December 20, 2014 · 28 Kislev

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The Jewish Perspective
What Judaism and the Reform Movement believe about Socially Responsible Investing.

Jewish Values and Ethical Investing

"Ethical business means profitable business"
-The Book of Proverbs

"(The) whole network of halakhic rulings exists in order
to ensure that the way a man accumulates wealth is neither
morally damaging nor physically harmful to his fellow men...
these restrictions, if observed, must necessarily limit the
scope of a Jew's economic activities..."
-from With All Your Possessions, Meir Tamari

Jewish legal tradition supports the position that Jews should not participate in projects that violate Jewish values. For the Reform Jewish Movement in particular, devoted as it is to tikkun olam, ethical investing policies and practices are an organic expression of our core beliefs. Investing in community development funds to benefit depressed communities and their people, for example, correlates directly to our tremendous emphasis on tzedakah and helping those less fortunate. In the Jewish tradition of tikkun olam, tzedakah, and working towards a just society, our investment concerns naturally should focus on proactive investment.

Position of the Reform Jewish Movement on Ethical Investing

The URJ and CCAR have passed several resolutions proclaiming a vested interest in socially responsible investing. In 1971 at its 51st General Assembly the URJ passed a resolution on corporate responsibility acknowledging an "urgent social crisis" in America and in the world, and that "it is imperative for socially responsible organizations to contribute in every way possible to the enhancement of social justice and human values..." The resolution also includes a provision to "encourage the appropriate bodies within the URJ, its congregations and affiliates, to consider social, environmental and similar aspects as an integral part of the financial considerations involved in investment and banking decisions."

In 1993, the URJ Investment Committee recognized that in its practices, the committee has the obligation both to maximize the total returns on its investments and to invest in a "manner consistent with the principles of Reform Judaism." In order to accomplish this goal, the Investment Committee pledged to "keep abreast of the socially responsible investment themes..." as well as to "review the holdings of each individual portfolio on the basis of investment performance and on an individual company basis."

Likewise, delegates to the 104th annual convention of the CCAR in June 1993, passed a socially responsible investing resolution in which they requested that the Rabbinical Pension Board and CCAR "choose their own criteria for socially responsible investing, and submit for publication ... the investment principles" which they will follow. At that time, the Rabbinical Pension Board affiliated itself with the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility and began to make significant deposits in community banks.

In 1997, representatives to the 108th CCAR Annual Convention (June 1997)and the 64th URJ General Assembly of the URJ (October 1997)reaffirmed the Union for Reform Judaism's long-standing commitment to socially responsible investing practices.  In 1997, the URJ created the Chai Investment Program (CHIP) a program to invest 1.8 percent of all invested funds in community development and revitalization financial institutions. Also, the CCAR instructed its investment committee to "develop investment policies that insure that Jewish values and social responsibility will play major roles in their decision-making processes." The URJ also instructed its investment committee to ensure that its policies are in accordance with Jewish values, and emphasized that "for the Reform Jewish movement, ... socially responsible investment policies and practices are not an optional commitment; they are an organic expression of our core beliefs."

In 2007, the URJ passed a resolution supporting Divestment from Sudan.

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