The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS) has announced the launch of the Hendel Center for Ethics and Justice. Endowed by Ruth and Stephen Hendel of Larchmont, New York, the center will formally weave the study of Jewish ethics and training in civic engagement into the curriculum at JTS. The gift marks a new step forward for JTS in its long history of harnessing the Jewish call for justice in pursuit of positive social change. It speaks, as well, to the needs and interests of students who increasingly see an intersection between their Jewish leadership and social activism.

Rooted in Jewish history, teaching, and texts, the Hendel Center will offer academic study, skills training, internships, panels, lectures, workshops and research opportunities. The center will convene clergy, educators and activists from various faith communities to study, share ideas and collaborate to address pressing ethical issues. A key part of the center’s mission includes partnering across faith lines to help bridge the divides confronting society today.

Rabbi Stephanie Ruskay will serve as the first executive director of the center and Professor Yonatan Brafman will serve as the academic director.

According to Pew’s 2013 survey of American Jews, 56 percent of respondents said that working for justice and equality is essential to what they believe “being Jewish” means. Through the establishment of the Hendel Center, JTS aims to create a preeminent training ground in ethics and justice for Jewish leaders.