Responding to terror explored

Posted Monday, Jul 13th, 2015

 How do we resolve the conflict between maintaining national security and the integral American ethic of protecting civil liberties of every individual?

That is the topic to be explored when the Rohr Jewish Learning Institute (JLI) will present "Justice and the War on Terror," a special CLE accredited, two-part series which will examine the dilemma. The course, conducted by Rabbi Sholom Korf of Chabad of Delray Beach, begins at 7:30 p.m. on July 28 at the Chabad, 7495 W. Atlantic Ave., and concluding with the second part at 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 4.

According to the course literature, "The recent Torture Report alleges that the interrogation techniques used by the CIA in the aftermath of 9-11 were ineffective. But what if they did yield valuable information — would they have been justified? How and when does the Geneva Convention ban on torture apply to actions of the United States Government?"

These are some of the questions that will be tackled in part one of the series.

"The course is about the war on terror and how we should respond," Rabbi Korf said. "The questions being asked in this series are unfortunately very pertinent today. "We will be discussing the legal issues involved from the perspective of U.S law and contemporary Israeli law, and compare them with concepts laid out in Talmudic law."

The second part of the course will focus on negotiating with terrorists for hostages. From Israel's exchange of 1,027 prisoners for one captured IDF soldier, to the United States government's initial insistence that ransom payments made by families of those kidnapped by ISIS were illegal.

"The Jewish people have experienced similar situations throughout our arduous history," Rabbi Zalman Abraham of JLI headquarters in New York noted. "When Rabbi Meir of Rothenberg was imprisoned for ransom in the Middle Ages, he ruled on his own abduction in light of Talmudic law."

The rabbi refused to allow his students to pay his ransom, and he died in prison after seven years, where his body remained for a further 14 years until it was redeemed by a wealthy German Jew.

"His was a devastating, but principled course of action," he said.

Korf calls the dilemma of paying ransom for hostages, a "delicate balance."

"On one hand we have a precious life," he said, "on the other hand, will [paying a ransom] place more people in danger?"

Lisa Golub of Delray Beach is planning to take the two-part course.

"I feel the world is falling apart and it's not enough to yell and scream," she said. "We need to find tools from the Torah. I think this course is a way to find these tools.

"There must be another way to fight terrorism other than stooping to their level," she noted. "There must be a way to make this a better world."

Dr. Joseph Goldberg of Lake Worth, who served in Vietnam, said he's taking the course to "try to learn all I can so I can have a studied position.

"I have an interest in the ethics of professional medicine, and this may be a unique course on torture," he said.

Korf said what he hopes to achieve with the course is "to expose people to the richness of the Torah" and how it's pertinent to modern times.

"We can never be too aware of what's going on today," he said.

"Justice and the War on Terror" is designed to appeal to people at all levels of Jewish knowledge, including those without any prior experience or background in Jewish learning. The course is open to the public, and attendees need not be affiliated with a particular synagogue, temple, or other house of worship. Call 561-496-6228 or visit for registration and other course-related information.

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