The Hendel Center for Ethics and Justice

The JTS Hendel Center for Ethics and Justice develops Jewish leaders with the knowledge and skills to make the pursuit of justice central to their leadership. The center weaves the study of Jewish ethics and training in civic engagement into the JTS curriculum. Through public initiatives, strategic partnerships, and interfaith collaboration, the Hendel Center serves as a laboratory for religious leaders to speak and act on the issues of the day.

Our Work

Since its inception, the Hendel Center has launched numerous initiatives to train students in using Jewish texts and community organizing skills to address issues such as climate change, gender inequity, racism, voter access, and racial justice in the Jewish community. The center also sponsors public lectures and discussions on a range of issues related to ethics and justice.

Here are some of the Hendel Center’s ongoing initiatives:

  • Climate Change: A group of JTS Rabbinical School students serve as fellows with Dayenu: A Jewish Call to Climate Action.
  • Racial Justice:
    • The JTS Hendel Center is a lead sponsor of The Workshop, North America’s first arts fellowship focused on the work of Jews of Color, Jews of Indigenous backgrounds, and Jews of Sephardic and/or Mizrahi heritage.
    • The center is collaborating with USY on the launch of its JOCISM Cohort, for young Jews of Color, Indigenous Jews, Sephardi Jews, and Mizrahi across North America.
  • Gender: Through the Gender, Torah, and Tradition fellowship, a group of JTS undergraduate and graduate students, alumni, faculty, and board members are exploring how we can engage with patriarchal Jewish texts while maintaining our commitment to gender equity and feminism in the 21st century.
  • Community Organizing: The Hendel Center partners with Join for Justice, the Rabbinical Assembly, and USCJ to run twice yearly cohorts for Conservative Jewish clergy and lay leaders in community organizing.

Executive Director

Shira Billet

Shira Billet

Assistant Professor of Jewish Thought and Ethics

Shira Billet is assistant professor of Jewish Thought and Ethics. Before joining the faculty at JTS, she was a postdoctoral associate in Philosophy and Judaic Studies at Yale University, and she completed her doctorate at Princeton University in 2019.  Dr. Billet’s research is focused on 19th-century and early 20th-century German Jewish philosophy, both in historical context and in relation to contemporary conversations in philosophical ethics.

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Stephanie Ruskay

Stephanie Ruskay

Associate Dean, The Rabbinical School

Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay has made her career in the Jewish social justice sector. Rabbi Ruskay has served in leadership positions at American Jewish World Service, Auburn Theological Seminary, AVODAH: The Jewish Service Corps, and JOIN for Justice. She directs field education and entrepreneurial endeavors, and is focused on raising the scope and profile of social justice work and community organizing skills in the role of the contemporary rabbi.

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The Hendel Center for Ethics and Justice is made possible through a generous endowment from Ruth and Steven Hendel.