Religion, Finance, and Social Justice


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This is a recording of an event held on Pace's New York City campus on October 26th, 2022. The event was held as part of Social Justice Week in conjunction with the class FIN 396H:Finance and Society, taught by Prof. PV Viswanath.

The attached PowerPoint presentations by Prof. Viswanath give more detail on Jewish law as it relates to finance and perspectives on religious law accommodation to commercial needs.

Document Type

Conference Proceeding


Religion is an important part of people's lives and so is finance. And the two are connected. Most religions have a social justice aspect and so they either legislate or recommend actions in the financial sphere, e.g. the remission of loans or providing loans without charging interest. The objective may be equitable redistribution of wealth or poverty alleviation. This event is taking place in conjunction with a course on Finance and Society, taught by Prof. PV Viswanath.

Prof. Viswanath opened the session by talking about preferential treatment given to clerics in the religious law of various traditions, as well as conflicts of interest in the implementation of that law. Following this, a student in the course, Kaan Kocak spoke about economic issues and Islamic Law. Rabbi Michael Chernick, professor emeritus at Hebrew Union College followed up with an exposition of how Judaism deals with issues of finance and social justice. This was followed by a Q&A session, as well as a group discussion. The event ended with an analysis of Prof. Chernick’s talk by Prof. Viswanath, as well as a presentation of how the Jewish law on interest-taking in the Middle Ages was affected by the economic environment.

The goal of the event was to provide attendees with a better understanding of how financial transactions and the financial system interact with society and how religions play an important role in ameliorating some of the negative aspects of those interactions.

source_sheet_michael_chernick_sjw.docx (31 kB)
Handout with Jewish sources on finance

jewish_law_dynamic_change_theory.pptx (439 kB)
Prof. Viswanath presentation on Jewish law and dynamic change theory

preferential_treatment.pptx (60 kB)
Prof. Viswanath presentation on religion and clerical bias

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