Yes­ter­day, Rab­bi Jill Jacobs wrote about Sukkot and social jus­tice. Her most recent book, Where Jus­tice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Jus­tice in Your Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty (Jew­ish Lights), is now available.

I start­ed Where Jus­tice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Jus­tice in Your Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty with a ques­tion: Does place matter?

In today’s glob­al­ized world, it’s easy to say that place doesn’t mat­ter at all. With a few clicks of a mouse, I can skype with friends and rel­a­tives all over the world. If I choose tomor­row to move to Fiji, I can do so. If I want­ed, I could hire a sec­re­tary in India, out­source data entry to Cam­bo­dia, and telecom­mute from a cruise ship on the Atlantic. We no longer live in a world in which we grow up, go to school, work, and die in the same city or even often the same country.

And yet, I had a deep con­vic­tion that place does mat­ter. Per­son­al­ly, I have pri­or­i­tized doing jus­tice work in the place where I live (New York City/​the Unit­ed States) and in Israel, where I have deep roots and much expe­ri­ence. At the same time, I can­not ignore the dire pover­ty in parts of the world far from where I live, and where I may nev­er visit.

Place plays a fun­da­men­tal role in Jew­ish tra­di­tion. We tell our people’s sto­ry in geo­graph­ic terms—Abra­ham left the land of his ances­tors and set­tled in Canaan; Joseph and his broth­ers went down to Egypt; the Israelite peo­ple came out of Egypt, jour­ney through the wilder­ness, and found their place in the land of Israel. Our his­to­ry includes sojourns in Europe, North Africa, Asia, and the Arab World. We con­tin­ue to mourn the destruc­tion of the Tem­ple — once our cen­tral place — and the sub­se­quent expul­sions from many of the places we have lived. There is even a divine aspect to place — the rab­bis call God HaMakom” — The Place.”

At the same time, we are a peo­ple whose his­to­ry tran­scends place. We main­tain our tra­di­tions even as we move around the world (though these tra­di­tions have shift­ed accord­ing to the places where we live). We speak of Am Yis­rael—the peo­ple of Israel — as a unit not bound­ed by geography.

So does place mat­ter or not?

I end­ed up devot­ing much of the sec­ond chap­ter of the book to a par­tic­u­lar­ly intrigu­ing text that con­sid­ers how to pri­or­i­tize our own needs with those of the peo­ple of anoth­er place. In this text, the peo­ple of one town have a well from which they take water to drink, to feed their ani­mals, and to do laun­dry. Peo­ple of anoth­er town, in which there is no well, stop by to ask for water. The ensu­ing sev­er­al cen­turies of dis­cus­sion con­sid­ers which of our own needs take pri­or­i­ty, when to share the water, and what respon­si­bil­i­ty to place on the res­i­dents of any indi­vid­ual place to care for their own needs.

The con­clu­sion: Place isn’t every­thing, but it still matters.

Rab­bi Jill Jacobs is the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of Rab­bis for Human Rights-North Amer­i­ca and the author of Where Jus­tice Dwells: A Hands-On-Guide for Doing Social Jus­tice in Your Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty (Jew­ish Lights) and There Shall Be No Needy: Pur­su­ing Social Jus­tice Through Jew­ish Law and Tra­di­tion

Rab­bi Jill Jacobs is the Exec­u­tive Direc­tor of T’ru­ah: The Rab­binic Call for Human Rights, which mobi­lizes 1800 rab­bis and can­tors and tens of thou­sands of Amer­i­can Jews to bring a Jew­ish moral voice to the most press­ing human rights con­cerns of our time. She is the author of Where Jus­tice Dwells: A Hands-On Guide to Doing Social Jus­tice in Your Jew­ish Com­mu­ni­ty and There Shall Be No Needy: Pur­su­ing Social Jus­tice through Jew­ish Law and Tra­di­tion, both pub­lished by Jew­ish Lights. Rab­bi Jacobs has been named to the For­wards list of 50 influ­en­tial Amer­i­can Jews three times, to The Jew­ish Weeks first list of 36 under 36”, and to Newsweeks list of the 50 Most Influ­en­tial Rab­bis in Amer­i­ca every year since 2009. She holds rab­binic ordi­na­tion and an MA in Tal­mud from the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary, an MS in Urban Affairs from Hunter Col­lege, and a BA in Com­par­a­tive Lit­er­a­ture from Colum­bia Uni­ver­si­ty. She lives in New York with her hus­band, Guy Aus­tri­an, and their two daughters.