Human Rights Activism

Rabbi Sid Schwarz: A rabbinic career committed to human rights and social justice

  • Hired in 1984 to serve as the Executive Director of the Jewish Community Relations Council in Washington DC at the age of 31. Highlights of his tenure included organizing a protest at Arlington National Cemetery when President Ronald Reagan visited a Gestapo cemetery in Bitburg, Germany and serving as one of the organizers of the historic Summit Rally for Soviet Jewry on the National Mall on Dec. 6, 1987, the day before the meeting between Mikael Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan.

  • Founded and led PANIM: The Institute for Jewish Leadership and Values from 1988-2009. He created a suite of programs serving high school, college and post-college students that integrated Jewish learning, Jewish values and social responsibility. Over 20,000 young people experienced PANIM programs during those 21 years, many going on to pursue social activism as professionals and as volunteers. Among other highlights, PANIM produced the first educational curricula for the field of Jewish service learning (Jewish Civics: A Tikkun Olam/World Repair Manual; Jews, Judaism and Civic Responsibility, both edited by Rabbi Sid); created J-Serve, a national day of youth community service; and created a 3-week residential interfaith program on religion, social justice and the common good (The E Pluribus Unum Project) funded by the Lilly Endowment and the Ford Foundation.

  • Authored Judaism and Justice: The Jewish Passion to Repair the World (Jewish Lights, 2006), a theology, sociology and history of Jewish social justice in America.

  • Co-founded, and co-chaired for six years (2010-2016), the Greater Washington Forum on Israeli Arabs which, in conjunction with the Inter-Agency Task Force on Israeli Arabs, helped to educate the American Jewish community about the Arab citizens of Israel. The forum brought together a wide array of stakeholders, from the Embassy of Israel to the New Israel Fund.

  • After the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, Rabbi Sid was invited to work with an Israeli relief team on the ground sponsored by Tevel B’Tzedek. On that trip he met Pastor Johnny Felix, who founded a K-6 Christian school in Leogane, Haiti (NICL). As Founding Rabbi of Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation (Bethesda, MD), he galvanized the community to support the NICL school. For a decade, Adat Shalom has underwritten a significant part of the school’s budget. On five separate, week-long service missions to Haiti with members of Adat Shalom, ages 14-70 (four of which, led by Rabbi Sid), Adat Shalom has: created a vegetable garden on school grounds; funded and built a dining hall and computer lab; built three new classrooms; run day camps and educational programs for students from the school; and built a playground. About 75 Adat Shalom members have participated on these service missions but the entire community has embraced the Haiti Project.

  • In 2012 Rabbi Sid organized and led an Interfaith Mission for Peace and Justice to the Middle East, sponsored by the Indonesian Ambassador to the United States, Dino Djalal and in close coordination with the U.S. State Department. We brought two dozen prominent clergy, Christian, Jewish and Muslim to Jakarta, Ramallah, Amman and Jerusalem, holding meetings with leading public officials (including President Shimon Peres). Upon return to Washington, the delegation issued a widely publicized public statement and met with senior officials at the U.S. Department of State, the White House and members of Congress.

  • Founded and directed the Rene Cassin Fellowship Program (RCFP) from 2013-2017. With hubs in New York, London and Jerusalem and 10 Fellows per hub, ages 25-35, RCFP was designed to educate and inspire young Jews to activism around a range of international human rights issues. Summer study tours travelled first to Israel and then to Hungary.