When innocent people are wrongly convicted...
When "correctional facilities" turn first-time offenders into hardened criminals...
When known murderers walk free on a technicality …
Fairness in justice simply cannot be left to chance.
In Crime and Consequence, we explore 3000 years of Jewish wisdom concerning criminal convictions, sentencing, crime prevention, and rehabilitation. We challenge our thinking, pondering the application of Talmudic principles to real and complex, modern-day cases, and we get to the heart of questions such as:
Should we consider testimonies given in exchange for a reduced sentence as reliable evidence?
What is the goal of punishing criminals? is it to gain retribution for the victim, keep criminals off the streets and safeguard from future crime, set an example and instill the fear of law, or to rehabilitate the criminal and reintroduce him to society?
Is life-without-parole a justifiable penalty? Is it within our right to sentence a man to death? When would these be warranted? Is there a better way?
A quick glance at the statistics suggests an uncomfortable truth: modern-day societies imprison people at a rate unparalleled, and indeed unimaginable, in past times. Why is this so? Why do we lock people up, and what do we hope to achieve by doing so? Does the purpose of prison always outweigh the cons of conviction? This lesson considers and contrasts secular and Talmudic theories of criminal justice, before suggesting how to ensure a more just justice system.
Some crimes are irreversible. Everyone makes mistakes. Taken together, these two propositions suggest both the imperative and impediment for the death penalty and point to its central paradox. Can man have the authority to sentence another man to death? How should we respond to the most serious crimes?
Justice may be blind, but judges and juries must be clear-sighted. This lesson explores the concept of evidentiary standards as it arises in several overlapping areas of Talmudic and secular law: How can we assess the truth of testimony? Does every criminal confession pass muster, or are some inadmissible? When can informants be considered credible?
What is the ultimate aim of the criminal justice system? If society seeks restitution for crimes and rehabilitation for criminals, it needs a better plan. It must consider what rehabilitation looks like, for which offenders and offenses it is applicable, and how to ensure sentencing contributes to this end. This class examines the extensive, systematic program of repentance laid out in the Talmud and considers what insights this process holds for the above questions and present-day criminal rehabilitation. Finally, we look at sentencing programs that incorporate some of these elements in their pursuit of real rehabilitative justice.
All of your deeds are recorded in a book: so declares the Rosh Hashanah liturgy, and so it is within the contemporary criminal justice system. Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are released from prison and seek to rejoin society, but many are stymied by the public availability of their criminal records. Is it possible to find a balance between the needs of society, prospective employers, and ex-offenders? After surveying the contemporary situation, this class looks for answers in the paradigms of Jewish law.
The best way to improve the criminal justice system is by keeping people out of it. But before any attempt to prevent crime can be made, its causes and preconditions must be better understood. Judaism has long recognized the role of societal factors in the commission of crime: poverty and unemployment are significant, as are education, values, and personal character. This final lesson discusses the roots of criminality, several specific preventative policy proposals, and the various concerns associated with them.
Whether you’re seeking relief from stress; you’re hoping for focus, clarity, and connection to a raw and vulnerable place deep within you; or you just want to start each day from a positive, humble, and grateful frame of mind, this course is for you.
Jewish wisdom teaches profound techniques to give wings to our emotions and words to our yearnings, allowing us to make contact and communicate with something larger than ourselves and feel comfort and shelter within a reality that’s more whole, more intense, more real, and more beautiful.
Prayer is not a ritual; it is a contemplative tool that helps us balance urgent or bodily matters with what’s meaningful and important. It tunes us in to our deepest beliefs and feelings, giving them expression in our immediate lives.
What’s the secret behind prayer’s mystical power? How does it affect the flow of cosmic energy? Can it alter the Divine will? Learn how to engage in this endeavor more effectively, and how to regard your most important wishes as part of your relationship with the Creator.
Guided meditations in prayer transport us from a place of natural indifference to an awestruck, vivid awareness with heartfelt marveling at the rich spiritual meaning in our surroundings.
Moving from the manifest to the transcendent, our meditative journey brings us to realize how, in the grand scheme, we are but negligible dots. Yet, despite our tininess, we serve as agents in a mission of infinite import.
At the pinnacle of inspiration and intimacy with the Creator, what comes next? More inspiration? No. Letting go. When the ego loses its sense of identity and is absorbed in its greater purpose, it is, paradoxically, best suited to appeal for its needs.
Is there a way to bring the exhilarating passion of a secluded hilltop meditation into a synagogue, when praying with a group and prayer book? We explore practical tips for synchronizing a heartfelt spiritual journey with a communal synagogue experience.