The Assimilation of Tikkun Olam – Dr Levi Cooper

Abstract

“Tikkun olam” is a marvelous term that is used as a slogan for activism, political involvement, and social justice. The term has had numerous lives, such that its endurance and malleability over time are truly impressive. This whistle stop tour provides an overview of the vicissitudes of the term, and will demonstrate how “tikkun olam” has come to connote a disparate array of values and been assimilated into modern, liberal, democratic discourse. With the course of time, “tikkun olam” has come to serve as watchword for any value, even if a particular value – laudable as it may be – is not rooted in Jewish tradition, or is sourced in Jewish literature but under a different rubric. This trend raises a question that should be considered: What is the opportunity cost of the cultural assimilation of the term tikkun olam?

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