Dec 9, 2009: Jewish Ethics in the Neighborhood

First and foremost, we should acknowledge that this week's class comes just as we are gearing up for Hanukkah!  Click here for a copy of the Hanukkah candlelighting blessings.  Click here for some great Hanukkah recipes.  And check out this irreverent (and informative!) video for a reminder on how to light the menorah: down to the business of our third installment in the Ethics course.

Click here for a copy of the class handout.  Click here for a transcript of the session's online chat.

You can listen to an audio recording of this class session by clicking on the icon below:

Given our subject, it somehow seems appropriate to invite you to click here for audio and video of Mr. Rogers singing "Won't You Be My Neighbor."  :o)

More seriously: our class will consider two paradoxical elements of living in a neighborhood: the Jewish right to privacy (within our own domains), and the Jewish obligation to not close ourselves off - to be sensitive, aware, and responsive of the needs of others (particularly through the giving of tzedakah).  The paradox is best expressed by Judaism's competing claims of when we are, and are not, supposed to mind our own business.

We'll begin with a close reading of Robert Frost's famous poem "Mending Fences."

Then we'll look at a number of sources that establish the Jewish right to privacy.

From a very contemporary perspective, check out the Conservative Movement's important responsum (Jewish legal ruling) on issues relating to computer privacy (especially at the workplace)

We'll also touch on when Jewish law allows for our privacy to be violated.  (In this regard, we'll look at a text from Menachem Elon, former Deputy President of the Israeli Supreme Court.  Elon is an expert on Jewish law and its application to secular Israeli law today.We'll also look at the Reform rabbinate's response to 9/11.  Note the concluding clause about civil liberties.

After a survey of Jewish sources concerning the giving of tzedakah, we'll wrap up by seeking, once again, to place this section of Jewish Ethics into the context of our Hanukkah observance.

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