A dedicated advocate for social justice long before the term entered everyday usage, Rabbi Ira Sanders began striving against the Jim Crow system soon after he arrived in Little Rock from New York in 1926. Sanders, who led Little Rock’s Temple B’nai Israel for nearly forty years, was a trained social worker as well as a rabbi, and his career as a dynamic religious and community leader in Little Rock spanned the traumas of the Great Depression, World War II and the Holocaust, and the social and racial struggles of the 1950s and 1960s.
Just and Righteous Causes—a complete biographical study of this bold social-activist rabbi—examines how Sanders expertly navigated the intersections of race, religion, and gender to advocate for a more just society. It joins a growing body of literature about the lives and histories of southern rabbis, deftly balancing scholarly and narrative tones to provide a personal look into the complicated position of the southern rabbi and the Jewish community throughout the political struggles of the twentieth-century South.
Read Rabbi Ira Sanders’ Speech before the Arkansas General Assembly,February 18, 1957
Winner, 2019 Booker Worthen Prize from the Central Arkansas Library System
“Just and Righteous Causes is an excellent look into the life of one of the South’s most prominent social justice and civil rights activists of the twentieth century. It successfully provides the casual reader, as well as scholars, with a valuable resource that helps shed light on not only Sanders’s life but the period as well.”
—Seth A. Weitz, The Journal of American History, March 2020
“With Just and Righteous Causes: Rabbi Ira Sanders and the Fight for Racial and Social Justice in Arkansas, 1926–1963, James L. Moses makes a welcome contribution to the study of mid-twentieth-century southern rabbis who walked a tightrope between discharging their duties as spiritual leaders and responding to wider social justice concerns.”
—Mary Stanton, The Journal of Southern History, November 2019
“Just and Righteous Causes serves as an accessible and well researched biography of an important Arkansan. … will appeal to casual readers and interested experts alike, even as it adds an important chapter to the histories of Little Rock, southern Jews, and the civil rights movement.”
—Josh Parshall, Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Summer 2019
“Historians of Arkansas, civil rights and American Judaism will find Just and Righteous Causes an indispensable addition to the literature.”
—Melanie K. Welch, Arkansas Review, August 2019
“An important new biography by James L. Moses, Just and Righteous Causes: Rabbi Ira Sanders and the Fight for Social Justice in Arkansas, meticulously chronicles Sanders’ significant, if largely till now unheralded, role in Southern Jewish history.”
—Tablet Magazine, January 2019
“In this highly readable and well-researched biography of Ira Sanders, James L. Moses depicts the major contributions made by a hitherto unsung hero of the long civil rights movement. . . a must read for anyone interested in Little Rock, Arkansas and southern history, the civil rights movement, and southern and American Jewish history.“
—Mark K. Bauman, editor, Southern Jewish History