Each year, the Center for Jewish Ethics sponsors an essay contest to encourage fresh thinking on contemporary Jewish ethics. The prize is awarded through the generosity of Bruce Whizin. The contest is open to rabbinical and graduate students.
The Whizin Prize in Jewish Ethics will be awarded for the best essay, research paper or curriculum addressing a contemporary ethical issue from a Jewish perspective. The prize includes an award of $1,800 and publication on the Center’s website. Submissions of any length are welcome, including those written in fulfillment of class requirements.
Entries should be mailed or emailed to the Center for Jewish Ethics, 1299 Church Road, Wyncote, PA 19095 or JewishEthics@RRC.edu. Name, address, email and title should be on a separate sheet so that the judges do not see them. International entries are welcome, but all submissions must be in English. All entries must be received no later than March 15, 2022. The winner will be announced by April 30, 2022.
This year’s winning essay comes from Nathalie A. Smuha, a doctoral student at the Faculty of Law at KU Leuven in Belgium. This essay takes on the ethics of Artificial Intelligence. AI algorithms put human dignity and relationality at risk. Smuha proposes that the contributions of Jewish thinkers who opposed totalitarianism in the 20th century can help address the threat of algorithmization today.
This year’s winning essay comes from Miriam Attia, a doctoral student in religious ethics at the University of Chicago Divinity School. The essay focuses on the writings of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (1903-1993), widely revered as a leading light of Modern Orthodoxy, whose views on women loom large in the recent debates about the ordination of Orthodox women rabbis. Through a careful comparative analysis, Attia demonstrates that regrettably, Orthodox claims for the spiritual equality of men and women are not borne out in Soloveitchik’s writings. The essay sharpens the argument that the Orthodox rejection of female clergy undervalues women.
Daniel Mackler stages an engaging conversation between two modern Jewish thinkers, Orthodox Rav Joseph Soloveitchik and contemporary feminist theorist Mara Benjamin. The juxtaposition is surprising, and it pays off in a rich array of insights about how it feels and what it means to be a person with obligations.
by Rabbi Ariel Root Wolpe Pornography has never been more accessible than it is today. In this Teshuva, newly ordained Rabbi Ariel Root Wolpe (Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies) examines traditional Jewish texts and recent scientific research and generates guidelines for contemporary Jews to develop a healthy, moral, spiritual relationship to their sexuality, specifically around the use of pornography.
by Vincent Calabrese This essay by University of Toronto doctoral student Vincent Calabrese addresses the profound influence of Immanuel Kant on modern Jewish ethics. It focuses on Michael Wyschogrod, the “last exponent of the German-Jewish tradition.” An outspoken critic of Kant’s elevation of ethics over religion, Wyschogrod is nonetheless indebted to Kant in his understanding of conscience.
2018 Whizin Prize Winners: “Between Ethics and Jewish Law: Torat Ha-Melekh and the Moral Problems of Contemporary Halakhic Discourse” by Bar Guzi, Brandeis University Torat Ha-Melekh is an extremist tract that deploys halakhic arguments to justify and even promote the killing of non-Jews. Bar Guzi brings this work and the controversy it unleashed in Israel to English-reading audiences. He demonstrates that it is not enough to counter such violent chauvinism on the basis of halakhic sources alone, it must be opposed from a foundation of ethical principles that are universal.