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September 02, 2005



This is a good question that I've been pondering from my own perspective as a liberal Catholic--and as a resident of a neighborhood not so different from the poorest parts of New Orleans (I live in North Minneapolis, MN, which--contrary to the visions many have of tow-headed Swedes, this neighborhood is 2/3 black and 1/3 below the poverty line; I'm solidly middle, class, single and white). I know that my neighborhood doesn't get the same resources--investment in infrastructure and business, police protection, funding for transport, etc. And I think everyone in the broader city knows it, but chooses not to face it. I wonder if there will be any change following Katrina, or will we as a country face the reality of our divided culture by sticking our heads deeper in the sand?

P.S. Can you explain the tannery reference for us Talmudically under-exposed?


Institutionalized racial discrimination is hard to pin down, and hence hard for those both outside and within the institutions to ameliorate.

The tannery reference is from the Mishnah (Bava Batra 2:9), which requires that a tannery be distanced 50 cubits to the east (downwind) from city limits. I think my correspondent rightly points to this rule as an example of a health/safety precaution under Jewish law. A goal of this blog is to critically examine whether Jewish law actually could help guide us toward cleaner, safer public policies.

Thanks very much for your comment; your have a fine blog.

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