Re-Imagining Tikkun Olam for America

In the 1950s, Shlomo Bardin, the founder of the Brandeis Camp Institute (BCI) in California, was the first to use the term in the United States, according to Lawrence Fine, author of Physician of the Soul, Healer of the Cosmos: Isaac Luria and His Kabbalistic Fellowship. By 1970, the Conservative movement named its youth social action program “Tikkun Olam”, and, in 1988, included the doctrine of tikkun olam in its statement of principles.
Tikkun olam took off because “it is so aligned with the cultural values of American Jews,” says Rabbi Sidney Schwarz, author of Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World. At the same time, it also took on political connotations. In 1986, when Michael Lerner founded the bimonthly Jewish magazine Tikkun, tikkun olam took a step toward becoming a universal rallying cry for change that transcends Judaism and includes all of humanity.

Sarah Breger, “How Tikkun Olam Got Its Groove” Moment (May/June 2010), 24, 27.

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