Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Legacy of the Kelm School of Musar on Questions of Work, Wealth and Poverty

Geoffrey Claussen, "The Legacy of the Kelm School of Musar on Questions of Work, Wealth and Poverty,” in Wealth and Poverty in Jewish Tradition, ed. Leonard J. Greenspoon (West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press, 2015), 151-184.
This paper explores how a variety of contemporary Jews have drawn on the ideas of the virtue-focused Kelm school of the Musar movement in formulating visions of how the Jewish tradition should best respond to poverty.  The paper begins by exploring perspectives on wealth and poverty in the thought of the 19th century founder of the Musar movement, Rabbi Israel Salanter, and his primary disciple, Rabbi Simhah Zissel Ziv of Kelm.  I then turn to three contemporary perspectives on wealth and poverty that build on the legacy of Simhah Zissel’s Kelm school in very different ways: ultra-Orthodox rabbis who praise voluntary poverty and disdain commerce; an American rabbi and business consultant who has harnessed the ideas and practices of the Musar movement in offering a path to personal prosperity; and the development organization American Jewish World Service’s use of models from Kelm in its human-rights-focused anti-poverty work in India.  The full paper is here.