Gamaliel was established in 1968 to support the Contract Buyers League, an organization that fought to protect African American homeowners on Chicago’s West Side against discrimination by banks and savings and loan institutions.
In 1986, Gamaliel was restructured as a community organizing leadership institute that trained community leaders to build and maintain powerful organizations in low-income communities. Today, Gamaliel has grown into a network of community organizing affiliates across the United States, South Africa and the United Kingdom.
The name Gamaliel comes from the New Testament. The first Christians were a threat to the established authorities in Israel. The Sanhedrin met to decide the fate of the leaders of the new religion. Some wanted to kill them. But the wise rabbi Gamaliel stood up and said, "Refrain from these men, for if this work be of men, it will come to naught, but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it, lest haply ye be found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:38-39). In the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians, Paul refers to himself as “a disciple of Gamaliel.”
Gamaliel’s organizing work draws on struggles for justice by people of faith stretching back thousands of years and spanning many nations, faiths, and cultures. Our work draws on Biblical scripture, Christ’s life and teaching, the Torah, the Qur’an, Catholic social teaching, the founding principles of American democracy, the U.S. civil rights movement, and many other sources.
Above all, our work begins and ends in an expression of the personal faith and values of its members.