created this resource last summer to help with that.

The issues at the core of these resources remain painfully relevant — given the ongoing and interrelated harms of racial, economic, climate, carceral, housing, and healthcare injustices (including the continued impact of the Covid-19 pandemic), we continue to see how urgently all of this requires our attention. In addition, we wanted to call particular attention to the past year’s increased attacks on bodily autonomy, from trans rights to abortion access, and help to point you toward some of the excellent writing that comes from Jewish teachers about how these issues intersect with our tradition. While the other sections of the resource are organized thematically (with each theme connecting to a different moment in the High Holiday cycle), the bodily-autonomy section is structured differently both in form and content. We hope that you’re able to use those new resources and integrate them with the text studies, essays, reflection exercises, artistic interpretations, and other pieces you’ll find throughout the guide — all of these issues are deeply connected, from how they emerge to how we can do better.

Our tradition provides an ideal opportunity each year for exactly this kind of personal and communal work on our accountability and growth, and this resource is offered as a way to take advantage of this period of extended reflection. You might decide to engage with one piece of learning each day in the weeks leading up to and through the High Holiday period or delve deeply into a few of these learnings over the holidays themselves. For those of you who are educators, we hope you’ll incorporate these resources into your teaching opportunities over this High Holiday season. However you explore this, we hope it will offer a pathway for deep introspection, additional learning, and ways to orient ourselves towards sustained and effective engagement in work for justice.

Other excellent High Holiday content from our partners:

Thank you to our generous collaborators for their support in creating this resource:


Special thanks to Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein for co-editing

Sarra Alpert

Rabbi Aryeh Bernstein

Jonah Canner

Imani Romney-Rosa Chapman

Rabbi Nate DeGroot

Anna Dubey, Raphaela Gold, Sophie Raskin & Michael Pincus

Koach Baruch Frazier

Noah Gibbons-Shapiro and Hayden

Rabbi Gabe Greenberg

Beth Huppin

Inside Out Wisdom and Action Project, Hannah Roodman & Yehudah Webster

Rebecca Katz

Rabbi Rory Katz

Alana Krivo-Kaufman

Rabbi Miriam Liebman

Jamie Margolin

Shahanna McKinney-Baldon

Ruth Messinger

Not Free to Desist

Kendell Pinkney, S’manga Frank & Avi Amon

Rabbi Aaron Portman

Hila Ratzabi

Rabbi Jennie Rosenn

Caroline Rothstein

Melissa Shaw

Rachel Sumekh

Rabbi Alana Suskin

Akiko Yonekawa


Ritualwell logo
Reconstructing Judaism logo
Dayenu logo
Hazon logo
Mitsui Collective logo
IOWA Project logo
Not Free to Desist Logo
JFREJ logo
Uri L'Tzedek logo
Aytzim logo
URJ Logo
RAC logo
Moving Traditions logo
RAC logo
Keshet Logo

Team Avodah

Sarra Alpert, Alison Rollman, Amanda Lindner & Davinica Nemtzow